Most firms are conducting virtual summer programs for the first time ever. Although most law students are happy to have a job and get paid this summer, there are definitely challenges that arise from working from home for those new to law firms.
As I conduct training programs for summer associates nationwide to help them adapt to working remotely and communicating virtually, I ask them what they are struggling with. My goal is to understand what challenges they are facing so I can provide them with tools and skills that will help them maximize their learning experience and build trusted relationships with their attorneys.
Here’s what I heard when I asked them “When it comes to communicating and building business relationships virtually, what do you find most challenging?”
- “I find it much harder to click or connect with people virtually in a relaxed way. For instance, I have a much more difficult time reading body language over WebEx calls than across a lunch table.”
- “The hardest thing about building business relationships virtually is initiating coffees and lunches with individuals whom you have not met. It is much more organic to run into someone in the hallway or approach someone after a meeting than it is to send an email to someone whose name you got off of the website.”
- “The most difficult aspect of working remotely is feeling confident in my virtual communication skills because I fear making a bad first impression.”
- “I find it most challenging preparing to speak and participate in group calls and settings. I’m not sure on a video call with more than three people when it is appropriate to interject and participate.”
I agree that working remotely has its challenges for everyone! However, we must acknowledge it is particularly difficult for your summer associates who have never worked in your firm, especially for those who have not worked in a law firm before. Attorneys and staff can make a big impact on their experience by making an extra effort to engage them, and those running summer programs can provide them with trainings aimed at building virtual communications skills
The home office itself can also pose a challenge for summer associates. During previous summer programs, summer associates had easy access to office supplies like pens, notebooks and filing folders, which is no longer the case. It may seem like a small thing, but sending your summer associates basic office supplies can both help them stay organized and make them feel more professional.
Your firm is investing a significant amount of money to pay each of these hires, in most cases with the hope that they will return as full-time attorneys post-graduation. What are you doing to ensure they have the best experience integrating into your firm culture and succeeding this summer?