While many law firms canceled summer associate programs or limited them to online-only because of COVID-19, McGuireWoods designed a successful program that provided summer associates with safe, valuable in-person and remote work and social experiences — a program recently profiled by The American Lawyer.
McGuireWoods welcomed 41 top law students from 28 schools — its largest and most diverse class — to 12 different offices. The firm called every associate to ask whether they were comfortable working at the firm’s offices or preferred to participate remotely. With strict safety measures confirmed, 36 opted to participate in the office. Having an in-office option was important, especially since many students already were dealing with isolation after their law school semesters abruptly went remote.
Though the summer program was shortened to five weeks due to the coronavirus, the 2020 class gained valuable experience through training seminars, substantive work assignments and insight into McGuireWoods’ departments and industry teams. Summer associates worked across practice areas, allowing them to broaden their knowledge in different areas of interest. They also bonded through virtual trivia nights, happy hours and socially distanced in-person events that helped them build long-term relationships.
This year’s rising 3L students all received associate job offers to join the firm in the fall of 2021, and the rising 2L students received offers to participate in the 2021 summer program.
The firm typically holds an annual summer conference in Washington. D.C., for its summer associates, but could not do so this year. Instead, managing partner J. Tracy Walker IV traveled to the 12 offices that hosted summer associates to connect with each of the students and went fly fishing with one student who participated remotely.
The American Lawyer ’s Aug. 27, 2020, story highlighted the firm’s focus on finding ways to engage with law school students during the pandemic.
Summer associate Noriya Shahadat, who chose to work from the Richmond office, told The American Lawyer that for her, the personal interaction made the program especially rewarding. Masked and socially distanced, “conversations were deeper and more intentional than they had been in the past,” said Shahadat, who was a summer associate with McGuireWoods in 2019 as well.
Chicago partner and national recruiting committee chair Angelo Russo told The American Lawyer that ensuring the program’s success required an enormous recruiting team effort.
“Nothing was easy in this period,” he said. “But summer associates are the lifeblood of the firm and the next generation, and we want to show them how we rally as a family.”