A global pandemic has swept through the world affecting lives, both personally and professionally, in more ways than we can count. Professionally, company leaders have tried their best to keep business as usual in an unusual time. For law firms, this includes finding alternatives for summer programs and helping the transition of new law school graduates to full-time associates.
Usually comprised of social events, cocktail parties, and, a lot of face-to-face interaction, in 2020, firms were tasked with finding ways to keep some semblance of a normal summer program while adhering to safety concerns. A common substitute was a shortened program, from 10 weeks down to 5 or 6, while offering either a combination of virtual and social distanced in-person events, or going completely virtual. Over the past several months, we all have attended virtual weddings, birthdays, meetings, etc. and even though it is certainly not the same as being in-person, it is always a welcome sight to see faces and interact with people. Attempting to give the virtual sessions an amicable atmosphere, firms had creative themes for each session and encouraged associates and partners to take part. The participation of current firm attorneys made the experience feel more authentic and gave a small taste of the firm personalities and culture. The 2020 summer programs were unlike any prior and the status of 2021 summer programs is yet to be seen. Law Schools have started implementing virtual OCI’s, but many firms have been forced to push back their on-campus interviews to 2021, or have canceled them completely. With the uncertainty around on-campus recruiting, 2021 summer programs may continue to be unique from past years. Summer programs will be back to normal – it just may not be in 2021.
Common practice by firms in regards to new law school graduates has been to start new associates in a virtual capacity or push the start date back to the beginning of 2021, largely depending on if the practice group has enough work. It has been quite a hectic few months for those fresh out of law school who have seen their entire schedule be flipped upside down. Several states have changed the bar exam date multiple times or have postponed it indefinitely. Florida, for example, recently pushed their bar exam date back, for the second time, making the announcement just days before the exam date. After studying for months, the preparation will have to continue. Dealing with rescinded offers, pushed back start dates, changing bar exam formats and dates, and working virtually isn’t how anyone imagined their career as an attorney starting off. It may be a different path than others before them, but the countless hours of hard work the 2020 graduates put in will come to fruition.
It doesn’t appear the “new normal” of wearing masks and social distancing is changing anytime soon, but we are seeing positive signs with many attorneys working from their firm office in some capacity and law firm hiring picking up steam. As we try to navigate through the year, law firms are doing what they can to allow for a smooth transition to associate life for new graduates and making the summer program experience effective.