By jessie kornberg • December 15, 2007•Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
For those of you finishing up your first semester this week: Congratualtions! Next step: summer job. 1L summer jobs can be found in firms, non-profits, government agencies, judges' chambers, and law school. Each has distinct benefits and its own application timetable. It's time to think about all of them now, because winter break may be your chance to get a foot in the door.
Law Firms: not long ago paid law clerk positions were reserved either to the very top schools or the very top students. But in the last few years more firms are hiring more 1Ls from more schools. This proccess generally occurs in the spring once first semester grades are in, but over break there may be family friends or other personal contacts who can help you get your resume out to local firms. Use the break to put together your resume and to clean up your writing sample, so you can hit the ground running if you're waiting for spring recruiting at your law school.
Non-Profits/Government Agencies: Most will accept applications now and conduct interviews after the break. Some will have started interviewing already. All will aim to complete the process by early spring in time for most law schools' summer grant making processes. There are lots of ways to find the right cause or group for you, but I suggest starting either with a subject area or a geographic location. Idealist.org is a great resource as are job fairs. There's an annual one in Southern California and another in Washington, D.C. You can register to conduct interviews at the fairs or at least make valuable contacts there. Even if you can't attend, the list of participants can help get you started on a job search. Again you'll need a resume and a writing sample, but you can probably apply before your grades are in.
Judicial Externships: This is what I did my 1L summer and I had such an incredible experience it convinced me I wanted to apply for clerkships. This is a great opportunity for folks who might not otherwise get to clerk. Judges take externs who would not be considered for clerkships because of their law school or their grades. I summered with a judge in the Southern District of New York, arguably the most competitive clerkship market inthe country. I got to see really talented litigators and really special cases that just don't exist in smaller districts. I also got to work with the brightest clerks in the country. There's no way I would have qualified for a clerkship in those chambers, so my summer was a real privilege. Every once in a while the summer relationship pans out into an offer of a post-graduation clerkship, but that's exceedingly rare, so don't approach these jobs with that as the goal. Again, make contact with judges in the area you'd like to work now before break. See if you can schedule something while you're home if that's where you want to work over the summer.
Law School: last but not least, many law schools hire students as research assistants for their professors over the summer. This process usually takes place in the spring after other application deadlines have passed-so it can be a great back up. This can be a fairly laid back option with great perks. You're getting paid, which is more than most public interest or government interns will be able to say. Also you're developing good research skills. Most importantly you're building a close relationship with a professor. Apply for a job with someone working in a field that interests you or who is well-known and widely published. This can be an invaluable contact for you if you want to apply for clerkships or fellowships in the next two years. Moreover, it's a great opportunity to find a mentor who can give you good advice on your work and your life.
Good luck out there!!