Concerned About Finding Meaningful Projects for Summer Associates? One Solution and a Dozen Benefits.

Written by Ross Guberman on April 24, 2020


Many Legal Writing Pro clients and BigLaw friends are scrambling right now to transform their summer associate programs on the fly.

At the top of the list: How will my firm find substantive work for our summer associates in the face of a truncated season, remote participation, dwindling transactions, stalled litigation, and distracted supervisors and firm administrators?

It’s time to get creative.

One of the best programs I’ve run (and copied at other firms) paired first-year associates with partners assigned to be their mentors. Each pair collaborated on a client alert or article that ultimately bore both names. And because the partners naturally picked topics related to their practices, the collaboration led to billable opportunities down the road. The result was something you don’t see all that often in BigLaw: satisfaction all around.

Consider a similar mentoring pair-up for summer associates.

What the firm will get out of it

  • With billable work teetering, senior associates and partners need all the business-development help they can get.
  • Timely, well-crafted alerts present a golden opportunity right now: In-house counsel are already complaining about the repetitive content and lackluster writing in many of the corona-related alerts that are landing in their in-boxes.
  • The crisis has already yielded dozens of pressing new legal issues in virtually every practice area. The stack of issues will only explode this summer.

Why summer associates will enjoy it

  • Law students find the format of client alerts and articles intuitive.
  • Your firm will already have many models on its site.
  • Even in normal times, mentoring over a work project can be more relaxing than mentoring over lunch. And now there’s no mentoring over lunch at all.
  • There’s no reason to staff more than two people on most client alerts or articles, so summer associates will get one-on-one interaction.
  • These projects are meaty enough to be challenging without taking all that long: alerts are time-sensitive by definition.
  • The summer associates are guaranteed to get feedback–at the very least, they will get to see the final product, something that often never happens all summer long.
  • These projects will give summer associates a chance to interact with marketing and business development teams.

What summer associates will get out of it (and what you might learn about them)

  • Summer associates can experience first-hand how hard it is for firms to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace and under time pressure.
  • Because to capture clients’ attention an alert must be practical, summer associates will have a chance to confront the main challenge they’ll face as young lawyers: how to turn “What’s the law?” into “Why should I care?”

Best of all, if all this mentoring goes well, your firm and your summers can compete in my nationwide law student client alert competition!

Ross Guberman

Ross Guberman

Ross Guberman is the president of Legal Writing Pro LLC and the founder of BriefCatch LLC. From Alaska and Hawaii to Paris and Hong Kong, Ross has conducted thousands of workshops on three continents for prominent law firms, judges, agencies, corporations, and associations. His workshops are among the highest rated in the world of professional legal education.

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