On Applying for 1L Summer Jobs

I really and truly meant to have this up prior to December 1st but trials happen so here we are.

During orientation, the career services office of my law school told our class that they regularly have to turn employers away because all of their students have 1L summer positions.  That was probably the best news I received during 1L.  That is probably not the case at most law schools.  Nonetheless, I am going to share how I prepared my first semester, the process I went through in deciding where and when to apply, and how everything shook out in the end.

When I entered law school, I thought post-grad I might want to clerk and then work in a big firm because I love money and also those are Respectable.T14.Outcomes.  (Twist: although I am currently clerking, I'd rather run through barbed wire and then bathe in rubbing alcohol before I'd work at a big law firm). 

Originally, I thought I would attempt to find a judicial internship in a large city to which I had some ties, or, to find a diversity law firm position.  (I'm a nontrad-aged white lady, so its not completely implausible for all those positions are relatively needle-in-haystack).  I changed my mind perhaps 12 times throughout the job application process which is one of the LUXURIES afforded to you by attending a school that has a reputation for easily employing their entire 1L class).

NALP prohibits 1Ls from applying to jobs prior to December 1.  This is ostensibly because you are supposed to learn how to be a law student and focus on your grades.  There are a few things you should ALSO be doing.

1.  Figure out how your school funds summer employment for 1Ls.  Some schools offer loans or grants, some let you work "for credit" so you can take out loans, and some offer nothing.  Figure this out right away so that you aren't trying to budget on the back end for an apartment in another city for two months. 

2. Explore realistic practice areas for 1Ls.  Look at what your predecessors have done.  Talk to your friends on student organizations.  In my experience, a good majority of my classmates spent their 1L summers with judges, clinics, federal agencies, or in criminal offices (AUSA/DA/PD).  (Note: Most states won't let you appear on the record in criminal proceeding as a rising 2L, so you'd mostly be writing papers which is the same thing you'll do pretty much everywhere).  I also had some classmates that found positions at Facebook, Microsoft, etc.   Some lucky ducks had those elusive 1L Summer Associate position.  (Note:  this will probably not be you, so don't count on it).

3.  Consider also where you are likely to find work.  1L can be a great time to explore new cities, but the prestige of certain positions (judicial externships or AUSA offices) tends to cross geographical boundaries.   Consider how easy it will be to find housing, transportation, and the availability of legal work in general.  (Pro Tip:  Washington DC is a fantastic place to spend your 1L summer.  Public transportation, a zillion sublets, and more federal jobs than you can imagine.  Nobody questions your geographic interests if you do a summer tour of the capital).

4.  Work with your career services office (or mentor, or club, or the google) to NAIL your resume.  If your school is letting you down, google resume examples from Harvard, Yale, etc.  There is a lot of information to be found on those websites that isn't behind a firewall. 

5.  Spend November narrowing down your options.  Learn the typical application deadlines.  Some places legitimately have hired within 3 days of the official starting date of Dec 1.  Some places conclude at the end of the holiday break, and some much later in the semester.  Remember, however, the later the application date, the more likely they will want your first semester grades and you have NO way of knowing how that will turn out.

6.  The Dec. 1 deadline is really terribly timed, so pick 3-5 jobs that you'd really love/have early deadlines to be ready to shoot off on that date.  (Judges in larger markets tend to hire fairly early, IMO).  Then get back to studying for finals.

7.  Sorry, your holiday break is no longer yours for fun unless you already snagged a job in that initial rush.  On the plus side, you probably won't have a real break for your 2L, 3L, or rest of your life!

8.   Hustle until you have a job.  Use your school Symplicity account, indeed, linkedin, the AZ govt jobs website, etc.  You can even google "1L LEGAL INTERNSHIP."  There are a millllllllllion jobs out there if you present quality materials and do your research.
As I mentioned above, I changed my mind a lot.  When Dec 1 rolled around I had my materials prepped but perhaps was mid panic mode about finals, and was surrounded by people who were gunning for those Dec 1 jobs.  That stressed me out so I ostriched the whole thing until the holiday.

In December, I applied for law firm diversity positions.  In January, I applied to a lot of judges (CHECK YOUR COVER LETTERS FOR TYPOS OK).  In February, I applied to some law school clinics.  I did all of this in a very haphazard manner.

Finally, on a whim in March I applied for a federal government (agency) position the day it closed, interviewed and was hired the next week.

It is ok to change your mind; it is ok if you work on a different schedule than other people; it is ok if you explore areas you aren't sure about. 


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