Throughout the summer, attorneys at all levels from associate to partner have stressed how the key to successfully navigating the legal profession is to “meet as many people as you can.” But this is often easier said than done. It's easy to feel intimidated by the resumes of many of WilmerHale's lawyers, who have served in leadership roles throughout government agencies, public service organizations and the private sector, but WilmerHale New York has worked thoughtfully to help summer associates get to know people throughout the office.
The best way to keep “networking” from feeling ponderous is to make people think they're doing something else. WilmerHale has taken this to heart, by providing plenty of opportunities to mingle with the firm's attorneys in contexts that don't involve small plates of finger food and nametags.
Chief among these opportunities to meet the WilmerHale community is the institution of lunch. If you spend your summer here, you will eat well. Even in Japan, I never ate sushi as often as I have over the last two months. But there's more to this practice than an expanding waistline. By encouraging summer associates to arrange lunches with associates, counsel and partners, the firm creates numerous, daily, low pressure opportunities for us to get to know our colleagues. I've gone out with everyone from first year associates who attended my law school to partners deeply enmeshed in the firm's most complex work.
As a summer associate, I haven't needed to hustle to get assignments that suit my interests from people I want to work with. Many of them have come about from lunch conversations. Several times, I've discussed over lunch with an attorney an area of practice I'd like to try, and within a week or two they had contacted me to ask whether I'd like to work on a matter involving just that kind of issue. For example, I was eager to get involved with the firm's data privacy practice, but most of those partners are in DC. I mentioned this to a junior associate one day at lunch, and she said she'd keep her eye out for that kind of matter. Two weeks later, she called and asked whether I would like to join her on a cross-office team, reviewing security and privacy controls for a social media company. It was a great experience.
There are many opportunities to meet WilmerHale colleagues other than lunch, though most feature some sort of delicious food as well. The summer program has organized a litany of great events for us. While they've all been fun in and of themselves, the greatest benefit is always that they provide opportunities to meet and get to know other attorneys. It's really nice to have events designed to get you talking about something other than the law, which can make it easier to develop an authentic connection with a senior lawyer whose brilliance and experience would otherwise be intimidating. When we went for a private tour of the Whitney Museum of American Art, for instance, the Biennial Exhibit's empty galleries made a great setting for low key discussions of the art. Watching the Mets from a box in Citifield with partners, associates and their families, it was easy to strike up a first conversation with one of the partners who directs the firm's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act group.
All of that said, WilmerHale New York can boast a great deal of kindness and collegiality in every office. The firm emphasizes that it doesn't hire people who are hard to work with and it shows. The ubiquitously open doors, the continual mingling in the common spaces, and the regular gatherings for department meetings and firm events ensures that even a newcomer can quickly feel like everyone he sees around the halls is a familiar face.
From our first day, the partners have emphasized that a key purpose of the summer program is to bring summer associates into the firm community. And as I finish out the summer program, I can say confidently that the goal was met.