A step-by-step guide to securing a Big Law summer associate position, from networking best practices to acing the interview

A step-by-step guide to securing a Big Law summer associate position, from networking best practices to acing the interview
Balancing all the tasks from two jobs can be overwhelming.Nuthawut Somsuk/Getty Images
  • Law firms have historically recruited and interviewed students at the start of their second year.
  • But firms such as Latham & Watkins now interview some students before they finish their first year.

As if acing law school weren't hard enough, many students are now also feeling pressure to snag a summer job with a top law firm before their first year of school is even over.

Working at a law firm after a student's second year, or 2L, has long been a rite of passage for students bound for Big Law. So-called "summer associates" get the chance to do legal research, eat nice meals on the company's dime, and meet the people they'll likely be working with after graduation — because upwards of 90% of them get an offer to return full time.

But recruiting for such roles is increasingly creeping into the first year, or 1L. And some students are finding themselves ill-equipped to navigate what one law partner has dubbed "the Wild West" of Big Law recruiting.

Some people, like David Ako Abunaw III, a student at University of Pennsylvania's law school, seem to have figured out how to make the new system work for them. But it wasn't always easy, according to Abunaw, who literally Googled "how to be a lawyer" before studying for the LSAT. The former pro soccer player recently walked Insider through his sometimes harrowing journey to snagging multiple Big Law offers before on-campus interviewing, or OCI, even began.

Of course, students need to first determine whether they even want to work for Big Law, or do something else like works as a government prosector or public defender. Such decision-making can be tough, especially when loaded down with student debt.


The perks including increasingly big paychecks, especially for what are known as "rainmakers," or law partners who bring in big business. But there are also downsides, including the stress and strain of a demanding job, which can lead to mental health problems.

See below for more exclusive insight into how to navigate the recruiting process — and what it's really like to work for a big, national law firm:

Inside the 'Wild West' of law-school recruiting that has Big Law reeling in talent earlier and more aggressively than ever

Big Law's recruiting of students is increasingly taking place off campus. Here's how I got it to work for me, including two summer associate offers before on-campus interviews even began.

2 Gibson Dunn partners outlines the traits they look for and the questions they ask in recruiting summer associates

Big Law partners are getting paid like star athletes, with top earners now making $10 million or more. Call it the Kirkland effect.


This Big Law firm is so hungry for associates that it's giving $75,000 referral bonuses

Big Law has a mental health problem. Why lawyers are now opening up about depression and suicide.

'Widespread misery': Why so many lawyers hate their jobs — and are desperate to quit