It’s May again. Which means two things: First, we’ve entered the darkest months of the year with the NFL draft behind us and nothing but weeks of baseball-centric agony until training camp begins. Second, in a few days a bunch of cretins in the form of summer associates begin their 12 weeks of pathetic play-acting around the firm.
I understand that human beings are susceptible to idiocy. But the thing that drives me absolutely insane is self-righteous, over-confident cluelessness. And that’s precisely the brand of idiocy that summer associates have in spades. I usually avoid them like the plague because I have such a low tolerance for watching people embarrass themselves. You’d have to combine the cringe factor of Paula Abdul and Kelly Killoren Bensimon in order to understand. Sarah Palin could probably do a better job blending in at the Crillon Ball than the average Summer Associate at a firm cocktail hour.
However, because I’m as susceptible as the next guy to the wet blanket of job security anxiety that’s currently suffocating everyone, it was pretty easy for me to be pressured into serving as the associate liaison for this year’s summer class. I am, by my own volition, about to enter a season in hell. I will be sitting through weekly meetings while they “report” on their experiences, going to their depressing lunches, and attending all of the unspeakably awkward “social” events that my two-bit Big Firm shoddily hosts.
Maybe it’s the Lexapro kicking in, but there’s a twist. I’ve decided to work against every single one of my vitriolic instincts and actually try and be positive for once. Rather than bemoaning their adolescent stupidity, I think it might be more proactive to actually mentor and guide them—two things pretty non-existent around here lately. In other words, maybe I can actually make a difference.
My newfound idealism isn’t completely delusional, but I’m certain there are a few incoming Summers who are too far gone to be saved. For instance, there’s “Michael” from Michigan, who must have neglected to review the firm’s website before accepting his offer. All it takes is a quick read to figure out that the only lawyers in the entire firm who do international corporate transactions are in the Miami office. Yet Michael has emailed me bi-monthly since February requesting international corporate work.
And then there’s “I have significant HR experience Heidi,” who—despite the fact that the Chicago office has only two partners and one associate in the Labor & Employment group—has been communicating her panic since before she even accepted the firm’s offer about whether she can exclusively work on L&E assignments this summer. She also confessed her fear that “vegetarian options” won’t be offered at summer lunches and events, and this is a very big deal to Heidi, “because I don’t eat anything that has a brain.” So, I guess she can always cannibalize herself if the summer welcome lunch menu only features vertebrates.
Finally, there’s “Melanie,” the girl who’s repulsively and inexplicably obsessed with hours already. She keeps asking how many hours Summers are expected to bill per week, apparently not understanding that any time she bills will be unceremoniously cut—and that she isn’t a real associate yet.
Yet, rather than routinely dismiss Michael, Heidi, and Melanie as being too stupid to be taught to behave otherwise, I’m going to approach them with optimism. I’m now well aware that law school doesn’t prepare you for the realities of the day-to-day practice of law. Perhaps with a little careful instruction on my behalf, they will learn how to navigate these shark-filled waters without constantly looking like simpering fools.
In other words, in a firm where it seems that every single resource is devoted to making life miserable, I’m going to try and make the last free summer of their lives a little less painful and give them some survival tools that I wish had been given to me. And then maybe they won’t end up in the throes of bitter misery three years from now.
Of course, lest I be mistaken for being completely magnanimous, I’ve also obtained some back-channel assurances that there are no less than three genuinely single guys in the incoming class. And what’s hotter than a good-looking chick in a sea of frump, drunk with power and hiring partner influence, who genuinely cares?