Make the Most of Your First Law School Summer

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The most exhausting and intense part of law school is the first year, known as 1L. The seemingly endless flood of cases to read, the threat of being cold-called during class through the Socratic method, and the difficulty of adjusting to law school exams push many law students to their mental limits.

Those who make it through this crucible without dropping out should feel proud and relieved. They can look forward to a more manageable pace of work in the final two years of law school – at least, until they take on the bar exam.

As tempting as a long break may be at this point, it would be a shame to waste your first summer of law school. While summer positions after 1L year are unlikely to lead directly to postgraduate jobs, they can be a key steppingstone toward a legal career.

Here are four potential job opportunities for 1L students to consider in their first summer. 

Law Firm Summer Associate

Generally, recruitment for law firm positions takes place early in the second year, when students compete for summer associate positions in their second summer that can lead to job offers. Working at a law firm during your first summer can help you enter this process with clearer goals and a stronger resume.

If you are an aspiring private sector lawyer, don’t expect to land a summer position at the law firm of your dreams in your first summer. It can be hard to earn a place at a large law firm as a 1L. Cast a wide net and don’t be afraid to start at a lower-profile law firm. In fact, you may get more hands-on experience in a smaller office.

In job hunting, explore alumni networks and emphasize any prior experience or personal skills. For example, fluency in a foreign language may help you provide value to a legal office even if you are short of clinical experience

Intern With a Judge

Judges typically select recent law school graduates as clerks through a highly competitive process. However, many judges also offer internships or externships that provide an excellent opportunity to gain professional connections and experience in legal research.

Before taking such a position, make sure you will have an active role in the office. If you have the chance to do meaningful work, such as helping to research and draft judicial opinions, you will gain skills and experiences you can highlight on your resume or in job interviews

Public Interest Internship

Law schools with strong public service programs often offer career resources, fellowships, stipends and other help to support public interest work.

Even for applicants not interested in public interest advocacy in the long term, working for a public service organization in your first summer has advantages beyond the rewards of helping others. Such organizations tend to be short-staffed, so they welcome involvement. After a grueling 1L year, this hands-on work can be a refreshing change of pace.

Likewise, many government offices also offer great internships. While competition to work at federal agencies can be intense, overlooked state and local offices can provide excellent experience as well. 

Academic Research

If you are considering going into academia, reach out to professors in your field of interest to inquire about opportunities as a research assistant.

The world of legal academe is close-knit, and scholarly publications are crucial to advancement. Working with a professor will not only allow you to build up legal research skills but may provide you with a valuable mentor. 

Finally, if your first year went well, note that law school transfer application deadlines tend to fall early in the summer. The main factors for a transfer application are first-year grades, along with a transfer statement, resume and recommendation letter from law school professors. A good summer position is one of the few factors that can help a transfer applicant compensate for low grades.

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