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A “Day in the Life” of a Law Firm Summer Associate

Published: Jan 21, 2021

Topics: Education  Grad School  Law  

A “day in the life” of a law firm summer associate looked a little different in 2020 because life was a little different in 2020.

Lawyers and law firms always need to be adept at adapting, whether to new regulations, surprising evidence, or evolving business trends, but the pandemic presented unique challenges. Our 2020 remote summer associate program, though nothing like those from years before, gave associates a realistic law firm practice experience, while still checking all the boxes—offering engaging work, impactful pro bono efforts, robust training, and meaningful mentorship.

With programs in seven offices, the day-to-day schedule of an O’Melveny summer associate varied by location. But by combining the elements of a given day from around the firm, a picture of a typical day takes shape.

In New York City, for example, a summer associate’s day gets under way with work on a Pennsylvania case to ensure that all students in the state have equal access to a high-quality public education. The associate is helping an O’Melveny trial team prepare its challenge of the state’s school-funding system by reviewing and categorizing a large volume of evidence collected during discovery, including dozens of deposition transcripts.

A few hours later, while the associate in New York is listening to LGBTQ+ civil rights leader Jon Davidson discuss his legal strategies to combat discrimination, a summer associate in San Francisco is learning about pro bono opportunities—from assisting with high-impact litigation to helping small business owners devastated by the pandemic.

Mid-morning in Southern California finds a Century City summer associate in a training session about using technology to master legal research, while a summer associate in downtown L.A. is interviewing Angelenos about how COVID-19 is affecting their lives—part of a project with the Levitt Quinn Family Law Center to investigate legal issues facing the community. 

Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, a summer associate is researching the viability of potential constitutional claims related to police misconduct—including use of excessive force and racial profiling—taking a deep dive into qualified immunity and the relationship between the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as they apply to people in custody.

As a summer associate in San Francisco prepares for a small Zoom lunch with attorneys in the White Collar & Corporate Investigations Group to learn more about the practice’s ongoing matters, another associate, in Washington, DC, is drafting an appellate brief in preparation for the firm’s Summer Advocacy Institute, where she will make an oral argument in front of a panel of judges (O’Melveny partners).  At the same time, another associate, this one in Silicon Valley, is participating in an all-day mock-deal negotiation involving a venture capital financing deal. 

As the summer associates in New York and Washington wind down their work days, they are prepping the ingredients for a virtual Italian cooking class hosted by the DC office managing partner who will demonstrate how to make an amatriciana sauce and a tomato sauce. Three thousand miles away, a Newport Beach summer associate is jotting down her thoughts as the office Diversity Committee co-chair discusses his experience as a diverse partner and details the firm’s latest equity and inclusion efforts.

Before entering his time for the day, a summer associate in Los Angeles is wrapping up a one-on-one Zoom with his work coordinator; the two discuss balancing home and work lives and the associate’s next assignment—analyzing whether certain facts constitute a “scheme to defraud” in a securities action.

While there were surely moments in the summer of 2020 when associates missed that lunch down the block with colleagues or the chance to pop into the neighboring office to seek advice on a brief, they were still able to do impactful work, hone their skills, and develop professional relationships. And, perhaps because of the newness of the virtual workplace, they overcame challenges they never thought they’d encounter and succeeded in ways they never imagined they could.

This post originally appeared in the 2021 Vault Guide to Summer Associate Interviewing & Top-Ranked Programs. To view O'Melveny's full profile, click here.

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