News & Politics

The Pampered Life of a Summer Associate

Bar crawls, bowling—it’s all in a day’s work for the summer associates at many Washington law firms.

Illustration by Jason Schneider.

Washington has started to swelter, which can mean only one thing: The summer associates have descended.

As they do every year, law firms throughout the city have welcomed interns from elite law schools, who are spending the season proving that, upon graduation, they should be hired as real associates. But some also have to prove their bowling skills. Many are demonstrating their culinary talents. And all must show they can handle an open bar—or five—with some semblance of dignity and restraint. What do these activities have to do with practicing law? Not much. But the recruiters at big firms know that showing summer associates a good time is part of the game.

Segway tours of Washington were a trend in recent years. This year, using cooking as a “team-building” exercise is the rage. Patton Boggs’s “summers” took a cooking class at Company’s Coming, while the groups at Akin Gump, Sidley Austin, Gibson Dunn, and Latham & Watkins are taking classes at CulinAerie. Firms have apparently noted the renaissance of DC’s U Street corridor—better a few years late than never. Gibson’s 43 summers are spending an evening at the bar Marvin, at 14th and U, listening to a panel of speakers involved in the neighborhood’s development. But Latham’s 24 summers win this contest hands down—they’re doing a full-fledged pub crawl up U Street while taking a jazz-history tour. (We hope this isn’t scheduled for the night before they go kayaking on Piscataway Creek.)

Once these lawyers-to-be land actual associate positions, the fun ends. At least they’ll have the memories to distract them during thousands of hours of document review.

This article appears in the July 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.