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TheScientist101

Tips on Being a Great Summer Student

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42 minutes ago, TheScientist101 said:

Agreed, especially because in my experience I've observed the level of drunkenness among partners to be far more than that among associates (not sure if that's a good thing...)

They have less to lose or be judged on. And probably more problems/responsibilities.

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Yes getting drunk is fine, although if you are getting absolutely sloppy drunk to the point that you are incapable of rational choices, it is probably best to do that with your friends or at the very least your co-summer students rather than partners/clients.  Yes, everyone in both of those scenarios was very drunk.  

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42 minutes ago, providence said:

They have less to lose or be judged on. And probably more problems/responsibilities.

Interesting, because there are some senior members of the bar here (not at my firm of course...) who have a reputation for partying a bit more than most everyone else. I kind of get the sense that they're judged much more harshly then the young associates/students who put a few back and holler some around Christmas time.

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1 hour ago, TheScientist101 said:

Agreed, especially because in my experience I've observed the level of drunkenness among partners to be far more than that among associates (not sure if that's a good thing...)

They're older (and probably fatter, less fit, and more tired).  The sad truth is that, the older you get, the less well you handle your liquor.  

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Gave it some thought and I think these are the categories I subconsciously use to evaluate summer students. 

Most people fall between the extremes in the first two categories.  The vast majority of summer/articling students are reasonably generic in terms of performance since we're all effectively trained the same way.

If you have three or four Awesome traits and no more than one or two Not Awesome ones, you're probably in good shape.  Cross the line into Extremely Not Awesome and you should be grateful to escape the firm with your articling requirement satisfied.

Awesome

Punctual: Meets or beats deadlines, or gives lengthy notice of inability to meet deadlines
Intellectually curious: inquires after file and seeks updates or more work
Adds value: During basic tasks, notices discrepancies and raises new arguments or points of evidence
Skilled: Is developing background expertise in a useful area and can contribute in substance
Extreme attention to detail: no spelling or grammatical errors, no incorrect dates or page references
Excellent firm citizen: joins teams and groups, volunteers to do heavy lifting on charity and firm events
High EQ: Bonds with staff, clients and counsel
Confident: Neither arrogant nor avoiding responsibility
Polished: Speaks well, well groomed, impressive brand ambassador
Team player: Sacrifices where appropriate, seeks assistance and relief as necessary

Not Awesome

Unreliable: Misses or pushes deadlines, turns in half-complete or rushed work, advises that deadline will be blown with insufficient time to restaff
Passive: Accepts and performs work, does not contribute enthusiasm or helpful perspective
Drudge: Works to rule, performs strict task assigned only, actively avoids adding value
Generic: Understands general principles of law, equally useless across the board
Careless: Generates more work for lawyers who have to become editors and footnote-checkers
Absentee: Demonstrates no aptitude for, or interest in, business side of legal practice
Low EQ: Denigrates or abuses staff, unfriendly or self-obsessed
Confidence imbalance: Either too arrogant to take instruction or too meek to defend a good idea
Sloppy: Projects incompetence and disorganization
Work generator: Work only creates more tasks for other members of the team to fix or manage

Extremely Not Awesome

-ist: Demonstrates racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic tendencies
Dishonest: Goes beyond generally acceptable mischaracterization (e.g. "Uh... I'm working on that") to outright answering direct questions falsely
Unethical: Plagiarizes, breaches confidentiality, tampers with witnesses, etc.
Treacherous: Develops reputation for throwing others under the bus, starting rumours, cruel or disrespectful attitude to staff, students or lawyers (clerks are fine, they'll handle you themselves)
Abdicates responsibility: Straight-up refuses, or accepts and does not perform, tasks assigned
Saboteur: Actively damages lawyers' relationships with judges, opposing counsel or clients

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Best advice I ever received was from this forum (forget who or what thread, sorry). The advice was that the client isn't your client. Rather, the partner/associate is your client. If you always think that way then you'll be good.

And for the record, that doesn't mean you can't have fun or joke around with the partner/associate. A partner may very well have a casual relationship and joke around with certain clients (though there are still boundaries and rules not to be broken). With other clients, they may have a strictly professional relationship. It depends on the client. The same deal applies to you - there will be some partners/associates that you will have a casual relationship with (and no need to shy away from it), whereas there are others that you will have a strictly professional relationship. It depends on the partner/associate, and you'll know pretty quickly.

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On 2018-04-10 at 12:58 AM, NYCLawyer said:

1. Learn how to use Word. As a junior it’s your job to make sure that everything is formatted properly and consistently. People do all kinds of annoying things in Word docs and when you get them from the other side you’ll need to be able to work with this.

Why is this signature block so hard to manipulate?  Oh, I see, because some ‘tard made it by creating a table in the document and then painting the table white so it’s invisible. Why would anyone do this?  Is this supposed to be fancy?  What an asshole. Oh well, it’s the company’s precedent so I guess I’ll work with it.

How do I make footer on page 17 but only page 17 of a 30-page document?

Why after pressing enter in this section of the document does it skip two lines and how do I make that stop? 

These are questions that seem stupid but you actually have to figure all of this out. Google is your friend and can tell you how to do anything or fix anything in Word.

I’m not saying you need to take a course or read a how-to manual but every time you get a task and it presents a Word problem actually take the time to figure this out properly rather than doing something that sort of looks right and hoping nobody notices.

My advice is actually the opposite - the large firms the initial post was aimed at all have Word Processing departments that specialize in just these weird formatting issues - so get to know them well and know when it's going to be more efficient for you to send it to them and spend a few more hours working on lawyer stuff rather than struggling with word on your own (at midnight...). I was always told the firm would rather you send stuff out because they're better at it and it saves them from having to fix a completely wonky doc at the very end if they're involved in it throughout. (obviously, only relevant if you have the resource)

That's also a piece of advice - learn how to use your support staff well. If you have an assistant in the summer, have an initial conversation about their workload and get to know who they work for and what kind of capacity they may have, and then don't be afraid to use it. Sometimes that means dictating due diligence and getting it typed up if you have too much to handle and your assistant can handle it, and it honestly saves a ton of time at crunch times if you use it wisely. 

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Any specific tips for government?  I'm going to be at a Legal Services Branch and I'd love to make a great impression there. It's basically my dream gig. 

Edited by ZineZ

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9 hours ago, twinsfindme said:

My advice is actually the opposite - the large firms the initial post was aimed at all have Word Processing departments that specialize in just these weird formatting issues - so get to know them well and know when it's going to be more efficient for you to send it to them and spend a few more hours working on lawyer stuff rather than struggling with word on your own (at midnight...). I was always told the firm would rather you send stuff out because they're better at it and it saves them from having to fix a completely wonky doc at the very end if they're involved in it throughout. (obviously, only relevant if you have the resource)

That's also a piece of advice - learn how to use your support staff well. If you have an assistant in the summer, have an initial conversation about their workload and get to know who they work for and what kind of capacity they may have, and then don't be afraid to use it. Sometimes that means dictating due diligence and getting it typed up if you have too much to handle and your assistant can handle it, and it honestly saves a ton of time at crunch times if you use it wisely. 

Your firm may work differently but that was not my experience of the Word processing department at all. If you have some document you converted to Word from a pdf and you need the whole thing fixed and give it to them overnight that’s fine. But if I ask a junior to add this footer to page 17 and fix the misaligned bullets so they’re formatted with the rest on page 24 and send it out to the client in 15 minutes and their response is “well I have no idea how to do that but I sent it to Word processing and they’re a little backed up because XYZ deal is closing today and said they’ll have it back to me in 3 hours” that is a wholly unacceptable answer. I find it incredibly hard to imagine a world or firm where junior corporate associates don’t need to be proficient in the use of Word.  Maybe that firm exists but me and every other corporate associate I know can do this ourselves. 

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They’re also plainly not better at it, because they don’t know what the legal effect of their decisions is. It seems that no matter how detailed my instructions are, something goes amiss. 

In the end, it’s always good that you know how to do any task that could be needed within a 20 minute span. Formatting tricks are squarely within that zone for your first summer and year. 

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38 minutes ago, theycancallyouhoju said:

They’re also plainly not better at it, because they don’t know what the legal effect of their decisions is. It seems that no matter how detailed my instructions are, something goes amiss. 

In the end, it’s always good that you know how to do any task that could be needed within a 20 minute span. Formatting tricks are squarely within that zone for your first summer and year. 

Agreed. I rarely got a document back from them that didn’t require further fixes from me. They’re a good resource in the first instance, for some things, but not a substitute for knowing how to use Word. 

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9 hours ago, ZineZ said:

Any specific tips for government?  I'm going to be at a Legal Services Branch and I'd love to make a great impression there. It's basically my dream gig. 

Random tip: Learn to memo a file properly. If you spoke to a matter, and two days later the aliens come and beam you up to go on intergalactic adventures, your colleagues need to be able to pick up your file and know exactly what happened and the essentials of any discussions you have had with any parties and what the next steps on the matter are. The file should be organized and complete with no or very few loose pages. When you work with a team make sure you’re always a team player - this includes good file maintenance. Anything less just makes work for the next person. 

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Building on Hegdis' memo recommendation, I'd recommend writing thorough (but concise) transition memos to articling students/lawyers at the end of your summer.

Though it probably varies by firm, at least at some of the larger firms the end of your summer term will overlap with the incoming articling students' terms, typically for a week or two. You'll (probably) be expected to hand off any outstanding/ongoing files to those articling students. Usually, you'll be asked to write a transition memo for each of those files.

Maybe it's an obvious thing, but make sure your transition memos are thorough, concise and useful. A useful transition memo (at least a large firm) includes, at a minimum:

  • A brief summary of the file and any pertinent background information/key facts
  • The names of and contact info for any internal parties working on the file, and what each of those parties is responsible for/what their role is on the file. (It's helpful to know, e.g., which particular law clerk has been working on the file with you (or, more accurately, which law clerk has been kind enough to help you figure out what the hell is going on).)
  • Contact information for clients (if applicable)
  • Billing/file number(s) for docketing purposes
  • The status of documents (e.g., who is working on them/who has authorship, what stage--draft vs. final and version number (if applicable)--they are in, etc.), if any, and the location of those documents (your firm will probably have some archaic and nonsensical document management system, so you should include any information that will help the articling student navigate that system more efficiently)

A good transition memo will at the very least make you look organized and competent in the eyes of the articling students to whom you relay your work (remember that by the time you return to article, those articling students might just be associates).

Perhaps more importantly, in addition to saving time and making life easier for the articling students, you'll also be indirectly saving time and making life easier for the lawyers you've been working on the file with (because they'll be able to spend less time getting the articling students up to speed).

Moreover, writing a comprehensive transition memo can avoid situations that could reflect poorly on the firm. It won't reflect well on the firm, e.g., if an articling student asks a client for a piece of information that the client has already provided and should have been included in your memo.

It's also a good idea to schedule short (10-15-minute) transition meetings with the articling students who are taking over your files. These meetings give the articling student the opportunity to ask you questions about the memo, and give you the opportunity to provide the articling student with useful tidbits that you might not otherwise include in the memo (e.g., partner X has an axe to grind with the marketing department and eschews the firm's document formatting guidelines in favour of Comic Sans typeface). In terms of the timing of these meetings, unless there was some urgency to the file/transition my approach was to schedule transition meetings for a day or two after I'd sent the memo.

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My experience has been that summer students are pretty fungible in the big firm context. This thread has good tips and they should be followed but you'll also probably be a vague memory for most lawyers by the time you come back in a year.

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I don't think that's true at all. I came back from my summer with partners and seniors reaching out to work with me specifically because I'd managed to bumble my way through summer without too much incompetence (relatively speaking). I had colleagues with the same experience and colleagues who were subject to the luck of the draw of the random assignment machine. This will be firm dependent, obviously, but if you're in a place where people can draft you directly, I am quite confident that you can put yourself enough ahead of the pack in the summer that it provides better outcomes.

Also, I remember summers (for good and bad reasons) and I'm a lawyer. So...

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25 minutes ago, theycancallyouhoju said:

I don't think that's true at all.

Ok.

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11 hours ago, bernard said:

My experience has been that summer students are pretty fungible in the big firm context. This thread has good tips and they should be followed but you'll also probably be a vague memory for most lawyers by the time you come back in a year.

Yeah, even in a small firm context - in my experience, lawyers don't rely on a summer student the way they would on an articling student, and you're probably quite forgettable unless you make a VERY VERY GOOD impression (or a very terrible one).

Edited by beyondsection17

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11 hours ago, beyondsection17 said:

Yeah, even in a small firm context - in my experience, lawyers don't rely on a summer student the way they would on an articling student, and you're probably quite forgettable unless you make a VERY VERY GOOD impression (or a very terrible one).

And just to mix it up, I’m at a medium firm and we rely on our articling students exactly the same as our articling students (other than trying to take the former to as many things as possible). And I remember the summer students, for better or worse.

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13 hours ago, beyondsection17 said:

Yeah, even in a small firm context - in my experience, lawyers don't rely on a summer student the way they would on an articling student, and you're probably quite forgettable unless you make a VERY VERY GOOD impression (or a very terrible one).

 

That was my experience as well. I was the only summer student at a small shop, which also only has 1 articling student, and their approach to me as the 2L was generally "we don't want to take work away from our only articling student". So I spent most days shadowing lawyers at mediations, doing research memos, or doing work that might usually be assigned to a law clerk (e.g. drafting correspondence or assembling an affidavit of documents). Nothing flashy. But it gave me a very nice introduction to the civil litigation process while drawing a pay cheque. And it made the transition into articling easier as I did have at least *some* idea of what was going on due to my experience summering. Had I not secure a summer position before articles, the start articling would have been even more over whelming. 

I imagine summering at a large firm might be vastly different. Or not. I have some friends that in the summer of 2L  on Bay Street were basically were just research memo machines.

Edited by happydude
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