Schiff Hardin’s summer program has two primary goals.
First, we want every summer associate to be able to demonstrate the professional qualities we seek in new lawyers. We look for summer associates who are eager to learn and grow and are open to new ideas, who strive for excellence, and who are dedicated to the legal profession.
Second, we want all of our summer associates to get a realistic look at what it’s like to practice law here, in terms of both the work we do and who we are. Our summer associates work with lawyers from different practice groups and different offices, experience the quality and range of our work, and gain substantive experience in the areas that interest them. By the end of the summer, our summer associates have a good feel for the firm’s work, as well as its culture.
Experience the Work
We are a general practice, national law firm and gather work for our summer associates from all of our practice areas and offices. Summer associates can choose their work based on their interests. While a few concentrate in a particular practice area, most explore several different areas during the summer and work with attorneys around the country. And at least twice during the summer, our summer associates nationwide travel to Chicago to further get to know each other and our lawyers.
Our summer assignments are varied and have included the following:
- Researching and drafting memos on legal topics, including whether a plaintiff in a products liability case has the right to inspect and videotape the manufacturing facility where the product was made; the French reporting and taxation requirements for a U.S. trust; and whether a plaintiff in a Clean Air Act action must show actual injury to prevail;
- Drafting trial and appellate level briefs and pleadings for both state and federal courts, including motions to strike a jury demand, a motion for summary judgment addressing the invalidity of patents; and motions in limine to exclude evidence in a section 1983 excessive force case;
- Writing blog posts for the firm’s employment, environmental, and products liability blogs;
- Assisting in deposition and trial preparation, including analyzing the admissibility of an expert’s deposition testimony when he is not called to testify at trial;
- Drafting and interpreting contracts, opinion letters, and other documents, including related to a merger of two banks;
- Assisting in the due diligence investigation of a target company and drafting merger documents; and
- Preparing witnesses for trial.
Develop Through Training
You will learn a lot during a summer at Schiff Hardin. We have both formal and informal programs. In some, experienced Schiff Hardin attorneys teach our summer associates, give them hands-on litigation and corporate experience, and provide substantive feedback to help them develop new skills. Summer here is designed to be a transition between law school and law practice.
Summer associate training has five components:
Litigation Training: Summer associates learn from top trial lawyers about how to argue a motion and then argue themselves and receive feedback from firm attorneys. Even law students who don’t think they are interested in litigation enjoy these trainings.
Corporate Training: Summer associates learn from leading corporate attorneys about their practices, including topics like the steps in a corporate transaction, securities issues in corporate practice, and the key elements of a purchase agreement. They observe a negotiation of terms of a mock purchase agreement and negotiate other terms themselves.
Legal Writing Instruction: Schiff Hardin’s summer writing program has three parts.
- First, at the beginning of the Summer Program, our in-house legal writing coach Julie Schrager conducts a half-day writing workshop called “Introduction to Legal Writing at Law Firms.”
- Second, we host weekly writing roundtables. Each week, two or three partners and Julie meet with the summer associates in pairs to discuss the summer associates’ work and the legal writing process generally. Partners share their best writing practices in an open and informal conversational setting.
- Third, Julie works one-on-one throughout the summer with individual summer associates.
Communication Skills Training: Summer associates and associates join together for training focused on improving speaking and presentation skills.
Client Skills Training: Summer associates learn how lawyers develop new client relationships and nurture and maintain current ones through hands-on exercises in which they practice building trust, conveying empathy, and demonstrating expertise.
Learn Through Observation
We build observation experiences into our summer program because new lawyers learn a lot by watching senior lawyers at the top of their fields. Each week a list of opportunities is circulated to all summer associates. Our lawyers take summer associates to court, to corporate negotiations, and to client meetings, and we help summer associates develop their legal skills through other meaningful "hands-on" experiences.
For example, recent summer associates have
- observed depositions of key witnesses and settlement conferences;
- observed oral arguments on motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment in several state and federal courts;
- watched a class certification hearing in a high-profile antitrust case pending in California federal district court;
- attended trials and other hearings in state, federal, and bankruptcy courts;
- attended an on-site due diligence review for purposes of a bank acquisition;
- observed and witnessed will signings;
- participated in client meetings; and
- watched acquisition negotiations.
Summer associates also join in our tradition of representing clients on a pro bono basis. In Chicago, for example, Schiff has staffed the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services clinic since 1979. Summer associates assist — they may observe and participate in the intake process and work one-on-one with attorneys on CVLS and other pro bono cases.
Get to Know Us and Have Fun
Summer associates meet many Schiff attorneys and staff during their ten weeks at the firm. They are assigned an associate adviser and a partner resource, both of whom can be called on to answer questions or provide advice. Associate advisers act both as friends and professional advisers, conveying partner feedback on summer associate work and helping summer associates learn their way around the firm.
The summer program starts each week with a Monday Morning Meeting with the Summer Associate Committee. Each meeting focuses on a different topic. Summer associates meet with senior lawyers who discuss the firm’s strategic plan, the firm as a business, and the most effective ways to develop strong client relationships. They meet a panel of partners and associates who talk about the "Secrets of Being a Great Associate," and another panel of partners and associates who describe some of the firm’s pro bono matters.
We also host evening social activities so that summer associates and attorneys can get to know each other better in more relaxed, fun settings. These events range from impromptu get-togethers to organized events like the following:
- In Chicago: an architectural boat tour, WhirlyBall, trivia night, bowling, dinners at partners’ houses, and Cubs and White Sox games.
- In New York: Shakespeare in the Park, bowling, wine tasting, a cooking class at Miette Culinary Studio, and a Broadway show.
- In San Francisco: cocktails at Bubble Lounge, San Francisco Bay ferry ride, Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament, a Giants game, and tea tasting at Imperial Tea Court.
- In Washington, D.C.: Phillips Collection tour, DC United soccer game, Broomball tournament, and a brewery tour.
An annual highlight: "Iron Schiff," an Iron Chef-inspired cooking competition in which teams of partners, associates, and summer associates work together to prepare a three-course dinner. Everyone then samples the "gourmet" creations.