Hiring Partners: How to Get a Summer Offer
By Law Weekly Staff
In the midst of all the economic doom and gloom that has been floating around, current second-year students lucky enough to have obtained a summer associate position at a law firm are only thinking about one thing: How do I turn my summer job into a full-time offer?
Law School Career Services hosted a panel to respond to just such an inquiry. Titled “How to Get an Offer from Your Summer Program” and held last Tuesday in WB 152, the talk featured a panel of three hiring partners: John R. Jacob from the Washington, D.C. office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Jacqueline E. Stone from the Richmond office of McGuireWoods, and Douglas E. Hame from the Houston offices of Vinson & Elkins.
The down economy seemed to hang over the entire talk. Jacob mentioned that Akin Gump had cut its summer program in Washington from 35 law students to 12. All seemed to agree that events would be “less extravagant” this year than in previous years. Still, the major focus was on what law students could do to best control the situation. “In past programs the offer was yours to lose; well, this year you want to do as good a job as you can, and use your best judgment,” said Jacob.
The three partners seemed to agree that the most important thing for students to do was to turn in quality work product. “Firms want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed,” said Hame. But, in order to do that, summer associates have to make sure they are putting effort into both submitting the assignments on time and making them as good as they can possibly be—which means correct Blueblook-ing and formatting, as well as proofreading to make sure there are no typos.
They also stressed the importance of getting feedback. “People at the firm will want to give you constructive criticism and improve,” said Jacob. “Attorneys are constantly in a position to provide feedback to summer associates,” Stone added. “If you get less than stellar comments [in your evaluations], it’s important to learn from them.”
The panelists also addressed the issue of practice area: Specifically, should students be strategic in choosing what practice area they work in this summer, avoiding mergers and acquisitions work for, say, bankruptcy instead? Stone advised students to “pick something that you will enjoy working on.” Each of the partners encouraged students to treat any pro bono work with the same degree of respect and professionalism that they would work relating to one of the firm’s paying clients.
“In our view they are as important for summers as the other projects . . . and the same goes for associates and partners at the firm,” said Stone.
All three partners also stressed the importance of the firm’s social events. “I wouldn’t put the term mandatory on our events, but we really want the SAs to see non-office opportunities to interact with our attorneys as important,” Stone explained.
Hame explained what to do if you couldn’t make an event. “If you have a conflict, just tell them that you can’t attend,” he said. “No one expects you to give up your outside life.” That said, “you ought to try to participate in the events so you can see what lawyers [at the firm] are doing when they’re not working.”
Queries ranged from whether split summers were still okay (they are, but that person will have to make an extra effort to connect with attorneys at the firm) to whether firms would still have offers for people who were going to clerk after graduation (as of now, firms will still make every effort to accommodate clerks, as in the past).
One question of particular interest to the class of 2010 was whether second-year grades would play a role in getting a full-time offer. “They play a role,” Jacob answered. “Not more important than your work product . . . but yes [they are] a factor.” Hame nodded his head in agreement, saying “true, it’s a factor.”