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What Law Firms Have the Best Big Law Summer Associate Programs?
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Summary: The American Lawyer interviewed over 3,000 second and third-year law students to find out what they think of Big Law summer associate programs.

Law firm demand for quality new talent has not decreased in recent years, and the Big Law firms have continued to pull out all the stops to attract the best and the brightest. According to, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton have offered a trip to the Belmont Stakes to their summer associate classes while Paul Hastings give millennial newcomers a trip to the ESPY awards. But even though the glamour is a nice perk, a new survey from The American Lawyer reveals that the secret to summer associates’ satisfaction has more to do with attention, work, and mentorship than fun times.


Thousands of summer associates responded to The American Lawyer’s survey, and many said that their substantive work and training was what they valued from their experience the most.

“I got substantial assignments from partners and senior associates, and my work was passed directly to clients, incorporated into briefs, or trusted to provide the answer they were looking for,” a summer associate at Foley Hoag said. “Attorneys trust the summers to work diligently to complete tasks and provide them what they have requested.”

The American Lawyer ranked the Big Law firms to see who offered the best programs in the country, and this year, Foley Hoag and Duane Morris tied for the top of the list. Both firms scored perfectly in the nine survey categories used for the ranking. According to, these categories concerned “how interesting and “real” the work was, the level of training and guidance, how accurately the firm portrayed itself, how often the students interacted with partners and associates, and if the firm is an overall good place to work.”

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“I was working with them directly on projects and I could call or go to their office whenever I had questions,” a Duane Morris summer associate said.

In third place was Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Crowell & Moring. Goodwin Procter, Choate Hall, White & Case, O’Melveny & Myers and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft rounded out the top of the list.

Last year’s first placer, Choate Hall & Stewart fell several spots to seventh after holding the top position for the past two years. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison scored the worst out of the Big Law firms, but pointed out that its overall tally of 4.346 out of 5 was still respectable. reported that Goodwin Proctor had the most prominent jump–from 72nd to the top 10. Summer associates at the firm gave it a perfect score in the overall place to work category, which was an achievement only completed by ten firms.

Kenneth Gordon of Goodwin Proctor said that the firm has not changed its summer associate program but that it has worked on its recruitment initiatives to include more diversity, which may have influenced its new ranking.

“It wasn’t that we felt like we needed a radical change necessarily from last summer as much as we thought we could augment some of the things we were doing well,” Gordon said.

Repeating a sentiment from the year before, survey-takers said that they value diversity and inclusion and the lack of it was one of their major complaints. Many summer associates said in the survey that they noticed a lack of women and minorities in leadership positions, and they expressed a desire for firms to do better.

What do you think of The American Lawyer’s summer associate survey results? Let us know in the comments below.



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