As a Summer Associate, Should You Burn the Midnight Oil or Have Another Drink?

Summer associates burning the midnight oilToday we welcome Christen Morgan, guest writer and foreclosure attorney, to talk about how to juggle work and social events at your summer associate job.

Before beginning your summer associate position, you knew what to expect. Your law school mentors already warned you about the long nights you would spend in the office just trying to understand an assignment. They also warned you about the nights that you may forego sleep, and instead opt to complete the assignment that the partner dropped on your desk right before you left work for that day. So when you began feeling overwhelmed your second week in, you weren’t surprised, but, despite knowing about this pressure beforehand, you panicked and resorted to the only response you knew, “burning the midnight oil.” You began turning down offers to hang out with law school friends. Even worse you began to avoid the many social events offered by your firm, as if they were actually optional (Hint: they may appear to be optional but they really aren’t). Overworking one’s self is undoubtedly a favorite pastime of the average law student and, although this reaction may have proven successful in the past, in all honesty, it may be hurting your chances to receive a full-time offer from your current position.

Overworking yourself and staying long hours at the firm may be inefficient and negatively impacting your productivity. Additionally, working long hours and overexerting yourself may be communicating that you’re horrible with time management. I assure you this is not a good look to the hiring partners – especially when you begin flaking on social events that they’ve put together just to get to know you better. So before deciding to skip out on the next happy hour social, consider the following:

1. Burning the Midnight Oil Can Burn You Out

When you have ten assignments to complete that are all due at 8 a.m. the next morning, I understand why pulling an all-nighter may be a natural response. But what’s the point of pulling an all-nighter if you’re only going to prepare an assignment flawed with mistakes and inaccuracies? Let’s face it, if you begin working at 8 a.m., there is no way that you will be preparing your best work product at 2 a.m. Yes, caffeine may keep you somewhat focused, but being human means that you will become tired at some point in the night and working under this condition means that you’re prone to making more mistakes. Not to mention doing this repeatedly will burn you out over time and damper your overall productivity throughout your summer experience. Additionally, this will only begin a negative chain reaction; working while you’re tired leads to preparing an incorrect assignment, which leads to your supervisor thinking you’re incapable of doing a good job, which ultimately leads to no full-time offer at the end of the summer.

So how do you avoid this? By managing your workload better. One way to do this is by prioritizing your assignments. If you receive a flood of assignments with the same due date, determine which ones deserve earlier priority. For example, an assignment from a partner may be more time sensitive than an assignment you receive from an associate. However, communication is the key to successful prioritization. If you have too many assignments on your plate, communicate this to your supervisor. Your supervisor may then be able to help you determine which assignment you must get out tomorrow and which ones can wait a day or two. Just like that, you have some more time on your hands to prepare a better assignment during your most productive hours and also get some much needed sleep. Work smarter, not harder my friends.

2. Overworking Yourself may Indicate that you have Bad Time Management Skills

If you’re continually spending late nights at the office to complete your assignments while dodging social events left and right, this may give the appearance that you’re unable to manage your time well. Okay, I know it’s tough to manage your time when assignments seem to be popping up out of nowhere, but have you been making an intentional attempt to structure your time during the day? Scheduling your time may be second nature during the school year, but during your summer employment, it’s sometimes easy to forget that this is a priority that needs some structure too. Now there are only 24 hours in the day, but how about accounting for every minute to ensure that no time gets wasted? Are you a morning person? If so, maybe you should consider going into the office earlier than your normal shift. Having some down time to complete your assignments before the phone calls and emails come flooding in may be just what you need. Starting early also means that you can get done with your work day earlier and have your evening free to socialize.

If you’re more of a night owl, this applies to you as well. It may not make sense for you to start your day earlier but maybe this means working into the evening and still attending a social event, keeping in mind that you can’t get too out of hand because, as a night owl, you may be capable of adequately completing some work before going to bed. Remember, law firms put in place these social events so that they can get to know you better. Think about this as an informal interview process. The attorneys are studying you in a social setting to determine whether you would be a co-worker that’s pleasurable to work with in the future. So it’s crucial that you start managing your time better so that you can fit these events into your schedule.

I know that being a good associate while also being social, is a tough balance to strike. But nevertheless, it’s a balance that you must aim to meet if you want to be considered for a full-time position. Good luck this summer!


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About Christen Morgan

Christen Morgan graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tampa where she received her B.S. in Criminology. She earned her J.D. from Emory Law School where she competed and served as an executive board member for the Emory Law Moot Court Society. Christen also served as a student representative for LexisNexis and also as a mentor for several 1L students offering them advice and a variety of resources to help them through their law school journey.

Christen previously practiced as a Foreclosure Attorney for a Real Estate law firm but has since then transitioned into a Real Estate Specialist role at a wireless infrastructure company.

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