The coronavirus has upended the plans of most law students these past few months, and its impact on summer jobs is no exception. From cancellations to delays or virtual work, nearly all employers have needed to make drastic changes to their summer programs. The prospect of a virtual summer program may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still get a ton of out your summer job. There are a few things you can consider doing to maximize your virtual summer experience.
Find a quiet place to work
First things first, you need to figure out where you will set up your makeshift “office” for the summer. For many law students living with roommates or family, this may just have to be a corner of your room where you can work with fewer distractions. It may not be a perfect space, but do your best to set up a desk or table to work on, wherever you can. Not only will this minimize distractions while you work, but it will give you a place, however small, to “leave” your work at the end of the day. When working at home, even that small change in location can help you create a separation between work time and down time.
Maintain a professional appearance
While you may be logging into work from the comfort of your own home, when you interact with your colleagues you should maintain the same professional appearance that you would if you were present in the office. This means you need to put on a workplace-appropriate shirt instead of pajamas, and try to avoid looking like you just rolled out of bed. Further, if you are appearing on video, be mindful of what can be seen in the background. Depending on your living situation, it may be hard to completely control what is going on behind you, but do the best you can to avoid having too many distractions in view. If you are not able to control it, you could consider using a virtual background, just make sure it works right and isn’t too distracting either.
Make sure your technology works
In order to participate in meetings and discussions with your colleagues, you will need to make sure you can hear and be heard, and be seen if necessary. Try to ensure that your technology works properly ahead of time to avoid causing distractions and delays in meetings. Most conferencing platforms will have a way for you to test your connections on your own before joining a meeting, and you should be sure to do so to ensure things run smoothly.
Be prepared for meetings as if they were in person
Even though you won’t be sitting in a room with your colleagues, you should still thoroughly prepare for meetings as if you were. A remote (and possibly shortened) summer work experience means less time to make an impression on those you are working for, so prepare to be fully engaged when you do have the opportunity to participate. If you are expected to contribute, try to prepare ahead of time, and ask questions where appropriate. Be sure to keep a notepad and pen handy to take notes as needed, just as you would in person.
Take care to clarify assignments
Now more than ever, be sure to clarify assignments when they are given to you. In the current remote work environment, getting clarification isn’t as easy as walking down the hallway. While you can (and probably should) be in touch with other attorneys via email or phone, try to be respectful of people’s time by getting as much clarity as possible upfront. Always take thorough notes, as you will likely need to refer to them later. First and foremost, be sure to clarify what issue you have been assigned to work on. To be certain you understand, try stating your understanding of the issue back to the assigning attorney, giving them the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings you may have. Further, be sure you understand what the format of your final work product should be, and who it is intended for.
Do your best to network
While there may be less in-person interaction this summer, be sure to take advantage of opportunities to get to know your new colleagues. In some cases, this summer job will turn into your permanent job, so start creating positive relationships now. To the extent that your firm or organization has virtual social events or happy hours, do your best to attend.
Take advantage of your school’s career office
Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of your school’s career office when preparing for your summer job. They exist to help you succeed, and they are working hard to provide resources and support as students navigate this unusual time in the job market. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need guidance on how to handle your remote summer job. You also may want to reach out to professionals to help navigate the job market.
During these unprecedented times, summer legal jobs look different than they ever have before. By keeping a few things in mind, you can still have a rewarding experience.
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