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How to go from summer associate to fulltime associate

As you wrap up your summer associate program, you’ll be among thousands of other summer associates keeping everything crossed that they secure an offer of a full-time position.  

This anticipation is a big deal. According to a US 2023 Summer Associate Survey, 36% of law students said their biggest concern was not getting an offer at the end of their summer associate programs. This is an increase of 12 percentage points from 2022. 

It’s not all anticipation though – it’s out-and-out hard work landing an offer. The survey found that students underwent an average of almost 6 interviews during their early interview week. 

You want to be one of the successful ones. You’re prepared to put in the work, just as you’ve done all summer. Now here are some final tips to ensure you make a lasting impression and turn your summer position into a full-time offer. 

Show them what you’ve achieved 

You’ll have been given plenty of casework to do. Maybe you kept a journal of big and small accomplishments you achieved over the summer. If not, go back and note these down – you’ll have a clear record of how you accomplished certain goals you set for yourself or goals that were set for you, and what specifically you did to get there.  

By having these ready, you can quickly provide them and present them if someone asks. Or, even better, you offer to present them to the partners you’ve been working with. Showcase how your unique skill set and experience will translate into a successful career as an attorney. 

Best foot forward 

It’s a given that you’ll have been on your best behaviour all the way through. But you shouldn’t assume a job offer is a foregone conclusion. 

As we mentioned earlier, many students may be anxious about their job prospects or about how they will be perceived by their law firm. But – easier said than done – try to avoid worrying about factors outside your control.

What you can control is doing excellent work and having a great attitude. Also, there is no typical mould that firms are looking for in applicants. You may be able to bring a valuable new perspective that others might not have, so be your authentic self and show how you can add to the culture at the firm. 

Be sure you actually want an offer  

This may be an unexpected twist, but you need to feel 100% certain that the firm where you’ve spent the summer is the best fit for you and your career. 

According to the 2022 Summer Associate survey, students reported applying to an average of 17 firms in their campaign to secure an associateship. 

Prestige should never be the only factor in deciding where you want to work. Far more important is the ability to learn, do work you find rewarding, and build your career for the long term, whether you remain at the firm or move on eventually to a different type of legal work. 

Here are some things to consider: 

What is the firm’s approach to professional development?  

Who will mentor you? What does career advancement look like? What training will be available? It’s important to how you can gain skills and experience within the firm, however long you stay. Here are some topics on development that may help guide your thinking. 

Does the culture fit you and your needs?  

This is something only you can decide. For example, diversity is an important consideration – does the firm tell you about diversity and related programs, or just ask you a lot of behavioural questions? Remote working is another one. In the 2023 survey of summer associates, only 22% of students encountered firms that would allow them to work virtually from a location different from where the associateship was based. That’s down 15% from 2022, which suggests firms are moving away from virtual associateships.

Get ready for the interview – and the first step of your career 

Whichever firm you have your heart set on, be sure to use the interview as an opportunity to showcase your soft skills, unique characteristics, and insights that will differentiate you from other applicants. 

Show your passion for the profession too, and take this golden opportunity to learn and ask meaningful questions – for example, where is the firm going? How are clients’ needs evolving? What are the firm’s growth plans over the next 5-10 years?  

Asking questions like this will help set you apart as a confident, engaged, and aware candidate. Just the kind of people good firms like to hire. 

So, well done for making it through the summer and best of luck landing that full-time position. 

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