Mathas encourages new associates who are given an assignment to offer to check back in with the assigning attorney after spending an hour or two. Some senior attorneys will say yes, and some may say no, but he still recommends the practice.
“That’s a way better conversation to have than the conversation when the time report comes in and I was expecting you to spend seven hours on a project and instead I see 70 hours on the project,” Mathas said.
Give different areas of law a try.
During her summer associate experience, Tyler wasn’t assigned to one section of the firm. Instead, she was given opportunities to try out various areas of law.
“I was very grateful for that. It gave me great opportunities to meet very different people and look at very different parts of the law,” Tyler said.
She explained that it’s hard to know which style of law is the right fit for you before you have a chance to get your hands dirty on an actual assignment.
“You just really don’t know until you try things whether litigation or appellate is more your style,” Tyler said. “Do you like everything to be inside of the box, which it will be in appellate, or do you like to have to go out and beat the bushes, which is more litigation?”
Cohen, who worked as a summer associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore after earning his J.D. from Cornell Law School, agrees that seeking assignments and opportunities to work with different people throughout the firm is key. He also recommends seeking out pro bono cases, through which he was able to work on interrogatories for discovery, depositions, and a motion to dismiss, all as a summer associate.
“There are things that I wouldn’t have had such a large part in doing for a paying client that I was doing right away,” Cohen said.
Taking on pro bono work as a new or summer associate is a great way to gain experience and hone your skills early on in your career.
“And it gives you exposure to elements of the practice of law that you might not necessarily see for a substantial amount of time when doing regular client work,” Cohen said.
In general, try to avoid spending your summer with only one practice group.
“If you have any control over the flow of your assignments, try out as many different partners at the firm, as many different groups in the firm, as you can, because you can’t be terribly sure where you’ll fit in best,” Tyler said. “Summer associateship is a fabulous time to try out a bunch of different things.”