When we start as summer associates at WilmerHale, we all hope to return to the firm soon after as a real, live, actual lawyer! And while the firm puts on a fabulous 10-week summer program that is quite realistic of life as an associate in many aspects, there are some distinct differences between being a summer associate and a full-time associate, particularly when it comes to substantive work.
Since our summer program is only 10 weeks long, and because the firm wants us to dip our toes in a range of different matters, we mainly work on discrete research projects. I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects, and I feel strongly that I have gained significant research and writing experience.
Besides writing several research memos on topics ranging from human trafficking issues to California criminal procedure, I also wrote a factual chronology of events for a pro bono case, drafted a portion of a pro bono client's sentencing brief, compiled and analyzed data for an internal investigation and separately for discovery requests, and I'm currently observing a federal trial on behalf of one of WilmerHale's clients! Not only do my projects span many different subject matters, but they also range in procedural stages of the life of a case, from one case that recently filed a civil complaint to another that is currently in trial.
I have also been surprised at the level of contact I have had with clients and outside counsel. I have sat in on several calls with clients and outside co-counsel. I sat in on witness preparation for our clients testifying at trial and met with lawyers from the Department of Justice. These are all opportunities the firm has exposed me to in just eight short weeks, and I have learned so much from each experience.
This however, as I stated above, is much different than the experience of a full-time associate. Associates are often only staffed on a few matters so they have the time and ability to become experts on the law and facts of each case. This allows them to become integral team members who can truly contribute to each matter.
Chances are if you like the work you do as a summer associate, you will enjoy it much more if you return to the firm and work on fewer matters at a much deeper level. For example, I greatly enjoyed working on a project for an internal investigation, but my project lasted two weeks. I got to know some of the facts in the case that are extremely interesting, but had I been working on that matter as a full-time associate, I would know all the details of the case and would be more involved with the case's strategy. Moreover, while I've greatly enjoyed working on pro bono litigation projects, as a full-time associate, I could have the chance to work on a team that takes a pro bono case from start to finish.
The substantive work I've done as a summer associate at WilmerHale has been challenging, informative, and extremely interesting. I know that if I have the opportunity to return to the firm, I will enjoy my work even more than I have this summer, which is really saying a lot.