The #1 Thing All Summer Associates Should Do (That No One Tells Them)

Whassssssup Happier Better Nation?  

I know you're super busy so let me hit you with the answer upfront:

The #1 thing all summer associates should do (that no one tells them) is to build their personal brand during the summer. 

  • Why should summers build their personal brand?
  • What are the 2 key components of their brand?

Let's talk about that below!!

It’s Summer Associate Season!!  

                         #anddrink ;-)

                         #anddrink ;-)

If you're hosting summer associates, summer interns or some other burst of youthful labor for the summer, you need to stop sharing the "usual usual" advice for summer associates (like don't slap an attorney at the firm or try not to have a gun pulled out on you). Instead, tell them that...

The #1 Thing All Summer Associates Should Do is Build Their Personal Brand


The firm’s summer assignment allocation system is neither a meritocracy or a democracy.
Yeah, I said it.

Yeah, I said it.

I know, I know.  Everybody knows it but nobody says it.  The firm's summer assignment system is not a meritocracy, since summers don't know anything, and it's not a democracy, since only a couple of people decide who gets which assignments! So summer associates need to build a positive personal brand to help get the assignments they want. 


  1. Positive Personal Character Traits; and
  2. An Interest in a Specific Practice Area.

Personal Brand Component #1:  Positive Personal Character Traits.  People at the firm should attribute positive personal character traits to the summer associate.  Summers need to make this positive association happen on purpose, not by default.  For example, a reputation for thoroughness and thoughtfulness goes a long way towards summers getting assignments they want.  Summers should try to be EXTRA thorough and thoughtful on each new assignment they receive from a person with whom they've never worked. 

Summers should also become known as someone who was excited to learn and excited to work with firm attorneys.   They need to verbalize their excitement to work with each person and to learn whatever can be learned from the assignment.  Finally, affirmatively advise your summer associates to be as friendly and personable as they can be.  It's not about being extroverted if they're introverted or the "life of the party" if they really are a bit reserved.  They just need to make sure that people get to know them. The attorneys they work with should have a good feeling about working with themOftentimes, someone's personal brand ends up being more a statement of how people felt about working with them, rather than how well they did their work.  

Oftentimes, someone’s personal brand will be more a statement of how people FELT about working with them, rather than how well they did their work.

Personal Brand Component #2:  A demonstrated interest in a specific practice area.   By the end of the summer, law firm staff and key lawyers at the firm should know each summer associate's preferred practice area, and the people they are most interested in working with.  At the beginning of the summer and throughout, summer associates need to affirmatively, but diplomatically, make their interests known! You'd be surprised how many summer associates just float around all summer doing a little bit of everything, and never explicitly tell the right people what was most interesting.  

Look out for the summer associates who float through the summer never really telling the right people which projects were the most interesting.

Many summer associates finish up the summer, and no one--except maybe the professional development staff--has an idea of that summer's favored practice area.  Although summers might end up working on different assignments in different practice areas, over the course of the summer your summer associates should start saying to people which projects and people they liked the most. 

I should be more explicit on this point.  Summer associates should be excited about EVERY project they work on, but be REALLY EXCITED about the ones they liked the most. 

I loved them all, but I REALLLLY loved your project the best Mrs. Law Firm Partner!!!!!

I loved them all, but I REALLLLY loved your project the best Mrs. Law Firm Partner!!!!!

I think summer associates would be surprised how a stated interest early in the summer, that is repeated diplomatically throughout the summer, can translate into them getting more summer projects they like.  Also, their demonstrated and branded interest during the summer might help put them on the short-list for their preferred type of assignments when they return as an associate!

So there you have it.  

The #1 thing your summer associates must do this summer is affirmatively build their personal brand.

What do you think?  Let's discuss in the comments!

Please share this blog post with your summer associates and colleagues!


Click here to subscribe to the Happier Better Lawyer Blog!!

-- Calvin