I’m a rising 3L at Columbia Law, and I just completed a summer program at large law firm in Los Angeles. This post is going to discuss my experience at the firm.
I’ve often heard that the time you spend as a summer associate is the best job you’ll ever have. I can now wholeheartedly attest to the validity of that statement. At most large law firms, you receive the market salary for a first year associate for the ten to twelve weeks you work at the firm. You generally aren’t expected to “bill” that many hours (I put that in quotation marks because most of the work you do isn’t actually billed to the client). Essentially, you’re getting paid an exorbitant rate to work a 9-5 job with little to no stress.
While the salary and hours alone are enough to make the position an enviable one, that’s not the end of the story. You’ll also get wined and dined at your city’s finest restaurants. Over the course of my ten weeks, I bought lunch only three times. You’ll also get to experience a variety of social events. My firms took us wine tasting, indoor skydiving, and bowling, among other activities. There are also a variety of impromptu happy hours and dinner opportunities that crop up over the course of the summer.
Last, but certainly not least, the summer associate position is a great way to learn about the practice of law. It is a rare opportunity to speak to associates and partners about the work they do. Even though the work is largely not indicative of the work you do as a first-year associate, you will get the chance to gain some insight into a variety of practice groups (or, as I did, to specifically target work in one practice group). Given that most people end up back at the firm they spent their summer at, you can also build important professional relationships and become close to the professionals you’ll be working alongside.
One partner at my firm joked that a law firm is hierarchical, like a pyramid, with the summer associates at the top, followed by the partners, counsel, and associates. If you choose to do biglaw, take advantage of your weeks as a summer, when you’re on top. The salary, perks, and opportunities are unparalleled.