It may seem too soon to start looking for summer jobs, but before you know it you’ll be frantically writing outlines, cramming for finals, trying to keep up with readings, and –oh yeah—apply for jobs. Knowing that there’s a huge time-crunch coming down the pike means you should what you can now so that you don’t half-ass your job search.
I’ve mentioned before, but the end of October during my first semester in law school was one family issue after another. I, unfortunately, got distracted and suddenly it was second semester and I still didn’t have anything lined up. I got really lucky, but you shouldn’t depend on luck! While you’re likely not able to meet with career services until next month (or Nov) you should start researching and planning now so that you can get something locked down and move on to more important things (like studying).
Here’s what I suggest:
One. Figure out what you want to do, but don’t stress! Haha easier said than done. Unfortunately, a buzzfeed quiz called what kind of lawyer should you be? does not exist. So you really have to take the time to think about what interests you. Has a particular topic caught your attention? Did you come to law school for a specific cause? Summer is really where you get back to your roots and remember (or discover) why you’re pursuing a law degree. But rest easy that what you do first year doesn’t have to set in stone your entire career–a friend interned for a policy agency one summer and then realized her passion was in being a trial attorney–you never know where your path may lead, so don’t ignore your options just because you think you wouldn’t enjoy an area. Figure out what you’d like your options to be—public interest, firm work, policy? Then start honing down the firms you want to work with—learn their deadlines and requirements so that you’re ready and not rushing to meet the deadlines.
Two. Work on your interview skills. If you don’t have a lot of experience interviewing (especially if you jumped from undergrad to law school) then you need to prepare for general questions. By practicing your answers to general questions now, you’ll be able to afford more time to research your specific firm/interviewers when it comes time to meet with them. Trust that it’s not enough to master the basic Qs—-the ugliest interview I ever had was with a Latino-based agency where the interviewer rudely kept suggesting I wasn’t Latina enough to work for them. I was completely dumbfounded and embarrassed—it was a disaster.
Now that I’m on the other side, I still don’t agree with her interviewing style, but I know I could have done better if I had had more time to research the agency and their very unique hiring style. Instead, I was barely practiced general questions which didn’t allow me enough time to learn about this agency’s methods. Fast forward a few years later, and I had learned my lesson—when I interviewed for a public defender position I knew going in what to expect because I had done my homework and had spoken to multiple public defenders who graciously gave me tips and suggestions. So when, during the interview, they asked me to do a mock arraignment I wasn’t surprised or nervous. Master the general stuff now so you can hone your skills.
Three. Get your money. If you’re with a firm you should expect to be paid for your experience and help. However, if you’re going down the nonprofit route, it’s likely you’ll have to piecemeal your finances with small scholarships/fellowships/loans. For those things you have to apply to—get the nitty gritty enough now so that you can prepare come application time. At my school, we had a public interest fellowship; the general rule was that the more you helped with their large fundraiser the more money you received (or at least you received greater consideration). If you didn’t know this then you could have missed out on a lot of chances to help, which diminished your chance at the money. All schools have little things like this—figure out what your school has to offer; your local bars etc. and start planning when and how you’ll apply for those things.
I KNOW that planning right now for something not due until November or even Spring 2016 seems super gunner-ish. I know it does. And I know no one wants to seem like they’re trying too hard, especially in law school where we’re all supposed to pretend everything comes easily and naturally. But, you will only harm yourself if you put off preparing. No one needs to know you’re practicing questions in your head during your commute; or that you’re starting to compare firms/agencies. Again, people like to act like they just fell into a great internship without disclosing how their parents networking helped them. If you don’t have those strings to pull, then you need to start hustling to put yourself in the best position possible this summer!