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The Summer Legal Job Search

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The first-year summer job search is gruesome, particularly if you want to work at a firm. I sent out roughly 70 to 80 letters, mostly to New York law firms; 25 letters went to firms in Washington, D. C., and two letters went to firms in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. As a result of those letters, I managed to get four interviews: two in New York, one in D. C, and one in Columbus. I also started to do on-campus interviewing, but fortunately before those interviews were complete, I received an offer from one of the New York firms where I interviewed. The firm that offered me a summer position was the New York branch of a large Chicago firm. There were approximately 35 lawyers. It turned out to be a great summer. I had a strong desire to work at a firm my first summer-preferably a New York firm-because I knew that ultimately that is what I wanted to do when I graduated, and I did not want my second summer at a firm (arguably the most important summer) to be my first time in such an environment. However, my brief story should make it clear that getting a firm job after your first year in law school is no walk in the park. Such is the case no matter what law school you attend. I would suggest that if you have your heart set on working at a firm the first summer out of law school, you should pursue that goal, but also be sure to investigate other options, such as working in the public defender office or working for a judge. The obvious drawback of these jobs is the lack of pay, but they no doubt will provide needed writing and legal analysis skills. This, they are a gold star on your resume. -CHARUTA MAYS, YALE LAW SCHOOL

I spent the summer after my first year of law school working as a foreign trainee for a Japanese law firm in Tokyo. The experience was a memorable one, and I would encourage anyone interested in a transnational legal career to seek out a summer position abroad with a foreign firm. Learning how laws are made, applied, and interpreted in another country provides a valuable perspective on our own legal system. Exposure to an alternative legal regime made me realize, in a very tangible way, that there is never a single approach to any legal question. I believe this experience helped make me a more creative legal thinker and thus a more effective legal practitioner. In addition, I was involved in several interesting international transactions, and I made contacts with Japanese lawyers that I hope will prove useful in my future career. These advantages, along with the obvious appeal of spending a summer abroad, made for a very exciting and positive experience. I have no regrets about my decision to take a road somewhat less traveled. I found it a very enjoyable one. -DARRELL HALL, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL
Many students also choose to work in law firms during their first summer. This experience can also provide excellent legal training. Generally, the salaries for summer associates far surpass those paid by public interest organizations, which is an attractive feature of law firm life, especially for those with heavy law school and college debts. If you are interested in applying to a law firm, there may be two routes to pursue. Some law schools sponsor an on-campus interview week for first-years, where several law firms come to campus and conduct applicant interviews. However, many firms do not come to on-campus interviews and therefore require you to take the initiative and submit a cover letter and resume on your own. Find out whether your school has an on-campus interview week and, if so, when it is being held. Inquire as to what firms will be coming. Research those firms as well as firms that will not be participating in on-campus interviews (probably the vast majority). Consider whether you want to apply to a large, mid-size, or boutique firm, or a combination of these; whether you want a firm that specializes in a particular area or one that has a more general practice; whether you want to work in the main office or a branch office; whether you prefer to be one among many summer associates or whether you are looking for a small summer associate program; and whether you prefer a place that represents mostly plaintiffs or defendants.

In deciding where to apply, keep in mind that many firms do not hire first-year summer associates or hire only a select few. Don't be discouraged. Many students will send a mass mailing of cover letters, resumes, and transcripts to upwards of 100 firms. From that bunch, they may be lucky to get one or two interviews. Again, if you really want to work at a firm, apply to many and be flexible as to location. Check ahead of time to see which firms hire first-years; do not waste your time or energy applying to firms that reserve their summer associate program solely for second-years. Your time will come soon enough.

TIP: Some firms, including some of the most prestigious ones, hire minority students in their first summer as part of various recruiting programs. If you are a minority student, ask your career center about these programs and take advantage of them if you are interested in firm work.

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