“Summers”—as these folks are so sunnily called—might be queasy at the thought of defending the R.J. Reynoldses and Bernie Ebberses of the world. But they can massage that conscience with pro bono work. And also get hammered for the cause! The organizations who receive these efforts often hold special fund raisers, like the Legal Aid Society’s Summer Associates’ Club Event, where firms including Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz paid $150 a head for their summers to attend a bash at T New York.
For those who want to get (in the words of one associate) “all Birkenstocky” at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, there’s a program called Chow for Charity: If summers and associates go out for a lunch that costs $15 or less per head, the firm donates the other $45 of each person’s lunch allowance to charities including Legal Aid, inMotion and Human Rights First. For some, this is an appealing option: “It’s great for [the firms] to be able to say, ‘We realize these $60 meals are sort of stupid, so we give money to something good and everyone is happier,’” says an associate. Noblesse oblige never tasted so much like falafel!
Summers at Proskauer Rose will be heading to New Orleans to help build housing with Habitat for Humanity. “Last summer it was described as being the best experience of some people’s lives—let alone the summer,” recalled Ira Bogner, the co-chair of the firm’s summer program committee.
And being green is chic: This year, Skadden initiated a program optimistically named Frequent Greenpoints. (That sounds a lot better than frequenting Greenpoint—which no summer associate need ever do.) They receive unlimited-ride MetroCards, and those who take the subway or walk to events (and remember to get their cards punched) can turn them in at the end of the summer, at which point Skadden will tally the total, coffee-shop-style, and donate $5 per punch to an organization that plants trees around the city.
“Crab cakes are only fun when you eat them once every few weeks,” says one associate. It may be time to dial it up a notch: What about Le Cirque? Jean Georges? The Four Seasons?
Come July, summer associates are pretty much the only diners cracking open the menus anyway. “The people next to us are from Davis Polk, the people across the room are from Skadden,” said one former associate, describing the midtown “power lunch” scene. “Many times you’re sitting next to people, they would be having the exact same conversation, and you’re thinking, ‘Are you a summer associate? I think I interviewed you.’”
It’s especially obvious at the legendary Il Mulino in Greenwich Village, where meals are rumored to cost three times a summer’s lunch allowance. “I was scared to go there,” said one current associate.
Sushi Yasuda, on East 43rd Street near Davis Polk and Simpson Thacher, is popular with summers and partners for two reasons: “Really quick and really, really expensive,” noted the former associate. Omakase for two!
Davis Polk and Kaye Scholer summer associates, with lunch budgets of $75 a head, seem to be in the best position to indulge fully. Still, going over budget usually results in little more than a gentle warning to be more careful next time.