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by Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP | May 05, 2021

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Congratulations! You have survived the interview season, determined where you will spend your summer employment, and are officially getting ready to start your assignments. Law firm lawyers and legal recruitment teams have been planning for your arrival to ensure that a thoughtful, well-executed summer associate program is in place for you. These programs are designed to provide law students with an experience that mirrors the life of a first-year associate, including assignments that are representative of the day-to-day working life of a lawyer. Additionally, working on these assignments is a great chance to learn more about yourself as a working professional—your preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Here are eight ways to maximize your summer assignments.

1. Be flexible and open minded on assignments.

The summer program is an opportunity to explore a variety of assignments. Each assignment is an opportunity to discover new interests and gain expertise. You should approach your assignments as a means to learn critical legal skills, meet attorneys across the firm in various departments, and gain exposure and insights on various aspects of the law. This process will help you learn which practice is (or is not) your true passion and get you started on your legal career. While some of you may know exactly what kind of law you want to practice, most of you have had limited exposure to many of the various exciting practice groups that law firms offer. Be open minded in both the kind of assignments you take and the practice groups in which you work. You never know. You may fall in love with something you knew nothing about when you walked in the door.

2. Be “all in.”

When receiving your assignments, be fully present, ready to listen carefully, and take notes. Tune out all distractions, including your iPhone, so that you can fully understand the context of the assignment and deliver a product useful to the lawyers and, ultimately, clients. Under- stand deadlines, and be careful not to over promise and under deliver. If you are not excited about an assignment, never show it. Approach every assignment with enthusiasm. Also, do not be afraid to ask for additional learning opportunities. For example, if you were working on summarizing documents for use in a deposition, ask if you can attend that deposition.

3. Ask questions for each assignment.

Completing an assignment requires you to understand not only what is being assigned, but also what is expected of you. After receiving an assignment and understanding the scope and deadlines, ask questions that will help you to clarify the bigger picture and start you on your way. One question to ask the assigning attorney is, “Do you have a sample of the format you would like the work product in?” Reviewing past samples will provide a great framework and save the chance of possibly going off in the wrong direction. Another question that will provide good guidance is, “Is there a leading authority to help start with the research?” This will ensure you start on the right path.

4. Avail yourself of firm resources.

Law firms prepare for summer programs months in advance of the official start date. There are many internal resources at your disposal. The firm’s Knowledge Management Team will not only ensure that you have access to Westlaw, Lexis, and other research tools, but they can help you use those tools more effectively and efficiently. Your officemate or fellow summer associates can assist with brainstorming for an assignment. Mentors and summer buddies can provide guidance based on their experiences and offer their advice. Additionally, the firm may have set up access to a writing coach who can review and edit assignments. And don’t underestimate the value of your legal assistant, who can help make your life a lot easier with their deep knowledge of firm processes, procedures, and systems. All of these resources will help you produce your best work product efficiently.

5. If you find yourself getting off track, get clarification.

Remain in contact with your assigning attorney, and avoid making assumptions. Do not be afraid to ask clarifying questions after you have started an assignment. If you are afraid to ask what you perceive to be a “dumb” question, run it by your mentor or officemate first. You will often find they do not know the answer either and will bring you comfort in elevating your question. Questions demonstrate that you are engaged and care about getting it right. Clarity will help you move back on task as well as demonstrate your willingness to learn.

6. Check your work.

When you are completing an assignment, you should make sure your work product can be sent directly from a partner to a client. This will require you to proofread, proofread again, and revise your work before submitting it to the assigning attorney. Your final assignment should not have grammar errors, citation mistakes, or typos.

7. Embrace the feedback.

Summer assignments allow you to learn from practicing attorneys. Receiving feedback will help you incorporate what you learn into not only the next assignment, but also your work as a junior associate. If you do not obtain feedback on an assignment you have completed, follow up and ask.

8. Always practice self-care.

Your summer experience will allow you an opportunity to work hard, try many assignments, meet others within the firm, and obtain an excellent insight for life as a lawyer. Be sure to communicate with your assigning attorney on your availability and competing priorities. Find balance between learning and making your well-being a priority. If you need personal or professional help, please ask for it.

This is a sponsored blog post by Kramer Levin. To view the firm's full profile, click here.

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