For many 1Ls, you’re about a month away before you’re able to really start applying for summer jobs. I remember during my first 1L semester not really understanding the importance of looking for work that was still months away. I mean, how could I know the importance when I was still just a few months into law school and had no idea how the process really worked? I knew that people starting applying in the fall, but that seemed so silly to me—surely this could wait until spring, right? I totally didn’t know the ins and outs of summer jobs and how the “good” positions are offered before the year even ends—and if you want stipends or some financial assistance, then you have to be quicker than quick. I didn’t know any of that, which is why I ended up still not having anything until April and having to take a summer course to survive on student loans for the summer.
Thankfully, it worked out. My summer job opened the door (and my mind) to immigration, but I don’t encourage anyone to be as ill-planned as I was that year.
Instead, if you’re a new law student, you need to realize that your first summer job is important—but not so important that if you don’t get into the one thing you want or realize you hate your position that you’re doomed. Rather, your first job is a huge stepping stone into the legal community and you want to do your best to get a position that 1) introduces you to that legal community, 2) shapes your legal skills, and 3) is something you can parlay into another position. I would say for most Latina law students, who do not have the same resources or networks as other mainstream students that should be your focus.
But deciding where to apply can be paralyzing– Private or Public? Government or Legal Aid? Small Boutique or Big Law? Research or Travel? It’s a big decision, but remember that whatever you opt to do, your first job won’t cement your career path. You can decide to never pursue that area of law again because (once more) your goal isn’t to get a job in that exact firm, but to get to know the legal community, shape your skills, and make yourself a better candidate for future opportunities. Don’t sweat too much over what you actually end up doing, just make sure you’re applying early and to positions that actually hold your interest.
At the same time, don’t close yourself off to opportunities. Keep an open mind. A lot of us (myself included) are on the Never Firm Life, which is cool and worked out for me, but unless you truly know in your heart of hearts that a certain path in law is not for you, then at least take a moment to consider it. You may end up finding your calling in the law– or you may hate it, but at least then you’ll know for certain that only X practice area is truly for you.
Just as important, don’t make things harder on yourself. I remember someone commenting that they purposefully decided to not apply for a minority-focused clerkship program because they didn’t want to seem like they needed the “extra” help—they wanted to get admitted as a clerk on their merits. Like, ok you do you, but those programs are in place because the law is super conservative and struggles with diversity like woah. Likely students of color would never get in based on our merit because of implicit bias and that’s why these programs exist. Never mind the fact that a mainstream legacy son/daughter would never eschew the help from parents/family friends to get a job! So when a door is opened for you—go through it, forget what people think because once you’re in the job, you’ll do stellar and that will help you get an even better position in the future. Lean on your network and take up opportunities when you see them.
I’m hopeful that if you start planning now that by Thanksgiving all you have to worry about is finals!
How did you end up getting your first summer job?