Do’s, Don’ts, Fashion Faux Pas and Office Etiquette for Summer Associates

Sometimes what appears to be obvious to seasoned attorneys and professionals with many years of experience may not be as clear to those entering the profession.  Take for example these tales of summer associate blunders noted in Above the Law's Collection of Funny Summer Associate Stories.

How many times in life--after committing a gaffe--did we say to ourselves, "I wish I had known."   What seems obvious--like no tank tops or flip flops in a client meeting---may not be as clear in the new world of "casual Fridays."  Sometimes the client sets the tone by wearing shorts, a golf shirt and sandals to the meeting, but it certainly does not mean the partners will approve if you do the same.

In a recent article published in the Careerist,  Paul Hastings hiring partner Leigh Ryan discussed the good and the bad of what she's seen from summer associates and during on campus interviews.  For example, checking text messages seems almost second nature to us, but during a client meeting, interview or discussion with a partner, it could be perceived as rude or inattentive. 

Ryan mentions these "Don't" behaviors in the Careerist Interview:

  • Showing up late
  • Not keeping eyes open
  • Chewing gum
  • Checking Cell phone/text messages
  • During interviews-forgetting the firm name, displaying a sense of entitlement, wanting to know what the firm will do for them as opposed to what they will do for the firm.
  • Acting nervous

On the bright side-here's her "Do" list, mostly for on-campus interviews, but some of these tips apply to meetings and office behavior:

  • Know the firm you are meeting with and as much background information on the firm as possible.
  • Previous experience is a big plus
  • Business acumen, an understanding that Law is a service business
  • Leadership positions and experience
  • Achievement-oriented
  • Demonstrate drive, interest

Now back to summer associates.  The ABA Journal did a piece recently on appropriate summer work attire-and more specifically, what to do if you spot someone whose choices are not the best.  Would you tell them, keep it to yourself, or wait to say something  only if the outfit would embarrass the firm?  Then there's the question for the fashion victim.  Do you want to be told, and how will you take it when someone provides this advice?  Personally, I have to side with this quoted comment about fashion sins from Corporette, "...I would have appreciated it if someone gently pulled me aside or popped by my office and mentioned my clothing to me."  Is it harder to give, or receive such advice? According to the  Journal, the overwhelming choice of the ill-clad is, "Tell us"...And don't worry about sugarcoating the criticism, either, many say-just let us know as soon as possible, especially if it's a gaffe we can correct early in the workday."