Career Spotlight: Kelly Davis
Law students work diligently their first year to make first-class grades in order to be considered for a summer associate position with a good law firm, which they hope will put them in good standing to be offered a job by the firm after law school. But most students don’t realize this summer opportunity is as much an interview for students as it is for the law firm.
Kelly Davis (JD 06) insists that during this three-month interview it’s important for students also to “interview” the firm to insure it is the right fit, because the firm could eventually be their employer.
While the summer is usually one long interview, it is important to make the most of it and work the situation to your benefit, Davis said. While a summer associate, students should research the firm to determine if their personality fits well and adds to the cohesiveness of the work environment.
While it is sometimes overlooked, proper etiquette is essential for students to maintain as summer associate. “Don’t be crazy; don’t be the person they are talking about by the water cooler on Monday morning,” Davis said. It is important to be both dignified and respectful when working as a summer associate.
After leaving her first career as a TV news producer for something more challenging, Davis realized that it was important to have a career that she would enjoy for many years to come. “Students don’t need to find jobs, they need to be in search of careers,” Davis said. It is important for students to find a career in which they can picture themselves still working at age 50 and beyond.
Davis spent both of her summers of law school working as a summer associate at Quarles & Brady in Naples, Fla. The opportunity to spend both summers at the same firm turned out to be advantageous for Davis. Large firms usually don’t hire first-year law students for summer clerkships because it is often too early in the student’s career to determine whether the student will fit in and want to stay with the firm for the long haul. But Davis’ commitment was clear to the firm because of her work throughout the summers; and as a result, she was offered a full-time associate position after law school. Working in the summer at a firm where you want to be hired, is the easiest way in, Davis said.
Independent by nature, Davis was hesitant to work in such a large, national firm. But she has found working with veteran attorneys crucial to her career as a young lawyer. “It’s very beneficial to work with experienced attorneys because as a young attorney you can’t be prepared for everything; it’s always best to learn from someone else so you don’t make the mistakes on your own at the cost of your firm,” Davis said.
The former TV producer insists that it is all about students’ persistence and research when trying to obtain the summer associate positions at law firms. Davis landed the interview at Quarles & Brady by having excellent grades and utilizing the career services offered by the law school.
It is not impossible to find a position as a summer associate after the first year of law school, but many law students find it to be a daunting task. If students are unable to find their dream position at a firm, Davis believes students can still have a valuable summer. It is important to get involved in substantive legal work in an area of interest that can also assist with networking and creating future job opportunities, she insisted.
The most important piece of advice for students while being a summer associate is to spend the time making sure they fit in well with the firm and show the lawyers that they are capable of doing the written work. “Really do your best while in law school and enjoy the time while in law school because the working world is very different,” Davis said.