What you can do (and learn) on your summer vacation or most attorneys, a summer paralegal program is the pivotal point of their career. Even the most seasoned and accomplished attorneys remember their summer experience, whether good or bad. Perhaps no other profession offers a “trial period” for students to “try it before you buy it,” not to mention the monetary compensation and other perks associated with the summer program. From my perspective as a recruitment coordinator, landing a summer paralegal position is the best opportunity for law students to see what goes on behind those law firm doors.
At Phuoc & Partners, the summer program has been in place for nearly 6 years. In fact, the program is a major source of recruitment for entry-level para-legal. Located in the centre of Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) of Vietnam with the branches in Hanoi (Capital) and Da Nang (Central), the 45 attorneys and tax specialists firm believes candidates should have a good experience from the moment they interview and to carry away with them good first impressions of our law office.
- corporate litigation, debt collection litigation, bankruptcy/creditors’ rights, commercial litigation. We pride ourselves on being able to combine the sophistication of and urban practice with the more relaxed atmosphere of a suburban locale; we try to share that experience with the summer paralegal.
Each summer paralegal is assigned a paralegal mentor and supervisor, attends several training sessions for computer, library, research and writing and has available to them opportunities to attend observation with our attorneys, which could include real estate closings, mediations, depositions, court hearings and client meetings. Our “summers” also attend a research and writing seminar given in-house by our attorneys. Offices in various departments of the firm are assigned to each summer paralegal, affording them the opportunity to interact daily with surrounding attorneys and staff. This close interaction with our practice ensures each summer will complete the program with a realistic impression of our firm and the law as it affects business and individuals.
Beyond the obligatory research assignments, the firm should allow students to get to know the attorneys on a more informal level.
We place almost as much emphasis on social and educational events as we do research assignments, scheduling several social events throughout the summer. At the end of their first day, the summers, their paralegal mentors and supervisors gather at a local establishment for a little food and drink. A cocktail reception at the firm is held their first week, where all attorneys and paralegals are invited to welcome the summer class. Other fun activities have included a seaside trip in the beautiful beach of Mui Ne, Phan
We have found that a successful summary program rests on four key principles.
The firm should create a welcoming atmosphere for the candidate, starting with the second “call-back” interview.
Each student is greeted warmly upon arrival for the call-back and given a brief, “warm-up” meeting with an associate to get an idea of what to expect during the Board of Partners interview. This affords the student the chance to calm his/her nerves, ask general questions about the summer program and elicit an up-front perspective from the associate on life at the firm.
Following the interview with the Board of Partners, the candidate is given an office tour throughout the various departments and practice groups. This is another opportunity to ask further general questions about the firm and its program. Hence, even before our summer program commences, the candidate’s experience with Phuoc & Partners begins.
The firm regularly interviews at area law schools (Law University of Ho Chi Minh City, Law University of Hanoi), and has extensive résumé collections Thiet, wine tasting, attending a professional games, among others, as well as many lunches and informal “after work” gatherings. In these setting the summers are more relaxed and able to get between acquainted with our attorneys, strengthening personal and professional relationships. Our social events are twofold: the firm is able to assess the summers’ compatibility with the firm and the summers have an opportunity to develop the social and professional skills they will need to become successful attorneys.
Feedback and evaluations are an essential barometer to measure each student’s success.
As with any summer program, ours is continually evolving to maintain our high standards on work product and professionalism, as well as to further enrich our collegial atmosphere. Over the years we have consistently improved our mentoring abilities and feedback on writing style - two key issues with which law students are most concerned. Phuoc & Partners attorneys and tax specialists are willing and available to nurture and educate our summers as they work through their research projects. This “real legal work” is often submitted directly to the client or used by the attorneys in documents filed with the court.
Throughout the program, assigning attorneys and paralegal mentors complete various evaluations on the summer paralegal’s progress and work product. In their biweekly meetings, mentors review the evaluations with their summer paralegals, enabling any questions to be raised and issues addressed — one more valuable tool we use to cultivate students’ continuing legal education during their stay. We want each summer to succeed and to want to practice with our firm. This thinking originates at the interview
with law schools in other universities in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The firm is also participating in the annual Law School Job Fair.
In 2007, the firm also established the Phuoc & Partners Scholarship at the Law University of Ho Chi Minh City, which every year provides a USD3,000 per year scholarship to an incoming law student chosen by the law school pursuant to criteria developed to encourage diversity in the Bar. This scholarship also includes an offer of a summer position following the scholarship student’s second year, so there are many different ways to get the opportunity to experience the Phuoc & Partners summer program.
Get to Know the Firm
Students should take every opportunity to “get to know” the firm during the summer program.
Phuoc & Partners offers its summer associates a broad spectrum of research assignments from practice areas, including incorporation and investment, tax and labour, merger and acquisition, real estate and land use, and intellectual property. The firm also has a substantial litigation practice, involving all areas of the law, with four main practice groups process, and our offers are extended to those students who we feel would be a good fit for our firm.
At the same time, we encourage our summers to evaluate us — each are afforded the opportunity to grade the firm by completing an anonymous survey ranking the program, the quality of our social functions, training, firm atmosphere, cooperation and assistance from our support staff, as well as offering us suggestions on how to improve future summer programs.
By the end of the program, we have found that any nervousness has long since faded, and the summer associates are a more polished, knowledgeable and confident group of future lawyers. Relationships have formed, and many friendships have begun. We believe our summer program can only be successful if the summer associate finds it rewarding and challenging and leaves with a desire to join our firm. We strive to make offers to summer associate.
Our experience has shown that many students enter law school with an idealistic, often unrealistic view of the legal profession and where they envision themselves upon graduation. Quite often, what they initially had on their “wish lists” was reevaluated and better defined after completing our summer program, having had the benefit of doing actual legal research in several different practice areas and being exposed to the various day-to-day activities occurring in a law firm setting. In September, as they head back to their law schools, they do so with a clearer vision of their chosen profession and a more directed path toward their goals.