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By Ale Dalton in MsJD Blog

As law students begin to make the (happy) yearly migration from finals to summer jobs, soon-to-be summer associates are thinking about how to be successful and make the most out of their experiences. While there are great resources regarding what your summer experience will be like, here are some practical tips that will help you have a rewarding and successful summer.

  1. Google Alerts

Google Alerts monitor the web for any new content relating to your chosen keywords or keyword combinations. Once set, the Google Alerts will arrive in your inbox every morning. While working at the firm, they kept me abreast on news relating to the firm and the attorneys I was working with. It allowed me to learn more about matters firm attorneys were working on, events the firm attended or sponsored, and the firm in general. During the school year, it was a great way to stay informed and actively engaged with the firm and its people, everything from newly minted partners to engagements. It helped me to stay in touch with many of the attorneys who showed me the ropes as a 1L summer associate and whose careers I admire.

Set Google alerts for 1) your firm, 2) firm attorneys you admire, work with, or whose careers or practice areas are of interest to you, and 3) your practice area interest within the context of the firm or your city. I was genuinely surprised about how many learning opportunities came from these daily alerts. These attorneys are investing in your professional career, whether directly or indirectly, and are generally excited and willing to discuss their experiences with you, sometimes all you need is to be informed and willing to ask.

If you are a 1L (or maybe even a 0L) aspiring to work at a particular employer next summer, this is a great tool for up-to-date information to bring up during interviews and to better inform any questions you may have about the firm, as well as learning about the firm from a third-party perspective.

  1. Newsletters

Less tailored than the Google Alerts, newsletters give a broader overview of your practice area interests, from both a market and firm perspective, and also the profession generally. They help keep you informed on new occurrences in the field and can help explore a wide range of practice areas that you may otherwise not be as exposed to. They are also useful in learning about general trends in the legal industry, as well as significant changes.

I am interested in health care law and subscribe to Politico’s Morning eHealth, Law360’s daily newsletter on health care related cases, and also the local and state business news because of my state’s niche in the health care market. For profession focused information, I subscribe to the AmLaw Daily Headlines and the ABA Journal Weekly Newsletter.

These have been a great source for everything from research topic ideas to informed conversations with attorneys who practice in these areas or help manage the firm. There are countless sources for these, but the general idea is to keep yourself informed. Similarly, firms’ practice groups send informative newsletters covering new court decisions and laws and how they affect the industries in that market. They often times include future presentations the firm will be hosting or related CLEs, which can be particularly useful while you are working there and able to attend.

  1. Support Staff

Invariably, you will interact with support staff this summer, whether it is your assigned secretary or IT staff. You should always treat them with the utmost respect, just like you would any other member of the firm. They are also an invaluable tool in helping you succeed. Generally you will have access to a secretary or assistant, firm librarian or researcher, IT staff, and external support staff like the Westlaw/Lexis reference attorneys. Many of them have been at the firm far longer than anyone else and know exactly how to help you find what you need to successfully complete your project. While you should never monopolize their time, they can help you be more efficient and produce better work product.

Last summer, the firm’s librarian helped ensure I didn’t rack up exorbitant fees researching a question of law that required mostly out-of-plan treatises and practice books by explaining the firm’s plan and how to best find what I was looking for. The Westlaw/Lexis reference attorneys, who charge nothing to the firm for your call, are available 24/7 and can send you direct links to what you’re searching for without added fees or can help create more accurate and efficient search terms. When I was having trouble formatting an asset purchase agreement, I reached out to the firm’s word processor, who took over my computer remotely and not only fixed it, but also explained where things had gone wrong. The IT folks were invaluable during my first few days when I couldn’t figure out how to look up or save certain things to the database. I really could write an ode to the support staff who helped me last summer. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions and (wisely) utilize any resources available to you.

  1. Pen & Paper

It seems simple enough, but one of my mentors would often offer this as the best piece of advice he would give to any summer associate. He would add that he was always surprised when a summer associate was called into a meeting, a client call, or generally into an attorney’s office and came without a pen and paper. Even when you are called in as a spectator, whether with a client or to a court proceeding, you never know when you will be needed.

I never dwelled on this comment until last summer during a court hearing when the presiding judge addressed me directly. He was incredibly welcoming and glad to see a law student in his chambers. Almost immediately, he assigned me the specific statutes I needed to read to understand the proceedings and even further research he thought the attorneys would likely ask me to complete on this case. I would have been mortified had I not been able to jot his recommendations down. Similarly, I was asked to summarize a client meeting for an internal memo after the meeting. Had I not taken notes, it would have made for an embarrassing conversation with the supervising attorney. On both occasions, I’d only been invited to “watch.”  (On this latter point, I should add that you should always ask your supervising attorney if you may take notes during any matters you are invited to that are not related to an assignment.)

  1. Mindfulness

Being known as a mindful summer associate, with work product and personal relationships, ensures that anyone you interact with during your time at the firm will remember you positively. While you may be working toward securing a job at the firm, your interactions should never be forced or feigned. Let your work speak for itself and focus on learning from the incredible wealth of experiences you are exposed to during the summer. Whether or not you begin your career at the firm, the bar is a surprisingly small circle, particularly if you’re in a smaller city or a particular practice area, and the last thing you want is to begin your career as the insincere or sloppy former summer associate.