The summer associates landed in our office yesterday, and it is a trip. That entire experience is still seared into my brain, and to watch someone else nervously maneuver their way through it made me realize that (like probably any industry) law has a pretty bizarre, windy path governing how you get from spending all day in the library to spending all day at a desk.*
Here’s how it works: at the beginning of your second year of law school, hiring partners from all the major law firms descend on the city and take over a hotel. Everyone in your class shows up in the lobby of said hotel in suits, clutching leather portfolios stuffed with resumes. You all spend a lot of time commenting on how professional everyone looks; until then, you’d only ever seen each other in jeans, unbrushed hair and exhausted-face. There’s a lot of comparing notes: which firms, in which cities, did you bid to interview? What was their grade cut-off? Hmm, maybe I should’ve done that one instead; whatever, my entire career only hinges on this one decision. Then, every twenty minutes, you and your classmates line up in front of the doors to the hotel’s suites, counting down to the minute of your interview. You look up the corridor and get a little weirded out at how Matrix it all looks, your friends all in conservative grey or navy jackets, hands poised to knock at exactly 9:30 or 10:40 or 4:15ohmygod how am I still able to converse with a human, I’ve been speaking in small talk allll day. And then the interviewer comes to the door, (“Hello!” “Hello!“) and you have twenty minutes to convince a partner at a national firm to hire you. Based on two semesters’ worth of grades.
If it goes well, you make a trip out to the firm’s office to do an all-day version of the above with different partners and associates. And with wine, always, even though that makes it a little harder to keep your professionally amazing filter in place. If it doesn’t fall out too intensely, the firm offers you a position as a summer associate.
So, six months later, after your whole second year of law school is complete, you arrive at the firm to spend your summer being a practice associate. You’re given substantive work to do, on which you’re graded, and also spirited away to various social events. There are (purposely) more cocktail hours and super-long lunches than there’s time for, given the amount of work you have to accomplish, so your juggling skills are front and center. After three months, if you’ve kept all the plates in the air, you’re sent back to your third year with a job offer for after graduation.
It’s a pretty intense process; I operated mostly on stress and cappuccinos from the machine next to my office. The thing is, though…it usually works out alright. I’ve made several real friends among the other people in my class, and the months-long exposure to the office told me I’d fit in well and be happy here. The fact that I knew I had somewhere welcoming to land made jumping off into the pit of bar-studying a little less terrifying. My only advice to anyone currently wending their way through this process? Proof-read your work endlessly…and do not schedule your wedding for one week after your summer position ends.
*Or, you know, the local Starbucks. I refused to participate in library-going after the first week or so of classes…too many stress vibes, and not enough coffee or passers-by with cute babies.