Law School

Summer Series: Making it in Big Law

It’s time for Summer Series! The series where law students, law grads, and pre-laws share what they’re doing for the summer. I’m THRILLED to kick it off with Maria, a rising 3L in Chicago. A point of privilege, is that I’ve had the honor of knowing her before she started law school and have been blown away by how she has mastered this system. Get to know a little about her here and what a day in the life of a summer associate is like!

Unlike many of my high school peers, I never considered higher education a realistic aspiration. Between financial instability and navigating the immigration system, I genuinely thought college was out of reach for “someone like me.” Now, flash forward ten years later, I am the first Latina Editor-in-Chief of my school’s law review, I am a summer associate at a Big Law* firm, and I am 2/3 of the way to my first graduate degree. So, if you are experiencing similar feelings, I hope my story serves as a simple reminder that you are meant to be here, you absolutely can do this, and the legal field needs you. 


As mentioned, this summer I am a summer associate at a large law firm in Chicago. My firm is a full-service firm meaning that we have various practice groups across a wide spectrum of industries from intellectual property to white-collar criminal defense. One of the things that attracted me to this firm is that summer and first-year associates can work on assignments across all practice groups. This was important to me because, as a first-generation student, I had no clue about the different career options available. So far this summer, I have worked on assignments in the corporate and securities group, litigation, private client, trusts, and estates, trademarks and copyrights, and real estate. I have a general interest in transactional law and it’s been really great to get a sense of what that work actually entails. 


A typical day in my life as a summer associate: I get into the office at about 8:30 AM and always start my morning with a coffee run. Next, I’ll check my emails and reach out to a few associates and partners to schedule coffee or lunch meetings. An important part of the summer experience is networking with your colleagues and learning more about the different practice groups by chatting with them about their careers. After this, I usually start working on my assignments. Depending on what I have on my plate, I might work on three or four different matters in one day. Of course, if I’m working on anything that is time-sensitive, that will take priority. My work mainly involves researching legal issues or developments in the law and summarizing my findings in memos. At around noon, I’ll grab lunch; I am lucky to be in a building with plenty of lunch options! After lunch, I usually have meetings, either orientation-like meetings or check-in meetings with partners or associates to discuss my assignments. In between meetings, I continue working on my assignments. I leave the office at about 5:30 PM and come back the next day to do it all over again. My firm also has different social events throughout the summer which has been a lot of fun. In the last two weeks, we’ve gone to a baseball game and competed in a cooking competition! 


Lastly, I’ll add that one of the things I struggled with once I started law school was guilt. I came in my first-year knowing I wanted a career in Big Law and I often felt guilty for not pursuing a path in public interest. Although I still occasionally struggle with that feeling, I realized that I am serving my community by entering this space, albeit in different ways. By following this career path, I hope to play a role in making Big Law more accessible for other people of color, including Latinas who currently make up 3.25% of Big Law associates**. I also made sure to seek out a firm that aligned with my values and prioritized pro bono work and diversity. I hope this helps shed some light on what a career in a large law firm might look like and I hope it inspires you to consider this career path yourself! 


* The term “Big Law” is used to describe large, prestigious, high-revenue law firms.