Research Assistant Worries

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273316
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Research Assistant Worries

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:45 pm

I know this topic has been discussed briefly before, but none of the old postings were very helpful... there seems to be a variety of opinions out there, so I was looking for some anecdotal evidence or relevant advice.

I'm a rising 2L at a T20 school, sitting right at top 15% (no word on journals/law review yet)

I have a good relationship with a named professor who is very well-renowned in his field and he asked me (pre-1L job search time) to be a research assistant for the summer. It's a 40 hr. a week gig with above average pay, so I readily accepted. My worry is the research she has me on is not particularly legally related (think historical or science research e.g.).

I guess I'm worried about 1) how being an RA will look at OCI? and 2) how penetrating their questions will be at OCI about my summer work?

Should I just stop worrying about it and do my best to spin the RA work and make it sound good? or try and hustle and find some small firm part-time thing before the summer is over?

I do have an externship lined up for the fall that will give me a lot of relevant "legal" experience, so will that mitigate the RA issues in the eyes of firms?

Thanks all.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273316
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Research Assistant Worries

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:39 pm

I'm in a similar situation, but working for a governmental organization doing policy research (not legal). I sent my resume to be reviewed by career services the other day and they seemed confused, like they didn't comprehend how or what my research is on. But at this point, I feel like it is what it is. And lots of people work as RAs, so it's not that out of place.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273316
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Research Assistant Worries

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I know this topic has been discussed briefly before, but none of the old postings were very helpful... there seems to be a variety of opinions out there, so I was looking for some anecdotal evidence or relevant advice.

I'm a rising 2L at a T20 school, sitting right at top 15% (no word on journals/law review yet)

I have a good relationship with a named professor who is very well-renowned in his field and he asked me (pre-1L job search time) to be a research assistant for the summer. It's a 40 hr. a week gig with above average pay, so I readily accepted. My worry is the research she has me on is not particularly legally related (think historical or science research e.g.).

I guess I'm worried about 1) how being an RA will look at OCI? and 2) how penetrating their questions will be at OCI about my summer work?

Should I just stop worrying about it and do my best to spin the RA work and make it sound good? or try and hustle and find some small firm part-time thing before the summer is over?

I do have an externship lined up for the fall that will give me a lot of relevant "legal" experience, so will that mitigate the RA issues in the eyes of firms?

Thanks all.


I worked as an RA my 1L summer for two professors, and I'm glad I did, to be honest.

- I have seriously solid recommenders. This helps tremendously for clerkships, especially if the professor you'll be working for has any connections to judges. You also can get to know other professors who are there over the summer; in my experience, professors share research assistants at times if they need help on a project.
- I got paid. I got to work from home. I only had to pay rent on one apartment since I stayed at home. All those things were really nice (although probably not at the top of your priority list).
- I ended up with three memos to use as writing samples. At times I wished I had something more "legal" to use than memos for my professors, but I honestly don't know if it made a difference at OCI and job hunting for 2L summer at all, or for my clerkship.
- I ended up with bizarre specialized knowledge that, coincidentally, I'm using at my 2L summer job right now.
- Right now at my 2L job, I'm learning that LRW was probably the most important class I took 1L year. Unfortunately, I learned nothing in LRW. Fortunately, I learned a lot about legal research and writing being an RA. If OCI interviewers ask about your RA summer job, this is something you can bring up.
- In my experience, no one really cared that I was an RA instead of a judicial intern/summer associate/PI/whatever my 1L year. Employers know that 1L year is a scramble to get whatever you can. As long as it's legal (and it is -- you're working for a law professor, even if the stuff he'll have you doing is more on the historical side) and you can talk about it in an interview, you're fine.

This isn't to say it's perfect. I think it's a good idea to get relevant experience doing "legal" things (clinics, externships, etc) as long as they don't get in the way of your grades, which WILL be the most important thing to interviewers. I had very little experience, but I built it up over 2L year. Of course, there was a corresponding drop in my GPA, because I overloaded myself, so be careful. But in general, I think you'll be fine with what you're doing.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273316
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Research Assistant Worries

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I know this topic has been discussed briefly before, but none of the old postings were very helpful... there seems to be a variety of opinions out there, so I was looking for some anecdotal evidence or relevant advice.

I'm a rising 2L at a T20 school, sitting right at top 15% (no word on journals/law review yet)

I have a good relationship with a named professor who is very well-renowned in his field and he asked me (pre-1L job search time) to be a research assistant for the summer. It's a 40 hr. a week gig with above average pay, so I readily accepted. My worry is the research she has me on is not particularly legally related (think historical or science research e.g.).

I guess I'm worried about 1) how being an RA will look at OCI? and 2) how penetrating their questions will be at OCI about my summer work?

Should I just stop worrying about it and do my best to spin the RA work and make it sound good? or try and hustle and find some small firm part-time thing before the summer is over?

I do have an externship lined up for the fall that will give me a lot of relevant "legal" experience, so will that mitigate the RA issues in the eyes of firms?

Thanks all.


I worked as an RA my 1L summer for two professors, and I'm glad I did, to be honest.

- I have seriously solid recommenders. This helps tremendously for clerkships, especially if the professor you'll be working for has any connections to judges. You also can get to know other professors who are there over the summer; in my experience, professors share research assistants at times if they need help on a project.
- I got paid. I got to work from home. I only had to pay rent on one apartment since I stayed at home. All those things were really nice (although probably not at the top of your priority list).
- I ended up with three memos to use as writing samples. At times I wished I had something more "legal" to use than memos for my professors, but I honestly don't know if it made a difference at OCI and job hunting for 2L summer at all, or for my clerkship.
- I ended up with bizarre specialized knowledge that, coincidentally, I'm using at my 2L summer job right now.
- Right now at my 2L job, I'm learning that LRW was probably the most important class I took 1L year. Unfortunately, I learned nothing in LRW. Fortunately, I learned a lot about legal research and writing being an RA. If OCI interviewers ask about your RA summer job, this is something you can bring up.
- In my experience, no one really cared that I was an RA instead of a judicial intern/summer associate/PI/whatever my 1L year. Employers know that 1L year is a scramble to get whatever you can. As long as it's legal (and it is -- you're working for a law professor, even if the stuff he'll have you doing is more on the historical side) and you can talk about it in an interview, you're fine.

This isn't to say it's perfect. I think it's a good idea to get relevant experience doing "legal" things (clinics, externships, etc) as long as they don't get in the way of your grades, which WILL be the most important thing to interviewers. I had very little experience, but I built it up over 2L year. Of course, there was a corresponding drop in my GPA, because I overloaded myself, so be careful. But in general, I think you'll be fine with what you're doing.


OP Here.

Thanks for this, it does make me feel a bit better. The professor will be a fantastic resource for clerkships and LOR if I ever attempt to go that route.

I am hoping that some clinics and/or externships will make up for not getting any real legal experience this summer. I'm really more concerned about how the firms view my work as an RA though. But then again, I am doing copious amounts of research and writing, even if it's not in strictly in "memo" format. As long as they don't spend a long time asking about the subject matter of my research, it should be a pretty easy spin.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273316
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Research Assistant Worries

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:43 pm

I was an RA and my pre-LS work experience sucked. Landed an SA at a selective DC firm. I don't think it will hurt you if everything else in your package is good.

Try to find a way to tie the research to some legal issue if you can. As long as you can hold a conversation about it you should be good.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.