How does a 23 year-old 1L get a paying summer job?
December 10, 2010 9:17 AM   Subscribe

How can a law school 1L fresh out of college get a paying legal job if he has very little legal experience?

I am a 1L at a top 40 law school.
I did reasonably well in undergrad at a small liberal arts college in New England.
I am planing on working in the Connecticut area for this summer.
I need help finding out the best way to land a paying legal job despite my thin resume (its hard to have a full time job when all you ever have known is school)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure other people will write in, and I'm sure you've been told this, but it's unusual to get paid the summer after 1L. Might have to use federal work-study if you work at a public interest or government job during the summer.

I could be totally wrong though -- but at my school I'd say there was a high contingent of people who did not get paid for the summer after their first year.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 9:22 AM on December 10, 2010

I am planning on working in the Connecticut area for this summer.

As Adam Savage would say, "Well there's your problem." You have cut out something like 95% of the legal market in one fell swoop. Crazy!

Apply everywhere in the entire country that you could possibly stand to work, at least for the summer. Get cracking, right now, sending out thoughtful, customized cover letters along with your resume. Apply first, choose second.

Talk to your school's career services office. Call up you undergrad career services office, too. Ask everyone you know if they know any attorneys. If you know any attorneys, talk to them about their firm and their friends' firms. Leverage every last contact you can think of and then make some more contacts.

Watch this job search talk: "A Soup to Nuts Overview of a Job Search: A Common Sense Primer for Law Students" by Scott Kieff, a law professor at George Washington University (the talk was recorded while he was at Washington University in St. Louis). (Full disclosure: Kieff is a colleague, and the website hosting that video is the site of the project I work for).
posted by jedicus at 9:25 AM on December 10, 2010

This is what your law school's career office is for. We don't even know what kind of work you want to do, and you can't clarify this because you're anonymous.
posted by John Cohen at 9:28 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

State-school 3L here; I also went to law school straight out of undergrad. My 1L summer was spent working for an elder law non-profit for $10/hour (hey, it seemed like a lot to me, since my job during undergrad only paid $6/hour). I found it by searching my law school's symplicity page (for job listings), and I think I also did a google search for non-profits in the area in December. Of course, my legal job search was aimed at any sort of volunteer work as well, since I'd had no legal work experience and not even any exposure to attorneys at all before law school. I actually planned to volunteer at the elder law non-profit, but they offered me a paid internship instead. Check if your school provides stipends to students working for non-profits (I think my law school offers $1000 to qualifying summer interns in public interest positions).

I'm assuming you don't have your fall grades yet; be aware that OCI in the spring semester will be mostly reserved for the top of the class, and even those 1L students won't usually get hired unless they have an in at a firm. If you have any family connections, try to work those so you at least have a chance to volunteer in a legal related capacity. Honestly, the market sucks right now, and it will be really hard to get a paid 1L summer internship. If money is essential, you might have to work part time in a non-legal job, and just volunteer to get some experience.
posted by mesha steele at 9:37 AM on December 10, 2010

I'm assuming you don't have your fall grades yet

This is true, but don't let that stop you from starting the application process. Don't wait until after you have grades; it will be too late then. Trust me, your competitors (I mean, 'fellow students') are already sending out applications and likely have been for a couple of weeks. If you wait until your grades are in, the positions you're applying for will likely already be filled.
posted by jedicus at 9:43 AM on December 10, 2010

Yeah, jedicus is right that you have to get started right away, and can't afford to wait for grades to come out first; I was trying to emphasize that you can't sit back and wait for OCI to save you, since it's a shot in the dark for 1Ls anyway.

Start cranking out cover letters now, and practice your interviewing and networking skills whenever possible. Firms ask different interview questions, than non-profits or government agencies do. Also, invest in a good interview suit (that you'll probably need for moot court in the spring anyway).
posted by mesha steele at 9:53 AM on December 10, 2010

I wouldn't say it's out of the question, but you're really going to have to hustle to get a paying 1L job in this economy. Even when I was a 1L in ye olden days, it was somewhat uncommon at my T5 school for 1Ls to get a paying job. That said, I got a paying job with no legal experience as a 1L, and I did what basically everyone does--I went to career services, got down the NALP listings for my area and sent off a bunch of resumes and cover letters tailored to the shop (as it was mostly boutiques that were hiring 1Ls). In the end, I did labor and employment law for a summer--it was interesting stuff, but has nothing to do with what I do now. Personally, I don't think it matters what field you work in during your 1L summer, though if you have a particular career path in mind, it always helps to reinforce that message by working in that field after 1L.

I think at my school (and this might have been a NALP requirement or something), we couldn't start looking for jobs until 12/1. I started right away (you should, too, as jedicus suggests), and I think I got my job before most people started looking.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:53 AM on December 10, 2010

I agree with the idea that you need to broaden your geographical area if you're serious about getting paid as a 1L. If not, you're going to have to really work your connections if career services doesn't have anything. Be the first to apply at your local firms. Those few jobs will go fast.

If they're in the area, ask your family if they have any connections. They might know companies hiring in-house, if not law firms. My dad, who, as far as I knew, didn't know any attorneys, somehow had a friend-of-a-friend who was the hiring partner at a top law firm and was happy to make a call.

Do you have any interests or past part-time work experience that could help you? If you previously interned or worked part-time in an area with legal services needs, can you use that as a hook for a job? For example, if you had a marketing internship in undergrad, maybe call the company and see if corporate offers paid legal internships. If they don't, ask if they are aware of anyone who does. I know people who had music industry experience who went and interned for pay at record companies. What groups are you involved with at law school that might have connections? As an example, I was involved with the Japanese law society and got a 1L job through them at a firm in Tokyo that paid nicely.

Does the local bar association have any holiday parties or other functions coming up? It might be a good way to network locally.

As a last resort, I know people who did research work for professors over the summer, which paid, but not great.

Sorry for the very general advice -- I don't know what you want to do and I don't know your past experience to better tailor my answer.
posted by *s at 11:11 AM on December 10, 2010

Forgive me for being blunt. Even if this were an employee's job market, "top 40 law school", "reasonably" good grades, and "thin resume" simply would not comprise a golden ticket to a high-paying 1L summer job.

Broaden your search to places outside Connecticut, and aim for paid public-interest jobs (they exist), rather than spending your time and energy trawling for a summer associateship that's not realistically going to happen.

The experience you'll get doing public interest work can be parleyed into a higher-paying summer job after your 2L year.
posted by foursentences at 12:06 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

1) You probably aren't going to get paid. Paying gigs for your first summer were rare in the boom times. Now they're basically unheard of unless you know someone.

2) This is why your law school has a career services office. Go straight down there and tell them your situation. They'll hook you up with information. Not a job, mind you, but information you can use for your job search.
posted by valkyryn at 1:16 PM on December 10, 2010

Also, foursentences is right: top-40? I mean, sure, it's still tier 1, but I went to a top-25 school and the job market was (and is) still brutal. More than half of my class graduated without jobs. I highly doubt that your school is going to have a better experience. You need to get a better estimate of your own value immediately.
posted by valkyryn at 1:18 PM on December 10, 2010

Look into document review jobs.
posted by Pants! at 1:22 PM on December 10, 2010

It's hard to get a paying job your 1L summer. You can split jobs, too, since employers know and understand that you have to feed yourself during law school. I worked for a court, and for a professor as a research assistant.

You should consider asking your professors if they will require a research assistant. Are their any you know well? You can make like, 10-12 dollars an hour (yeah, not very good but it pays the bills), do generally interesting work, and hone your research skills. I actually feel like I got a lot out of my summer. I'm very comfortable doing legal research now, poking around Westlaw/Nexis as well as the good ole' stacks, and this is a valuable skill. You can also say that you've gotten to help with a research project that will be some interesting/new area of law.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 2:22 PM on December 10, 2010

"there" not "their". sorry!
posted by HabeasCorpus at 2:25 PM on December 10, 2010

I wish you all the best, but as a 1L at a top-ten school with three years' prior work experience, I have no expectation of getting paid employment this summer, and that seems to be true for the vast majority of my class, and was pretty much what we were told to expect by the career services people. Sorry to pile on, and I hope I'm wrong, but you may be asking a question that can't be affirmatively answered.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:41 PM on December 10, 2010

Apply now; don't wait for the end of the semester or for grades to come out. If you have any connections you can exploit, do that. Otherwise, just hope for the best-- and please realize that it's in fact very unlikely that you will get a paid 1L summer job.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:22 PM on December 10, 2010

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