Law School Students Live Well During DC Summer Internships

Summer associates put in long hours at DC megafirms, but they also enjoy perks like Segway tours, catered parties at Udvar-Hazy, and other extravagant outings.

By: Marisa M. Kashino

It’s summer-associate season, when students from elite law schools intern at Washington’s megafirms. They undergo training and work on real legal assignments, but there’s no such thing as a summer-associate program that doesn’t involve plenty of cocktail hours, expense-account lunches, and other social events.

“I wish I was a summer associate sometimes,” says DLA Piper partner Michael Paul Reed, who helps plan his firm’s program. When they’re not working, the six lawyers-to-be in DLA’s DC office are partaking in such activities as cooking classes and heading to TopGolf, a kind of arcade/sports-bar hybrid in Alexandria.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s 38 Washington summer associates are spending an afternoon at partner and former solicitor general Ted Olson’s home. They’re also taking a Segway tour of the city. Whether that actually turns out to be fun is up for debate: “Picture an army of blue and gray suits on a 100-degree summer afternoon,” says DC hiring partner Thomas Dupree.

Bowling nights and Nats games are popular outings. The 28 “summers” at Sidley Austin are doing both, as are the 17 at Akin Gump. The Akin Gump summers are also seeing The Addams Family at the Kennedy Center, enjoying lunch with legal legend Vernon Jordan Jr., having a casino night at Arlington’s Top of the Town, and dining in a private room at the Palm with firm chairman Bruce McLean.

But likely no summer group is having more fun than the 23 law students at Latham & Watkins. The firm is flying them to Beverly Hills for a three-day training dubbed Latham & Watkins University. In Washington, Latham is hosting an event for its summers at Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market, catered by food trucks and complete with a DJ and open bar. And it has rented out the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center for a night. That event was planned around the space shuttle Discovery’s recent retirement to the Dulles facility.

Why all the extravagant outings? Natasha Gianvecchio, cochair of Latham’s DC recruiting committee, says being a lawyer at the firm involves more than just work. “It’s being able to interact with clients and colleagues, showing good judgment, integrity, good professional character. You can find those things out better when there’s a social element.”

So maybe Latham’s summers should proceed with caution to that open bar.

This article appears in the July 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.