We’ve offered a ton of tips for summer associates over the years — but I thought it might be helpful to round up the best resources here.
My own experience is in Biglaw in New York, but I think these guidelines can work for pretty much anyone, anywhere (although if you’re in a more casual office in a more casual town, such as San Diego or Austin, you may find that you can relax a lot of these rules much more quickly.)
Also check out our roundup of the best law school resources for women!
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What to Wear as a Summer Associate
Knowing what to wear can be difficult — you want to be seen as professional and taken seriously, but you also don’t want to look like you’re wearing your mother’s clothes. A few notes:
Wear a suit the first day, and any “big” day after that. If you consider yourself to be in a “very conservative” office, wear the most formal option, which is a skirt suit with pantyhose and closed-toe shoes.
Whether you wear a pantsuit or a skirt suit, wear closed-toe shoes, and ideally layer your suit with a sleeved option beneath it, like a nice t-shirt, short-sleeved sweater, or button-front blouse — you don’t want to go sleeveless until you know it’s accepted at your firm.
These are some of our favorite heels as of 2023, but check out our entire Guide to Comfortable Heels!
Make safe choices for your work outfits until you get a better feel for your office. Stick with pencil skirts just above your knees and full-length trousers on the bottom, and sleeved shirts and blazers on top until you get a better feel for the office.
Tip: Don’t look to your fellow summer associates or even first-year associates for guidance — wait until you’ve seen a few mid-levels going sleeveless or wearing sandals or ankle pants before you try it yourself. See our discussion of what not to wear to work for further guidance.
Psst: sweater blazers are great for staying warm in a subzero office (thanks, summer A/C)!
Wear closed-toe shoes until you get a better feel for whether women at the office are wearing peep-toes or sandals. If you’re commuting in flip flops, change to proper shoes the second you get into the office. See our Guide to Comfortable Heels for tips, as well as our recent roundup of comfortable ballet flats.
See more tips on summer associate style here. Unsure what to wear to a specific “fun” summer associate event like golfing, sailing, an office pool party, or something else where you don’t know what to wear? Check our previous discussions.
Business Etiquette Tips for Summer Associates
Be humble. Understand that your role in many situations (possibly all situations involving clients or third parties) is to listen and observe. If I had a dime for every time I saw commenters discussing a summer associate who blathered on and on and on about himself or herself in front of clients…
But: know when to shine. Summer lunches, particularly with partners and senior associates, are a great place to look like you’re an intelligent person with a love for learning.
Observe proper dining etiquette! Your napkin goes in your lap as soon as you sit down (and goes in your chair if you have to get up). If you’re curious which bread plate and drink are yours, form a “b” and “d” with your hands in your lap — your bread plate is on your left and your drink is on your right.
(Another way of thinking about this: BMW: bread, middle, water.) Avoid checking your email at the table (or at least be discreet about it), and leave the table if you must take a phone call.
Check out our full tips on business lunches, here.
Career Tips for Summer Associates
Explore. Use your summer to get a feel for different areas of the firm. Try every area that might possibly interest you.
Network effectively. Summers are a great time to reach out to partners and other VIPs you admire to get on their radar, as well as to get a sense of how they got to where they are.
Pro tip: if the idea of asking the partner to lunch scares you, round up a few other summer associates and approach him or her as a group — partners will do a lot over the summer in the name of recruiting, and adding more people to the lunch makes it a better investment of his or her time.
See our other top tips on networking when you’re junior.
Note that details often matter as much as content. Typos, formatting errors, inattention to style conventions — these may matter as much as the actual content for your work product, at least for purposes of this summer. So give everything your 100% focus.
The Best Work Clothes for Summer
Summer Suits for Women
You may want to look for suits in 1) a seasonless suiting fabric that you can wear year round, 2) a lightweight, summer-only fabric like linen or seersucker, or 3) a “travel-friendly” suit for women that is generally designed to be wrinkle-free and is often lightweight.
Seasonless Suiting for Women
This is the best option because you can wear them year-round!
As of 2023, some of our favorite seasonless wool suiting includes Ann Taylor on the affordable side, and Theory on the more expensive side. Talbots’ line of seasonless wool suiting includes regular, petite, plus, plus-size petite, and tall sizes.
Lightweight Suits for Summer
Stay tuned for our roundup of lightweight suits for summer in linen, seersucker, or cotton pique!
Travel-Friendly Suits for Women
Hunting for travel-friendly suits for women or lightweight suits? As of 2023, some of our favorites include these brands/lines: 1) M.M.LaFleur, 2) Ministry of Supply, 3) Paul Smith, and 4) Talbots. (Not pictured: Eddie Bauer and Suitably! Brooks Brothers also occasionally has suiting in their BrooksCool line, and Uniqlo occasionally has Airism suiting. ) You may also want to check out our roundup of washable suits for women!
The Best Summer Separates for Work Outfits
Great Lightweight Pants for Work
Great Summer Blazers for Women
Hunting for lightweight blazers in linen and other fabrics? As of 2023, J.Crew’s Parke blazer is available in linen, as is this super affordable Quince blazer. Along related lines (all machine washable!), check out Uniqlo’s Airsense jacket (lightweight and stretchy), Madewell’s Drapeweave line (lightweight and drapey) and Brooks Brothers’ Soft Icons line (lightweight and drapey).
Great Dresses for Summer Work Outfits
Classic Sheath Dresses for Work
Colorful Sheath Dresses for Work
Fit & Flare Dresses for Work
Hunting for the best fit and flare work dresses? We just rounded up some in Oct. 2022, but in general look to brands like Eliza J., Maggy London, White House | Black Market, Karen Kane, eShakti, and (for plus sizes), City Chic, Kiyonna, and Eloquii.
Wrap Dresses for Work
Undergarments for Summer You Might Not Know About
Slip shorts are a great option for summer because they prevent your skirt from clinging (like a slip) while adding a lightweight layer so your thighs don’t rub together and you have a bit more modesty in the case of a gust of wind (like biker shorts). Jockey skimmies are everyone’s favorites, but sometimes you can find “cooling slip shorts” as well!
Weird Products to Help You Cool Down From a Hot Commute
Have a question you don’t see covered? Email us!
Pictured at top and on pin: Shutterstock / s4svisuals.