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Tips on how to secure a summer job

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"My advice is simply that there are plenty of summer jobs out there for 1st- and 2nd-year students who are looking during the second semester. Those who are flexible, proactive, creative, patient…will be most successful," said Louis W. Helmuth, Esq., Assistant Dean, Career Services, at California Western School of Law in San Diego.

Mr. Helmuth advises students to be flexible and that they should consider all positions, even if they are not in their preferred areas of practice. By doing so, it will provide them with "quality practical experience," which, at the apprentice level, "will carry one very far in the long run."

He said students should be proactive and go beyond just sending letters and resumes. "Choose a target area of practice and geographic area, and arrange five informational interviews on a single day—8:30, 10:30, 12:15 lunch, 2:00, and 4:00—and prepare well for these informational interviews. Don't forget the crucial question well into the interview: 'Would you ever consider the possibility of taking on a part- or fulltime law clerk during the summer?'"

Mr. Helmuth added that students should get creative and consider a part-time volunteer clerking position and a part-time position somewhere else to make ends meet. He advises students to diversify their job searches. "Don't forget that many public agencies and judges hire summer law clerks the winter/spring before. Pull out all stops. If your college roommate's father's sister is a lawyer, contact them too."

Lastly, he said students should always be patient and should be aware that many law firms may not be ready to take on summer law clerks until later in the semester. "Don't give up, but don't delay either. Many students arrange their clerkships when they are ready to begin work, in May or June."

Jane Steckbeck, Associate Director for Career Services at the University of Oregon School of Law, said that only a small number of students are able to find employment by the end of their first semesters. "Many employers do not begin considering 1Ls until January and later."

She stresses that students should meet with career services staff members early on and should not make what she calls "self-defeating assumptions" that if their grades are not the best, then career services cannot help them. "In fact, with less-than-stellar grades, you may need to develop strategies to help you overcome academics and assess your other strengths."

Ms. Steckbeck advises that students get organized and create a career development notebook that contains copies of their resume, cover letter, and personal statements. She said it should also contain job notices of interest, even if students may think they do not qualify yet for those jobs, for the purpose of future investigation, personal goals, and self-assessment charts.

She suggests students decide what types of experience they would like to get; which geographical locations they favor in terms of contacts and personal support. She recommends developing and expanding personal contacts, to use resources to develop a list of employers in key interest areas, and to make sure students develop a "Plan A," "Plan B," and "Plan C," in case their first choices fall through.

"Remember, as a 1L, any legal experience will help you. Remember also that large law firms do not hire 1Ls in great numbers. Know that they don't, so not having a large firm job as a 1L doesn't mean much and does not make or break your legal career. Only your attitude can do that."

Ms. Steckbeck said that students should write targeted cover letters to employers in their interest areas but strongly emphasized that the letter should detail what is in it for the employer, not the student. "The truth is most employers simply don't care about what's in it for you. They want to know they're going to get a productive employee, not someone they need to train."

She said cover letters should be followed up with a phone call, which includes asking if an interview can be scheduled.

Above all, Ms. Steckbeck advises that there is no perfect 1L job, just many opportunities to gain experience and skills. She said students may want to consider Pro Bono jobs, which can give students better experience than paying jobs. "Be patient; don't give up after a few attempts. Law students are used to getting jobs easily, so lack of early success may be frustrating. Don't let this frustration sabotage your search and attitude!"

University of Oregon School of Law


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