On top of finals, and memos, and the holidays, and next semester (anything else? A pandemic?), it’s also time to start your job search for next summer. I want to emphasize here, especially for those that didn’t grow up with parents in professional jobs, just how normal it is in this industry to apply for jobs that start six months from now. When I started law school, my only work experience was hourly work in retail/restaurants. The kind that hired you on the spot or a few weeks after you submitted an application. It was completely new to me that anyone would hire anyone for a job that started months away.
But that is the reality of the legal world; good jobs get snatched up quickly and so it’s in your best interest to prioritize a good summer job. Not just for the experience but for earlier you have something locked down the earlier you can start focusing on affording your 1L/2L summer. Here are some things to keep in mind:
One. This is a stepping stone but not THE stepping stone. Your first summer is an important opportunity to gain exposure to the legal field and to begin growing your professional network. It is important to give you the ability to flex bb lawyer muscles and get some insight on whether that particular sector calls your attention. But don’t make it more than it is. What you do your 1L summer won’t dictate the rest of your career. If you end up not liking the work, the firm, the sector, etc. that’s ok and if anything the experience is letting you better understand what type of work you do want to do. So, with that said…
Two. Don’t limit yourself. You owe it to yourself to consider all opportunities presented to you. Don’t stop yourself from applying just because you think you won’t be good or you won’t like the law. I will say a huge oversight on my part was that I never considered clerking, ever. I thought it sounded boring—citing a bunch of opinions? No thanks! What I didn’t recognize was the value of this experience (strengthening writing skills, getting mentored by a judge, opening the door to other opportunities) and if I’m honest it wasn’t just that it was boring but also because I didn’t think I could do the work. Have faith in your abilities and don’t cut off opportunities. But I also didn’t consider clerking because those gigs were unpaid and I just didn’t understand how I could afford to do it for a summer.
Three. Prepare your finances. As you already know, law school is an exclusive club and it is made to benefit the rich. Expecting students to be able to do work for free—during work hours, no less—is a symptom of how this system is made for those with means. But if there is a clerkship or internship that piques your interest, don’t stop from applying because of money. Apply to the job, apply to others, and then once you have the offers, figure out your options. There may be scholarships for clerks, or stipends for local programs, etc. And this is also a good time to start researching financial support options especially if you’re considering public interest. I had to piecemeal my summers with scholarships, stipends, and taking a summer classes; you can find want works for you while still taking advantage of a great summer experience.
I wish I could say finding your summer job won’t be time consuming but it will take your time and attention. But putting in the work now will allow you to pick the best experience for yourself and that will ultimately help propel you forward to your next, even better, step.