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What kind of hours do summer students work? [and general advice about summers]

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Specifically at the Bay St. firms. Would it be around the same as an articling student/junior associate?

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Specifically at the Bay St. firms. Would it be around the same as an articling student/junior associate?

 

What I've been told is it depends on the firm but generally the job will demand at least 10-12 hours a day. You usually get weekends off, though. Unlike when you're articling, hah.

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It depends on the firm and the student, as well as the general work load that year / summer. Summers where a couple of huge corp deals come in may make it pretty busy for students, since due diligence tends to take up a decent amount of hands. Summers where no such deals flow through are typically less busy. The way work is distributed to students also plays a role. Whether its a central dispatch or a "hunt for your food" kind of setup.

 

The firms where I've worked were mostly based on central dispatch and therefore had a decent equity in workload distribution. I myself typically worked from 8 to 6, and rarely if ever on weekends. You'll definitely have a few late nights, but for the most part it was quite manageable. That being said, some students consistently pulled huge nights and worked many weekends. It often comes down to you as an individual, your work ethic and your stress levels. These same trends typically stayed with the same people throughout articling and at the associate level. I've always managed to have a decent work-life balance and don't tend to work late nights or many hours on weekends. Others are pulling insane hours on a consistent basis.

 

You have the opportunity as a summer student to make a good name for yourself without having to work like a maniac. Certain things will definitely be out of your control, but just bear in mind that it isn't necessarily the amount of hours you put in that counts. The firms where I've worked really didn't care about student hours, unless they were absolutely exaggerated towards either extreme of the spectrum (the lower of which didn't really tend to ever happen).

 

Cheers,

Edited by he4dhuntr

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I worked about 8:30 a.m. ish to 8:00 p.m. ish, keeping in mind that dinner happens around 7 p.m. I think I only worked a couple of times on the weekend, and it was never in the office. I anticipate changes for articling.

 

But, I will say this: *in my opinion*, I think it would be better for you to take on as much as you can (as in, really do strive for your "balance") during your summer (irrespective to what your peers are doing) for a couple of reasons:

 

1. Doing good work for lawyers is not the only way to make a solid name for yourself and, in turn, obtain more good work. If you avoid working 22 hours a day for the entire summer, resulting in a complete shock and burnout to your system, it will provide you with the flexibility (and energy) to participate in other firm events (and believe me, there will be plenty). These events are a great way to grow closer to your cohort (which is very important), as well as provide the opportunity to meet other lawyers at the firm, which can be a bit of a struggle, especially at larger firms and over the short period of the summer. I played on our firm's softball team, which required leaving the office at 5 p.m. some days, but that resulted in a few lawyers thinking of me later in the summer to help work on a cool file.

 

2. It's better to do a small amount of things well, compared to taking on more than you can handle and doing a poor job. One of the biggest challenges for me this summer was knowing when and how to say "no", especially if I was being asked to do something by a partner. Sometimes, your time will get monopolized by one lawyer and this will leave you in a challenging situation. Someone gave me the following advice, and I believe it's important to at least try to keep in mind during your summer: lawyers will remember the assignments you do poorly more than they remember the tasks you do well. I am not suggesting that you will be destroyed if you make a mistake. Most of the lawyers are well-aware that you're a summer student and even very senior partners at my firm this summer were exceptionally (and unexpectedly) patient with me. But, if you take on ten things due in the same day and you suddenly realize you won't be able to finish one assignment, or if you don't have the time to devote to even being responsive and communicable about this, I guarantee that you will piss off a ton of lawyers. Remember: lawyers are providing you with these tasks and assignments and trust you to complete them conscientiously and thoroughly. The last thing you want is to develop a reputation for yourself that you can't be trusted because you have a tendency to take on more than you can handle.

 

3. The summer is a real eye-opener to a lot of people and, consequently, will take personal adjustments. The summer is a nice taste of what to expect during articling, but at least at my firm, they made an effort to ease us into working in this type of environment. The reality is: no matter how smart you are, no matter how smart your cohort is, chances are, not many people have experience working in this type of environment and therefore, a learning curve will inevitably exist. Being mindful of your own capabilities and comfort level is crucial for the two pieces of advice above, but will also serve to maintain your sanity and health (which is of chief importance in my opinion). I had friends at other firms who experienced anxiety attacks during their summer. I remember one Friday night in June, my close friend and I from law school (working at different firms) went out for drinks around 7 p.m. She was rushing out the door by 7:30 p.m. after having a panic attack about the work she needed to get done. Don't let this happen to you. Take on what you know you can handle and only when you have a solid grasp of things should you take on additional work. Reach out to your peers, other lawyers, your friends at other firms, and, wait for it, your friends who are not in law school. My friends who are not in law school continue to be of great importance in my life - my interactions and relationships with them allow me to take a step back from law school/law firm work life, take a breath, and gain perspective. Whatever works for you - don't lose it.

 

Anyway, I realize this was unsolicited advice to a presumably-excited 2L who was inquiring about work hours on Bay Street during their upcoming summer but, I really think this is important to keep in mind as you begin your legal career.

Edited by SpecterH
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2. It's better to do a small amount of things well, compared to taking on more than you can handle and doing a poor job. One of the biggest challenges for me this summer was knowing when and how to say "no", especially if I was being asked to do something by a partner. Sometimes, your time will get monopolized by one lawyer and this will leave you in a challenging situation. Someone gave me the following advice, and I believe it's important to at least try to keep in mind during your summer: lawyers will remember the assignments you do poorly more than they remember the tasks you do well. I am not suggesting that you will be destroyed if you make a mistake. Most of the lawyers are well-aware that you're a summer student and even very senior partners at my firm this summer were exceptionally (and unexpectedly) patient with me. But, if you take on ten things due in the same day and you suddenly realize you won't be able to finish one assignment, or if you don't have the time to devote to even being responsive and communicable about this, I guarantee that you will piss off a ton of lawyers. Remember: lawyers are providing you with these tasks and assignments and trust you to complete them conscientiously and thoroughly. The last thing you want is to develop a reputation for yourself that you can't be trusted because you have a tendency to take on more than you can handle.

This is important. I know that work that I assign to a student will need to be reviewed and edited. I will not think poorly of student work that is submitted on time and shows a genuine effort, but needs some tweaking to get up to lawyer standards. But I will remember if you blow off my deadline and are unresponsive when I try to get a hold of you to see what's up.
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Specifically at the Bay St. firms. Would it be around the same as an articling student/junior associate?

 

I think the closer you get to working articling student/junior associate hours during the summer the better, especially if its the type of firm that expects you to seek out your own work within the firm, but I don't think that is the expectation right off the bat.

 

I think a good summer would be working a 10-12 hour day 5 days a week, and if you get very busy, a few nights/weekends. Being very busy, subject to what others posters say above about not getting in over your head, is likely a good sign that they like working with you. Early in the summer, you won't likely be very busy, but I wouldn't recommend packing up at 5pm - stick around the firm until the early evening, ppl may see you around and need your help.

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It will vary firm to firm. Some firms have a reputation for it being a summer camp (the nickname is literally "camp [firm]". Others work their summers to the bone. 

Even a particular firm might have variation year to year. A firm that had many summer students and not so much work last summer was more relaxed than usual. My firm, known for being relatively chill to summers, worked them like crazy because they needed to – the firm got way more summer work than usual. 

 

Presuming you are a 2L who knows where you are summering, I recommend getting in touch with some summers from 2016. This is super helpful for firm-specific advice that doesn't really come up during recruitment, and they can probably give you an idea of what the summer will be like, subject to the caveat above. If you know your rotations (if your firm does rotations) then try to get in touch with the people who did those rotations last year. 

Edited by Ambit

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 When you tell a senior lawyer or partner that you cannot take on more work, do you offer to complete it at another time, or flat out say no (politely, of course)?

 

For example, 1- "I have two other files to work on for X and Y, it will be difficult for me to complete this assignment by your deadline, but I would be able to take on the assignment next week, if possible." 

 

Or do you say something like 2- "I'm too busy with previously assigned tasks, unfortunately I won't be able to take on the assignment." 

 

Are the lawyers at the firm testing you by giving you a lot of work, seeing if you're mature enough to turn down work and take on only what you can handle? If that's the case, would they think the #2 response demonstrates confidence and the ability to firmly say no, while #1 could potentially make you look like you're trying to please everyone?

Edited by GameTime180

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It depends on how you're asked, but 2 is not normally the best option. If someone comes in, says "You look really busy, do you have time for X", it's probably fine to say "Yeah, I'm swamped. I'd love to, but just can't right now."

 

But generally, some variation of #1 is better, maybe even with an offer/request to speak to the other people you're working for to see if things are urgent or can be rearranged.

Edited by Jaggers
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It depends on how you're asked, but 2 is not normally the best option. If someone comes in, says "You look really busy, do you have time for X", it's probably fine to say "Yeah, I'm swamped. I'd love to, but just can't right now."

 

But generally, some variation of #1 is better, maybe even with an offer/request to speak to the other people you're working for to see if things are urgent or can be rearranged.

 

My gut instinct would be to go with #1 as a student who is nervous about being hired back, but I wouldn't want to look like a pushover. I definitely won't have a problem saying no to a partner, but I don't want to look like I don't work hard enough. I guess I would have to find a balance between 1 and 2, depending on the firm culture/expectations of the lawyers/partners at the firm.

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It depends on how you're asked, but 2 is not normally the best option. If someone comes in, says "You look really busy, do you have time for X", it's probably fine to say "Yeah, I'm swamped. I'd love to, but just can't right now."

 

But generally, some variation of #1 is better, maybe even with an offer/request to speak to the other people you're working for to see if things are urgent or can be rearranged.

 

+1. I was on a file that rapidly got insane and it required ~40 hours of work in two days, so I asked if I could bring another student on the file and they were more than happy with that.

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+1. I was on a file that rapidly got insane and it required ~40 hours of work in two days, so I asked if I could bring another student on the file and they were more than happy with that.

 

I've also found that a roundabout way to say this is "I'd love to, but I have X, Y, and Z on my plate right now - can this wait until later this week? (or insert whatever timeline).

 

That way, if it can wait, you look good for not outright saying no - but if it's a time-sensitive thing, they'll just say "oh that's ok I'll ask SpecterH instead."

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I've also found that a roundabout way to say this is "I'd love to, but I have X, Y, and Z on my plate right now - can this wait until later this week? (or insert whatever timeline).

 

That way, if it can wait, you look good for not outright saying no - but if it's a time-sensitive thing, they'll just say "oh that's ok I'll ask SpecterH instead."

 

Pls...no more work...

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I think the bottom line is you have to be a problem solver.  Simply saying no shoves the responsibility of problem solving onto the lawyer.  Offering solutions (I could do it by x date instead, I can ask to see if another timeline is flexible, etc.)  is the better way. 

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I think the bottom line is you have to be a problem solver.  Simply saying no shoves the responsibility of problem solving onto the lawyer.  Offering solutions (I could do it by x date instead, I can ask to see if another timeline is flexible, etc.)  is the better way. 

 

I should add, being a problem solver goes beyond things like this.  When working on something try to put yourself in the shoes of the lawyer and consider what it is they need and work towards that.  A perfect example is situations where a lawyer asks for a memo outlining the case law that supports "x", but after doing the research you find that the case law actually supports "not-x".  In such circumstances a "touch base" conversation to discuss the interim findings is appropriate as it will either (a) help the lawyer recognize that they may have mis-remembered what the case law said, giving them a chance to decide whether they want to change your assignment or (b) give the lawyer a chance to correct a flaw in your research before you draft a whole memo wrong.  

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 When you tell a senior lawyer or partner that you cannot take on more work, do you offer to complete it at another time, or flat out say no (politely, of course)?

 

For example, 1- "I have two other files to work on for X and Y, it will be difficult for me to complete this assignment by your deadline, but I would be able to take on the assignment next week, if possible." 

 

Or do you say something like 2- "I'm too busy with previously assigned tasks, unfortunately I won't be able to take on the assignment." 

 

Are the lawyers at the firm testing you by giving you a lot of work, seeing if you're mature enough to turn down work and take on only what you can handle? If that's the case, would they think the #2 response demonstrates confidence and the ability to firmly say no, while #1 could potentially make you look like you're trying to please everyone?

 

Another variation that I like is "Unfortunately I can't because I'm busy doing X, Y and Z all due tomorrow; but if you would like, I can complete it next week, or I can find you another student"

 

At least in my experience, the ability of the students to work as a team is key. At my firm we probably meet close to daily, we have conversations about what everyone else is doing and we all know how much work each student has. This makes it far more easy to divide work. It's almost like as a group of students you are a mini firm within the actual firm. You are all there to serve your clients, the lawyers. The better you work as team, the better service you can give your clients and they happier they are with you as a group. 

Edited by TheScientist101
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Another variation that I like is "Unfortunately I can't because I'm busy doing X, Y and Z all due tomorrow; but if you would like, I can complete it next week, or I can find you another student"

 

At least in my experience, the ability of the students to work as a team is key. At my firm we probably meet close to daily, we have conversations about what everyone else is doing and we all know how much work each student has. This makes it far more easy to divide work. It's almost like as a group of students you are a mini firm within the actual firm. You are all there to serve your clients, the lawyers. The better you work as team, the better service you can give your clients and they happier they are with you as a group. 

 

Great insight, I didn't really think about asking to find another student. It would definitely demonstrate teamwork and show your comfort level with other potential hires. I'm guessing the firms typically want to hire a batch of students that get along, so that's a great way to let firms know you're a team player and not afraid to communicate with other students (and other lawyers at the firm, down the line if hired).

Edited by GameTime180

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Another variation that I like is "Unfortunately I can't because I'm busy doing X, Y and Z all due tomorrow; but if you would like, I can complete it next week, or I can find you another student"

 

At least in my experience, the ability of the students to work as a team is key. At my firm we probably meet close to daily, we have conversations about what everyone else is doing and we all know how much work each student has. This makes it far more easy to divide work. It's almost like as a group of students you are a mini firm within the actual firm. You are all there to serve your clients, the lawyers. The better you work as team, the better service you can give your clients and they happier they are with you as a group. 

 

I received a PM from someone asking me to post this reply to your comment anonymously:

 

 

Be very careful when trying to work with your cohort of students as a mini-firm within the firm.  I am sure it works well when everyone comes in with the same intentions, but that is not always the case.  In my articling year, we tried doing something similar to what TheScientist101 did, but a couple of students tried to put themselves into a "leadership" position in which they would cajol other students to take on more work then they were comfortable taken on.  It devolved pretty quickly, but not quick enough to prevent a lot of hurt feelings and irrevocable splits between the students.  At the end of the day, if all the students can work well together then thats great, but if its not working don't spend a bunch of time and energy trying to make it work

 

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