Let me just start this with the basics. Calm down. Your suit looks fine. You’ll never wear it to the office again. All the other summer associates are just as nervous as you are. You don’t need to remember everything from orientation. The bathroom is hidden in a wall… just stop pretending you’re not looking for it and ask the front desk. Have I mentioned calm down? Kelli Powell will start orientation by telling you to forget about your imposter syndrome because you belong at WilmerHale. Believe her.
You will enjoy every summer associate event more than you expect you will, so go to them all. In fact, stop checking your calendar. When you get an event request, just say yes. With any luck, you’ll leave the summer with both a WilmerHale bowling shirt and softball shirt with your name stitched on it. If you step out of your comfort zone a little bit and show up to law firm karaoke, you will be able to see a partner who recently deposed Alex Jones sing “You’re Welcome” from Moana. You’ll shake Rachael Rollins’s hand. You’ll cook with Lucca’s executive chef (and you won’t even cut off a finger).
Oh, you just got an assignment and you don’t know what any of the words means? Remember when I told you to calm down? Do that again. You’re not supposed to know what the words mean. Instead of letting it scare you, allow the experience to invigorate you. Be excited about the learning opportunity. Be curious. Be confident. Ask questions when you need. When you get frustrated, stop to think about the big picture behind the work you’re doing. I promise you, it’s something you never dreamed you’d get to do.
Reach out to everyone and anyone. From day one, just start knocking on office doors. The world is your oyster—or, really, your lobster roll. Everyone wants to get to know the summer associates, and an invitation to grab lunch is just an introduction away. Meet the partner who counts cards. Talk to the legal secretaries about their weekend plans. Ask associates what “IP Litigation” is, and really listen to the answers.
On a related note, the summer co-chairs do listen to you, do want to know you, and will make your dreams come true, provided you give them the opportunity. Be your own advocate and tell them what you want. When they ask you what else you want to accomplish this summer, tell them you want to get to know Mark Fleming better, even if it seems silly. A week later, you will be sitting next to him at a partner dinner.
Even though they probably don’t want to know about it, not being able to tell your loved ones about your work is hard. Embrace it! It will make you closer to your coworkers, who are really the only people who will understand your world for ten weeks. Host people at your house. Show them your baby pictures. Okay, that last one is negotiable.
Don’t blink because then it will be over.
Finally, take a minute to really think about who you are right now. Take inventory of your anxiety, your insecurities, your skills, and your goals. Then do it again in eight weeks. You won’t believe how far you’ve come.
Here, I’ll do it for you. Eight-weeks-ago Kim, I’m proud to update you on a few things:
- You can do the work.
- You made friends, from summer associates up through partners.
- You now know what it means when you tell people you want to be a securities litigator; however, you’re no longer sure that is true.
- Your knowledge of corporate law extends a bit farther than Shark Tank, and you’ll count it as a win.
- You have enough topics of conversation to get you through several dinner parties.
- You will lose and find your name tag more than once… so some things never change.
- You’re not afraid to ask someone out to lunch.
- You’re really looking forward to graduation and, hopefully, your next experiences at this firm.