The population of the Jacksonville legal community has increased for the next few months by the presence of law student summer associates who have been carefully selected as potential additions to the staff roster at local law firms.
For the students, it’s an opportunity to experience for a few months what it’s like to practice at an established firm before returning to the classroom.
For the law firms, it’s part of the long-term growth strategy and an opportunity to audition a student in terms of intellect, future legal acumen capacity and compatibility.
“It’s part of our hiring strategy and how we replenish our pool of talent,” said Charles Jimerson, managing partner at Jimerson & Cobb.
“We are able to identify top talent early on and mentor great young attorneys from the very beginning of their careers,” said Holland & Knight Jacksonville executive partner Joshua Roberts.
He was a summer associate at the firm and in 2007 began his career at Holland & Knight.
The process of recruiting summer associates begins with establishing qualifications and usually includes on-campus interviews at law schools in the state and across the country.
“We tell the schools what kind of student we’re looking for in terms of GPA, moot court experience and interest in certain areas of law,” said Carson Lange, chair of the Recruiting Committee at Rogers Towers.
“We also look for people who are interested on making Jacksonville their home and making a commitment to the community,” she added.
After being selected, summer associates are immersed into the day-to-day lifestyle of a practicing attorney.
They conduct research, draft documents and observe depositions, hearings, mediations, trials and meetings with clients and opposing counsel.
“We encourage them to work with many of our attorneys,” Lange said.
They are given substantive work assignments and their work is discussed, evaluated and relied upon, said Roberts.
“We try to give the summer associates a mix of assignments in litigation, corporate and real estate, especially when an associate is undecided about what type of practice he or she is interested in, as was the case for me,” he said. “It’s a fairly demanding immersion program.”
“We don’t put them on the wine and cheese circuit. It’s a real-world experience because we’re looking for attorneys who will one day be partners,” Jimerson said.
It’s not all work and no play, however. Summer associates also get an idea of what attorneys do after work. That can include recreation and service and it’s a chance to learn more about the potential new hires.
At Holland & Knight, activities outside the office range from joining the firm’s attorneys who volunteer at the Clara White Mission to attending a Rascal Flatts concert with members of the firm. There’s a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp game on the agenda for the summer associates at Jimerson & Cobb.
At Rogers Towers, summer associates participate in everything with the attorneys and staff, such as informal conference room lunches and friendly fitness competitions.
“We look at it like we might be inviting them into the Rogers Towers family,” said Lange.
It’s about business and making the right decisions to grow a law firm with the best talent.
Jimerson said hiring an associate who’s just out of law school and then training them to become a leader and top performer is a “multimillion-dollar investment” and a yearslong commitment on the part of the firm.
“I want to see if they can cut it,” he said.