by Mary Crane
If you are about to start a summer job, you must turn in a superlative performance during the next several weeks. Thus far, your GPA has demonstrated that you are able to acquire legal skills. Your summer employment will give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you also possess some important non-technical skills.
The following checklist will help you successfully navigate the Summer of 2022.
Manage Time & Projects
- If the workplace you report to is hybrid, show up in the office whenever you can. Firms hire summer recruits they know, like, and trust. Go into the office and become known by the professionals who already work there.
- Spend 30 minutes every weekend to preview the week ahead. Review the status of ongoing assignments and key deadlines. Anticipate opportunities or challenges that could arise. Arrive in your office each Monday with a game plan for the week.
- Be prepared to constantly revise your game plan. Hour by hour, you may need to reprioritize specific tasks and larger assignments. Ask yourself regularly, “What’s the most important thing that I need to accomplish during the next 20 minutes?”
- Manage expectations. As soon as you realize that you may not meet a deadline, notify the relevant supervising lawyer. Do not put off this conversation. The sooner you inform a senior lawyer, the faster they can put a work-around in place.
- Forget multi-tasking. Multiple studies confirm that the human brain is not structured to multi-task. Try performing two tasks at the same time, and you’ll only succeed in doing both tasks half well. Instead of multi-taking, focus on mono-tasking. Give 20 minutes of undivided attention to your most important task. At the end of each 20-minute period, address emails, texts and voicemails. Repeat.
- Ask for feedback AND demonstrate that you will respond to any criticism you may receive. If a senior lawyer indicates you need to improve a particular skill set, immediately visit your favorite recruiter and ask for assistance. (Could you please point me to an online tutorial or a personal coach?)
Manage Social Events
- R.S.V.P. as soon as you are invited to a business-social event (welcoming reception, business lunch or dinner, baseball game, etc.), and indicate that you either will or will not attend. Once you have indicated that you will attend, only an absolute emergency excuses your absence.
- Attend events even if you’re an introvert. Law firms are in the business of building relationships. Demonstrate that you can walk into a room filled with people you don’t know and initiate conversations.
- Understand that billable work always takes precedence. Yes, you must attend social events. However, when faced with an assignment that needs to be revised and a firm reception, billable work comes first.
- Before you attend a reception, prepare a handful of questions that you may ask anyone. These will encourage others to speak and thereby take pressure off you to carry a conversation. Questions might include: What projects are you focused on this summer? Where were you employed as a Summer Associate, and what’s your best memory of that summer? Do you have summer vacation plans?
- At a reception, grab something to eat OR a beverage, but never both at the same time. Keep one of your hands always available to meet and greet others.
- With regards to alcohol, don’t make unforced errors. Feel free to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer at any employer-sponsored event. However, know your limits and adhere to them. If you abstain from alcohol for any reason, do not feel pressured to consume alcohol throughout your summer employment.
Manage Business Meals
- When ordering, follow the lead of your host/hostess. If he/she orders an appetizer and an entrée, then you should do the same—even when you aren’t particularly hungry. The reverse also holds true.
- Order thoughtfully. Avoid any item that you don’t know how to eat or that tends to be messy—from a juicy burger, which may make it impossible for you to shake hands at the end of the meal, to pasta with red sauce, which can leave splatters on any white blouse or shirt.
- Avoid creating the appearance of being a person with lots of special needs. If you need to adhere to specific dietary restrictions, quietly and quickly address these with the recruiting staff in your office and wait staff at any restaurant. If you order an item at lunch or dinner, and the meal that’s delivered doesn’t quite meet your expectations, don’t make a fuss. Eat and enjoy whatever you can without complaint.
Who pays? In almost all cases, assume that others will pay for your meals throughout the summer. However, keep in mind that whoever extends an invitation to a meal is responsible for picking up the tab. So, if you ask a senior associate or partner to lunch with the intent of seeking career advice, you’re responsible for the cost of both meals. When wait staff brings the check to the table, you should immediately reach for it. Should the senior associate or partner insist on paying (Let me cover this—I remember what it’s like to be a Summer Associate), allow him or her to take the check. Thank your guest immediately and consider following up with a thank-you note.