Whew! I just returned from a whirlwind couple of days in Palo Alto, California for the West Coast Summer Associate Summit. WilmerHale brought the summer associates from the Denver, Los Angeles and Palo Alto offices together for two days of training and networking. I had been looking forward to the summit since before the summer began, and it did not disappoint!
One of my favorite aspects of the summit was the opportunity to interact with attorneys from various seniority levels of the firm. Having spent the previous four weeks engaging in the day-to-day work of the Denver office, I appreciated the big-picture perspective that Co-Managing Partners Susan Murley and Bob Novick shared with us. Susan and Bob discussed WilmerHale's strategic vision, educated us about the firm as a business and enthusiastically answered our questions. A panel of associates and counsel followed Bob and Susan. Michael Hazel, Sarah Zarrabi and Laura Goodall answered questions about life as a WilmerHale attorney, ranging from balancing pro bono and billable matters to taking vacations. Finally, first year associate Erin Ladd told us about a pro bono class action case that she is handling along with a small team of attorneys in the Palo Alto office. We'd heard several times that pro bono cases present exciting opportunities to get high-level experience early in one's career, and Erin's presentation drove that point home.
The recruiting team (who meticulously planned our agenda) even brought in an “alumni panel” of two former WilmerHale attorneys who now work as in-house counsel. I was impressed that the firm chose to include individuals who are no longer at WilmerHale in our agenda. Doing so indicated to me that the firm is dedicated to its attorneys' career development, even if that development eventually leads them elsewhere. It was interesting to hear about how the two work environments differ, as well as how WilmerHale prepares its attorneys to take on challenges within and outside the firm.
In addition to hearing from others, the 14 of us participated in workshops designed to improve two crucial skills: writing and negotiating. I particularly enjoyed the writing workshop, which aimed to help us “trim the fat” from our writing. It was the most engaging and effective writing lesson I've ever had.
Of course, we also had plenty of fun. The recruiting team emphasized from the beginning that one purpose of the summit was to get to know our future colleagues, and they gave us ample time to do so. My favorite event of the summit was the cooking class that we took on Thursday night. The recruiting staff split us into teams of summer associates and attorneys to cook six different recipes. In addition to learning the best way to chop an onion, I had a blast getting to know my teammates as we prepared our recipe. And—perhaps surprisingly—every dish tasted delicious.
After a fabulous couple of days in Palo Alto, it's great to be back in Denver starting my fifth week at WilmerHale. The summer is flying by!