Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Turn That Summer Gig into a Full-time Law Job

If you’re looking to land a job at a law firm, the best strategy is to get your foot in the door as a summer associate.

“There are, of course, people I have known who have gotten jobs in large law firms without being a summer associate first (Yale graduates who work in the State Department during the summer, attorneys who were federal law clerks for important judges after law school and a few other examples), but it is very rare,” says Harrison Barnes of Law Crossings. “Generally, the qualifications of the people who are able to get positions in large law firms without being summer associates in a large law firm are extraordinary in some other respect.”

Barnes lists 10 advantages of being a summer associate:

  1. Large firms want to hire proven commodities. “When you are successful as a summer associate, this shows future employers that you are likely to work out,” he writes. “[F]irms are much more likely to hire people who are ‘proven’ and have meaningful experience in a large firm.”
  2. Large firms may assume that if you were not a summer associate, there must be something wrong with you. “[A]ttorneys in large firms … feel that if you did not get a summer associate job inside of a large law firm, you must not (1) share their motivation, (2) interview well, or (3) have the ability to sell yourself (which is not good if you are planning on being an attorney).”
  3. Large firms have their pick of candidates. “The prestige level of the law firm you work in as a summer associate at 24 years of age can literally impact the quality of law firm you are working in when you are 50 years old.”
  4. Large firms offer important work for big clients. “[L]arger clients are willing to pay higher fees, have more complex matters, and the work is generally high-profile.”
  5. Large firms offer stellar training. This may not be available in smaller legal environments.
  6. Large firms have higher expectations for quality work. “When clients are paying massive amounts of money for a law firm’s services, they expect the work to be of the highest quality. These expectations carry down to summer associates as well. When you are in an environment that expects the very, very best, it forces you to rise to that level.”
  7. Large firms pay better. “It goes without saying that if you get a job with a large law firm during the summer, you will make a lot more money doing this than alternative jobs. Additionally, once you are an attorney with a larger law firm, you are likely to make more money than you would working in a smaller firm–sometimes as much as 2 to 3 times as much during your first year of practice.”
  8. Large firms offer a greater variety of life and work experiences. “Once you are part of the large law firm fraternity, you will have the ability to work in other law firms (many attorneys work in several).” Plus it is easier to get an in-house corporate position or move to foreign markets across the globe.
  9. Large firms offer greater job security. Of course, you can still be fired. But you will generally get more advance notice and have more options if you are let go.
  10. Large firms expand your options. Name a practice niche – litigation, tax, corporate, patent, intellectual property – and you will find an opportunity to explore it in a big firm. You can even try out various practices before choosing the one you are most interested in.

Have you been a summer associate? Did it lead to a job offer? Please share your experiences.



About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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