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Tips for Making the Most of Being a Virtual Summer Associate
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Let’s face it—2020 is not the best year to be an intern or summer associate. With most summer programs switching to a remote model, summer associates and interns will lose a lot more than the BigLaw after-hours gatherings and fancy lunches. They will lose the tete-a-tete interactions that lead to connections, lifelong mentors, colleagues, and friends.

Going from Zoom Law School to Zoom LLP won’t be easy. So, here are some tips for making the most of your virtual summer:

Don’t underestimate the work. It still matters. 

Given that many law firms are extending full-time offers to summer associates before they even meet them, it’s easy to assume you only need to stay in the corner and do the bare minimum. But the work still matters.

  
What
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You still need to make impressions. And these impressions will decide who you work with, what assignments you get, and what group you’re placed in. Summer associates often help pro bono clients—your effort will make a difference in people’s lives. It sounds too obvious to say it but take our two cents: Do good work.

Reach out to friends who work remotely.

In recent years, working remotely is the chosen path of many professionals who opted to shift from the traditional work environment. Reach out to some of them and ask for advice. Find out how are they managing certain challenging aspects of virtual work such as distractions, work schedules, loneliness, etc.

Working remotely has its own perks, and your ‘hermit’ friends could help you navigate through the day-to-day context of virtual work.

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Arrange your work area.

Adjust your current setup to meet your summer work needs. Maybe you have a finicky internet connection or your computer tends to crash from time to time.

Many law firms offer tech equipment in preparation for the summer: laptop, headset or speakerphone, external monitor, and peripherals like a keyboard and mouse. Take advantage of any offerings. If internet bandwidth is an issue, contact the firm’s IT team. They can offer tips to help you squeeze the most out of your connection.



Learn your way around the firm’s intranet resource pages.

Firm intranet pages can provide you with a wealth of useful information. Spend some time analyzing the content on your firm’s intranet pages. You may unveil useful information about the firm’s culture, people, practice areas, or resources.

Be patient and flexible.

Your law firm will give you promises of a meaningful summer associate experience that integrates you into the firm. But, make no mistake—all of this is new to law firms as well, meaning they will likely make up things as they go along. Therefore, be patient if there are bumps in the road, and if the whole experience isn’t as satisfying as it could be. Your willingness to roll with things makes it easier for everyone and cements your reputation as a team player.

Focus on quality over quantity.

With shrunken summer programs, you’ll have a better chance of making an impression by completing a couple of top-notch pieces, rather than drips and drabs of quick research. Naturally, you may not get to choose your assignments. But aim for projects that will allow you to thoroughly research and show off your writing skills.

Prepare for virtual meetings. 

Make sure you are well prepared to participate in a virtual meeting effectively. Test your microphone and sound beforehand. Explore the settings of the meeting platform so that you understand how to unmute yourself and show your camera. Try out different areas of your home as a background to find the one that looks the most professional. Don’t forget lighting—find a spot with either a lot of natural light on your face or add a small light so you stand out from the background.

Review the agenda and materials ahead of the meeting to understand the purpose of the meeting. And check the invitee list, it will help you understand your role in the meeting and the broader role that attendees play in the firm.

Networking remains essential. 

Even though networking sounds like a face-to-face activity, you should still “meet” as many people as you can. Try to have a phone call or a video chat with the assigning lawyer at the start and the end of every assignment. Try to drop in on virtual happy hours. Check if attorneys in your favorite practice areas are up for a virtual coffee. 

Practice your speaking.

Formal legal memos are being replaced with oral reports. So, find a way to practice your public speaking. Organize and present legal concepts in a coherent and concise way. 

Don’t alienate your fellow interns and summers.

Your co-summer associates are not your rivals, they are your colleagues. Don’t forget, they are probably going through the same struggles as you are. So, join forces to work together and have each other’s backs. Have a group chat where you can ask questions, swap experiences, and vent about partners. Make no mistake, partners notice when summer associates throw others under the bus to get ahead.

Find mentors.

Just because your summer program is not face-to-face doesn’t mean you should avoid finding a mentor. A mentor can be as simple as a second-year associate who will teach you how the document management system works.

Don’t read into things.

Law firms are juggling a lot of things right now. So, if a partner doesn’t get back to you with feedback or an associate cancels lunch, don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s them.

Navigating one of your first legal jobs from home, in the middle of a pandemic, is tough. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, reach out to your friends, mentors, and your supervisors. They all want you to succeed.



 

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