I recently came across a post on Quora where a well-performing student at a top ten school claimed they enjoyed law school, but did not enjoy their prior legal internships. He or she is currently in a Big Law summer associate program and is hesitant about it as well.
It’s great that this student is doing this self-analysis now. He or she is clearly a hard-working, intelligent person, so they'll likely receive an offer at the end of your summer program. The question is how to proceed from there.
The fact is that Big Law firms actively try to sell themselves to summer associates. Being a summer associate is arguably the most fun time in Big Law. Therefore, the student's dissatisfaction is a telling sign. It’s also telling that they didn’t enjoy their earlier internships.
I’d first try to understand why they didn’t enjoy Big Law or their prior internships. When they said that the “[Big Law] environment is not the place for me,” I would ask what they exactly meant. Big Law can be stressful and there’s often a lack of feedback. Do they find it boring? And what was it about their prior internships that bothered them? Do they just envision yourself doing something else?
It’s hard to give individualized advice without answers to these questions. Perhaps they just got really unlucky and worked at offices with poor cultures.
Having said that, because they have great grades at a top ten school, they have options if they don’t want to practice after graduation.
At least at Penn, McKinsey visited campus and actively recruited 3Ls. Goldman Sachs also visited campus to recruit candidates for its wealth management division. I'd recommend that the student confirms whether there are similar opportunities at their school. I’m not a management consultant, but I’d guess that they may enjoy consulting if they enjoy law school.
This may also be a good time to reach out to the student's school’s career services office. They may get some good ideas if they explain their situation and the reasons why they're dissatisfied. I would do this sooner rather than later.