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Friday, September 15, 2006

Myths and Tips about Summer Jobs 

For the past couple of weeks, my 1L and Spring Admit friends have been asking for interview and summer job advice. After talking to several of them and answering questions, I decided there are a lot of myths out there, both about interviews and summer jobs. So, here is my list of myths I'd like to debunk:

Myths

1. You can only wear a black or navy suit to an interview. Wrong! My aunt, who is a recruiter at a big firm (a very conservative one at that) said other dark colors and even pinstripes are fine. Try a dark brown or grey suit to be a little different. Occasionally, I came across a firm that was ultra-conservative and was afraid to vary from the black or navy suit with a white button-down, but for the most part I tried to mix it up a little bit. See #2 for more.

2. You can only wear a white button-up shirt under your suit for an interview. Wrong! I think other pastel colors are fine for most interviews: light pink, light blue, light yellow, etc. My aunt said other dark colors like brown and grey are also perfectly acceptable. I wore a chocolate colored suit with a light pink button-up to several interviews last year and got tons of compliments. My aunt said the most important thing is to wear something that you look good in - the brown and pink were great colors on me. Plus, it makes you easier to remember when they can talk about you later say "You know that girl with the brown suit..." And yes, they will talk about you like that because they met so many people that day they aren't going to bother with names.

3. Interviews are serious and you should never kid around or tell a joke. Wrong! They've already seen all of your academic credentials and work experience on your resume. The interview is more about seeing whether or not you fit in with the firm. Good research (especially with those who have summered there before or know someone who has) on the firm will give you an idea of how stuffy the firm might be, which can help you gauge what you can get away with in the interview. If they joke around with you though, don't just sit there stiff or smile and say nothing. Some easy banter back and forth can break the ice and can make you someone they would love to have working next to them. This is easier when it's a younger associate interviewing you, but most of my interviews both on campus and during call-backs was with young associates. These people have to work next to you if you get hired, remember that. One associate told me last year that he does the "pizza on the floor" test. If he wouldn't want to be stuck at the office at midnight, sitting in the floor of the office eating pizza with you while working on a big case, then he passes on you. Be appropriate, it's a fine line, but don't be so stiff and/or nervous that you don't let your personality come out a little.

4. Once you get a summer associate position, you're in! Wrong!! The summer is just one extended interview. Your work product has to be good, you have to act appropriately in social situations, mesh well with the attorneys and find a team who needs you. While the ratio of summers up for a permanent offer to those who actually get a permanent offer is usually pretty high, you're never guaranteed a permanent offer.

5. The summer retreat is just for fun - when the attorneys go out drinking with us at night it's not about the job or the interview, it's just about having some fun. Wrong!! A young associate came up to us just before we boarded the bus for our retreat and told us that no summer ever gained a permanent offer on the retreat but that plenty had lost one because of the retreat. Rumors circle every summer about the catastrophes that have happened in the past at other firms. The ones I've heard (that I actually know are true) involve drinking games, sleeping with other summers or even attorneys, passing out in bars, etc. This is still an interview!! You get to let loose a little on the retreat, but many a summer has lost their permanent offer because of their horrible behavior. Remember that while alcohol will flow at every event over the summer (really, there was always an open bar), they're looking at how you handle yourself. One day you might be having drinks with a client and they want to know that you can handle yourself, limit your drinks, still carry on intelligent conversation and not get loud and obnoxious. Everything you do over the summer, fun or not, is part of the interview.

Most of my tips I've given above, but here's an important one that didn't fit into the discussion above. I think it's important to hitch your wagon to the team you want to be on. The key to insuring you get an offer (at least in my experience and that of a few of my friends) is to make a team feel like they can't live without you. Those of us who got an offer from my firm this year each had a team we kinda attached ourselves to. The people who didn't get offers just did their work on each team they rotated on and then moved on to the next one. I made sure that even after I rotated off my team, I went back and got projects for them when I had some downtime. I made it very clear that theirs was the team I wanted to be on. When I left, they told me there would be a definite void without me because I had been like having another attorney on the team to bear the load. In the end, I got an offer for that team. The theory worked for two of my other friends at the firm, each of whom ended up with the team they "attached" themselves to all summer. Perhaps it was just a fluke thing at my firm, but the theory in general can't hurt. Make a team, or some other portion of the firm, feel like they can't live without you, or make it so they miss you when you're gone, and you stand a really good shot at getting asked back. Other things come into play and their space may be limited, but in general I think it's a good theory.

I'm happy to answer any questions or have any of you leave comments about how your summer might have been different.

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