Pros and Cons of Working At a Law Firm

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Pros:
  • Opportunities exist for excellent legal training, particularly legal research and writing.



  • Resources are plentiful. You will probably have access to a secretary, a copy center staff, a library staff, and so on.

  • You will have opportunities to work with bright and accomplished lawyers.

  • The great salary helps minimize debt.

  • You will have high-profile clients and cases.

  • There will be opportunities to experience several areas of the law, including litigation, corporate, trusts and estates, tax, and real estate.

  • Travel is possible, including assignments to foreign offices.

  • You can engage in pro bono work.

  • There are free lunches and lots of summer social events.

  • You may get an offer for permanent employment at the end of the summer.

  • Law firm jobs are generally prestigious and look good on your resume.
Cons:
  • It's very difficult to get a job the first year; many of the top firms won't even look at your resume.

  • There are fewer opportunities for client contact.

  • You may be given less responsibility; it is unlikely that you will be handling cases on your own or appearing in court.
It is unlikely that you will be able to see a case through from start to finish; you'll just be there for a piece of it. You may be expected to work long hours.

With all the wining and dining, you may not get a realistic perspective of what life is really like as a full-time associate interned for a federal judge after my first year. It was a great job. The training, exposure, and interest level was fantastic. On the downside, the money ($0) is tough to get by on. An additional point that some people might not realize is that you can make excellent contacts. I have kept in touch with the judge and remained good friends with his clerks. The clerks, in particular, have been a wonderful source of knowledge about all the things of interest to a law student/young lawyer (e.g., firms, clerkships, other things to do with your J.D.).

The non-legal highlight of the job occurred one evening after work when the five interns and three clerks went out for a drink at a trendy bar. One of the clerks invited the judge, but no one really expected him to show. To our great surprise and delight, the judge did show up, bought everyone a round of tequila, and did a shot with us before leaving for the night. -NOAH PERLMAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Many students seek internships with judges after their first year of law school, and they report having very rewarding experiences.

Again, as with the other positions described above, research the judges carefully and, if you can, talk with others who have worked with that judge. Since you will be working in close quarters, it is important that you find chambers with the right fit.

Pros:
  • You will receive excellent legal research and writing training.

  • You may find in the judge and other clerks wonderful mentors.

  • There is opportunity for courtroom exposure.

  • It's great legal experience, especially for those interested in litigation.
Cons:
  • There's little to no pay.

  • If you are the type of person who prefers to work in a large office with a lot of people, you may need to adjust to the close quarters of a judge's chambers.

  • You may miss the experience of advocating directly on behalf of clients.
OTHER EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Although this chapter has focused on firms and public interest work, there are many other opportunities that students pursue. These will be listed below, not as an exhaustive list, but just to spark some ideas.

Also, remember as you begin your job search that not every student will be lucky enough to get his or her first-choice job. Some will not even get their last choice. Because the number of students attending law school has increased dramatically over the past few years, the marketplace for jobs has grown very competitive and tight.

This fact is not intended to alarm you, but it is intended as a reminder that you must be thorough and creative in your search and be flexible in your decision-making process. Don't give up or get discouraged if things don't work out after you send the first wave of letters. Keep trying. Timing can be critical, as the story below demonstrates.

I decided to study abroad in Argentina after my first year because I felt that after that summer, I would not have much choice but to work However, after I returned from Argentina, about six weeks of summer school remained.

Immediately after I returned from studying abroad, I checked into available job listings at the career services office of the law school There were four or five attorneys in need of research assistance, so I faxed my resume and a cover letter to all of them, and 24 hours later, J had a job doing research for a small firm and helping them prepare a trial exhibit for the fall.

It clerkship, the firm was so short-handed they threw me right into the research or exhibit preparation without much supervision. This allowed me to learn about legal practice in a more pragmatic sense than I had been able to during my first year of law school. Even after I started back to school in the fall, the firm still called me to do small research projects. After my first year in law school, I was fortunate enough not only (to study abroad, but also to gain some valuable work experience. The combination of the two refreshed me for my second year, and both have been extremely valuable in my second-year clerkship interviews. -SUZANNE E. SCHREJBER, UNIVERSITY OF TULSA LAW SCHOOL
 
 




Columbia University

    

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