Advice from Law Firm Associates on Selecting a Summer Program

Published: Jan 17, 2020

Topics: Education       Grad School       Law       

Whether you are preparing for your school's upcoming Spring OCI or starting to plan for the summer OCI process, interviewing for a summer associate position can be overwhelming. Let's face it, most law students have had very little experience in the legal industry, and it can be difficult to determine the differences among firms—which all start to blend together. Then once OCI starts, you will be caught up in back-to-back screening interviews, callbacks, and networking receptions. So how do you select the right firm in this job-hunt whirlwind?

We asked current law firm associates for their advice. In Vault’s Annual Associate Survey, associates answered the following question: Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself as a law student considering which summer associate program to select? Read on for some associate insights on making this critical career decision.

  • “Choose a summer program that will let you experience multiple practice areas. There's no way to know what you'd like to practice until you try it.”
  • “Pick the best fit culturally. You're going to do hard work everywhere, so make sure you do it in a place you enjoy coming to every day.”
  • “If you know what you want to do, find the firms that are the best at that law and try to figure out which has people that are most like you in terms of personality and work style.  If you don't know what you want to do, find the firms with the broadest practices and try to figure out which has people that are most like you in terms of personality and work style.” 
  • “Try to meet as many people as possible and see if you'd really like working with them in the future. Don't forget to consider the firm's longevity such as financials, practice group success, etc.”
  • “Try to figure out the firm/office culture.  Don't pursue something just because it's prestigious or what everyone else is doing. Figure out what will make you happy--forget everyone else.”
  • “Think about the prestige of practice groups within firms (not just about prestige of the firm).”
  • “I would have gone with more prestige and brand recognition. I chose interesting work and people, but they are in the rearview now. A resume piece with brand recognition would have been more valuable I think.”
  • “Go back for a second look after you've received an offer. Ask hard questions and walk around the office to get a feel for the place.”
  • "Make sure you look at how your firm does staffing, and consider that in your decision.”
  • “Think about the type of clients your targeted practice group represents, it will give you a better idea of the day to day work you will do.”
  • “Go somewhere that is supportive of your long-term goals, whether that is clerking, working for government, or going in-house. Don't focus on the summer experience itself—focus on the big picture.”
  • “Reach out to as many alums and other connections at firms as you can. Online research is just not going to give you the inside scoop on what the firm is like.”
  • “Talk to as many people at the firms themselves as you can, especially law students you know who are familiar with the firm.”
  • “Watch how people in the office interact with each other. Learn more about how they work, hours, etc.  These are the things that will impact your happiness. …”
  • “Select the program that gives you the most substantive experience.”
  • “Try to meet as many mid-level and senior associates as you can in the practice areas you are interested in because they are the people you will be working most closely with when you come back to the firm as an associate.”
  • “Look at the firm as a whole, not just a few people you really liked; associates turn over in the two years before you actually start full time.”