The summers are coming

After a long, cold April, it finally feels like spring is on its way. Birds are chirping and flowers are starting to break through the frost. The sun is shining again, giving me (and my doctor) hope that my Vitamin D levels may soon return to semi-normal levels.

Unfortunately, my neighbors all apparently chose 7 a.m. last Saturday morning to (loudly) start their summer yard projects, which I'm convinced was a coordinated effort to try to shame me into doing the same. In light of the law work stacked on my desk, these passive aggressive tactics are doomed to fail I am lucky to get to my spring landscaping in August, if at all but I concede that their efforts seem to have roused all the pollen in my neighborhood from its slumber.

I am now wheezing like a seal and my nose is doing its best "broken faucet" impression. Ah, yes, spring at last.

The coming of spring brings changes to law firm landscapes, as well. It is a time when firms across the country welcome a new crop of summer interns, known as "summer associates."

For the un-initiated, summer associates are law students hired by firms to work during their summer breaks, typically between their second and final year in law school.

The "summers" are assigned client-related tasks, such as legal research, document review, and other work that partners have no interest in doing (at least when it's nice outside). The students are a welcome sight this time of year, not only because they help ease attorney workloads, but they tend to inject a

After months of trudging through the dreary, dark, and busy winter months, attorneys are happy to have a few fresh, vibrant faces walking the halls.

The summer associate hiring process is both competitive and stressful. Hundreds of law students vie for an increasingly limited number of summer positions.

Many firms have elevated their hiring standards in recent years, meaning that even exceptional students are finding it hard to obtain interviews with prospective employers.

For those fortunate enough to secure a summer associate position in this difficult climate, they are then faced with the pressure of performing well enough during the summer to secure an offer from the firm for a full-time position. Students who finish their summer internships without receiving an offer from their firm sometimes find it difficult to land employment following graduation, as they now have the black mark of "no offer" upon their foreheads, or at least upon their resumes.

Needless to say, the entire process is rife with pressure and anxiety.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a networking event at a local law school to mingle with students who are preparing to interview for summer associate positions throughout the country.

April is the cruelest month for law students, for not only are many searching for jobs, but final exams are looming. I was expecting the mood to be tense and edgy, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I was thoroughly impressed with this year's crop of students. They were poised, confident, and polished, no simple feat given their April predicament.

One of the students, "John," asked me for advice on succeeding in the practice of law. As an associate, I'm still used to asking for advice rather than giving it, but I took a shot at offering some of the practical tips that helped me in my early years of practice.

"Your life is not your work"; "the person who works the hardest is usually the luckiest"; and "treat your law firm staff with absolute respect and courtesy" were a few that immediately came to mind, and which have helped me navigate my early years of practice.

John seemed to appreciate the advice, but I felt like the tips, especially in the abstract, could come across trite and unhelpful. I could tell that John was eager for real, substantive guidance, so I offered to periodically have lunch with him. I told him I would be happy to answer any questions he might have, as well as to discuss strategies for obtaining a job. He took down my number and I left, not really expecting to hear anything further.

A couple days ago, I received an email from John. He wanted to set up a lunch. He also graciously thanked me for offering to "mentor" him, explaining that no practicing attorney had ever made him such an offer.

I was taken aback, but a bit saddened.

I have had the luxury of being surrounded by important mentors and role models throughout my legal career. From my step-father, to an adjunct law professor, to several senior attorneys in my firm, I've always had attorneys in my life who have taken an active role in my success. I don't know where I would be today without them, but I wouldn't be here.

With summer quickly approaching, it is easy for attorneys' time to fill up with planning vacations and activities with family and friends. Summer associates help pick up some of the slack while we're gone. The law profession has a tradition, dating back to at least the time of Lincoln, of older lawyers mentoring and supporting these future attorneys.

It's just something to keep in mind. But, just maybe, a bunch of us can go out of our way to make fledgling lawyers a little more comfortable as they navigate this difficult period. Plus, your firm will probably reimburse you for taking them out to lunch.

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Published: Fri, May 04, 2018