Virtual Discussion Recap - Let’s Not Do Lunch(es): How Some Firms Will Be Running Virtual Summer Associate Programs

By Martha Breil posted 06-02-2020 11:45

Last week ILTA hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on Summer Associate Programs. Thank you to all who participated and contributed to the conversation and to our speakers @Chris Boyd and Jennifer Ross. Below you'll find a summary of the discussion, noting key takeaways and feedback from our ILTA peers.


Commercially available technologies to help manage collaboration for summer associates:

  • Bluejeans
  • HighQ
  • LawCruit
  • MS Teams
  • SharePoint
  • WebEx
  • GoToMeeting
  • Zoom
  • Jabber
  • Skype


Other technologies to use in remote summer associate programs:

  • InsideSherpa (for training and socializing)
  • Citrix (for securely connecting to firm network)
  • Horizon View (for securely connecting to firm network)
  • Documate (for work product automation)


How will this summer program be different from past ones in terms of length, work, offers, etc.?

Reed Smith:
  1. 10 weeks cut to a 5 week program;  fully virtual . 
  2. Business Ready Bootcamp designed for first two weeks of the program. The Essentials of Effective Legal Writing and writing assignment-  Feedback from our Appellate attorneys;
  3. Coffee talks scheduled with all Practice Group Leaders; 
  4. Local and firm-wide online social events;
  5. TED Talk challenge;
  6. The Litigate Transactional Procedure, and the Role of the Junior Associate ion Life Cycle:  What does it really look like, and where do junior associates fit in?; 
  7. Negation skills workshop and cross office exercise;
  8. Firm Financials 101—learn the business of Reed Smith; 
  9. Full access to Reed Smith University offerings throughout the summer; 
  10. SAs who merit offers will receive them at the end of the program. 

Wilson Sonsini:
  1. 10 weeks cut to 6 weeks;
  2. Fully virtual program;
  3. Permanent offers for fall 2021 to all summer associates;
  4. Offered each summer associate the option to work for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit instead of working at the firm (or in addition to doing so; a few summer associates will be doing a blend of firm and nonprofit work);
  5. Offered each summer associate the option to take one or two online certification courses from the Berkeley Center for Law and Business

How will you onboard and orient your summer associates?

Wilson Sonsini:
  1. We will provide a similar basic virtual orientation to that offered to our other incoming employees, all done via Webex and Peach, our Learning Management System (LMS). 
  2. We will supplement that with summer-specific online orientation programs, including training, mentor introductions, and virtual events, some of which we’ll discuss later in this program.

Reed Smith:

  1. We are paying special attention to introduce the SAs to all leaders in the organization and to provided them with the insight as to what it is like to work in a global, cross functional firm. 

What will be the main components of your summer program?  Will your program focus on trainings, social/networking, and or client billable work?

Reed Smith:
  1. The first two weeks are set up as a “Bootcamp” as described above;
  2. The final three weeks will be traditional work assignments using our Work Assignment system—
    • Feedback from mentors, hiring partners, and practicing attorneys. 
    • Regular scheduled “office hours” so that we are checking in with the SAs and providing real time feedback and mentoring. 

Wilson Sonsini:

  1. Our summer program has traditionally focused on assigning billable work to summer associates, and that will once again be the focus this year.
  2. Overall and practice-specific training programs;
  3. Virtual networking and social events, and perhaps even some live local ones depending on how much and how safely things open up;
  4. Build-a-Bot challenge to automate workflow and work product using a product called Documate.  We did the same thing last summer with an RPA tool called Joseph and it was a popular project with the summer associates. 

How will lawyers assign, supervise, and evaluate work?

Wilson Sonsini:
  1. Lawyers will post assignments on our internally-developed Summer Work Assignment Platform (SWAP).
  2. Initial assignments will come from each summer associate’s partner and associate mentors. 
  3. Attorneys will supervise assignments via email, phone and video meetings.
  4. Evaluations will be triggered through SWAP once the assignment is complete.
  5. Encourage associates to give “shadowing” assignments to summer associates, where summer associates either watch a lawyer engage in a client call, counterparty negotiation, or court hearing, or perform the same assignment as an associate and receive feedback on the work product.

How will lawyers and summer associates build relationships?
How will lawyers mentor summer associates?

Reed Smith:
  1. Via On 24 for our training sessions; Zoom; Skype; and conference calling. 
  2. Our SAs will have RS phone lines, and Citrix Access.

Wilson Sonsini:

  1. We’ll host virtual summer associate-only social events and provide learning opportunities for summer associates to work together in groups so they can build relationships with one another.  The virtual events and trainings will be provided through the InsideSherpa collaboration portal.

Will you be hosting firm-wide or regional events?

Reed Smith
  1. Our culture is very global.  Our summer program tends to be US focused, but we will introduce the SAs to our global approach to business.  They will collaborate on team projects with cross-office teams and will have regional events as well.

Wilson Sonsini:

  1. We will host both firm-wide and office-specific virtual events.  One signature firm-wide one is a partner progressive dinner; we have traditionally done that live during the summer associate summit in Palo Alto each June, but this year we’ll be doing it using Zoom rooms as the virtual “tables” for each of appetizer, main, and dessert. 

Logistics:  are you issuing firm electronics to your summer associates or will they be asked to use their personal devices?  What safety measures are you taking to protect confidential information?  Other logistical challenges/solutions? 

Wilson Sonsini and Reed Smith:

  1. Our summer associates will be using their personal devices over the course of the summer program.  Our IT department can set them up to provide full access to the firm’s online resources.  We surveyed the summer associates to make sure they had access to good Internet connections.
  2. Reed Smith is doing the same. Encouraging summer associates to offer suggestions too. Provided some old fashion swag and notebooks to them too.
  3. Both are covering risk training, security, and client confidentially in their programs.


Additional input from attendees:

  • B Elvin, LL.M. : I strongly encourage law firms to give direct instruction and expectations on things like “using” the tech tools; connecting with colleagues at their own initiative; taking notes on a computer while also on camera; answering the phone; attire for video calls; how to have a conversation during an online networking event; etc.  Students want to do a good job but there are new variables they need to know what your organization expects.
  • Trainer: Consider virtual training supplemented with videos. We are recording the Day One orientations/Presentations and providing videos via our LMS.
  • Xtina : Is anyone implementing internal social media sites to help with establishing "community" among the summer associates? Yes, somewhat leveraging the Portal and technology tools mentioned during the session and listed under commercially available tools.



Jen Ross, Director of Legal Recruiting at Reed Smith

Chris Boyd, Chief Operating Officer at Wilson Sonsini



Martha Breil, Knowledge Management Leader at McGuireWoods