What NOT to Wear as an Intern or Summer Associate

Jun46_miniWe’ve had a few great conversations on here about summer internships and summer associates (including what not to DO at your internship) and general professional fashion gaffes, but I thought we should have an open thread of advice for all the interns and summer associates starting out this summer. (Pictured: ZooBorns is a new-to-me site featuring baby zoo animal pictures.  The baby lion cub seemed relevant here…)

For my own $.02, here are some tips:

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  • DO NOT WEAR SHORTS OR SANDALS OF ANY KIND UNLESS YOU SEE A SUPERIOR DO IT.  Similarly, your first week has probably already passed, but take a look around your office at the women superiors (NOT the other interns): are they wearing pantyhose when they wear skirts?  If they are, do not go bare-legged.
  • How long are your skirts?  Even if you didn’t grow up watching Ally McBeal, far too many skirts that are sold as professional ones are a bit too short for the office.  Check out our diagram and poll on how short is too short for an office skirt.
  • If you wear flip-flops for the commute, get those suckers off the second you get to the office. Going to a cocktail party after work does not count as “commuting” — find shoes that are comfortable to stand in.
  • Assess your hair. I passed a girl on the street yesterday wearing a messy bun on the very tippy-top of her head (a look I wore myself in my early 20s) and thought, “Perhaps she works in a creative field.” My point here: There are a ton of cute ways to pull your hair back on the weekend, but make sure that your casual “need to get my hair out of my face right this instant” look is appropriate for your office culture.  Hint: a low pony-tail works most everywhere; any ponytail or bun that sits higher than your ears may be suspect.
  • If you’re still learning the office culture but you interviewed in a blazer, bring one in to the office. Just a simple black one or white one will do. Then, if you get called to an important meeting at the last minute, throw a blazer on top of whatever you’re wearing.
  • Don’t carry a Birkin or any other accessory or clothing item that suggests that Daddy (or your sugar Daddy) buys you things. As I advised the young woman who wanted to carry her Birkin to her internship:  Even if you’re 100% committed to your career, the first impression you’re making is a negative one, and you may not get a chance to correct it personally with every person who notices.  So don’t do it.

Finally, this isn’t a fashion tip, but a more general one: Know your place. One of the weekend commenters mentioned going to a business meeting and being shocked that her opponent’s intern blocked the exit and talked loudly about her own general studies in the field — and I found myself nodding in agreement because I’ve seen that person (male and female) a million times and it never reads well. When you’re at a meeting with anyone outside your immediate company — e.g., clients, opponents — your role is to observe. Contributions are fine, but brevity and quality are the name of the game unless whoever you’re speaking with presses further.

This should be a fun discussion — readers, what advice do you wish you could give the interns at your workplace?  What gaffes have you seen?

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Comments

  1. Young Lawyer :

    Don’t date someone at the office, ESPECIALLY a superior. Just don’t. It can backfire big time.

    • Anonymous :

      Hey! Who am I going to gossip about?

    • I did it as a summer intern, and he was my superior. While I recognize that it certainly could have backfired, we are now happily married.
      So I’d have to say that you should never date someone at the office, especially a superior, UNLESS you’re both serious about it, you both feel that this might be “it”, and you discuss the potential ramifications ahead of time.

  2. anon for the sake of the summers :

    At my big firm already this year:
    -far too short skirts (5″+ above the knee)
    -flat shoes in poor, scuffed up condition
    -spike heels with 1″ platforms
    -taking off shoes under the meeting table (yes, I can see you)
    -visible undergarments (straps, VPL, bra cup lines)
    -sleeveless tops (I can see how this would be fine if it was hot here, but it’s not)
    -tops with necklines that are either too low to begin with, or show far too much when bending over a desk
    -strappy sandals (again, it’s not hot)
    -strappy sandals with feet in poor condition (polish is not mandatory IMO, but tidy/healthy is)
    -sheer shirts are not made ok by wearing a cami underneath
    -perhaps most bizarrely, carrying designer purse everywhere, including to meetings in the building

    • anon for the sake of the summers :

      Oh dear, I should have been more specific on VPL. I also refuse to wear thongs, and I expect on occasion, I have inadvertent VPL despite my properly fitting trousers and skirts. What I meant by VPL is when the summer wears too tight/stretchy/body conscious pants or skirts: regardless of underwear style, one can see the outline of the underwear all the time because the pants are simply too tight or too small or made with too flimsy fabric. And it can actually be worse to be wearing a thong in those too-tight bottoms – the lack of VPL under the sprayed-on clothing makes me wonder whether the intern is wearing underwear at all, which I really don’t want to be thinking about.

      After witnessing this today, another to add: leave your ipod at home. You do not need to be listening to music during your internship. Once you are hired, maybe, but it looks bad when I come to talk to you and you’re wearing ear buds, especially if you didn’t see/hear me come in.

      • I agree with this. I don’t think it counts as VPL if a faint outline of your underwear appears when you are climbing a flight of stairs, crouching down to pick up a box of files, etc. If your pants are tight enough that your panty line is visible at all times, including standing still, then that is not really work appropriate attire.

      • Unless your superiors tell you it’s okay. I work an internship at my school (in the Office of Sustainability), and the office has only existed since 2007. so the facilities aren’t really sufficient for the number of interns. Therefore, 4 or more of us are often crammed at one desk (both sides) at any given time. We’re encouraged to do what we need to do in order to get our work done, whether that means using an iPod or working from home on days without meetings.

    • Maybe she has bathroom supplies with her that she is going to bring to the ladies room with her should she step out of the meeting. I use a small clutch for this purpose. My office is on floor x, meeting is on floor y, I know I might need a tampon, etc.

    • Barrister in the Bayou :

      VPL is a touchy one for me. I hate seeing them, but I also don’t want to wear thongs to work every day. I wear seamless underwear and they still show! My pants are the right size and if I size up on the underwear they will be too big. I’m just curvy back there and happen to despise boy shorts because they always bunch up. After a certain point, I decided to let it go.

      • Kathryn Fenner :

        I really like the Jockey No Visible Panty Line Promise modern briefs, and I am a person of butt. They are too high waisted for lower rise pants, but I avoid those, too–mid rise is fine…

    • I actually think a number of these things are totally OK and I work in a conservative office, though its always about how you wear it/carry yourself — looking put together overall makes any outfit seem a lot more appropriate. OK, for example, with high heels, even thoughts with a small platform (and I assume you mean stilleto, which I of course think is totally fine), sleeveless tops, and sheer shirts (totally dependent on the shirt) with a cami underneath

    • Here’s a humorous article about the subject… http://www.slate.com/id/2296626/

  3. Just a general note – let’s try to keep this a helpful discussion instead of just venting about hilarious and/or inappropriate outfits we’ve seen. I saw someone today with pants that were too tight, and I’ve made that mistake as well, so I check my pants in a variety of lights to make sure they’re not too tight/sheer in the back so you have VPL. Black doesn’t always automatically mean opaque in a thin fabric!

    • You can find pants with the perfect fit this coming Fall at Quincy Apparel (www.quincyapparel.com)–a new clothing company that makes it easier for professional women to get dressed for work!

  4. Checking your blackberry during a meeting. You are an intern – the company/firm/etc. will not collapse if you are off the grid for an hour, nor will anyone scream at you for being unavailable. Turn it off and pay attention.

    • Uh, they may scream at you… But only the crazy ones. When I was a summer associate, we didn’t have blackberries (presumably cost-saving). Earlier years always had and one of the associates a bunch of us were working for just assumed we did, too. She got super pissed when none of us responded to her “urgent” (it wasn’t that urgent) email for two hours because we were in a meeting about other things. When she realized we didn’t actually have blackberries, she was apologetic, but make sure the people you’re working with know if you don’t.

    • Anonymous :

      Geesh, why can’t this be the rule for everyone?! I hate being in meetings that take twice as long because we’re constantly recapping what’s already been said or decided by someone captivated by their gadget.

  5. Even if you do see your superior wearing shorts and sandals, proceed with caution before doing so yourself. Your superiors already have a job. You do not.

    Don’t get wasted at office functions, or even just a little drunk if you are prone to say stupid things even if you’re just a little tipsy. This should be obvious, and yet, it happens.

    • Agree with both. As to the first, I disagree with Cat’s advice to the extent that I think you shouldn’t take your cues from what a single woman does. Instead, take your cues from what MOST (or at least a plurality) of women in your office do.

      You have not been there long enough, and do not know enough about the office politics, to know whether any particular person has a reputation for being kooky or eccentric in her dress, or whether that person works with a different family of clients where she will blend in on site but you will stand out like a sore thumb in a different context, or whether someone is thought of as being so competent at her job that she has in effect “earned” the right to look like a slob. On the other hand, if a bunch of women do something — wear dressy shorts or sandals or larger earrings of whatever — you are in the clear.

    • Maybe I am overly conservative, but unless you’re summering in the gym law practice group, I don’t think shorts are ever appropriate office attire.

      (Company picnics, etc are obviously a different story, although even then, I try to avoid shorts.)

      • I generally agree re: shorts, but I have friends in marketing and design companies who can wear the jacket and walking-short look. Having said that, I would never want to be the first at my company to test the waters!

      • anonx1000 :

        this! I’m not that conservative and I don’t work in a conservative office, but shorts are truly inappropriate in the legal workplace. (And I didn’t realize how much this bothered me until I saw it at two separate firms.)

    • Agree – I’d say look at how the people one level up dress, not your supervisors. People who have paid their dues can have a lot more leeway, especially in the summer than interns or associates.

  6. One thing that I think that I could have done better during my summers is to make sure that my hair was polished- I’d long been a sort of long-haired hippy girl who let her hair dry naturally every day, and I really didn’t understand how to do anything differently until just recently. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference,* but it can’t hurt to add to an overall polished look. Invest in a blow dryer and some smoothing product, and practice a little bit if it’s not been your style in the past to have very professional, well-kept hair.

    *When you don’t get the offer, even when it’s clearly because the economy is rapidly exploding all around you, you start to hyper-analyze EVERY DARN THING that you could have done differently. Oy!

    • Lyssa,

      I’m sorry that you did not get an offer. As someone 10 years out of law school, who has just found her dream job after 1 year of unemployment, I know that rejection is tough! See if you have any allies at that orgazinations (even secretaries of paralegals) who might give you the real scoop on what went down. Unfortunatlely, women are expected to keep a more polished apprearance than men, so you live and learn. I (and many of your fellow Corporetts wish you a job that is 10 times better!!

      • Oh, I’m good now; this was a few years back, right when things got really bad. It still burns a little bit, though! Thanks, and I’m glad to hear that you got your dream job, too!

  7. I’ve seen lots of interns on the subway wearing prom-like heels to work (satin, rhinestones, etc). For one, those are a total style clash with a professional outfit. Buy some basic leath pumps and flats. Also, even though you’re not in the office yet, commuting in heels is kind of a novice thing to do. Change into those babies in the office and save yourself a lot of discomfort! Furthermore, make sure your pants are hemmed for heels if you’re wearing heels (the pant leg should hit below your actual heel). If not, wear flats.

    • commuting in heels is a novice thing to do?? Totally disagree. I understand that some women insist on commuting in flats, flip flops, or tennis shoes, but that doesnt mean its the right thing to do. If you wouldnt want to be seen in the office dressed like that, why is it appropriate to be seen by the rest of the public dressed like that?

      • …because it beats being seen by the public with blisters, bad knees, and a twisted ankle?

        • ^Exactly.

          If your feet are unnecessarily swollen/blistered because you didn’t commute in activity-appropriate footwear (can I walk 5 miles in these shoes?), then you’ll spend the rest of the day in the office hobbling around as you go about your day. Not only is the constant foot pain distracting from the tasks at hand, you’ll look like you’re wearing shoes you don’t know how to walk well in.

          When I started my first full-time job I had some difficulty transitioning for 2″ heels to 2.5″ heels and I drove to work. Even if you’re just going to the washroom and the breakroom, all that walking for 8+ hrs will be in your heels.

      • lawtalkinggirl :

        Because it is totally appropriate for the general public to see me dressed head to toe in downhill ski gear (including helmet), yet not appropriate for me to dress like that at the office (I am not a ski patroller, unfortunately). Inappropriate for the office can still be appropriate for public display. ;-)

        • Well, my point was really two-fold: (1) its not a novice thing to do — its your choice, but the other one, i.e., commuting in heels, is not wrong or novice; and (2) you get dressed in the morning to look professional and put together. you loose that by wearing commuting shoes — and because you are commuting in public, people see you and judge you.

          • lawtalkinggirl :

            How unfun that people judge you based on the shoes you wear while commuting. Half the year I commute in snow boots, while the other half of the year I commute in sneakers (while riding my bicycle). I change my shoes (and sometimes my clothes) at the office. Your comments remind me that I am glad I live in a place where the social norms permit this flexibility.

          • Fortunately, my mama didn’t raise me to obsess over what random people on the subway think of my shoes .

          • Anonymous :

            Even if one is a supervisor or client?

          • I have also heard higher ups judge people for placing “professional” dress above common sense and wearing nice clothes on a day where they are going to be hauling dirty boxes or wearing pretty leather pumps in the snow. I once wore clothing that was too formal and heavy for a casual interview on a hot day, and I know that counted against me in the decision making (I got the job anyway, luckily). Supervisors value professionalism, but they also value people with enough common sense to dress down when appropriate.

    • Some of us buy work shoes that are comfortable enough to wear on our commutes. Some of us take care to make sure we have our shoes prepped (taps, rubber soles) to make them appropriate for commuting. Some of us regularly have functions after work that we’d like to look appropriate for. Some of us see the “suit with sneakers” look as very “Working Girl secretary,” and wouldn’t be caught dead that way. ‘Kay?

      • Jesus H Christ you just bring a bad attitude everywhere.

        • Some of us understand that work and commute are two different places and that context matters. If some of us ran into a business associate jogging with her dog in the park and she was sweaty and holding a bag of poo on her way to the trash can, some of us would not judge her for being unprofessional. Some of us wouldn’t be caught dead being this superior and judgmental of other people. Obviously, this last group of people does not include me :-P, since I judge ADS pretty harshly, not as a professional, but as a human being

          • YES THIS.

          • sneakers worn with anything other than gym clothes, in the gym, on the way to the gym, coming home from the gym, or exercising outside are a horrible, disgusting travesty and make you look like a bridge and tunnel nightmare

      • Attychick :

        Unfortunately I have to agree with this. The partners at my firm ride many of the same trains I do. Just like a Blackberry, attire follows me outside my office. I’ve also bumped into coworkers on weekends halfway across Manhattan. If you work at a firm, you can afford good flats. I also suggest a reasonably priced bag that can fit the good flats.

    • As was pointed out upthread, the problem with commuting in something flat and then changing into heels that your pants length is determined by the height of your heels, and if you wear pants that are too long for flats, they may get dirty.

  8. Always say “hello” to others in your office. I was especially put off by an intern we had last semester who seemed to ignore me. Although she was very gregarious, she seemed to have a problem with saying “hello” to me, even when I initiated. It was incredibly rude, and in the end, she did herself a huge disservice. I will always remember her as the intern who was too good to say hello to an attorney in the hallway.

    • Second this. Also, if you work in a more lax environment, spend the time to get to know staff – ask them about their careers and if they have any advice for you. Pick an appropriate time to do so – during break time, prior to or after lunch, coffee runs, etc. You’re supposed to spend this time learning about the career and the interpersonal stuff can’t be learned in school.

      • I think even in a formal office, an intern should take the time to get to know the staff. They know the office politics and culture, they can give you honest answers about things you can’t ask an attorney and they may be able to save you from potentially embarrassing situations (for instance, my assistant once tucked in the tag of my shirt before I was meeting with the head of the department – very helpful).

        At the very least, it’s always a good policy to say hello, smile, and say please and thank you to the staff.

      • MaggieLizer :

        I agree with BKDC’s and Ru’s comments. One girl my summer was quiet and reserved, but a very sweet and genuine person. She did not say hello to people in the coffee room/kitchen, probably because she was a bit shy, and that earned her a (totally undeserved) reputation among the attorneys as as the b—- of the summer class.

        Like Ru and EC said, it’s really important to be nice to the staff. I would add that you shouldn’t ask your secretary to do very much during your summer, unless of course the assigning attorney tells you to. However, some things are the Exclusive Territory of Secretaries (i.e. booking conference rooms, in my office at least) and they will get upset if you step on their toes. Ask your summer associate coordinator or your secretary if there is anything that the secretaries prefer to handle themselves.

      • I agree. Remember: some of those secretaries may have been there 20 years. They know more than you, and as an intern or junior professional, you can learn a lot from them.

        • Anonymous :

          One firm I summered atallowed us to take our assistants to lunch once during the summer. It’s a nice gesture even if you have to pay yourself, and it’s nice when you come back – they are always in the know!

      • Just to clarify, I mean everybody in the office (I don’t work in a law firm so I understand that the word “staff” means something different in every office). Speak to the professional staff, support staff, maintenance staff, IT staff, EVERYBODY. Most people can produce work but not that many are adept at handling people across all professional strata. Your internship is a great place to hone these skills. Not only do you learn a lot from different people, it shows that you have an interest in the organization.

        • counterpoint though- don’t BUG people around you who are busy. I have an intern near me now who keeps asking how I am doing, trying to be nice; it’s a week where my days are 6am to 10pm and I’m still 500 emails behind.. so do not have time to speak to an intern, period. he’s not in my department, just was seated near me. I would feel bad if I had time:) but just don’t. so interns, nothing personal, but people that give off a busy vibe might just be super swamped more than you can imagine. also he is taking loud personal calls and it’s driving me nuts (open cube place)- I am going to show him the ‘privacy rooms’ for that kind of thing- he clearly has no awareness that it is annoying to everyone and not normal.

    • another anon :

      Agree! Along those same lines, there was an intern at the court where I work who shut his door for the entire work day. After a few days of him doing this, everyone in the court knew. He developed a really poor reputation, and missed out on developing relationships with his coworkers. I’d say this was a poor choice, especially in a bad economy.

  9. I agree with pretty much all so far except that I don’t agree with the expensive accessory rule. If you have a Birkin and love it, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Although I wouldn’t carry it everywhere (but you may want to lock it up, if you can). Maybe I’m not a great judge because I wouldn’t know an expensive purse just by looking (even a Birkin – okay maybe I would, now that I read this blog…)

    I have seen tons of way to short skirts this summer (and the too messy, casual, weekend hairdo). Please stop it.

  10. Watching the interns on the metro is amusing. Based upon my observations this year, if your skirt pulls on, has no zipper, and can be worn as a top, please do not wear it to work.

  11. Listen to instructions carefully. It never ceases to amaze me how few people can actually do this.

    Beware of being too casual or friendly with superiors — even if someone is really friendly and close to your age, it doesn’t mean you should ever tell them how hung over you are, etc. (I had an intern who told me that almost every morning one summer!).

    Avoid using weird abbreviations that may have been useful in your law school outlines, but that no one uses and that sound jarring to the ear of someone not used to them (or at least to me ;)).

    As far as clothes, I think, in some offices, it can be as important not to overdress as it is not to underdress. If you work somewhere on the casual side, you will stick out if you wear pumps and a full suit every single day. Even just switching out the pumps for flats (or whatever) will help you fit in much better.

  12. Try to use your Professional Words. Keeping yourself from using slang at work can be difficult, but it’s hard to take someone seriously in an exchange like this:
    “I’d like you to research issue x.”
    “Awesome, I’ll get started right away.”
    “Can you please get it to me by tomorrow?”
    “That’s cool.”

    I might use slang in personal/chatty-type conversations with co-workers, but I try to keep it to a minimum when discussing business or talking with a boss.

    • My favorite one from a guy who works for me. When I ask him to do something he says, “No worries!”

      Uh, actually I wasn’t worried. Just do it.

      • That’s an Aussie expression. I picked it up from visiting the rellies (in-laws) and had to train myself back to “no problem or “sure thing.”

        Point taken, though.

        • Anonymous :

          This was explained to me as using “the common language” and using “professional dialogue.”

      • That’s my standard response when someone says thank you! And I’m in my 40s.

        • I hate hate hate the “no worries” response. It annoys me that you think I was worried about the request. It’s your job. Just do it.

          • Yeah well, I’m the boss of pretty much everyone I work with on a regular basis, so they’re not in a position to tell me what to do.

          • but the advice is for the interns… a lot of this advice doesn’t apply if you are the boss of everyone and don’t care what other people think (which is an awesome place to be)

          • Maybe we need a companion thread on what is appropriate to fault someone for and what isn’t. “No worries” isn’t so cavalier that the person is being unprofessional. You shouldn’t impose your pet peeves on people.

          • anon for this one :

            It does not actually mean you don’t need to worry. it is a turn of phrase.

      • Funny, I actually see “no worries” as the equivalent of “no problem”. I don’t assume someone saying “no problem” thinks I would have one.

        • I agree – I don’t tend to say ‘no worries’ if someone’s asking me to do something, more if they’re apologising or asking for more than they should.
          Example:
          My editor ‘Hey Lily, can you get me that article by Saturday?’ Me ‘Sure, of course’
          My editor ‘Hey Lily, would you mind writing me some extra bits about perfect pastry (no joke, this happens)’ Me ‘No worries, I’ll get on that now’

          So it’s the ‘would you mind’ that tips no worries/ no problem into what I’d say, I think.

      • “No worries” is also a regional thing in the Pacific Northwest. Everyone and their mom says it here.

    • A former co-worker was once in court, and she was asking for a continuance in a case, and the judge set it for the day she had requested. She nodded and said, “Right on.”

      Then immediately realized what she had said and threw her hand over her mouth and left embarrassed. Oops!

      • I once called the magistrate I frequently appear before by her first name. HORRIFIED. I now seriously write her title at the top of whatever page I have in front of me so I never again make that mistake.

      • To glean a lesson out of this — ;) — I’d say another skill to learn is how to play it cool when you realize you misspoke and committed some sort of slip-up, granted what you said wasn’t completely wrong or insulting of course. Just like in a music performance, if you just plug right along it can smooth over a tense or awkward moment. Then you can redress your mistake later.

        Or you can pause, briefly apologize, correct yourself and then continue. The key is to “Keep Calm and Carry On,” as the recent phrase goes.

    • Oh man, in the 6 months I’ve been at my current job I have had some serious face-palm moments when I realize the slangy phrases that have come out of my mouth. For the most part it’s only been with some close co-workers and has just earned me some teasing for being the youngest person in the room, but I’m worried about similar brain malfunctions in front of superiors.

  13. Anonymouse :

    * be nice and respectful to EVERYONE, including staff. I had summers dismiss me when I was counsel rather than a partner. Not a good idea!
    * don’t give me a laundry list of everything you are already working on when I ask if you can help me on a matter. A simple “yes, I’d love to” or “no, I am so sorry but I am over-booked until next Tuesday” is more helpful.
    * introduce yourself! If you find yourself in the elevator with someone who clearly works at the same place, please say hello.

    • I have to note that your second point is what summers (and new attorneys) are consistently instructed TO do. “Don’t say you can’t do something/you’re too busy, instead tell them what you’re working on at the moment and ask them how they think you should prioritize, etc.” I’ve heard that advice so many times over the past few years, it’s hardly surprising if summers are starting to follow it.

      • Christine :

        The best advice I received on this as an intern, which carried over into the Junior Associate years, is to always answer the question, “Are you busy?” With, “Yes, but what can I help you with?”

        I should note that I’ve only worked on relatively small teams (12 attorneys or fewer), so everyone vaguely knew what matters the interns and Jr. Associates were working on. It might not work so well in a firm where 25 different attorneys come to the same intern with tasks and aren’t communicating with each other on what they’re assigning.

        Oh, also, your most expensive clothes are NOT your “best” clothes. Embellished boutique jeans, strappy Louboutins, and leggings of any sort are not work appropriate, even if they did cost you half your last financial aid check.

  14. I would also add that your underwear should never be visible. Bra straps count as underwear. So do camisole straps. So does your panty line.

    Also, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. The interns I’ve known who have really messed things up have always been cocky ones. I’d rather explain something to you 3 times than have you make a mess I have to clean up.

    • Question about VPL- has there been a thread on avoiding it? I refuse to wear thongs because I think they are unhealthy and uncomfortable. Boyshorts ride right up and feel like a wedgie all day (sorry TMI). So I’m left with regular brief/bikini style underwear. No matter what the fabric, I always seem to get the dreaded VPL. Suggestions?

    • Betty White :

      I disagree with the panty line–I think it sucks when it happens, but it happens to the best of us. I’ve decided that I am just not going to wear a thong to work every day just b/c you may be able to see my panty line.

      • Soma intimates makes some panties with what they call a “vanishing edge.” There probably is still some VPL but it’s definitely less than, say, Jockey for Her.

        • Yeah, I have some of those–I mean, I’m careful to avoid VPL, but not to the point where I’m going to wear thongs all the time–I hate them.

        • Betty White :

          I have used those before, too. I’m just not going to go crazy over it. Thanks, though!

        • Agree! Why are people so offended by seeing panty lines? I’m not going to be uncomfortable all day (or spend excessive amounts on vanishing edge panties that actually work) just so I won’t have to worry about you being annoyed when you take a glance at my a__!

      • I mean this as kindly as possible, but if you have a panty line regularly, either you’re wearing pants that are too tight or underwear that’s too big.

        • Barrister in the Bayou :

          I commented to s/o above that was discussing VPL earlier, but I have to respectfully disagree with you. I’m careful about what I wear because I’m curvy; I’m wearing those maidenform underwear right now and my pants are not too tight but you can still see a slight VPL while standing. There is just something about the shape of my body that makes it hard for me to be completely VPL free in trousers.

        • Your underwear can also be too small and create an indent on your booty. Also not cool.

          • Hmm. I’ve never had this problem, but my butt is kind of flat. I am much more prone to too-big undies sagging and creating a line.

        • I think this too. I think you should buy pants to fit the largest part of your body and then have them taken in other places. Going up a size because of your hips/butt and then getting them taken in at the waist is probably the answer.

    • soulfusion :

      I’m the same with the whole VPL – I don’t get why some women seem so obssessed with it. I refuse to wear a thong and sure, I make an effort not to have a completely bunched up, visible line but sometimes if you are looking for it, you’ll notice it. I think women should relax on the hyper vigilent VPL hunt. Better that I’m wearing them than not!

      • just Karen :

        I agree completely that people can be too worried about VPL, but for the most part when people are complaining about it I don’t think it’s because they could see a faint line when someone bends over – rather the lace patterns showing through too-sheer pants, colors under light cloth, etc… and it actually draws your eye to their backside.
        Maybe it is just me, but I have a much harder time ignoring VPL when it is a thong (clearly not intended to be seamless – I’m thinking of seeing the outline of a g-string…THAT makes me cringe).

        • Yes, this is what I mean by VPL. Not just a coincidental thin line that you might notice if you’re closely watching a woman bend over – clearly, no one should be watching you like that at work.

        • Yes!

      • VPL will draw a man’s eye to your rear.

        Do you want men looking at your rear in the workplace?

        I didn’t think so.

        • Second this.

        • Ballerina Girl :

          Yeah, that’s not what’s drawing their eyes to women’s rears–they wouldn’t notice it if they weren’t already looking. And I don’t see anything remotely sexual about VPL–mostly I just think it’s unflattering. But I don’t care enough to worry unless it’s too-tight undies or too-tight pants.

        • I have seen some men at work with VPL too! Some people will look.

    • I hate VPL; IMO obvious VPL just ruins the look of the pants or the skirt. It does happen to the best of us but there are certainly ways of minimizing it. If you’re not comfortable with thongs, don’t wear them (although I don’t think they’re “unhealthy”). Many brands, including Jockey make bikinis that are designed to minimize VPL.

      Some examples:
      http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=60075&CategoryID=233&LinkType=#fn=BRAND%3DJockey%26sp%3D1%26spc%3D38
      http://www1.macys.com/catalog/product/index.ognc?ID=419875&CategoryID=233&LinkType=#fn=BRAND%3DJockey%26sp%3D1%26spc%3D38

      • Jockey makes great underwear that avoids VPL. I forget the name of the line but its the silky kind with very small seams. I find that in addition to clothes or underwear being too big/too small, VPL is created by wearing thicker cotton underwear instead of the silky kind I used to think of as “mom” underwear. Guess what…

  15. For amusing stories as lessons on what not to do, read http://dcinterns.blogspot.com/ For the most part it’s stories about interns on the Hill, but sometimes it’s summer associates or nonprofit/lobbying interns.

    • I’m not a lawyer, but now I’m hooked on that blog. Just what I need… another obsession.

  16. Diana Barry :

    In the heyday of business casual, back in the day, I once wore a turquoise double-layer nylon cami with cardigan over it to work. I then walked to the water cooler in JUST THE CAMI. I smack my younger self over the head for that!

    • AnonInfinity :

      I went to the copier in just my cami (which was edged with lace) at my first internship. More than once. I cringe to think of it.

    • I wore flip flops every day to my first legal internship (business formal government office). I can’t believe it now.

      • With fashion faux pax like that, ya’ll must been hired for future assignments based on competence in your work, not for your sense of style. Thanks for the examples!

  17. Valleygirl :

    *not in legal – work in research npo sector….

    – Surprised no one has mentioned it yet – but read nice girls dont get the corner office.
    – avoid constantly having food or gum chewing going on at your desk. I had an research assistant who was vegan – so his snack of choice was raw lettuce/spinach – he kept a bag of loose leaves in his desk… and they began to smell moldy and his constant noshing really got on my nerves… a small snack is fine but esp. if you’re in a shared office space – keep the food in the kitchen or go for low smell/low annoyance factor stuff.
    – keep your work space tidy. You don’t need to go crazy – but you do want to come off as organized.
    – Even if coworkers seem friendly, recognize the “line.” For example, I didn’t need to hear about an intern’s “awesome halloween costume as the st. paulies girl and the party where she got sooo wasted.”
    – always have a pen and pad of paper with you – it will come in handy.

    • Agree with this. Especially the food part – eating is of course fine, but snacking continuously, especially on annoying food, is a big no. There is someone in my office right now who’s been eating sunflower seeds all day long every day this week. She nibbles at them to crack them with her teeth, and then eats it. It’s incredibly annoying (I can hear her from my desk).

      Gum chewing is also a no no for me in the office. No one wants to see or hear you chewing gum. If you want a quick piece after a meal to freshen your breath, fine, but it should be very discreet.

    • Honeycrisp :

      I think that discreet gum chewing could be a “know your office” issue. Judging by the way that the attorneys that I work with go through packs of Trident, I should consider buying stock in the company.

      • Gum chewing is also office culture at our otherwise pretty formal firm! I don’t do the open-mouth, loud-smacking kind of chewing, but otherwise I go for a stick any time I want.

    • Former 3L :

      Re that last one–I did that and it was helpful but by the end of the summer my supervisor was making fun of me for it. “Yeah, get out that little notebook!” It was in good fun, but, you know. I guess I drew attention to myself.

  18. I’d say two things that are related to this topic, but have more to do with manner than with dress: 1) be professi0nally appropriate with everyone you meet, and 2) also be aware of the role of the person to whom you are speaking you. I’m an attorney who happens to be located at my client site. Although I’m generally low key and friendly, I’m also highly skilled and professionally accomplished, and my client knows and appreciates that. But the client’s interns don’t seem to have any idea how to interact with me; they come into my office abruptly, spit things out without giving me the chance to stop what I am working on and focus on them, and get annoyed and huffy when I ask them questions to pin down what they need. This behavior would be problematic with anyone at any time, but I have not observed them acting this way with their direct supervisors, so I assume they have made some sort of assessment of my role in the office that is resulting in this behavior. What they don’t seem to have taken the time to understand is that: 1) that behavior is not appropriate for any reason (you should always be professionally polite to people in your office, from support staff on up) and 2) they have completely failed to grasp the office structure — I outrank many of their direct supervisors, and could make things quite uncomfortable for them, which I may still choose to do if they don’t quite acting like presumptuous brats in my office.

    I like most people, but I am puzzled by this behavior. I don’t feel like I should have to jump up and down and yell “Look! Shiny professional accolades!” to get interns to behave in a professional manner toward me.

    • Valleygirl :

      On that note…. one of the most helpful things I got as an intern back in the day was an organizational flowchart that outlined the hierarchy and office structure.

      • This. I interned for a very large company (not a law firm), and if I received a project or request from someone I wasn’t familiar with, I always looked them up in our internal company database to get a sense of where they were in the organization’s hierarchy. Extremely helpful.

    • But ladies….even if you don’t have an organizational flowchart, doesn’t every single person in the office deserve to be treated with respect and consideration? It shouldn’t matter what their role is or where they fit in the structure.

      • Yes, everyone deserves to be treated with respect, but in many companies (my own included) a “burning” request from a 3rd year associate is not the same priority as a “burning” request from a senior international partner. If I didn’t know either name as an intern and worked on the first request first because I received it first, and then the senior partner came looking for his request, guess which person you’ll be more concerned about pleasing?

  19. Our interns this year seem to be doing well, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them.

    My major piece of advice for an intern is to make sure you keep your workload manageable. This means saying no to projects if you’ve already got a full plate (and by full plate, I mean your assessment is that your workload can already fill this entire business day and the next entire business day). You want your work produce to be good and on time.

    But even as I write this, I’m torn – the economy is still really bad, and I know that even as a currently employed associate, I don’t feel like I can turn down work. Our interns are completely underwater, but I don’t know whether advising them to turn down work might be the wrong thing to do. Any thoughts?

    • In an ideal world, a summer associate coordinator would be in place to handle the work loads of the summers. However, if there is none and any partner can give out work as he/she fits to the summers, I think a summer should not turn down work unless totally swamped…and I mean totally (not just enough to fill the next couple of business days). (1) There will be other interns who will not turn down work, so the one who does may be seen (unfortunately) as not a hard worker, and (2) The person giving the work may not fully comprehend that the intern thinks he/she is really busy – and therefore, may take it personally – e.g. summer thought he/she was too good to do whatever, or was holding out to get staffed on a better deal, etc.

    • I think the key is for the summer to be clear about work load and deadlines.

      “I’d love to help you. Partner X has given me A to do by tomorrow and Partner Y has B for the following day. What time frame were you thinking of?”

    • AnonInfinity :

      When I was a summer associate, I used the following tactic if I felt like I had too much to do and a partner came by to give me work.

      Partner: Do you have time for a quick project?
      Me: I’ve got a couple of things due by Friday, but I can start on yours next Tuesday.

      So, I wouldn’t say no, but I wasn’t really saying that I could get on it right then. If Partner really wanted me to do the assignment and it wasn’t time sensitive, she’d say that was fine and give me the assignment. If she wanted me to do it and it was time sensitive, she would usually follow up and ask what I was working on and then go to that person and figure out what was more important. If she didn’t care who did the assignment, she’d just give it to another summer.

      I did get an offer, so I think my tactic wasn’t terribly offensive.

      • Yes, I think this is a very good tactic. Fortunately, I was blessed to have S.A. assingment coordinators when I was a summer. I think what I was trying to get at though is that if you have enough work for 9-5 for the next two days, you probably aren’t so swamped that you should be turning down work in this job market.

        • AnonInfinity :

          True that! I thought I’d give any lurking summer associates an idea for what they could say to a partner asking them to do something they felt they couldn’t get to right away. Plus I always had a problem figuring out what was true priority, and it was a good way to have a conversation with the partners about what matters were the most important priorities and what kinds of things could be put off a little longer.

          I basically never turned down a project (though I would give my disclaimer), even if I had to stay a little later or come in a little earlier, and I totally agree with you. Definitely only completely turn down a project in very dire circumstances in the current job market.

    • Up until the last week of my summer position, I accepted anything unless it was a “need right now” project and I was already working on something time-sensitive and wouldn’t be able to finish both by their respective deadlines.

      Most of the assignments I received were longer research issues that the attorneys just wanted at some point before a fall meeting or trial deadline, so I could take on several of those and set them aside when I received an urgent project. The last week was a good cutoff for me to stop taking on new assignments and finish those longer ones I’d built up.

      I could see this varying by firm or length of summer program, but that was my experience.

    • soulfusion :

      I am a summer assignment coordinator at my firm and my advice is work closely with the coordinator (if your firm has one). If you don’t know if you have time to take a new assignment, lay it all out and seek advice. If you don’t have a coordinator, rely on mentors or associates/partners you have developed a rapport with to help you weed through this. Learning how to balance multiple projects for multiple partners/associates/clients is one of the most challenging things about being a lawyer. Be open and honest about your workload because this is an opportunity to learn from those who have been doing it for a while. Most lawyers looooooove to impart their personal wisdom to the newbies.

      And my general advice is to start from a formal professional place but take cues from those with whom you are interacting. I received an extremely formal email turning down a casual coffee invitation. I read it as an overly nervous and intimidated summer who needs to relax a bit. I think in this economic climate (of the last couple of years) I see more summers erring on the side of overly formal, take every project than on the extremely relaxed, do-nothing of several years ago. Find a balance that fits with the firm’s culture, it takes observation and time but it will ultimately help you be perceived as a better fit than if you are too far off the scale in terms of overly formal or overly casual and will help when it comes time for practice groups to pick who they want to ultimately work with (people they click with AND do good work).

    • I don’t know the answer to that. At my last summer of law school, there were 2 interns (and 2 halves, for a summer total of 4), and my office was kind of around the corner from the others- the coordinator sent out a note at the beginning that said something like “Don’t forget to give work to Lyssa just because her office is further back.” So, NO ONE did- everyone came to me first, so I was constantly swamped, while the other girl was floating along with one or two projects at a time. I tried to manage it as best I could, worked late, etc, because I didn’t want to turn down anything, and I refused to allow anything to be turned in later than it was requested by or ask for an extension.

      Guess who got the one offer the firm wound up making? The other girl.

      (If you happen to be managing summers, make sure that there’s some sort of master list of projects, so that they can stay about equal.)

    • At my office it is never acceptable to turn down work, no matter how busy you are, and no matter who you are (intern or senior manager). So it’s really an office-specific piece of advice.

  20. not an intern :

    A threadjack here but I can’t seem to wait for the weekend:
    I work part-time, with a contractor covering a portion of what would otherwise be my workload. This has been the case for some time, per my arrangement with management, and will continue until either party decides it no longer works. In other words, it does not change from week to week or month to month. It works well for everyone because the contractor does a good job and is inexpensive so we can actually get more work done through this arrangement than I could handle on my own. The problem–I have a colleague who is competitive with me who draws attention to this situation every week during our team meeting, i.e., (in a loud voice, accompanied by throat clearing and false nonchalant manner) “SO is contractor still covering your research duties”? I guess he does it as a form of power trip, to point out that I’m not full-time. I can’t really think of any other reason why he has to question what is otherwise well understood by everybody. So how would you tackle this? Should I in the meeting respond with a friendly, “everyone knows that so why do you ask every week?” or should I talk to him privately? I’m sure he will deny that it is anything other than an innocent question.

    • girl in the stix :

      you could always give the ‘look’ (laser eyes) and ask “Point being?”

    • I might just go with “Of course, why do you ask” or just “Yes” rather abruptly.

      I actually think asking “Why do you ask?” and then staring him down for a minute might help…he’ll feel silly since there really isn’t any valid reason probably for WHY he asks!

    • I would say something like: “yes, just like last week and the week before that, and for the foreseeable future” in as friendly a manner as possible and with a smile. Then, if he asks again next week, specifically ask why he keeps asking.

      I hope this doesn’t sound harsh, though, but I might question a little bit whether he’s representing a generalized feeling around the office. Chances are good that he’s just being a lone jerk, and I believe you when you say that this is efficient, but maybe (maybe!) it needs to be more clear to your co-workers why things are being done this way. (might not be your job so much as your supervisor’s to make this clear, but maybe you need to encourage supervisor to address it.) Resentment can build in an office when people think that other people are getting a better deal, which really harms everyone.

      • I think I was writing my suggestions below at the same time as Lyssa, so I didn’t see this response. Lyssa is right that resentment builds when people think others are getting a better deal, and it certainly sounds like that’s at least his deal. Is it the thought of others in the office? It might be worth having a couple of private meetings with colleagues you trust to shoot straight.

    • Perhaps a “we (even if it’s just you) notice that you’ve asked that question every week. Is there a reason for your question? Surely if that changes, Ms. Boss will see fit to inform you.” and then move right on to the important things in the meeting. Or maybe when he asks that the next time, you can give a big sigh, turn to Ms. Boss and say, “Ms. Boss, since Colleague regularly asks about this, would you be willing to agree to let Colleague know should our long-standing work arrangement change so he won’t have to fret about it each week?” I think after it’s been pointed out to the staff at the meeting, he’d look foolish to bring it up again. A third option would be to mention before the meeting starts well within the earshot of others, “Just an FYI Colleague, contractor Susie is still working with us.” Others might chuckle (surely they’ve noticed, right?) and then if he asks about it in the meeting, you can state that you informed him of this before the meeting – was there something he didn’t understand or that he thought had changed since you began the meeting?

      Sounds like he’s resentful that you are equals though he perceives he works more than you (and maybe he does). But that’s really not any of his business, as you point out. I would suggest against going to him privately. I don’t want him to think he’s gotten to you. It sounds like you’ve gotten to him! Good luck. Please let us know how it goes.

  21. Congratulations, interns/summers!
    – wear flats instead of flip-flops to commute. someone will always see you.
    – get into the habit of wearing camisoles under everything. soaks up sweat and removes the risk that anyone may see too much skin, anywhere.
    – ditto the blazer in the office – if your office is casual you can replace that with a cardigan, or a nice shawl or what have you.

    Some other random bits of advice (non-sartorial):
    – at business lunches, order something you can eat neatly with a fork (like short pasta or a chopped salad), avoid appetizers and desserts unless everyone else is going for it. try not to order first, but if they do ‘ladies first’ then stick with a main course and keep it simple.
    – go out for team drinks, have one or two if you like to drink alcohol, but no more, even if you can handle it. if you don’t drink, fine, but attend anyway.
    – in general, smile a lot and don’t say much unless asked.
    – don’t get too comfortable/cozy with anybody, no matter how chill and informal they seem to be. err on the side of formality.
    – female interns tend to get lots of male attention. don’t court it and try not to let it get distracting, but be pleasant to everyone.
    – in your mission of kindness and respectfulness, don’t forget the assistants, secretaries, admins, mailroom, support staff .. etc. People notice
    – no personal calls at the office, unless you’re positive no one is around.
    – assume someone can always see your computer screen.
    – network! depends on the culture, but try and meet as many people as you can, ask them (politely and appropriately) about their work, and take the opportunity to soak up what you can.

    a word of encouragement to those beleaguered interns as well: congrats on getting the gig, enjoy your summer, and if it all just seems like it’s not meant to be .. well, you’ll be back in school in september, and sometimes the best thing a summer job can do is tell you what you DON’T want post graduation.

    have a great summer!

    • Amelia Bedelia :

      One way to combat the “ladies first” is to respond to the waiter’s “are you ready to order” question with a comment on being last. I sometimes say “I’m sure everyone is, just ask me last please” to allow myself to see what others order first (app/main, etc.). It helps if you don’t sound too girly or wishy-washy when you say it.

      Also, if you are new and the area is new, ask one or two people what they recommend or “what are you ordering” when you first sit down. That way you know whether they are doing app or salad first.

      sounds odd, but I am occasionally annoyed by the underling who orders four courses when I wanted one course and coffee to get back for a conference call. So, if you are the seniour person – throw the newbie a bone and tell them whether you are ordering starters in an offhanded way.

    • Anonymous :

      Great advice. Also, the person who walks up to you first and is super-friendly may well be the company gossip. Approach with caution.

      And sadly, the males may be competing to see who hooks up with you first. Don’t be That Girl.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I think commuting in flip flops is fine, but I normally change into my flats around the corner from my office. It seems to be a good compromise and there is less of a chance of someone noticing.

      • this. I’d rather wear flip flops and “risk” someone seeing me (but why would they care if I’m not in the office?) than have sweaty feet all day from wearing flats on the commute (and have shoes that take up more space in my bag!)

  22. Baffled by the VPL :

    Noticing all the comments on here about VPL, I had a question. Since I prefer not to wear thong underwear everyday, there is occasionally a risk that I might unknowingly have a VPL — even if you check in the morning in the mirror, sometimes underwear moves around or bunches or lighting changes or whatever else. Is that really unprofessional? I understand that if you’ve got a crazy panty line because your pants are too tight that may count as unprofessional, but what about a slight line or impression that just comes from sitting and moving around? I guess I also figure no one should be staring at my butt long enough (or closely enough) to notice…

    • Thanks for bringing this up. I can see bra straps hanging out to be considered messy or sexy, but sometimes VPL just happens. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think anyone displays VPL to be sexy. I always give myself a look in the mirror on my way out the door, mostly because I don’t want to be embarrassed. I guess the advice should be to try to avoid gratuitous VPL (??). Again, I’m very confused by the comments on this one.

    • Awful Lawful :

      I hear ya. I’m sure I have VPL all the time because I’d rather not wear a thong. Honestly, I really don’t care that much. If someone can see my VPL, then oh well! I think it looks a lot worse when you can see the top of a thong poking out of pants!

    • Betty White :

      I commented earlier before seeing this–totally agree! I’m not wearing skintight pants and I’m careful with light colored materials, but I refuse to wear a thong with my loose-ish black pants every day just because maybe when I’m climbing the subway stairs you can see VPL. I just think people ask too much of women these days. I’m over it.

    • I was going to comment on this on weekend open thread because it’s been bothering me. I just don’t get it. I couldn’t care less if others have VPL. I assume I don’t, but I don’t really worry about it too much and wouldn’t be embarrassed if I found out I did. Is this really that big of a deal?

      • I don’t think it’s unprofessional and sometimes it just does happen. Maybe it’s a younger generation thing (I’m near 40) to avoid them at all costs? Anyway, I try not to have them, and sometimes change my underthings if I notice it, but otherwise, it is what it is.

        I do hate visible bra straps though. With a passion.

      • The problem is that men care. It’s a sneak peek at your undies and it draws their eye to your booty. I don’t want to do anything that causes my male coworkers to be distracted by my physical experience. Yeah, it’s kind of unfair, but it’s true.

        • Actually men also almost notice if you are wearing a thong and have no VPL… not because they can see the thong but because… how shall I put this appropriately… most backsides tend to “jiggle” when they are not supported by underwear. Especially if your pants or skirt is not skintight, the jiggling is more obvious. And men do notice that and are happy to stare as much, if not more, as when it’s a VPL. So I guess it’s a choose the lesser evil kinda deal.

          • Thong outlines are easy to see, and are NOT interpreted by guys as an attempt to avoid OPL/VPL or look professional. They scream “sexy”.

    • Have y’all tried Hanky Panky? They are the best. thing. ever. I used to feel the same way about thongs, but now I wear these every single day and don’t even think about it.

      • posted the same thing above. im wearing them now and cannot feel them at all.

    • soulfusion :

      Thank you! Happy to read that I’m not alone in the shrugged shoulders/it happens category toward VPL. And I appreciate the recommendations from others on brands that are less visible but ultimately, I prefer comfortable, mostly inconspicious underthings to scouring the internets for the elusive invisible undies. Besides, I think it is unprofessional for people to be staring at other’s rear ends all the time!

      That being said, a thong hanging out of pants or obviously lacy/patterned undies that show through light pants are to be avoided as unprofessional. But the comments that pop up occasionally about this issue do not seem to be focused on this, they come across (to me anyway) as hyper-vigilent VPL policing.

    • I don’t know – I’m anti-VPL under all circumstances. Your underclothing should not be showing at work, period.

      If you have VPL regularly, then you should change up your base layer, or buy a bigger size pants. VPL on a 20yo is ignorant, but older and wiser Corprettes should know better.

      Unfortunately, office apparel is not all about comfort. I wish I could wear my pjs to work every day, but I can’t.

      I just disagree with you ladies that think VPL is ok. I wish it were our choice, but it’s not, and I’m certainly not prepared to take a principled stance pro-VPL.

  23. behave like a grown-up :

    Our intern cannot seem to leave her social media persona behind. She has a snappy comeback for everything and is far too informal, both in demeanor and in subject matter, particularly when discussing her life outside of work. We are an easygoing bunch and our office is not very formal but it’s bad enough that everyone is talking about it. I’ve tried to mentor her but all I get in return are the snappy comebacks.

    My advice — you should have a suitably formal demeanor, leave the sarcasm at home, and don’t discuss your personal life beyond pleasantries and basic weekend plans (no discussions of binge drinking, clubbing, etc).

    Also, don’t blindly do what the higher-ups are doing. For example, maybe they can wear shorts or come in at 10 because they’ve paid their dues. Interns should be far more careful about the image they project.

    • A snappy comeback? That’s awful. I hope the supervisor/managing partner-type is paying attention.

    • I had a policy of always making a facial expression before talking as an intern – whether it was to smile at a joke, crease my brow or look to the side thoughtfully, squint in a confused way, etc. I tend to be a “talk first, slap head later” kind of person when I’m nervous, so making myself pause before talking can be really important.

      You might pull the intern aside and suggest that she take a breath, or write a thought down, before speaking. She may be really nervous, and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.

      Also, suggest that she think twice about saying anything unless it’s either a substantive question or a comment that will further the topic at hand. This has been helpful for me – a quickly blurted snappy comeback often kills the conversation, so I try to say something that could generate a follow-up comment from someone else in the conversation.

    • Why don’t you fire her so she can spend her days online honing those snappy comebacks? She is not a permanent employee, so HR won’t make a stink about this.

      • Alternately, a warning that she won’t have a job if the snappy comebacks continue may get her attention.

  24. Mentioned previously, but bears repeating: Take a note pad and a pen with you *everywhere*. When you are recieving an assignment or instructions, do not be afraid to ask questions, especially:
    1) When is this due?
    2) Do you have an example/template I can take a look at?
    3) In what format (electronic, hardcopy) would you like the supporting materials (i.e. research) and finished work product?

    And the best advice I ever got was to ask “how else can I help?” Being compentent, having a good attitude and being willing to help is the sure-fire way to make a good impression.

    • Ditto on the asking when a project is due. This is one of the best pieces of advice my mentor gave to me. I actually need this reminder. This morning one of my bosses asked whether I’d be ready to discuss something with him today, but I wasn’t. I know the technical deadline for the project, so I hadn’t asked him for “my” deadline when I got the assignment. He understood, of course, but from now on I’ll remember to ask every time I get an assignment when the assignor “wants” it done versus when it “needs” to be done.

    • It’s also helpful to have an up to date list of what you’re doing and for who and when it’s due at all times. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked “what are you working on” by someone trying to gauge how busy I am, and I suddenly drew a complete blank.

  25. I thought this would go without saying, but apparently not…If any full time employee- especially your supervisor – tells you your clothes are inappropriate, believe him or her and change the way you dress!

    There is a girl in my office the same age and job description as me (late 20’s, mid-level government employee) who consistantly wears skirts that are way too short and other questionable attire. Today she told me a story that included her disliking a female supervisor at her first job for telling her that her outfits were inappropriate. Her take on it was along the lines of “pssh she was just jealous because I look hotter!”

    Her outfit today consists of a dress at least 6 inches above the knee and so low-cut that her bra was visable as she was standing – not bending over -talking to me. Which brings me to another point: a cardigan does not make a low-cut dress appropriate for work, especially if you don’t button it up any higher than the dress’s neckline.

    • I worked with a girl as a paralegal who was told her work clothes were inappropriate after several attorneys complained (too sexy).

      Her take — GOD, everyone here is SO boring and unstylish. I didn’t want to tell her she was working in the wrong industry if she wanted to dress like a club diva.

    • There was a girl at my pre-law school job who regularly wore tops that were off the shoulder, or only had one shoulder. We were a business casual office but…

    • Unfortunately for your sake, I hope her current supervisor/rater is doing a good job of documenting things if office staff want her to change her apparel. For some performance reviews, maybe this could go into the communication category/non-verbal (presents professional image). Also hope that said supervisor has a clear “reporting period expectations” document on file. For some folks you literally have to spell out that documentation, like a contract, or explicitly state the need to follow direction from supervisor. Sometimes, I think the fed civil service could use the same level of detail of instructions that the military has for dress and appearance. :)

  26. My advice to summers would be something I heard when I was a junior lawyer – You don’t want anyone talking about you at work other than to say, “She does great work.” Act accordingly.

    My advice to those who have summers at their firms/companies would be to try to help them out. This is a first job for many and they just don’t know. The tips here are great, but what would be even more helpful would be to give these tips directly to your summers. I remember a junior associate told me when I was a summer that I forgot to unstitch the kick pleat on my skirt…Ha! Yeah right, I “forgot”. I still remember to this day how mortified I was, and thankful that she told me.

    • theirway11 :

      thanks for recommending that regular employees let interns know about their mistakes! You’d be surprised as to how little that has happened in my experience.

      What about comments about your body? I have a very large bust, and have done my best to minimize it and dress professionally (no cleavage, nothing tight) but I can’t deny that they’re there. I’m very concerned that this will hamper me in the future and prevent people from taking me seriously. What are your thoughts on this?

      • I have a larger bust and always do the husband check (“is this too much chest?”) and the mirror double-check (bend over, sideways). If I see “too much” or it feels a little uncomfortable, I change it (add a cami or change the outfit). I try to stay more conservative, but I still wear formfitting shirts, etc., I just make sure they aren’t over-the-top. I mean, they are there and there’s nothing you can do about that! I don’t think it hinders me at all.

      • I think it would be harder for someone to give advice on this, but I think if the top is work appropriate, fits correctly and doesn’t show cleavage, you are totally fine. I would be careful of gapping with respect to button down shirts.

    • I don’t think that’s actually true. I think you want people to say “She does great work, and…” but never “She does great work, but…”. At least at my office, “She does great work.” with no further info would be a euphemism for “She’s boring but competent. Doesn’t fit in to our office culture.”

      • I am talking in generalizations, and really am thinking about large law firms. I agree – e.g. fun place like silicon valley start up, advice would be different. As a summer at a firm though, I really think you don’t want people talking about you except for your work product…because generally, anything beyond that is probably gossip about something you said, did, wore, that was inappropriate. A consistent statement of a summer doing great work by each attorney who works with him or her should lead to a job offer. When I say great work, I mean great work…not someone using it as a euphemsism for competent work.

  27. Amelia Bedelia :

    two pieces of general advice:

    1. it has been said, but it is true: dress in the middle with respect to formality. You do NOT want to be the only person in a polo/shorts and you do NOT want to be the only one in a suit. My office is business casual, but a partner commented that one of our summer associates was “pushing the envelope” (a week in) by wearing a polo and khakis. We were in a firm-wide lunch and he was one of only two male associates wearing a polo. And the other associate was coming off an all-nighter (brief due) and still had on nice dress slacks with his polo. All of our male associates interpret “business casual” as dress shirt and slacks and sometimes a tie. yes, some of our partners wear polos, but you are not a partner! You do not want to be recognized for this clothing, summer. Unless you are in a creative department, your goal should be to blend, blend, blend when it comes to dress.

    2. We also had an associate meeting. the talk was given by the chairman of our firm. He had given a similar talk the summers’ first week (attended by summers and our juniour associates) and said at the beginning “this is a rehash that some of you may have heard, so don’t feel obligated to stay for the entire discussion” to the entire group of associates (around 50). Okay ONE regular associate left halfway through (and we all know she is swamped, so understandable) and then TWO of our summers apparently thought this was the green light and left early. Are you kidding me? You do not have more important things to do than sit and listen to the chairman. I do not care if you have heard the EXACT speech twelve times. Sit there and pretend to listen and care. No one else left (and most of our juniour associates had heard this exact speech 12 times!), and I am sure that the chairman noticed. Everyone of the associates noticed and talked about it later.

    • I totally agree with your second point. But this isn’t exclusive to summers – I’ve seen first year associates do the same thing (when summers aren’t around, so the first years are the most junior in the room). I cannot believe some people think there’s ever a reason to leave a discussion like this, where you know everyone is going to notice. Nothing you’re doing is that important as an intern/SA/first year associate. Seriously.

  28. theirway11 :

    As a long-term intern, I have some advice for superiors about how to make this a more harmonious for all of us.

    -If you see me making a gaffe, TELL ME. I am young. There are things I don’t know. Rest assured, if I do anything that bothers you, I am not doing it intentionally but because I don’t know any better. Tell me, please. I want to know, and I want to know soon. One summer, I was given a workspace and told it was my desk. At the end of the day, I would organize projects I hadn’t completed and leave them for the next day. Apparently this was not acceptable, and the desk needed to be cleaned off and wiped down at the end of the day every day. No one told me about this until my 8th week there, by which point I got yelled at by the boss (not my direct superior, but the department head). This sucked. It would have only taken 30 seconds to point this out on my first day.
    -I am an adult with a college degree. Please don’t ask me to clean your office.
    -One summer, I was unpaid and had to commute 2 hours in each direction to get to work. Please be mindful of that if you ask me to stay “late”–please give me a time estimate so I don’t miss the last train home. Especially if I am unpaid

    • theirway11 :

      oh, and, if you do ask me to clean your office, please be extra busy so you can’t do it yourself. I once cleaned a woman’s office while she was buying plane tickets/making hotel reservations for a trip to Mexico.

  29. Just curious, but how many people’s organizations here are providing interns with meaningful career experience as opposed to using their interns as free menial labor?

    There was a bit of a flap last year about big name organizations abusing the internship process to get unpaid menial labor to run photocopiers and get coffee rather than give the intern marketable experience.

    I’m not in law (or finance) so I’m curious how much the high prestige professions are still doing this.

    • theirway11 :

      as an intern, I have had a bit of both experiences. Some experiences have been wonderful and informative and fascinating, while others primarily involved stapling and (horrors) cleaning offices. This was at a law firm. I cried (privately, no one knew) daily.

    • Another Sarah :

      I’ve also had both experiences. Most of my internships have been very good experiences and I can say that, at the very least, I learned something. Yes, I can now operate almost any copy machine on the planet, even in another language, but I learned about the industry/position for which I interned. On the other hand, I’ve had an internship quite like the one described above (and you ladies helped me with it under another name a couple months ago) where I was essentially a free menial labor whipping post. This was for a solo practitioner.

      Although I did learn that when I get that feeling that you know it’s not going to last long before you even start, to just cut my losses. So I suppose it still served its purpose?

    • karenpadi :

      We really try to make internships educational and interesting. But the interns are also the cheapest available labor so unfortunately they can get stuck doing some boring tasks (think one level above getting coffee or photocopying) that are just time sinks.

      If I give an intern a time-sink task, I try to pair it with an interesting task.

    • Our interns (law, non-profit) get practical experience, including substantive writing and research, and are encouraged to attend panel discussions, congressional hearings, anything of the sort. Depending on the particular internship, it may include some administrative tasks, especially in light of the fact that we don’t have secretaries (administrative work is in the job description of any junior staff member). But in general, the work an intern does is just a notch below the work a junior attorney does, except that the intern is more heavily supervised while the junior attorney is expected to be able to produce most of her work without having a supervisor edit it.

      • Oh, and our interns are totally expected to make coffee for an important meeting, get water bottles for the meeting, make sure the meeting room is set up, arrange catering, etc. In the absence of an intern, this is the job of a junior staff member. In the absence of a junior staff member, I do this myself. So I don’t see a problem with having an intern do it.

        • Oh, are they? How obnoxious. It’s great you do it yourself in the absence of junior staff members, but both you and them get paid. Interns don’t. Don’t you feel like a jerk having unpaid workers do this crap, when the only payment they’re really getting – or should be getting – is acquiring new skills and education?

    • I’d be ok with some administrative work, but that has not been the experience at any of my three unpaid, legal internships, all in government. I’ve never once been asked to get someone coffee or make photocopies. I think part of the reason this works so well in the legal field is that there is so much research to be done. I currently work for two attorneys who have been doing their job (a small specialty in a larger office) for 10 and 20 years, but they have tons of things for me to research, because new problems come up all the time, and the law changes. Sometimes it’s just a question (real e.g.s- can someone be criminally charged with X under Y circumstances absent Z? under what circumstances will a court do A rather than B in a C proceeding?) that they are interested in but don’t have time to research because they are busy with deadlines.

      All my supervisors have always asked me for what I wanted to do or get out of my internships, and encouraged me to take time to watch any interesting trials or proceedings they heard about in court. I’ve often been asked on interviews what I was looking for (and I always answer honestly). They have also all been very helpful in providing references, career advice, etc. When I go to career fairs and networking events and mention that I’m interested in Z and I interned at X, people say, “Oh did you know Y? I worked with her at A! How did you like it?” and are more eager to talk to me that if I just say I’m interested in Z area.

  30. Anonymous :

    Don’t dress in costume as an “adult”.
    This is tempting and natural for young girls entering the adult world, but… try not to.
    The designers bag, too-too heels, body-con suits are symptoms of this. No playing dress-up, embodying childhood or magazine ideas of womanhood. Real life, real clothes, your (stylish, not modish) clothes are your armor. Your achievements should leave an impression, rather than your clothes. Emulate your female bosses, not TV bosses or Vogue ‘power issue’ icons. Those are not real models of successful womanhood. Find a real one, be a real one.

    • Seconded. Wear clothes that fit properly and, if you want to emulate a public figure’s style, emulate someone who has a similar profession. If you’re in law, business or government, look at people like Hillary Clinton, Katherine Sebelius, or Christine Lagarde. Don’t take your cues from an actor unless you are one.

    • I respectfully disagree. You should aim high before settling. If you want to be fashionable, emulate those that are fashionable. You can always use common sense and opt for the conservative version of that. Why emulate those who often let fashion and style take a back seat because they have other more important priorities? I’d like to emulate Hillary’s career, but not her fashion. I aim to look stylish and do good work – I do believe that’s possible. I’d rather not have a closet full of “armor.”

  31. I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, Kat, but I don’t love the “Daddy” or “Sugar Daddy” comment. Are we really at the point where people think the only way to get something pricey is through a man? Couldn’t it have at LEAST been her “Mommy” as an option, too?

    When I see someone younger with crazy expensive stuff, I just think that they mismanage their money–or have nothing in savings. Never occurred to me that they had a man buy them anything.

    • Anonymous :

      Well-said.
      Kindly, but emphatically, let’s let that 50s idea go. I have never had that thought ever, only seen it in media– in retro media it’s cute (we’ve come a long way, baby), in 2011, it gets a ‘hunh?’ and a (gentle, Kat-loving) stink-eye.

      • Years ago when I was a summer there was a fellow female summer who technically had what would fall into kat’s sugar daddy category: she was southern, late 20s, married for several years to a fellow southern gentleman who did very well on wall street, they had a home on the UES a second home in the burbs, and a third home in the south. She carried very high-end handbags and had luxuries that other summers definitely didnt. all that said: she was the most capable, smart, hard-working, intelligent, and (most importantly) down-to-earth summer in our class. never for a second did her sugar daddy status or high-end bags interfere with my (or everyone else’s) opinion of her. of course, she never hid who she was and was pretty forthright about her husband buying her chanel and whatever else it was. but even then- it never really mattered (and still doesn’t, she still works with me).
        it’s really not what you carry or how you got it , but how you carry yourself (and it)

        • Anonymous :

          “It never really mattered”

          Exactly. So? I have never heard of this or thought this, but it doesn’t matter how many anecdotes erupt. So? Who’s side are we on? I honestly don’t think this is in people’s thoughts. They might judge you a twit, a spend-thrift, a play-acting little girl… but I Do Not think they are thinking you are a paid companion. Let’s just drop this kind of joke if it was one, and thinking, if we’re thinking it. It’s weirdly retro and dates the thinker. Yuck.

        • I get what you are saying, but I don’t like the “her husband bought her” part of it – most married people share finances, so the item in question was likely purchased with joint money, regardless of whether she bought it herself or be gave it to her for Christmas. The assumption that it is “his” money, even if that happens to be the case, is insulting, for lack of a better word.

          As a married law student, this is my pet peeve. I’m married, and while we are not wealthy, we can afford a reasonably comfortable lifestyle on my husband’s salary. Yet whenever I happen to have new clothes (from the J.Crew outlet, not Chanel), a school “friend” invariable has to saying something about me “borrowing husband’s credit card to go shopping.” I cringe every time.

          • He works, you don’t. He pays. You have to realize that and move on. One day you may work and he wont. And you then pay. But you have done nothing to earn the salary.

          • From my perspective, it’s not his or your credit card/income/whatever; it’s yours as a family, in a situation that you decided upon as a couple. I also cringe at the non-employed spouse “allowance” term from years back and that’s still in some use today. I know that some couples like my parents each have an allowance from their monthly financial plan but that’s for manageability. One spouse giving the other spouse an allowance or asking to use “their” credit card is a bit parent-child to me.

    • Thanks for bringing this up. I stumbled over it, too. I don’t have nice things (and I’m still not sure what a Birkin bag us), but if I’m going to walk around with something expensive, it’s because I bought it for myself. On a blog where recommendations can exceed $1000, I don’t think the Sugar Daddy comment was warranted. And if I had to wait for a man to buy me something nice, well, I would never have anything nice.

    • I felt this way when reading it too.

      There is a woman in my office who wears designer clothes, carries designer bags, etc. and she is in a low paid support position. When I see her, I think: “comes from money,” not “daddy” or “sugar daddy.”

      • Anonymous :

        Kat mentioned it because the stereotype exists. I took it as an FYI rather than a judgment.

      • Anonymous :

        “Comes from money” is not necessarily a message you want to be sending, either. I think the point is that you don’t want to dress in a way that screams “I don’t actually need this job.”

        • Oh, I fully agree with the point. I just think it would be nice if we could move past assuming outside wealth comes from men. I don’t, and I thought it was a bit odd. (Small point though. Kat’s post was still great!)

          • I’m not THAT old (mid 40s) but I can remember when I learned that my undergrad finance prof was married. My opinion of her quickly shifted from “very together career climber” to “Barbie who dresses well for/by hubby”. I have no idea how the financial and other responsibilities in their home were divvied up–for all I know she could’ve been supporting a SAHH or artist. Still, that is the impression that popped into my head.

    • Thank you – I agree with this. It does lead me to ask a question though – I am starting as an associate this fall at a biglaw firm, and am very lucky to have met the love of my life, who also happens to be an extremely successful businessman. Now that he and I are partnered up, yes I have access to nice things and a weekend/beach house, and yes he will buy me lovely jewelry or bags and shoes as gifts from time to time, but in no way has this changed my career path or professional goals. Just last night we had our first discussion about engagement rings (very excited) and I know he’ll want to get me a beautiful ring. Now, I’ve read the previous threads about engagement rings in the office, etc., but I do want to know – should I prepare myself for fellow associates/partners/colleagues to look at my boyfriend (and perhaps finace) as my SUGAR DADDY?! Are you kidding me? I would love him if he had nothing, and I hate to think I could be judged if people find out who he is, where we might go some weekends, etc.

      Question is – do you think I really have to be prepared for this? And if so, how do I handle it? Just never bring him up or never bring him around? Work extra hard to prove my commitment and seriousness about my career? Hmm.

      • I think it’s all in how you carry yourself. Don’t feel like you have to prove anything to anyone, if you’re sincere, that will show, no matter how expensive your clothing or accessories are. Just be your professional self, that’s all.

      • Right. And don’t make a point of talking about resources that you have that others don’t (second home, luxury cars, etc.).

        You see to be pretty modest about it – just be your genuine self and be conscious that if others know about your background or personal life, they may think of you in a different way.

      • Ballerina Girl :

        Sugar daddy and rich husband are different things in my opinion–the former is a man you’re with for the money, the latter is a man you’re with who happens to have money. I work in the non-profit sector and when I hear that a woman (or a man for that matter) lives in an expensive area, etc. I think that their spouse must be wealthy because I know that they can’t afford that on the salary they make where we are.

      • Christine :

        A lot of attorneys put a lot of stock in paying your dues. Some attorneys may look at people who are lucky enough to have nice things and think that person has had it too easy, hasn’t had to work for what they’ve got, and judge them accordingly. (I’ve been guilty of this myself.) Especially if it appears the person is showing off — LV and Tiffany logo items may not be your friends in this department. Just keep it discrete and you should be fine.

        I also don’t think you’ll have to worry too much about people judging you when they meet your boyfriend, as long as he’s similarly low key about it. Let people guess at how successful he really is. Do your job really well and nobody will care what he does for a living or how much money he makes at it.

        Congrats on finding your #1 man!

      • If you get a 2+ ct ring and are talking to a girl with a 3+ ct ring, don’t say that it’s good enough for now but you plan to upgrade it later. People next to you might roll their eyes. Just sayin’ :)

        Don’t volunteer information indicating money. Instead of “at our place in the Hamptons…” say “I was at the beach this weekend and..” and instead of “I snagged the last one at the Louis Vuitton in Paris, it was a limited edition ” say “I got it while traveling in Europe. I really enjoyed the Rodin museum. Have you been?”

      • Behave like “old money” would. i.e. treat the ring as an extension of your hand and don’t show off the ring to anyone. If anyone admires it, just say “Thank You”. No apologies, no explanations.

        Everyone spends their $$ on whatever means the most to them. e.g. I might carry a $100 bag to work but splurge on La Mer that no one sees though it’s on my face! You might wear a costly ring, but skimp on loads of things….so just enjoy your things and don’t make a big deal of it.

    • I understand and agree but Kat has a good point. A true story: Much longer ago than I’d like to admit, as a summer associate, I had an office mate we called “my husband the brain surgeon.” Everyone did because she managed to tell you that her husband was a neurosurgeon within a minute or two of meeting her. Honestly, I don’t remember her real name but I remember that. She was outfitted from Day 1 with 5 Paul Stuart suits, identical cuts, different fabrics, paid for by her Mom. It wasn’t hard to tell that she wasn’t serious about being a lawyer. In those days, everyone got an offer; she didn’t accept hers.

      Sugar Daddy was the wrong term but these things do matter. Whether you think so or not (just like bra straps), people notice.

      • I want a Paul Stuart suit so badly! Jealous.

      • The rich Sig-O thing can be tricky to navigate. A girl in my summer associate class was engaged to a doctor with an established practice, while my fiance was eating ramen noodles and working on his PhD dissertation back at our studio apartment. I remember feeling left out of the loop at firm social events when she and some of the more senior associates could discuss things like their country clubs and sample sales, and I was still living like a college student. She and I became friends though, and later, after we both received offers, she confided in me that she was worried because none of those senior associates ever talked to her about work, and one even joked that she didn’t really need the job.

        On the one hand, living the high life can help make you blend well into a firm’s corporate culture; on the other, it could make you seem like a less serious candidate. Obviously these are unfair generalizations, and everyone should be judged on their professional accomplishments, but hiring committees make them all the same.

    • I also would add that when I meet a wealthy person who still has a full-time job, I kind of admire them. If I didn’t have to work, I’d be at the beach. Working when you don’t have to means you must have a good work ethic.

    • Thanks, Batgirl. I went “what???” when I read that.

      Also, in places where people do save money, don’t run up wild CC debt, etc it is entirely possible for a 25 year old to buy a $1000+ designer bag (heck – they may have purchased it from a consignment store/ebay/whatever at a fraction of the retail price).

      Or parents might have gifted a hardworking child something like that upon graduation. Perhaps something handed down from someone dear. Whatever.

      So let’s stop judging. Admire from a distance (or not) & move on.

      And for those who will still judge – well, I’m sure they’d find something else to judge an intern (or anyone else) on, with or without the designer accessory….

  32. as a young attorney, the best advice i ever received from a mentor was to protect my reputation.

    your reputation encompasses everything about you – your work, the way you present yourself, how you communicate. you can be hard-working and put out great work product but only people who work with you will see that. when you’re out in the legal community (whether at summer associate functions or general bar association events), people can only evaluate you by your presentation and how you interact with them, so be extra careful regarding what you say, do, and wear. this becomes particularly difficult when you start making friends with colleagues and letting your guard down, but always remember that you should be in control of your reputation. make every effort to build a good reputation and it will serve you well for the rest of your career.

    thinking back, i am so grateful for my mentor because he allowed me to make all my mistakes and gaffes with him before i entered “the real world.” i appreciate him so much because he really made sure that i established a good reputation from the very start of my career.

  33. This may be a California thing , but, I had a summer intern once? Who prhased everything as if it were a question? And it was hard? You know? To really concentrate on what she was saying?

    I’m actually just laughing thinking about her. She was great. So I don’t really have a don’t there!

    The younger professsional guys in the office found her right away (she was cute, and they are good at that) and started taking her out for drinks all the time. After a while I felt like she knew more people than I did! At first I was a little worried, but she held her own and didn’t dress scandalously so I don’t think it hurt her reputation. But, imagine, if she had been a scantily clad type. Then EVERYONE would have been talking about her. So I guess I’m just backing up what the other posters have said about appropriate office dressing.

    • Oh god. This. This times a million.
      My firm makes us all go through media training once we hit a certain level and you’d be shocked at the number of fairly senior women (and men!) who do the up-talk thing. I find its more common in professions where you don’t interact with clients/public as often, but still, it makes you sound young (at best) or just like an idiot.

  34. lawtalkinggirl :

    I wish my office had an intern or two this summer. Then there would be someone here remotely close to my age. I work with great people but they are all old enough to be my parents (and I am over 30!!!).

  35. Something I don’t think anyone has mentioned: Keep in mind that your supervisors are very busy when you ask a question. We had one of our interns ask my very busy co-clerk what a reply brief is; first, he should know, but second, a quick Google search would have answered the question. And this wasn’t the first of these types of questions he’s asked. He asks all sorts of annoying word processing formatting questions to the clerks. And on that note, be aware that people who may just be a little older than you should still be treated like your superiors. If you wouldn’t ask the judge (or the partner) that question, chances are you shouldn’t ask me either. I’m more than happy to answer legal questions or even give career advice, of course. Just don’t bother me with word processing.

    • soulfusion :

      I have to disagree. Sometimes the hardest thing about being a summer/intern is figuring out who is the right person to ask and there is a fear of asking the dumb question and often this leads to bigger mistakes. If in doubt, approach someone and ask “who is the right person to ask about how to make copies” or “I should probably know this but what exactly is a reply brief?” Law school does not always teach the practical side and honestly, jargon changes from practice group to practice group and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Be a good mentor and cut people some slack. If the question is “below” you, direct the kid to someone who can help…..

      • I think there are different ways to approach the question asking, and this may be what the original poster is mentioning. There are different ways to ask a question and one is far more effective than others.

        If a lower level/intern comes with a basic question that they should know the answer to, and phrases the question: ‘What is x’, in some cases, especially with some people, I’m going to assume they are unmotivated and lazy.

        If the same person had come to me and said “I would like to confirm the firm’s definiton of a ‘reply brief’. Here’s what I think it is, based on my knowledge and research…. [[provides definition]], how is that different than the way the firm perceives it'”, then I have a LOT more respect and willingness to help someone because he/she has taken the initiative to figure it out himself.

    • I completely disagree. How else are interns ever going to learn if they can’t ask questions, even dumb ones? I think interns should be encouraged to seek advice, ask questions, etc. from the more junior people at their office (and as a clerk who I assume is no more than 2 years out of law school, this means you). I understand that you’re busy, but you’ll be much busier later if the intern isn’t allowed to ask the question, screws up as a result, and then you have to fix or redo whatever went wrong.

    • Yes. I tell my interns that there are no stupid questions from interns. That’s what they are there for. The entire point of an internship is to learn. If I am not answering their questions, I may as well not have interns at all. They are not just free labor for us.

      • well.. it’s also about asking the right person and right time- ie not when they are too busy. don’t barge in, don’t assume they have time for you. ask if /when is a good time. people have way more going on that the interns, no offense. someone will hopefully help you, eventually, but if they are in the middle of closing a large international deal, being pestered will just be annoying.

  36. Ballerina Girl :

    Any recommendations for a lightweight black or grey blazer–a summer blazer, if you will? I’m looking for those cute blazers everyone’s wearing over dresses or cute tops for a night out or casual day at work–surprisingly hard to find!

  37. I may get some flak for this, but it’s refreshing to see summer associates worried about coming off as professional enough. A few years ago (before jobs started disappearing) summer associates in Big Law walked around as if they owned the place and the firms should be lucky to have them. This attitude, more than anything else, showed a lack of professionalism and led to a lot of gaffes (i.e., drinking too much at cocktail parties, leaving during the middle of the day to get a manicure, fighting with junior associates or other summers, being snobby about how nice a restaurant for lunch was, etc.)

    One last comment — suits can be unprofessional if worn incorrectly. Your suit pants shouldn’t be tight enough for a visible camel toe or for me to tell that you’re *not* wearing underwear. If you button your jacket, the buttons shouldn’t look like they’re about to pop off.

  38. ElevenElle :

    After reading through all of this, I am incredibly bitter that I didn’t get a paid summer associate position last summer. I behave appropriately, just based on common complaints here, and I know I could have excelled. I guess it didn’t come across in the interviews though.

    Studying for the bar has made me so bitter. I have a 1 year clerkship starting in September but absolutely no idea what lies beyond that. Except the fact that I know I’ll have at least $1500/month in student loan payments. And yet I can’t help thinking that if I had gotten that summer associate position, I’d have a $120k/year salary after the clerkship. Just makes it hard to stay focused and determined while suffering through bar review when I’m wondering whether I’ll end up right back in that boring engineering job I had before law school.

    Wow, I think I’ll go have some cheese to go with that whine. And maybe even some real wine. I hope I’m not the only recent graduate feeling so depressed over studying for the bar with a very real concern that it could be for nothing.

    • Another Sarah :

      The way some seem, I think some (maybe most?) of the intern mistakes that people mention could be college-student interns, so you wouldn’t be competing with them anyway. :-) Don’t worry about sunk costs, just keep looking forward.

      At least that’s what I’m telling myself as I study for my not-first bar exam…

    • I missed out on a Biglaw SA position too. Almost all of my class did. I know how you feel because I was in the running -I got several callbacks- but there just weren’t enough places hiring. The money is the most annoying part; life would have been so much easier with a nice salary.

      It definitely disrupted my plan (work in Biglaw for a few years, get great experience, pay off loans, move on to more fulfilling work in the government or at a company). I’m going to be clerking in an area I’m not interested in at all, but at least I have a job and can put food (or at least ramen) on the table for the next two years, unlike most of my classmates who don’t have anything lined up.

      My advice: enjoy life outside of your career for a year. You have the opportunity to rewrite your plans and look at new options. You are resourceful, and you will be surprised where life will take you. You might just end up with that $120k job at some point.

      Also, income-based repayment.

    • Tell me about it. I had a summer associate position, but didn’t get an offer (nor did half of the other associates. They way, way overhired). I even had one partner I worked with tell me “yea, I don’t know what happened. If the economy wasn’t so bad, we definitely would have hired you.” But at least you have a clerkship, which should make it easier to get a job after you finish it. I’ve been bouncing around with temporary things for about a year. My bitterness is not helped by the fact I recently ran into someone I summered with who did get an offer who said apparently, the few summers they did hire are completely swamped with work. (could have hired a few more and not been as swamped…).

      But then again, one of my BigLaw friends was complaining about how much she hates her job because she’s basically doing mindnumbing work that requires no thought. I’m currently writing a part of a brief on a contract basis for someone. Sure, the pay is terrible, but at least I’m using my brain.

    • soulfusion :

      Summers have improved dramatically as the economy has dried up. The majority of them realize they are lucky to have the position they have and they work very hard to get offers. It is far more rare to see the gaffes that were prevavelnt in years past.
      Don’t worry about venting, this is a good space for it. But I will say, congratulations on the clerkship! Hopefully that will open doors for you down the road and as another commenter said, take this opportunity to enjoy the extra personal time that is denied you as a biglaw associate (easier said, than done). Best of luck with the bar studying, that is enough to make anyone whiny and grumpy – employed or not.

  39. Erica Foley :

    These are all great tips. I’ll add two more that I didn’t see:

    – Don’t use profanity. And don’t assume that it’s ok to do so if the senior people you’re working with do it. Sexist but true: that 50 year old man who swears like a sailor may consider it inappropriate for you to curse.

    – Your Internet usage is being monitored in the office, and they are looking at those reports.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to close the door and worry about whether I have a VPL showing. Oh DAMN! :)

  40. Here’s another one – not about attire, but still:

    Never question or second-guess a partner or a senior associate on a conference call, in a client meeting, or in front of opposing counsel. Ever. Seriously. You may be the smartest intern on the block, but it is still not going to get you any points. Your job is to make the partner look like a star. If you have a question about why your superior came to a particular conclusion or gave certain advice, save it till later.

    I can’t believe I even feel the need to mention this, but I’ve seen it happen. I was once on a conference call with a client, a very senior partner, and a junior associate, going over transaction points. The junior associate questioned the partner’s recommendation on a particular point. We were all appalled, including the client, but everyone was too polite to say anything. However, trust me, it did nothing for the associate’s reputation. You are a junior. You are there to learn. You do not have 20 years of deal experience. Suck it up.

    • Anonymous :

      Agreed. But I think it’s ok to raise questions/ issues/ concerns after a meeting in a discrete way. After all, part of being an intern or summer associate is to learn.

      • Yes, see my point above re after the meeting. It is all about the learning.

    • Anonymous :

      Agreed. For all you know, they may be doing it on purpose.

  41. Anonymous :

    I summered at a BigLaw firm in NYC and now work as an attorney at a small public interest firm in DC, and the best advice is what you’ve already said: Know your workplace.

    I have to say that I was rather impressed by our summer clerk who emailed me (as the junior attorney who hired her) to ask what “casual attire” in our memo to summer clerks really meant. In our case, it really does mean shorts, sandals, and flip-flops are OK, but this gave me a chance to reiterate that before she showed up, plus add some advice about selecting casual clothes that are appropriate for our office (hint: nothing you’d wear going out dancing with your friends). Even here, I’ve seen inappropriate clerk attire — specifically skirts that are too short and dresses or tops that are too low-cut. We’re casual, but it’s an office!

    Also, no matter where you work, I think it’s important to have quick access to a suit or at least a nice blazer and trousers/ skirt if there’s any chance you’ll have an opportunity to meet clients, sit in on a deposition, or go to court.

  42. Anonymous :

    Know your office goes for makeup too, both whether to wear it and how much.

  43. Texas Lawyer :

    Kat’s comment on carrying a Birkin got me thinking. What about wearing a Rolex to an interview? I’m in Texas and hoping to hit the interview scene for a senior in-house position very soon. I have a lovely gold womens Rolex (presidential) that I received as a gift from my awesome husband. Is it too much to show up to an interview wearing such an expensive watch?

    • As a practicing attorney or seasoned professional (you note it’s a senior position), I see nothing wrong with wearing your watch. As someone applying for a more senior position, it’s assumed that you’ve worked hard, done well, and probably treated yourself to something along the line (be it a bag, watch, car, etc.).

      Not to mention the fact that almost no one will get close enough to you to scrutinize your watch in interviews. If someone recognizes your Rolex when they shake your hand or something, they only would because of their familiarity with the brand and styling.

    • I wouldn’t worry about it.

      L’Affaire Birkin Bag was a total sh!tstorm of different opinions, and any subsequent discussion here about luxury goods usually reopens the wound.

    • I wouldn’t recognize a Rolex if it jumped off your wrist and hit me in the face. No one’s looking at your watch unless it’s wildly tacky or something – wear what you like.

      • Anonymous :

        It matters more for males, I think. Same with pens and cuff links. Alpha male markers.

  44. IT@Lawfirm :

    I work in IT at a large law firm… Our summers just started this week.

    Advice:

    Be nice to IT, secretaries, file clerks, everyone. A lot of people have been here a lot longer than you have and, even though we are staff, we do have some say in whether you get that offer at the end of the summer. That woman might “just be the receptionist” but she’s also worked at the firm for 35 years and is very close with a lot of influential people.

  45. Corporette, not Ranchette :

    Wardrobe advice really needed. How do you dress for the summer associate events that involve, say, horseback riding (100+ degrees in the shade), or a water activity in which you are expected to get in a pool, lake, with co-workers and future co-workers of all ranks (and often, their families)? For the latter, I know what I’m supposed to wear but am just not willing to put my post-baby severely-out-of-shape self into even the most conservative swimwear in front of coworkers. For the former, I don’t know what to wear. Jeans seem the most appropriate. I’ve no idea what kind of shirt to wear. And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to smell all that great after a 100+ degree one-hour horse ride, yet we still have to ’roundup at the corral’ when it is over, with no time to clean up. Whoever plans these themed events should be tortured.

    • I’ve been horse riding once in my life (for an hour) and the advice I’d give to you is “breathable”. You will sweat and feel grimy and completely not put together. A breathable cotton top – t-shirt or blouse with neat (but not your best) jeans. Wear shoes that completely cover your feet. Put your hair in a ponytail beforehand (no pun intended).

      For the pool/water activities, I’d suggest a tank or other form-fitting tee with shorts/capris and sandals, with a brightly colored cover-up/kurta/sarong on top. It gives that breezy look while still covering up.

    • For the former, you’re in luck b/c I grew up on a horse ranch in Nevada. Definitely, definitely wear jeans. If you’re going on a trail ride you’ll be riding in a western saddle and any fabric besides denim will not provide enough protection from it. You do not want to chafe and bruise. Wear full-length jeans, not capris. Make sure you can move in the jeans – mounting a horse entails putting your foot up in the stirrup, which may be as much as 3 feet off the ground, and pulling yourself up. Tight jeans will rip at the seam. Wear substantial sneakers that will protect your feet and won’t slip in the stirrups (assuming you don’t have cowboy boots or functional work boots like Doc Martens – if so those would be great). I have weird feet and hate wearing cowboy boots so I always ride in sneakers, to the mockery of my family, but they work fine. On top, whatever you want is fine – a t-shirt or polo shirt is fine. Wear a hat that will stay on your head in a stiff breeze.

      For the latter, wear a swimsuit with a cute coverup and floppy hat, and park yourself in a lounge chair. Just because it’s a pool party doesn’t mean you have to go in the water. No one will coerce you – I guarantee you there will be several other women there who don’t want to get in either.

  46. I like clothes and I work in a professional environment, but reading through these comments, my main reaction is: how somebody’s underwear fits is really not that big of a deal. Let’s try to keep an open mind about what makes a person valuable.

  47. Here are five thoughts from a rainmaking litigation partner at a Biglaw firm who has both dated and hired a share of summer clerks:

    1. Most of the male partners (including myself) jokingly refer to the female summer associates as “the menu.” If a successful partner starts to take a unique interest in you, politely redirect all conversation to work.

    2. Never, ever “go out for drinks” one-on-one with a male partner who wants to “hear more about your thoughts on the summer program.” Guess what: he doesn’t care about your thoughts on the summer program.

    3. There is typically an inverse corrolation between the female summer associates that I want to date and the ones I want to hire. The qualities in the ones I want to hire are: hard-working, thorough, intuitive, and detail-oriented. The qualities in the ones I want to date are: flirtatious, spontaneous, and fun. Know which category you want to find yourself in and act accordingly.

    4. The recruiting coordinator has far more say in your success than does a senior partner. In fact, many firms take it as a very negative sign when a successful partner takes a unique interest in an attractive summer clerk, as it usually leads to very foreseeable problems down the road.

    5. Be friendly with the other female summer clerks. One of the telltale signs of a potential problem is a clerk who does not get along with the other clerks or who is catty.

    • I need to take a shower now. I don’t care how much rain you make, it is disrespectful to treat women this way.

    • Wow. WOW.

      I’m speechless. The only word that comes to mind is “douchebag.”

      But thanks for that horrifying glimpse into your brain, and for the reminder of what professional women are still up against.

    • Anonymous :

      I love this post. There’s some great advice and insight here and it’s meant in a helpful way. Sincere thanks for posting it (I work in an EXTREMELY male-dominated field and have thrived, if I may brag).

      • Oh, I think it was extremely helpful, too — a good reminder that the world is full of ill-intentioned, selfish people. But the sentiment expressed was, nonetheless, vile.

        • Bex, you should take yourself a bit less seriously. I venture to guess that anyone who was seriously interested in this topic learned a great deal more from my post than from your’s. And “vile” — really? Hitler was Vile. Saddam Hussein was vile. My comments were, at most, indelicate. But don’t worry — I’m 99% certain you would fall into a third category of summer associates — people I would neither date nor hire.

          • Oh, the hilarity! My friend, I’m not disappointed for one second that you don’t want to sleep with me. [I hope you’re trolling (and I’m pretty sure you are, because why would you be on a women’s fashion blog?), because if you’re real, that last comment is too sad! Am I supposed to me rending my garments or something?]
            Yes, vile: highly offensive, unpleasant, or objectionable. That’s what I think sexism is (along with racism, homophobia, etc.). I take those things seriously, not myself.

          • Try “yours” instead of “your’s.” All that rain must have washed away some brain cells.

            Sexism IS vile.

    • None of this is news to those of us who weren’t born yesterday (or after 1985, anyway), but thanks for the comment – I think a lot of young women really don’t get what goes through older men’s heads and this kind of blatant remark should give them some insight (see, e.g., Bex and mo’s reactions).

      • I really don’t mean to harp on this, but just because something “isn’t news” doesn’t mean it’s right (it’s f**king NOT), and it doesn’t mean that we should let this douchery go unchecked when it’s expressed as if it’s no big deal (it IS).

        You’re right, though: I was born in 1985, heh.

        • Anonymous :

          I truly wish you good luck on your quest.

          FWIW I believe it’s important to understand how your coworkers think and react, rather than just making the work experience all about you and how you feel and what you think things should be like.

          • I think it’s fine to put your foot down and say you are not going to cater to the whims of people like that. If my personality doesn’t fit in with the firm because I don’t want to deal with sexist pigs (trust me I’ve worked at those places before), then it’s my prerogative to do so. The reality is that along as women accept it and go along with it (instead of protesting or refusing to work at places like that), the behaviors will continue.

        • I agree that it’s douchery (and that’s my new favorite word). But I’m old now and I have accepted that it is going to go on, so we need to learn to work with it. Now that I’m a senior manager, if I caught my male colleagues talking about which interns they want to bag, I’d tear them a new one. But I also want our interns to be aware that men like this not only exist but are ubiquitous.

    • Yup, that’s a pretty clear window into the minds of *some* of the male lawyers at firms. And frankly, it’s good to know that people think this way. I learned it the hard way and got myself into two really dicey situations with male superiors involving me and older male lawyers, plus alcohol, alone at a bar. I was too naive to realize that when a male coworker is effusively, drunkenly, telling you what a good lawyer you are, and you are alone with him, you’re probably about five minutes away from him trying to take you home. And yes, this happened to me twice. The first time taught me to avoid the guys who were known womanizers. The second time taught me even to avoid that specific situation with people I would otherwise trust.

      One word of correction though. I still think you can be spontaneous and fun and be taken seriously. You just need to avoid being in situations where someone can get the wrong idea. Like the above.

      Agree mostly with #4 and #5, though I think #4 depends on the partner.

  48. I could make a list of 10 things, but they all boil down to this: pay attention to your supervisors, and to office culture, and act accordingly. When in doubt, ask your supervisor or mentor how to proceed. I’d rather have an intern come to me and say, “What should I wear to the bbq at the managing partner’s house tonight?” than have her show up in something inappropriate. Or, better yet, I’d rather hear, “My school told me to use this internship to network as much as possible. Is it OK to introduce myself to all the court staff and opposing counsel when I attend a hearing with you?” so I can say, “No, please don’t do that, I’ll make the appropriate introductions for you” before you start doing it.

    Also, don’t raise your hand in court. It is not school.

    • Mo, as much as I dislike your reference to me as a “douchebag”, your comments above are pretty solid. One exception: in many courtrooms — particularly in state court rooms in law and motion in complex cases where the well is filled with lawyers — it is expected that attorneys raise their hand when they want to be recognized.

  49. I have a question. I am a law clerk at a small firm. I’ve been here for 3 months. We have “casual Fridays,” and I have yet to take advantage because I see my job as an extended job interview. Some of the attorneys wear jeans on Fridays and some do not. Should I keep dressing up, or is it OK to wear jeans on Fridays?

    • It’s probably ok to wear nicer jeans with a business-style top. You don’t say what the dress code is the rest of the time… if it’s business casual, then it’s probably ok to wear trouser-style dark jeans (no skinny jeans, nothing too tight, nothing ripped) and a button-down and a cardigan and still nice jewelery.

      But if I were you, I would only switch to nice chinos or something instead of full jeans. “Casual Friday” doesn’t mean jeans-only. It means that if you normally wear a full suit, you could wear a button-down with a cardi and slacks instead. If you’re normally biz casual, don’t feel like you need to do jeans.

      (And still remember not to wear flip-flops and beachy-wear, no matter how casual everyone else gets.)

    • I would wear trouser jeans or a nice denim skirt (dark wash only) on Fridays with a dressier blouse and dressy pumps or sandals. You can also top the look with a blazer to make it look more business-like. You can wear skinny jeans also, but make sure that your top is long enough and not too tight to balance the look out. With skinny jeans, I’d definitely wear a blazer and flats. This way, you look casual but still smartly dressed. The key is to keep the look business like and not look like a going-out type outfit.

  50. Have a professional, clear, and concise voicemail message on both your work phone(s) and personal phones.

    My judge almost didn’t hire a very qualified intern because his voicemail was basically “uggghhhhhhhhh, I’m not here. Message me. Click.” Which did not go over well.

  51. Summer associates, please, please don’t complain about how totally swamped you are, then in the next breath talk about your exciting weekend plans. It makes you look a little silly when most of the junior associates at our firm are currently working 7 days a week and will probably be in the office for most of the weekend.

    Of course, I’m not saying that you should be working 70 hours each week — you’re a summer, enjoy yourself. It just comes off as a little whiny, and might grate on the nerves of the cranky, sleep-deprived associates in the elevator with you.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      OMFG that happened to me yesterday and it was all I could do to not scream. You are not swamped unless you put in double-digit hours all week and will be doing the same all weekend. If you 1) have weekend plans, and 2) will be able to keep them, then you are not swamped, and lucky you. Enjoy the sunshine. Agreed on your second point, E, summers should not be working 70 hours a week, they should be having fun. But I swear to god, the next one that tells me that they are “swamped” is going to get a PDF of my timesheet from the past two months and a little talking to about the realities of being an associate.

  52. I think that in this day and age it’s time to become a bit more liberal with the dress code. I am not advocating shiny-leather-minis at the office, but I think high heels, sleeveless tops, city shorts, ponytails higher than ears, and skirts above the knees are TOTALLY fine. For crying out loud, this is the 21st century!

  53. Do not wear louboutins to work. Go crazy with your shoes during your own time. At the office, keep it classic professional. 3 inches is the max

    Use your common sense.

    When in doubt, go with the more conservative option.

  54. Um, please no fishnet stockings. Particularly not with really short tight mini skirts. I’m a lawyer working in a creative field and my department is business casual (with an emphasis on the casual side), but oh my goodness, fishnets? Really? And they were ratty ones too, so that some of the holes were quite large. I know law students don’t have a lot of money, but that one completely floored me.

  55. I haven’t noticed anyone mention this, so I will – be careful with your social networking. Be very careful about friending your co-workers. What you consider appropriate may still cast you in a negative light (i.e., the conversation above about telling an associate you’re swamped, then posting pictures of you at the beach). You also can’t control what other people post about you – it make take a few hours before you can untag a picture or hide something on your wall.

    Consider setting your privacy settings so that only friends of friends can find your page if they search for you.

    Even if you don’t friend your co-workers, don’t post anything about your job. A lot of companies run searches of what people are saying about them online – you don’t want your name to come up in that search.

  56. Screwing up is worse than sounding stupid, but it’s best to do neither. Why not ask something like this: I know the standard form is blah blah, but since this case involves yak, yak, should I include a section on Ooga booga?

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