True or false: Being a summer associate at a Big Firm is sort of like being an aspiring actress who comes to Hollywood and suddenly finds herself forced into a life of gonzo porn and crystal meth by a big-time agent who threatened to ruin her life if she didn’t do what he said.
If a recent spate of alarmist reports floating around the legal blogosphere is any indication, the answer appears to be “true.”
Leading the pack of the whining reactionaries is Lauren Stiller Rikleen’s recent report in the National Law Journal, which offers a self-proclaimed “sobering look at a long-standing culture” of summer associate programs.
The report details certain atrocities that summer associates in Big Firms nationwide have endured in the recent past. One student recounted, for example, the horror that “Everything is free. The atmosphere is higher class than anything we are used to, and the pressure to attend every event, including the after-parties, is significant.” Even worse, Ms. Rikleen reports that “summers who refrain from participating…are tagged as ‘not being fun.’”
Offering a solution to end all this unnecessary suffering, Ms. Rikleen suggests that Big Firms simply “cease funding the after-event partying,” explaining that “firms that foster career-building skills over drinking skills are sure to have an advantage” in recruiting future associates.
While one can be certain that Ms. Rikleen has no doubt brought her expertise in sensitivity training and peer counseling courses to her conclusions, the question still remains whether she’s ever worked in a Big Firm—or any job that involves interacting with other people. Because we hate to break it to you, lady, but a key “career building skill” is learning how to navigate awkward social situations at work without having a breakdown over it.
Here’s the thing that summers need to realize: You know that clique of actual associates who go to all the summer associate events? The ones who get loaded and spend the next day IM’ing all the summers about it? The ones who’ll tag you as “not being fun” if you don’t do the same? Big Firms have a name for them: losers. There’s a reason they have so much time on their hands to go hang out with a bunch of law students. No one cares what they think, and neither should you.
(And if you’re not buying it, go find the associates working on the biggest deals and most high-profile cases at your firm and ask them how many summer associate events they’ve attended so far this year. When the number tops zero, let us know.)
So, summers everywhere, just calm down. You’re getting paid like a grown-up, so buck up, act like one and realize that sometimes—even when you don’t feel like it!—you may have to show your face at a lame firm-sponsored party. And sometimes, yes, there will be drunk douchebags there who may make you feel awkward. So hang out for a bit, then bail. Have a drink. Or don’t. No one really cares. Not anyone that matters, anyway.
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Photo by mrlerone