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Finding a Summer Job After The First Year of Law School

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Dear Lawcrossing,


Help! I am a first-year student looking for practical legal experience over the summer. I had no idea how hard it would be to find a good job-it seems that ILs are rarely considered. Do you have any advice regarding what I can do to stand out from every other 1L looking for work? What options should I consider?




QB, Boston


Dear Lawcrossing,


My girlfriend is in her first year at a tier-one law school and is trying to find a position with a law firm for the summer. She is having no luck at all even though her grades and class rank are great. What can we do?


MJ, Illinois


Dear Lawcrossing,


I have been in law school for one semester, and I am trying to decide what I should do next summer. I thought I would pursue a law clerk position at a law firm, but of the 100+ resumes I have sent out, I have had two interviews and no offers. Most of the employers I wrote to didn't even respond. Now what?


EQ, New York


Dear QB, MJ, and EQ,


LawCrossing applauds all of you for hitting the legal career ground running. Why, when she was in your shoes, in her pre-Goddess incarnation, LawCrossing was thinking, "If I max out my credit cards, can I spend the summer in Egypt?" You, of course, not only have the right instincts, but also the divine guidance of LawCrossing's pool of experts. You will be delighted to know that, approached strategically, your first law school summer can launch your legal career into the stratosphere.


How? The important point to remember about your first summer is not to focus on what your classmates will focus on-that is, getting a paying position with as large a law firm as possible. There are at least three reasons not to do this. One is that unless you go to one of the tiny handful of schools whose first-year students are sought by large firms-you know, the "H" school, and the "Y" school, and a few others-you will quickly frustrate yourself by trying to break into their traditional summer clerkship programs. LawCrossing does not want you to be frustrated; she wants you to be happy and fulfilled. Another, more important reason is that you can get broader experience and much more versatility from other kinds of employers than you can from large firms.


Where should you look, LawCrossing hears you asking? Your happiest hunting grounds are likely to be small firms and judicial internships; of those two, a judicial internship is likely to open the most doors for you. As you undoubtedly know, there are about a bajillion courts, between the federal court system, states, municipal courts, and specialty courts. All of them have judges, and judges all need clerks. As you know, LawCrossing does not advise you simply to send out mass mailers. Instead, check with your career services director for alumni who are judges, and/or any judges who routinely hire first-year summer associates from your school. Kitty Cooney Hoye, Career Services Director at Notre Dame Law School, points out that "Judicial internships are wonderful no matter what you intend to do after school. They impress law firms, governmental employers, and public interest groups."


While your experience from judge to judge will vary, you'll undoubtedly get to research and sit in on a number of cases, which most students really enjoy. One career services director we spoke with points out that you also get "A measure of deference new lawyers don't even get, because other lawyers will associate you with the judge." And on top of all of that, the Career Services Director adds that you'll "Wind up with a great writing sample, and a judge's reference," both of which will be a real boon to your job search later on.


The downside? Most summer judicial clerkships are volunteer positions, and LawCrossing knows how you cringe at the word "volunteer." However, the experience is so great and will grease the nubile wheels of your career so well that she encourages you to follow The Career Services Director's advice, and "volunteer 20 to 25 hours a week, if that's all you can afford, and get a paying job with the rest of your time." You would not be the first law student to spend a few hours a week waitering.


The other target LawCrossing recommends for you is to work with a small firm. "What's so super about a summer job with a small firm?" you ask. You will typically get a lot more responsibility than you would with a larger employer; in fact, you may well get responsibility and client contact that large firm associates don't get for years.


How do you get these small firm jobs? With small firms, timing is everything; they won't hire you for summer jobs the previous fall, the way large firms do, because they won't typically know whether they need anybody that far in advance. But to position yourself for when the fruit is ripe, The Career Services Director recommends that you "Go to local bar association meetings in the Spring. A student membership is cheap! These meetings are a great opportunity to see who is doing what, and to let them see you in a non-interview-pressurized situation."


The Career Services Director also urges you to let your career services director know what you're looking for. "Most first years think that career services isn't there for them," she says. "It's not true! There are a lot of great jobs that are handed down from upperclasspeople to students behind them. The career services office is a great place to find out about those jobs, because they usually hear about them first."


Whether it's a judicial internship or a small firm you decide to pursue, LawCrossing urges you not to overlook the most direct way to a summer job: research who's who, and then go knocking on doors. Yes, it takes some nerve, but LawCrossing has never known of a law student to go unemployed for more than a week if they were willing to pound the pavement and overlook a few "nays" in the process. In fact, LawCrossing knows a third year law student, at a not-Harvard law school, who got two-count 'em, two-summer clerkships with federal trial level judges by showing up the first week of summer vacation, knocking on the right door, and asking if they needed any additional help. As this story illustrates, judges sometimes underestimate how much of a workload they will have-and sometimes their clerks don't work out, or worse, they don't show up at all. The lesson here is that you must never, ever count yourself out of a job you'll enjoy.


So set aside your dreams of big bucks from a law job next summer. Put in some time with a judge or a small firm, doing work you'll love, and wait tables to pull in cash if you need to. LawCrossing assures you thatthere is no better start to the legal career that you want-and deserve-for getting such a head start!





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