4 Tips for a Fantastic 1L Summer

Posted by Rob Barnett on 12/12/15 4:01 PM

Juneau Alaska (alaska-in-pictures.com)

It may be the dead of winter, but it’s fast approaching already: the 1L summer job search!  Your summer can be a lot of things: a chance to try the actual legal profession, a first step along the path to an eventual career, an opportunity to start building a resume and job connections, and a time to escape the confines of the law library and see the wider world.  It’s overwhelming… and probably even more so if it feels like everyone else knows exactly what they’re going.  (They don’t.)  But, with all of that in mind, here are some ideas for a great 1L summer.

1.  Pursue the public interest.

By now you’re surely familiar with the familiar paradigm: law school is expensive, public-interest jobs are hard to find after graduation, and most law school graduates end up in big law firms.  That may be the case, and most students spend their 2L summers working at the firms – but those same factors don’t apply to 1L summer!  Plus, many law schools have funding available to support 1Ls who choose to do unpaid public-interest work over the summer.  You won’t make much money, and it won’t be glamorous, but it is a unique opportunity to serve those people and causes who may not be able to serve themselves.  Go forth and change the world!

2. Think small.

Most law firms, government agencies, and other major employers are huge organizations that have hundreds of lawyers, support staff, and employees, each with clearly defined roles.  In the event that you intern (or work) in that sort of environment, chances are that you’ll fit neatly into one or two of those roles, and spend most of your summer in one particular legal area.  

But since you’re only starting on the path to choosing a legal career, now is the time to take in as much as possible.  Small firms and offices, especially in less popular legal markets, often deal with an extremely wide variety of cases and individuals – a variety that you won’t find elsewhere.  (Of course, other small practices are extremely specialized, but I’ll trust you to figure out the difference!) Plus, you’ll likely have much more responsibility in an office with 4 lawyers than with 400, or 4,000.  It may require a little more searching, but it’s your only 1L summer and I know you’re up to the task.  Find a small place that does lots of things, and do them all.

3. Find an opportunity your school doesn’t provide.

With an increasing demand for law school graduates with practical skills, law schools today are investing more than ever in clinics and other student-practice opportunities.  That’s great for you as a law student – lots of opportunity to experience the real work of the law.  Even so, the legal profession offers far more than any law school can provide… and your summer is a time to try a kind of advocacy that you might not be able to try in law school.  Go advocate for indigenous peoples, or work in a foreign country, or even find a general practice somewhere.  You can do the rest when you’re back on campus.

4.  Have an adventure.

As you look into the future and a promising legal career, you’re probably realizing that the opportunities to go explore and experience exciting new places are becoming increasingly scarce.  (There’s always the potential for a post-bar trip, but that’s a ways off.)  One of the great things about law is that it’s practiced (almost) everywhere, in countries and climates and cultures all around the world.  And I’m sure they’d all love to have an eager law clerk for the summer!  So pick a place on the map, look up a law office, and go explore.

BONUS: Go work for a large corporate law firm, helping big banks grow richer while the rest of the world falls apart around them.  Just kidding!  But follow tips #1-4 and you’re in for a great summer.

P.S. Is anyone wondering what I did with my 1L summer?  Well, I spent it in Juneau Alaska, working for a 3-person office of the Alaska Legal Services Corporation and working on disability benefits, family law, indigenous rights, consumer protection, trusts and estates, and probably a few other issues I can’t remember.  It was amazing.  But I know you can do better!

For more reading on law school, check out these posts: 6 Essential Law School Cases: a 1L's Guide, What is Constitutional Law: a 1L's GuideWhich Law School Movie Should You Trust? Paper Chase vs Legally Blonde. Looking to work with a law school tutor? Feel free to get in touch! Cambridge Coaching offers private in-person legal studies tutoring in New York City and Boston, and online tutoring around the world.

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