When your second-year summer job is finally over, ascertain how long it will take the employer to let you know if you will receive a permanent job offer. Most legal employers wait until school starts to give out full-time job offers. While you are waiting to hear from your summer employer, do some advance planning in case the news is not positive. Specifically, sign up for interviews with legal employers who are interviewing third-year students on campus. Also, send your resumes and cover letters to other legal employers you would like to work for but who are not interviewing on campus. In doing so, you should recognize that it may be difficult to get a legal job immediately if you do not receive an offer from your summer employer. Accordingly, do not be overly selective in terms of whom you interview with for a legal job after law school until you know for sure that you have at least one permanent offer.
If you do get an offer from your summer employer or another firm or agency, take some risks. If you can arrange it, interview with your "dream" legal employer. At this point, there is simply no reason not to do so.
If you do not get a job offer from your summer employer, do not despair. You should, however, find out why you did not receive an offer. It may simply be the case that the employer had too many qualified applications from which to choose. If this is the case, it is more than likely that the employer will be willing to make some informal efforts to help you find a job. You should, in fact, ask for such help. Even if your summer employer did not give you a job offer because of some perceived deficiencies, chances are one or two of the attorneys you worked for liked you and your work and informed you of this fact before you left for school. Ask these attorneys for whatever help they can give you in searching for a job. Among other things, you should get a letter of recommendation from the attorney(s) in question.
Third-year law students without a job offer may also want to consider working as a contract attorney after law school. Most legal newspapers have want ads for such jobs. Usually, contract attorneys are hired to work on specific cases and for a set duration of time. After the duration is over, the job ends. However, working as a contract attorney can help you gain valuable experience. It may also get your foot in the door of a firm you want to work for on a more permanent basis. Finally, working as a contract attorney also allows a graduating student who has passed the bar, but who does not yet have a permanent job offer, to pay his bills without accepting work from an employer he is less than eager to work for.
Another option for students without offers is to work as a research attorney for state trial court judges. In this way, you can learn a tremendous amount about everyday practice. These positions are not highly sought after, particularly in comparison to the clerkships with federal courts and state appellate courts. Thus it may be possible for you to obtain such a position even if other clerkship positions are already filled.
It is also still theoretically possible for a graduating law student to immediately start working for herself after she passes the bar. Generally though, this is not a good idea because the realities of everyday practice are far different from law school. The costs of starting up a law office (for example, computer equipment, law books, rent, staff, etc.) are also quite high, especially for a new graduate with little cash. However, if you decide to work for yourself, either out of choice or necessity, you can probably find at least a few other lawyers to share the costs associated with running a law practice so as to make it economically possible for you to earn a living.