In this blog I've detailed many of the things I miss (and don't miss) about being at a large law firm. The prestige, the pay, the use of an education, etc. One thing I haven't talked about - the summers.
For any non-lawyer readers, law students (if they are lucky) typically spend the summer before their graduation as a "summer associate" at large law firms, with the assumption they will receive an offer for a full time offer upon completion.
This summer is full of long hours, stress, and pressure to see if you can really hack it as a lawyer. (Actually, I'm completely kidding.)
These summers basically involve throwing a ridiculous amount of money at law students, some of whom have never had a real job, and none of whom are yet qualified. In a nutshell, they do make work, have a three course lunch at a nice restaurant every day, and attend weekly happy hours, dinners, Broadway shows, cooking classes, segway tours, boat cruises, sporting events, cocktail parties, dance lessons, and anything else you can think of that involves alcohol and a measure of fun. The only rule? Don't get too drunk. When this rule is broken, it usually is not pretty (to see some of the best summer associate drunken mishaps from back in the day, click here). As a full time associate (aka, adult with a real job), you can still partake in these activities. Though lets be honest, work usually gets in the way.
Since the economy tanked, I have heard things have been scaled back. But the model overall remains the same - we'll pay you $3000+ per week to write a memo or two, gain 10 pounds from all the meals, and drink a lot of free alcohol. That way, you'll definitely come to work for us upon graduation (where the fun will end, but don't think about that now).
I spent my summer at Skadden, which was known for having a very extravagant summer associate program. It didn't disappoint. Back in 2004, the budget for lunch was $60 a person. As long as you had an even number of associates and summer associates, you could go everyday (assuming there were no other firm sponsored activities). Anywhere! I ate really, really well.
And the social calendar? Insane. There was literally too much on the calendar to participate in everything. But I'll give you my top 3:
1) A reception, with food, drinks, live band and all, at Rockefeller Center - where the ice rink is. You could even bring a date. Everyone got decked out, and I spent the night snacking on oysters and sipping on dirty martinis. I remember bystanders peering down at us from the street level, undoubtedly wondering whether it was some kind of celebrity event. No, it wasn't. Just a bunch of boring lawyers. (This was an event I made sure to attend a second time, when I was a full time associate - it was just that good).
2) I also really enjoyed the "Skaddenger Hunt," which involved a scavenger hunt around the city. I can't even remember exactly what this entailed, but all I know is that my team won. The prize? A $100 Amex gift card for each team member. The "hunt" ended at Bowlmor Lanes, in the Village, where we were treated to a night of cocktails, appetizers, and bowling fun (this is not your average bowling alley). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this activity above - you also get to go bowling during these summers.
3) Rounding out the top 3 is the farewell dinner. At the end of the summer associate program, each summer associate was allowed to choose five guests (usually a mix of partners and associates) to go to a dinner at a restaurant of their choosing. Their choosing! I chose Gramercy Tavern. It was fabulous. I was lucky enough to get invited to a few other people's farewell dinners, and also enjoyed an evening at Nobu and Bouley (thank you, Kim and Yvonne, I remember it to this day!).
Yes, it was extravagant. But it was lots and lots of fun, so I am certainly not going to complain.
I may have left biglaw myself, but lucky for me, I still live with an insider. Tonight I will be attending a summer associate event put on by my husband's firm. And I don't even need to worry about impressing partners or limiting my alcohol intake. I'll put on a smile, have some drinks, eat some good food, and reminisce about my carefree summer associate days when I was still young, optimistic, ignorant, and childless.
Then I'll come home and stare at my sleeping boys and give them a goodnight kiss. And be grateful that despite years going by and a departure from my career, I still get a little sneak peak into law firm summer fun.