As my summer at WilmerHale is coming to a close, I’m reflecting on everything I’ve learned along the way. During the recruitment process, all law firms seemed identical and it was hard to understand buzzwords like “culture,” “collegial,” and “substantive work.” After 10 weeks, I know what sets WilmerHale apart.
When I accepted my offer, I knew that WilmerHale LA was a small office in a large firm. But I didn’t fully appreciate how wonderful that atmosphere is until I started working here. You really get the best of both worlds: the resources of an international firm with a tight-knit working environment. People are less hierarchical here. They drop into your office to say good morning over their cup of coffee. There truly is no face-time requirement. The LA office has been exceptionally busy, which means people are traveling a lot. While everyone here is busy, they’re all approachable. I will genuinely miss my colleagues when I leave!
Every firm touts the “substantive” assignments they give to summer associates, but I really didn’t know what that meant. At WilmerHale, my projects included observing a deposition, hearing, presentation, and mock trial; answering both simple and complex research questions; conducting academic research; proofreading and editing documents; drafting legal arguments and internal memos. I’ve never done doc review. Busy work is rarely assigned. Each week, we have a check-in meeting with the summer coordinators to make sure that we have assignments that interest and challenge us.
I knew that being a summer associate would be a lot of fun, but I was still nervous about what to expect from the program. Here’s the truth: if you get a summer associate position, you know how to do the work. You can (and should!) ask questions. Your supervising attorney will provide clear instructions and expectations for your work. You should always carry a notebook with you when you go to a meeting, because you never know where your next project will come from. Take notes—it will show people you’re listening and thinking! Take initiative in asking people to lunch or for work assignments. You’ll become close with your fellow summer associates, in a way you never really have with colleagues. And, although you may just be here temporarily, you’ll always be treated as a team member.
I was told that this would be “the best summer of my life.” I was also told that “if you don’t gain 10 pounds this summer, you’re doing it wrong.” Thankfully, only one of those proved right.