Shut Up and Drink

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

  • Anonymous

    Seriously, is any of this worth debating? Really?? The entire summer assoc courtship process is ridiculous. People act like it’s some rite of passage when it’s not. :-

  • brendan

    totally agree.  enough already.  it’s the easiest gig in the history of the world.  just shut up, make your money, get an offer and move on.

  • Current Summer

    I laughingly agree, although I do have to say that the “fun” associates who attend a lot of the events and do tend to get drunk on the firm and have a good time are not necessarily the “losers”of the firm. At least not at my firm, which is regionally but not nationally large. Maybe that’s the difference. Cheers to a great summer of free food and drinks

  • Hasn’t had fun…

    I read this and say WTF?  I spent my summer working at a small civil rights firm cranking out pre-trial documents like complaints, interrogatories, and requests to produce.  I got no feedback, and then all in a day got bitched out for the mistakes I had been making, not just all summer, but since I had started working in October…
    And, my boss said he couldn’t pay me anymore, but he’d be happy to have me keep working for him.
    And there were no events, no parties, no all night events… except for the one all nighter I pulled working on a project since my boss got the deadline wrong. 
    Oh, I found some documents and found that $26,000 was about to roll into the office any day… and that my boss’s smoking habit cost equivalent to what I was making per week.
    So my point in telling this story is to let you know that not everyone has the huge problem of worrying about whether they are being labelled as “not fun”.

  • Biggest of the Big, Bitterest of the Bitter

    I partially agree but mainly disagree with your rant.
    I work for the one of the biggest of the BigLaw firms in a non-NY office.  I’m the point on the most lucrative case in the office, and probably one of the top five cases in the firm.  But this summer, in addition to 12 hour days I went to as many summer events as possible.  The reason?  Because I was told to go.  I would arrive at work by 6:30 every morning to try to squeeze in 11 or 12 hours before heading to the 6:30/7PM drinks—and then I ended up going to the after party more often than not.  But again, I was told to go.
    Some of the associates who go to those events are the ones without work, or who are looking to mooch off the firm and score some free drinks and sushi.  Others go to really evaluate the summers and decide which of them, if any, they want to join their groups.

  • Anonymous

    I remember the partner in charge of the firms’ personnel committee at [big NYC firm] coming to a few events and even an after party or two.  Loser!…?