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Working at a big firm this summer? Congrats! Summer associate positions aren't easy to come by. You've had to work hard to land the spot and you'll work hard throughout it. But, it's not like a summer associate position isn't without its perks.
Indeed, while you should treat the summer as a season-long interview, the firm will also be trying to sell itself to you. Good pay, good food, good work -- or at least lots of work -- are just some of the perks awaiting you.
Summer associates at big law firms get paid, well, not unlike lawyers at big law firms: well. Many associates are paid a prorated first-year associate's salary. In fact, summer associate positions are one of the last few places where law students can still get paid for their summer labor. Which brings us to perk number two.
2. Picking Up the Tab
All your non-associate friends? They're poor. For example, many nonprofits have never offered payment while some offer just a small stipend. Some of your law school colleagues will be taking out small loans to work at the ACLU or Environmental Defense Fund this summer -- what suckers those kids must be.
Even federal summer clerkships have moved away from pay. If you clerk for the Department of Justice this summer, for example, you're likely to be doing it as a volunteer. (Isn't that how R.F.K got his start?) The few who do get paid make only about $15-20 an hour. So, buy your non-associate friends some drinks this summer! After all, spreading the wealth is also a perk.
Summer associate positions are kind of like summer camp, just with more stress and less s'mores. There's regularly organized activities, from simple brownbag lunch events to over-the-top cocktail hours and office outings like wine tastings and weekend retreats. Take advantage of these, but remember -- work events are still work. Don't get wasted and throw up on a partner.
Sure, summer associates can be competitive and there will be a shark or two in your cohort, but you'll also probably make a good friend or two over the summer. Stressful situations bring people together -- summer associate as Stockholm Syndrome sufferer-- so bond over the workload and constant anxiety, or just your love of obscure legal jargon.
Okay, so a summer associate position isn't the guaranteed entry into a firm that urban myths claim it used to be. But, if you play your cards right, you can turn that summer gig into a full time position. How? Like we said, by treating that summer associate position as a summer-long interview.
And hey, if you find out that the law firms lifestyle isn't for you, well consider that just another perk of the position.
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