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“You can make things happen for yourself here”

April 2024: Efat Elsherif is a second-year associate in our New York office and former summer associate. She shares what she's learned in her first year at White & Case, and has advice for anyone interested in starting their career at the Firm.

There's a big difference between being a summer associate and an associate
I was so eager to get started, but it's definitely a step up. One of the things I most enjoyed about the Summer Program was the chance to really experience what lawyers do, and to try out the work in a substantive way. But when you're actually an associate, it's a new level of responsibility.

Keep in touch with the Firm when you go back to law school
As a summer associate, you have the chance to build a network—if you're interested in a practice or a case, the Recruitment team will make an incredible effort to connect you with an associate for a coffee or conversation. In the time when you're back in law school, keep up with the Firm's work and check in with your network on LinkedIn.

You have the opportunity to make things happen here
Before I came back to the Firm, I stayed in touch with the partners I worked with over the summer and made sure they knew that I was keen to join that practice and that I wanted to do that kind of work. When I went back to law school after my summer, I continued to follow developments and cases in the region that I was interested in, and within a month of joining the firm, I asked the partner to be put on one of those cases. I became gradually more involved on that case, and today, I am part of that team.

It all came full circle when I saw my name on our submission to the Tribunal on that case at the end of my first year, which was my "Aha" moment that I was now a lawyer.

You learn to manage the workload of a junior associate
The expectations and the volume of work is a real step up from the summer associate experience. On a daily basis, I am in meetings either with my clients, or my colleagues (or both), drafting, revising and reviewing documents with my colleagues, including many from other offices across the Firm's network.

There are a lot of deadlines and the hours can be demanding. But even though there are times when I am really, really busy, I've also learned how to anticipate and plan for these periods—and then enjoy the less-demanding periods too. That's one big difference from being in law school: you need this flexibility and to be prepared for the unexpected.

Don't be afraid to approach people, including partners
There can be a misconception, as a student or even as a summer associate, that partners are remote and a little scary. I've just never found that to be the case. Even if they're busy—and they are often busy—they will make time for you and be very engaged and ready to answer your questions. They're invested in the future of the Firm, i.e., the most junior lawyers. Everyone was a first-year once.

Hit the ground running
As a summer, you'll get to know a lot about how things are done here—everything from how to format a document, to how a particular partner likes things done and where to find the information you need. It might seem like small details, but it adds up to a great head start when you arrive as a new associate.

Built your network internally...
As a first-year in the New York office, you might start in the corporate pool or litigation pool. You'll get pulled into all sorts of matters. That means that you're constantly meeting new faces, at every level and across business services too.

... and externally too
My classmates at law school are now at other firms. In the future, they might be my colleagues or my clients too. Keeping in touch with them is important to me—after all, many of them are my friends too.

Join one or more networks...
I joined the Middle Eastern and North African Affinity Network as a personal opportunity to connect with people who I share something with. It's also a way to meet others that you might not come across in your day-to-day work.

This is a big Firm—you might not run into colleagues that work on other floors on a daily basis, but our networks are a forum to get to know people.

... including as an ally
Even if you don't have a personal link to the specific network, joining as an ally is definitely something I recommend. First of all, you meet fascinating people, and there are great events and social activities. You develop these networks and friendships that stay with you—a strong bond that is not necessarily work-related.

My own 2024 resolution is to enjoy the opportunity to join more networks as an ally. It's part of our "Human" value here at White & Case.

Take a look at Efat's "Day in the life" article to learn about her summer program experience