Doomed to a life of law-temp jobs?
July 2, 2008 3:22 PM   Subscribe

It's now past the middle of my post-2L summer, and I have yet to find any kind of law-related job for the summer. Am I screwed?

I finished my second year of law school, and am still without a job. I attend a fourth-tier law school (was third-tier, but slid down in my 1L year) in a smallish mid-Atlantic city that's already pretty saturated both in terms of lawyers, and of law students from various schools looking for summer jobs. Even so, most of my classmates *do* have summer jobs at this point. I'm lucky to even get a call/email saying "no," and my most promising prospect to this point has been an interview with a legal staffing company, but there is no indication that I will be placed in a position any time soon.

I have a fairly poor law school G.P.A. and ranking (great grades from college, though), and no relevant work experience (went straight from college to law school).

What I'm trying to figure out is:

- What can I do to salvage this summer? I haven't even been able to land a volunteer position doing something legal-y.

- Is there hope for me in the law field once I graduate and pass the bar? How might I downplay my lack of experience, and summers spent not gaining law experience?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Go door to door to small law firms and volunteer to work for free. All it takes is to impress one person with your willingness to work and youve made a professional contact. Try to get something similar during the school year and work your from there. At this point jsut get out and do anything!
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:44 PM on July 2, 2008

The questions you are asking should really be asked of a counselor in your school's career services office. First off, they may be privy to some job openings that haven't been publicized yet or won't be at all. For example, the judge with whom I did my judicial clerkship (and who attended the law school I did) asks my former law school's career services office to find him a few good candidates for the law clerk position every year, and those are, for the most part, the only people he interviews. If nothing else, your CSO counselor may be able to clue you in to some local volunteer opportunities. She can also give you a better idea of how you lack of experience and other factors will come off to local employers after you've graduated.

But honestly, 4th tier school + poor law school grades + no summer job is not a good equation for success as a lawyer post-law school. I think your primary goal right now should be getting your grades way, way up your third year. Then you might be able to get away with the "I had a rough first few years of law school, I shouldn't have gone right after college, but I really got my head screwed on tight my third year and now I'm raring to go begin my career" rap in interviews for your first real law job post-grad.
posted by amro at 3:50 PM on July 2, 2008

IANAL, but I have many friends who are young lawyers as well as friends and acquaintances who attended law school and chose not to practice law anymore.

Maybe you should just keep on temping this summer at one of those doc review projects and after you're done with law school maybe you can get a job either in sales or client services for the software companies they use to review documents. I believe those guys get paid pretty well and have a lot of fun.

I'm pretty sure those guys do well for themselves. Also, you can do the temp doc review thing and maybe get an account executive position at any of the legal staffing agencies you go through to get the temp job. Get all buddy buddy with them.

Maybe if you take/have taken employment law-related classes, you can try to get a job in human resources. I know that some people with JDs end up being directors of human resources departments after they spend time working their way up the ladder. Maybe it would be even easier for you because of your legal background. Join SHRM or something.

I think, at this point, for any after law school planning, you just need connections into a new field. I have a lot of friends who are recent grads/young associates and I know that law firms, unlike other businesses, are very sensitive to GPA and school ranking. GPA is especially important if your school isn't a top school.

I know it might sting to hear this. I've heard too many stories about law students who screw up law school and, even if they get barred, they just don't get any offers at all. Whatever you do, don't waste time feeling bad about the couldas, shouldas, wouldas. Just concentrate on making a plan of success for a non-law related job. If you do that, I bet in another year's time, you'll surprise yourself with how great you'll do and how much happier you will be than your classmates.

Good luck!
posted by onepapertiger at 4:20 PM on July 2, 2008

Sounds like your prospects for a paying summer job are pretty slim.

You might gain valuable experience from just going down to the courthouse and trying to observe some trials, motion calls, etc. There will be lots of waiting around so bring lots of reading material. And much of what you see could be very, very boring but it probably beats sitting around at home (most days). If you can find a good (long) trial to observe you might get a lot out of that.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 4:24 PM on July 2, 2008

But honestly, 4th tier school + poor law school grades + no summer job is not a good equation for success as a lawyer post-law school.

I'm sorry but this is just bull.
Sure, it will be an uphill battle and the poster is right to encourage you to work harder 2d year but I know folks who graduated literally last in their class and still managed to have a successful career. At least one person I know was academically dismissed his first year, petitioned for re-entry and then finally graduated. He couldn't get a job so he temped at a few firms in his city. One day, he was home reading the paper (natch, since he was unemployed) and read about some labor dispute between baggage handlers at the airport in his hometown and the local airport authority (or something to that effect). He offered to take the case on contingency. He won these guys lots of money, continued his own practice and then helped put his wife through law school. Now they're both rolling in the dough. And this guy was straight out of central casting for slacker.

The suggestions to make cold contact with attorneys in your area is a very good one. Just send them a note along with a writing sample and tell them you'd like to gain some experience. It's only July. Assuming you're not starting back to school until mid- to late August, you still have tim to get maybe a two-week research project. I'm taking the bar in a new city and I have contacted a few attorneys and gotten warm responses from a few. All you need is one.

You might also try contacting a favorite professor from school to see if he needs some research help for a book or law review article. I did this for the last month of my summer after my 1L clerkship. The money was crap but I got a lot of experience and became close enough to the prof that I was able to use him post-law school for recs. I got my first (non-firm but law-related) with his help.

Finally, is there some type of pro bono law clinic in your area? Not Legal Aid but something like Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts? They might also need help with some research, drafting etc.

And ignore the naysayers ... especially those who haven't actually been to law school. Work hard. Find one class you enjoy. Make one good friend while in law school. Take bar-related classes and learn to at least tolerate schmoozing a bit. (You can go home and vomit later).

Good luck.

posted by notjustfoxybrown at 4:30 PM on July 2, 2008

But honestly, 4th tier school + poor law school grades + no summer job is not a good equation for success as a lawyer post-law school.

I'm sorry but this is just bull.

It's not bull. I didn't say that the poster has no chance, but he has created a very difficult road for himself and should be realistic about his options. If I thought he had zero chance I would have told him to drop out now. Also, I find it difficult to believe that you know more than one person who graduated last in his class at law school.
posted by amro at 5:03 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna take a stab and say you're at Widener Law. Just a guess.

In any case, I was in your boat. And now, 3 years out of law school, I have started my own firm and with very little advertising have a full plate of case work ranging the gamut from criminal defense to personal injury to custody. It is hugely challenging and admittedly, the money is not there yet, but I know within a year I will catch up, monetarily, with many of my law school peers.

Advice: do ANYTHING legal-related. Study hard in 3L. (Sucks, I know, but you gotta do what you gotta do.) And try to work in some fun this summer too, because next summer is going to be a killer studying for the bar.

If you have any other questions PM me. Best of luck!
posted by LilBucner at 5:55 PM on July 2, 2008

I'm gonna take a stab and say you're at Widener Law.

Ha, I had the same thought when I read the post.
posted by amro at 7:23 PM on July 2, 2008

I have no idea where I ranked in my law school (though I did okay - maybe 50-60th percentile), did nothing law related my first summer, took a year off in the middle to teach English in Japan, and then for my 3rd summer (4 year program) worked briefly (1 month) as a legal secretary. I graduated off tempo (from doing a semester abroad) so I didn't apply for articles until after everyone else. In fact, it took me almost a year to find a position with a sole practitioner - who didn't care about my grades, just my availability. So, things won't necessarily just fall into your lap, but a career in law is hardly out of the question. Best of luck.
posted by birdsquared at 8:09 PM on July 2, 2008

This may sound harsh, but the first thing that jumped into my mind was to ask whether you're really working your ass off. Despite great undergrad grades, you're in a tier 4 law school. Though money or geography may have played into your decision, it still suggests a poor LSAT score. You're also apparently not doing that well in law school. You're in competition with a bunch of Type A personalities who are doing their damnedest to succeed at this... are you?
posted by craven_morhead at 9:31 PM on July 2, 2008

Keep working. I had a problem in my 2L summer for some reason. I had something great for fall, but the summer fell through. I kept looking and got a job that led to my first associate position.

Don't listen to the haters, keep looking!
posted by Ironmouth at 11:28 PM on July 2, 2008

Here's one suggestion - go to your law library and talk to the director or head of public services (reference) and ask if they have any need for research assistants.

Depending on funding, they may or may not have money to pay you, but you could get great experience even just volunteering 10 hrs a week. You can pick up some great skills (legal research skills are something most law students overestimate their abilities with until they get into practice), and forge some networks within the library - don't forget, many law librarians know the local legal community and get solicited to recommend students/grads with good skills.
posted by dicaxpuella at 9:08 AM on July 3, 2008

You can still salvage a good line on your resume for the summer by being inventive and an entrepeneur. Two general approaches: (1) work really hard to write something that you might possibly publish and (2) be an entrepeneur, legal or otherwise. Volunteering is also an excellent strategy. Good luck.
posted by tonci at 2:08 PM on July 3, 2008

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