Summer associate preparation

It’s March, and time to start preparing for the 2021 summer associates. Two years ago, this involved setting up training in each office, scheduling library orientation, as well as changes in the administrative assistant responsibilities. Last year, everything was virtual. Is 2021 going to be different from 2020?

As in past years, most of our summer associates will start on the same day. There are always some who start at a later date. This year, we will be doing training for all summer associates with one session for each service, i.e. one firmwide training session/service, and not individual office sessions. With one exception, all of our CALR services have transitioned to one firmwide rep, rather than having specific people assigned to specific offices. So, having a firmwide online training session makes a lot of sense. And, it’s a lot easier than having to schedule multiple sessions for each service.

Orientation will probably also be one large firmwide meeting with the library department, followed by breakout rooms or separate sessions for individual offices. That’s not much different from past years – it’s just online for everyone, rather than for those not in a specific office (i.e. videoconferencing from one office).

I don’t know yet whether the entire summer will be virtual or if some of it will be in-person. I think it will be a hybrid. Virtual but with the ability to be in the office if desired, or needed for a specific event. Our offices are open to those who want to come in, but no one is required to be in the office.

So, how is a summer associate to prepare? First, attend all CALR training sessions that you can while in law school. No one wants to be the one person who ran up a really large online research bill because of sloppy research techniques. Some vendors will allow summer associates to use their school credentials while working for the law firm. Frequently, academic access varies from specific firm access, but there’s quite a bit of overlap for the basic primary law research. And be prepared for a question that doesn’t have a clear cut answer. Be able to take the research and make some inferences based on the specific fact situation.

Second, attend all training sessions at the firm. Yes, you know how to use the CALR systems. But our reps know the ins and outs of our contracts, and can give you specific guidance on what you can access. And they are highly trained in COST-EFFECTIVE research, and have plenty of tips for you. Yes, almost everything is flat-rate, but we want to know what the client is costing us, whether it goes on the bill or not. And, we have regular research assistance times for each service, time set aside for questions from our firm. Take advantage of it – they won’t give you the answer, just guidance on how to get to the answer.

Attend the orientation even if you never plan to be in the office or touch a book. (Yes, most of our offices still have books.) Get to know the researchers, especially those in your specific office. We have insights into the attorneys, as well as knowing who to go to for non-research related questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can ask the researchers [almost] anything. But you should also ask the assigning attorney questions about projects. For example, can you do online research, and, if so, what billing number should be used, is there a preference for one system over another, etc. The research staff is available to help you, and we want to make you look good. I’ve never had an attorney be concerned that a summer associate was asking for help from the library, but I have had attorneys be concerned that a summer associate NEVER contacted the library during the entire summer. Our attorneys know we provide value, and they take full advantage of that fact, so summer associates should as well.

Editor’s Note – This article republished with the author’s permission, with first publication on RIPS Law Librarian Blog.
Posted in: Continuing Legal Education, KM, Law Librarians, Legal Education, Legal Research, Legal Research Training, Libraries & Librarians, Summer Associate Programs