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While it is a given that summer vacations away from law school are far too short, they can still be productive. But such productivity usually does not just come naturally; instead, we must plan and make ourselves do what is needed to ensure a fruitful time off.
Now what constitutes a "productive summer" can be a highly subjective matter. Some would say that working and studying are the only ways to remain productive. In that way, you can stay on top of your game and be ready for the competitive world of law school come the fall term. An internship or clerkship will definitely fall into this "work-now, rest-later" plan.
Others would contend that you should forget about your studies. Perhaps relax and hit a beach resort for a month. Or just rent a few dozen movies and get caught up on your relaxation. Anything to give your brain a break from the intense studies that you just endured and that are about to follow. Such a break in and of itself does not sound productive, but in the long run, it could very well serve as a brain refresher that will benefit you greatly come next semester.
Still a third method is a combination of both studying and relaxing…maybe a study-abroad program in the South of France. But these dual plans often fall short on both ends, where you get both too little work done and far too little relaxation. So we're left to examine the pros and cons of what to do with your summer…a summer that, by the time you read this, will only have a mere four weeks or so left of it.
Let's begin with the first example, where you continue to study and work hard…ignoring the summer sun and the beaches and your friends and parties. What will you gain from this? Well, for starters, you'll be ahead of your law school peers who may have taken some time off. Secondly, you'll also be preparing yourself for what your career will be like. Attorneys do not get 3 months off at a time to vacation, and you are vying to become one. So why not start getting yourself into that frame of mind by continuing to work? Of course, this line of thinking does not allow your brain to get its R & R time, but in the competitive, dog-eat-dog world of law school, you might be able to persevere without taking those rests.
Besides just studying, you may also be hard at work at an internship or clerkship. While these duties definitely take away from your study time, the benefits are enormous. You receive real-life experience, albeit at low or no pay, and you get to see and experience the inner workings of a law firm or perhaps of a judge's chambers. But once you get an internship or clerkship, you still must maintain hard work and discipline.
One thing to keep in mind here as you finish up your work this summer is that many other law students spend their summers doing this exact same thing. The fact that you have "internship" or "clerkship" on your resume is not that rare. Common duties here include dispositions and filings and research, for example. Granted, those are important duties, but they are also duties that appear on virtually every resume of law students when they try for that all-elusive first job.
So instead of spending your summer internship just doing the basics, take your last month and ask for some duties that will differentiate yourself from your competition. Even some menial but unusual duties for an interesting case will look better on your resume then the "same old" research and writing work. Consider your competition at all times. Some of them will be relaxing all summer, so you're already ahead of them. But others will have internships just like yours, so it's up to you to do something outstanding during your internship to make yourself stand out.
Now for the other side…taking the summer off. We've just extolled the virtues of working hard all summer, but the drawback of that, of course, is there will be no break for you. Instead of three separate years of law school with enjoyable breaks in between, you'll be caught in one (very) long semester that will last 36 months. Your summers will be a break from the classroom, but not from work and studying. Can you handle that?
If your answer is no, then it's not the end of the world. There is no shame in taking some time off to enjoy your life. There is no escaping the fact that some of your competition may have jumped ahead of you in their studies or in real-world experience, but think positive and focus on the advantages that you yourself now have because you took time off.
You should be more refreshed, more ready and able to begin again in the fall term. You'll have a revitalized approach and a sense of a new beginning when the first classes begin again…just like we all felt on the first day of school growing up. To someone who worked all summer, the first day of school will bring less excitement because that first day of school will be merely a continuation of the hard work they put in all summer. Just ask anyone who had to endure summer school during high school. Almost everyone who took summer classes will tell you how they stared out the window, watching enviously as their friends played in the sun.
There is also the possibility, either by chance or by your making it happen, that your summer vacation yields some productivity after all. You may encounter something—either in or out of the legal realm—that could make good fodder for a law journal article. Sometimes if you go out looking for a story or theme, it will not come to you; but if you sit back and relax and just go through your summer, that theme may hit you.
So whether you read this in retrospect for this soon-ending summer or consider it for next year, the choice is yours. It all depends on the individual and what you need to accomplish. Your remaining year(s) in law school and then getting a job afterwards will be very competitive ordeals for you, and only you know the best way to for you to prepare for those. And planning your summer can be just as important as planning your in-school time.
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