News & Politics

What Law Crisis? Summer Associates in DC Still Get a Sweet Deal

Photo by Oleg Albinsky.

Landing a summer-associate slot at a big-name DC firm doesn’t mean quite what it used to. Firms still want to lure top young talent, and law students still bank upward of $3,000 a week and enjoy perks such as open bars and Chesapeake Bay cruises. But since the Great Recession, summer programs have lost some of their luster as clients have insisted that those hours get billed by real JDs and more law students prioritize practical experience over partying with the partners.

To help future “summers” navigate this increasingly marshy terrain, we rated the extracurriculars planned at some of the largest Washington firms this year for local relevance, partner face time, and catchy uses of “brew.”

Neighborhood Exploration

First chair: Akin Gump
The firm’s party at the industrial-chic Long View Gallery in Shaw is exactly the kind of event the summers won’t have time for once they start working 60 hours a week as real associates.

Second chair: WilmerHale
Another industrial space in another cool nabe—Dock 5 at Union Market. Still, the planned casino night sounds like the hammy charity events they’ll spend the rest of their lives attending after making partner.

Musical Fun

First chair: Covington & Burling
If you’ve got the pipes, karaoke night is a chance to prove you can win over a room (i.e., have rainmaking qualities). Avoid if it takes you ten shots to get up and sing.

Second chair: Crowell & Moring
We get wooing millennials, but taking in a Demi Lovato concert at the Verizon Center with their elders looking on might trigger middle-school-dance flashbacks.


First chair: Steptoe & Johnson
The Bike & Brew two-wheeled tour of the Mall’s best marble, followed by a round of cold ones, tops a double-decker drive-by—if you have the chops: It’s led by firm chairman Philip West, who rode last year’s Maratona dles Dolomites race through the Italian Alps.

Second chair: Finnegan
Summers on Segways might learn about injury litigation as tourists fall off their mobile contraptions.

Good Eats

First chair: Arnold & Porter
Partner Anne Davis hosts summers at her Spring Valley home, while Red Hook Lobster Pound, Big Cheese, and other food trucks park out front. The high/low combo of privilege and finger food is just about all aspiring Washington lawyers need to know about DC culture.

Second chair: McDermott Will & Emery
Sailing off Annapolis and docking for crabs sounds like an idyllic day. But if you forget the Dramamine or don’t know how to use a cracker, it could feel like an awkward first date.


First chair: McDermott Will & Emery
Beer & Fear, an “aerial adventure” course along Little Patuxent River, then a nerve-restoring tasting at Rams Head Tavern in Savage. This outing not only wins best suds-related name, but we found a current McDermott lawyer who is looking forward to attending.

Second chair: Latham & Watkins
Summers fly to Long Beach, California, for three days. They’ll hobnob amid gorgeous scenery, but an alum warns not to unwind completely: The costume contest at an ’80s-theme party was fierce.

This article appears in our July 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.