Whether it is a paid summer associate position or an unpaid internship, securing a summer position during law school can fill you with a sense of achievement, excitement, and expectation. But sometimes the honeymoon doesn’t last through day one. Maybe you have a “bad” supervisor, maybe you’ve struggled to perform, or maybe you are just bored and unsatisfied. Here are five tips to consider – hopefully it can help you to turn things around!
1. Stay Engaged
If things are going poorly, don’t give up on the job. Your time in law school is short and experience is valuable and hard to come by. Dig deep and remember how excited you were when you landed this gig. Even if you know better than to just walk out on your summer position, many interns mentally check out and just try to just get by. This is a bad approach. It will show in your work, and you will not build positive relationships with your supervisor or others. Whatever task you are given, do it to the best of your ability and even go the extra mile to show you are ready for more.
2. Avoid Any Appearance of an Entitlement Mindset
The number one way to turn off those you are working for as a law student is conveying in any way that you are better than this position or the work you are being asked to perform. Even if you aren’t being paid, act like you are. Even if you know you can do much more than un-staple a stack of papers or do menial document review, in my experience, the attorneys you are working for will genuinely appreciate the hard working law student. They will also despise the law student that comes in acting like they know better than a practicing attorney. One summer during law school, I was intimidated when my supervisor told me that a new ivy-league law school intern would be joining us. Within a week he had alienated the entire office by demanding more complex work and asking why we didn’t have more important things for him to be doing. Even coming from my lowly non-ivy league law school, I ended that summer with several great professional relationships (and valuable references). I can assure you that my co-intern did not leave that summer with any such benefits.
3. Focus on Building the Right Relationships
Like a study abroad student that only hangs out with the Americans and miss out on all the culture of the host country, only associating with the other interns or summer associates can lead to trouble. You can certainly get to know your companions, but don’t spend the entire summer talking to, having lunch with, and horsing around with the other law students. Try your best to engage the office and build relationships with your supervisor and the rest of your office. It can be a real turnoff to the lawyers and staff in your office if the law students are always together chit-chatting rather than working to contribute to the work and culture of the office.
4. Appreciate the Reality of Difficult People
You will not always like your boss or coworkers. And yes, in the summer context, some will be predisposed to be anti-intern. But throughout your legal career you will have to deal with difficult people–whether it is your opposing counsel or your own co-counsel. Embrace the opportunity to try to succeed with a difficult person in spite of it all. Sometimes challenging people are really just busy people that aren’t the best at coping with stressful situations. And you never know, if you keep being professional and polite, by the end of the summer maybe you will win over that tough supervisor or coworker—or at least win his or her respect.
5. Be Determined to Persevere
The great thing about a temporary summer position is that it will not last that long. Sometimes you really will just have to make the best of the bad situation in which you find yourself. Do your best to stay positive. Some of the challenge might just be the learning curve of entering the legal profession. I remember during one internship early in law school, my supervisor pointed to a stack of detailed documents several feet high and asked me to review them looking for a single name. When I balked at the request and tried to ask how to do that efficiently, he said, “I didn’t make you go to law school.” It is a moment in life when you are new and the least experienced. You may just have to show some grit and persevere.
If you have a summer job, be grateful to have any opportunity to grow and develop your skills. Some of your fellow classmates were not as fortunate. Even if your summer got off to a bad start, stay in the fight. Usually there is some way to turn things around or at least salvage something positive from your tough situation. Keep these tips in mind and good luck!
Looking for other ways to jumpstart your legal career? Turn to Law School Toolbox’s CareerDicta. As you wrap up your summer positions and look for full time employment, let CareerDicta help you with everything from resume polishing to interview prep.
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