With the second semester upon us, I thought I’d offer up some advice for first year law students with respect to summer plans. As I found out, very few 1Ls secure paying positions in the legal field in the first summer. Plus, with the economy as it is, those chances are likely even more slim. Thus, it’s worth considering, from the get-go, what to pursue to make a meaningful summer.
A friend of mine left a helpful comment on the blog in December that laid out a basic framework – something I’ll adopt in part here as “The Hepworth Hierarchy.” Another commenter and friend, Chris, helped flesh things out. The final product, below, includes a few additional twists of my own.
I presume, in sharing this advice, that a 1L will be looking for summer experiences that will best enhance a person’s chances of landing a future position with a prestigious or high-paying firm, government agency, or judge. The ranking of options is designed to prioritize those things a prospective employer will find most worthwhile or valuable in an interview down the road. These suggestions should be tailored or altered as needed for an individual’s goals or specialized are of interest, of course.
What To Do For 1L Summer
1. Get a paying job as a summer associate with a law firm.
2. Get an internship or externship with a judge.
3. Work with a nonprofit related to a public interest area of law that interests you.
4. Study abroad for credits that will reduce your future credit loads.
5. Take classes domestically.
6. Work for a professor as a research assistant.
7. Get your pro-bono hours done.
I would also add the possibility of doing something unrelated to law that nonetheless shows your analytical skills, leadership, and reliability - preferably something that pays, so you can eat. You also might want to think long term about other priorities like building or growing connections in a certain market or saving costs by living at home, if necessary.
This past summer, I interned with a state judge and externed with a federal judge. Both experiences were quite valuable and worthwhile. However, neither paid the bills, which is, I rapidly discovered despite my frugality, a key consideration.
One friend landed what I find, in retrospect, to be a very impressive, well-rounded summer: An internship with a federal judge followed by a short study abroad program followed by paid work with a firm in a market he wants to work in.
I would add these bits of advice on procuring a position:
1. Start early - get your emails, letters, and phone calls out by the end of January if at all possible.
2. Be persistent - follow up one form of communication with another.
3. Be really persistent - follow up other forms of communication with a personal visit (for example, to a judge's chambers) to show you really care, to make a connection with staff, etc.
4. Be professional - double check your spelling, be appropriately formal in your communication.
5. Use your connections - get over any reluctance or embarassment, pursue leads with relatives.
6. Do something you want to do - it's good to do what's impressive to others, but also be sure to do something that intrigues you.
These are merely my reflections having passed through a 1L summer myself. If you have additional advice from your experience, feel free to leave a bottle in the comments.