How to Transition from Law Firm Summer to 1st Year Associate
Published: Jun 12, 2017
The expectations for law firm summer associates are very different than those for first year associates. Dan Grossbaum, a first year litigation associate at White & Case, answers some questions regarding the ramp-up period and how best to prepare when you start your career.
Is there anything students should do in law school or during the Summer Program that would help with the transition to working as an associate?
One great way to get ahead of the curve is to take advantage of clinics at your law school. Clinics give you real-world hands-on experience and a good sense of what legal work entails. Depending on the clinic, you can get drafting experience, participate in interviews with clients or practice your oral advocacy skills.
As a summer associate, you should try out as many practices as your firm will allow. At White & Case, you can split your summer between the Litigation and Corporate practices. Splitting the summer allowed me to experience a number of different practices and gave me a sense of how the practices differ. Based on that experience, I knew that Litigation was the right practice for me.
How prepared did you feel for work as an associate in the first 90 days? Did the Summer Program give you good insight?
At White & Case, the summer associates are not just given busy work. Summer associates are fully integrated into the teams and are asked to do real work for actual clients. Of course, when I came back full time, there was still a bit of a learning curve. But, because I had worked on a number of substantive assignments, I had a pretty good sense right off the bat of what was expected of me.
What are a few important things to look for when choosing a firm/practice group at a global law firm? When and how did you make that decision?
For me, the most important factors were the people I would be working with and their willingness to trust in my work, even as a first-year.
My decision ended up being an easy one. One of the interesting aspects of White & Case’s assignment system is that first-year associates choose to be placed in either a general corporate or general litigation pool rather than having to pick a particular practice. After my third year of law school and after trying out Litigation during the Summer Program, I had a good idea that I wanted to be a litigator. Since joining the Firm, I’ve had assignments in both Disputes and Competition. Based on those assignments and my experiences on the Anthem-Cigna litigation, making my decision to focus on antitrust was easy.
What are some of the best ways to meet and get to know other lawyers at the Firm? How approachable and globally minded are partners and senior associates, especially with questions about a project or assignment?
One of the easiest ways to get to know lawyers is to pop into someone’s office and introduce yourself. Whether you are interested in the type of work they do, or you have a question about one of your assignments, the partners and senior associates, especially at White & Case, are always willing to sit down and discuss it with you. Additionally, when you start at White & Case, you are typically placed in an office setting with a lawyer with more experience than you have, usually a second-year associate. This makes the atmosphere more amenable when it comes to questions about projects/assignments.
How effective was the training and professional development you received? Is there a mentor system in place and did this help with the transition to life as an associate?
White & Case has professional development programs that are geared specifically for junior associates. I’ve attended professional development trainings on how to prepare for and take depositions, and how to draft motions. White & Case also has formal mentoring programs for summer associates and first-year associates. These groups are a great forum in which to ask any questions you might have and to get advice.
White & Case also has a tremendous professional development team. They will work with you to determine your career goals and figure out the type of work you are interested in. From there, they work with you throughout your career to make sure you’re properly positioned to meet your goals.
When did you start to feel comfortable in your new position, and is there anything you could have done differently to make that happen sooner?
Coming from law school to a large law firm was an adjustment; having gone straight through from undergrad to law school, I had never worked in a law firm before I was a summer associate. One thing that made that adjustment easier was the informal mentors I ended up having. They were always there to give me advice and to teach me what it would take to be more comfortable in my new position. One thing I would encourage all junior associates to do is ask questions of the partners and associates they are working for. I’ve found that the partners and associates at White & Case are a tremendous resource and are always willing to help. Many times they’ve dealt with the same issues in the past and can answer the question, or can at least point me in the right direction.
Dan Grossbaum is a first year associate in White & Case's Litigation group. He summered in the firm's New York office in 2015 and graduated from NYU in 2016.
This is a sponsored blog post from White & Case LLP. You can view the firm's Vault profile here.