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“Less Money, Fewer Hours,” Say Many Summer Associates by refirm2007
December 4, 2007, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Job Search Tools

The American Lawyer has just published the results of its annual summer associate survey.  Overall, the piece argues that summers have a better experience (training, mentorship, etc) at medium-size firms:

Students craved juicy assignments, friendly offices and lots of attention, and the firms that best satisfied these needs tended to be medium-size shops with relatively small summer programs.

But the buzz around BBLP was about the survey’s work/life balance findings.  Time and time again, we at BBLP hear that over-worked associates have too much money and no time to spend it.  They frequently tell us they would happily trade money for more personal time.

Firms, take note: even in the midst of all the wining and dining, the “less money, fewer hours” message has filtered down to summer associates.  According to AmLaw,

Others suggested they would gladly trade some of the riches for less time at the office. “Give people an option of opting out of the salary increase in return for less billable hours,” advised a clerk at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. “Stop raising salaries, it is just going to hit us in hours in the end,” grumbled a summer associate at Hogan & Hartson.

Indeed, interns got a taste of how arduous law firm life can be. On average, they worked 44 hours per week. An Orrick summer grimly remembered “watching the sun go down and come back up and not even realizing the time had passed as I worked all night to finish a memo.” At LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, a clerk recalled “sending an e-mail to an associate past 1 a.m. and getting a reply in less than two minutes. Scary.”

For most respondents, long hours weren’t appealing. When asked to identify factors influencing whether they would accept a full-time job offer, students cited “work/life balance” 54 percent of the time. No other factor was chosen more often. 

Students heading to big firms next summer increasingly want something different.  It’s not about finding the most prestigious place with the highest salary.  Work/life balance is a big issue for our generation, and will continue to be as we become associates and partners in large law firms.

Finally — for those students wondering how to have the best big firm summer possible — if last year is any guide, summers have the best time when they found great training and had good work to do.

Firms that did well in the survey, whether large or small, focused on training and mentoring and pushed partners to involve summers in exciting projects.  . . . One of the few big programs at the top of the chart, Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis & Bockius maintained its strong ranking — fourth this year, seventh last year — by making sure that its 120 clerks had plenty of real work.

You can view the entire article and rankings here.

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