Summer Associate Drinking Etiquette Debate

Glass of luxury cognac with copy spaceIt’s that time of year where law students flock to the firms to get hands-on experience with practical legal work… but mostly go to lunch and firm parties.

Which has experienced attorneys sharing their homespun summer associate advice. Nothing big… stuff like “don’t slap attorneys,” “avoid initiating a love triangle with the managing partner,” or “never involve the Coast Guard.”

But one bit of advice kicked off a social media debate: should summers avoid drinking at firm events? Cybersecurity law professor Jeff Kosseff thought no:

Certainly would underscore the second point. And I can think of a couple lawyers who used ChatGPT in a filing who would probably agree right about now.

But should law students really go fully on the wagon for the sake of the summer? It turns out there are some strong feelings on the subject:

While some heartily endorsed the advice, others questioned whether refraining from alcohol at events designed around open bars could undermine their career prospects. A firm wouldn’t consciously no-offer someone for not drinking, but could a summer assiduously avoiding happy hours and being “out of step” with the sobriety level around them get dinged for “not fitting in”?

They shouldn’t. Firms are far more conscious of substance abuse and peer pressure than they were in the past — arguably a little too conscious — so there is little risk that you’re compromising your career by passing on the free drinks.

Well, unless you’re the guy Lawprofblawg is snarking on here.

It’s also arguably an ADA violation to not hire someone because you think they’re a recovering alcoholic, so don’t do this.

Speaking of opening the firm up to legal action, asking after a non-drinking associate is fraught with opportunities to land in hot water.

Folks had a lot of thoughts and there were a lot of lengthy threads (not this one though):

So should summers drink at firm events? Sure… if they want to. Or don’t if you don’t want to. As long as you don’t end up gracing the pages of Above the Law in the bad way, do whatever you want. The firms expect summers to drink, so don’t abstain for fear of getting tipsy. But firms also don’t want to fish you out of the river, so don’t get drunk.

Not to sound like a liquor commercial, but be responsible. If that means not drinking, no one (at a serious firm anyway) is going to mind. And if it means drinking for you, stay professional.

HeadshotJoe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.


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