Last week, I posted an article about some kinds of summer associate events law firms should generally avoid to minimize pressure and awkwardness around summer associate season. I received a number of emails describing summer associate fails that readers experienced in their own careers and additional types of events that law firms should generally avoid during summer associate season. One person reached out and asked if I thought any types of summer associate events were positive and which should be hosted by law firms. Of course, shops can host numerous types of events to evaluate the group they hired to be summer associates and determine if they are a good fit at a firm.
Perhaps the easiest and most common summer associate events are long lunches. At many firms, associates are permitted to take summer associates to lunch and expense the meal to the firm. This was a great part of my summer associate experience. All types of associates from around the office wanted to get to know me and suggested heading to lunch with a group so that everyone could bond and score free food on the firm’s dime. I believe there were limits to the amount of the reimbursement, but so long as this is not abused, this can be a great way to connect with summer associates.
At other points in my summer associate experience, the firm organized lunches more formally at various venues in my area such as the 21 Club, the Newark Club, and some other places I can’t remember off the top of my head. This was nice too since it ensured that everyone would have the long lunch experience even if they were too busy to organize informal lunches or had already gone to lunch with a number of associates. Long lunches take place during business hours, and do not impede on the personal time of summer associates and attorneys, so this should be on every firm’s list of events to host.
The law firm I worked at did not host a scavenger hunt, and I never really went on a proper scavenger hunt in my life (except maybe when I was initiated into the Brandeis Track Team, but I digress!). However, some colleagues of mine have related that they needed to complete scavenger hunts around the city in which their office was located as part of their summer associate experience. This generally involved taking pictures at local landmarks, ordering food from certain establishments, and the like. Of course, such an activity is completely unrelated to practicing law, and does not explicitly demonstrate skills that will be useful as a full-time associate.
However, such events are great team-building activities that can connect summer associates with common memories that they will share as they progress through their careers. Moreover, such scavenger hunts can give supervisors valuable feedback about who is a leader among a group of summer associates and who is able to think critically on their feet in certain situations. Of course, scavenger hunts can be hard to prepare, and they may require creativity on behalf of supervisors, but such events can be a good way to have fun and make memories as a summer associate.
Attorneys often do not have the time to attend social events with attorneys who work at different offices, even if the offices are located a relatively short distance from each other. This is likely because attorneys are busy and need to work on billing hours rather than meeting colleagues who work at different offices. However, summer associates often have ample free time to meet attorneys and staff who work at different offices, and summer associate events can be the perfect occasion for an interoffice mixer.
When I was a summer associate at a Biglaw law firm’s office in Newark, New Jersey, summers spent a week at the firm’s New York office. This was because the firm’s New York office did not at the time have an independent summer program, and the firm wanted us to meet and work for some of the attorneys who worked in the New York office. The New York office hosted a bunch of mixers so that we could get to know the attorneys who worked at that office, and this was a great way to meet attorneys and staff who did not work at our home office, but whom we might work with on projects someday. More law firms should seize the opportunity created by summer programs to have interoffice mixers since meeting people at different offices can help attorneys and staff work together on projects.
All told, the summer associate experience might be the best time someone has in the legal industry. Law firms can host a number of events in order to ensure that summer associates have a fun and enriching time while summering at law firms.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at [email protected].