The Biglaw Devil Wears Brooks Brothers/Ann Taylor (Summer Clerking Advice from a Hiring Partner)

The Biglaw Devil Wears Brooks Brothers/Ann Taylor.

            By Jay Price**

Whether your Spring Break entails relaxing on a beach or pounding energy drinks in your snow-encased apartment for lonely outlining sessions (after all, law school gunners know how to party too), finals will soon be over and then we can get down to business – summer at a law firm.  The food, the drinks, the all night raves in hiring partners’ basements.  Wait, that was before 2008.  Well, there is still the food and the “can I eat that with my fingers” cocktail parties.

Jokes aside, summer clerking provides law students a valuable opportunity to begin a new relationship with a law firm and fellow clerks.  Most “summers” easily thrive in this environment, but there’s always a small group that unknowingly become “that clerk” to their colleagues, or even worse, to the law firm.  Confidence is key, but arrogance can kill.  Keeping it simple, here’s some advice for summer clerks from one of those old people making offer recommendations each fall:

  • Don’t assume you are better than anyone else (based on your school ranking, class ranking, grades, etc.).
  • Don’t assume the firm owes you anything.  The firm is giving you a chance.  The rest is largely up to you.
  • Don’t be a complainer.  Act maturely and be appreciative of the opportunities given to you.
  • Get along with your fellow summers.  Show you’re a team player.  Firms tend to pick up on bad vibes within summer classes.  Law firms have enough challenges.  They want professionals not instigators or whiners.
  • Be nice to the staff.  Offending the wrong “nameless” assistant may end up being the sole impression you make on an important partner.
  • Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.  Associates are working hard to succeed at what you want.  They won’t appreciate the “this stuff is easy” and “I’m definitely getting an offer” attitude.

It might seem counter-intuitive at a law firm full of all sorts of “personalities,” but basically leave the attitude at home.  Be personable, be a team-player, work hard, earn respect and take advantage of the opportunities to make meaningful professional relationships (all of which can be done while also having the traditional summer biglaw fun).

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Joel (“Jay”) A. Price, Jr. is a partner at Burr & Forman LLP, a full service law firm with offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee.  Among other firm administrative roles, Jay has served terms as Associate Chair, Recruiting Committee Member, Hiring Partner and as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee.  Jay earned a B.A. in Economics and a J.D. from Vanderbilt University. You can follow Jay on Twitter @jprice_burr.