DC Externship or Law Review Editor?

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Law Review or DC Externship?

Law Review as an Editor
DC Externship
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DC Externship or Law Review Editor?

Postby diamonddave » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:13 pm

I'm a 2L at a mid tier 1 law school, and suffering through my first year on law review. While I really do not like law review, it turns out I am really good at it, especially cite-checking/bluebooking (which are pretty worthless skills I hear outside of L. Rev.). That said, it appears that I have a shot at one of the higher-up editor positions (probably not EIC as I haven't played enough politics, and purposely try not to socialize with a lot of my classmates/colleagues). Grade-wise I am a victim of the curve; law review is the strongest credential I have.

At the same time, our university just opened a DC externship program, and I have a strong interest in politics; law is interesting and tolerable, but politics and public policy are what I am really passionate about (have been into it since I was about 7 or 8 years old). I have always looked at a law degree as a tool to help understand politics and policy, and the legal issues that enter this field. Long-term, I would like to do policy work/lobbying/think tank work in DC.

Next year I can either stay on law review as an editor (hopefully high level), or I can go to DC and do the externship program,
get real experience, and make connections (I'm politically connected in my home state; my do not have many connections in DC). No matter what, I will have law review on my resume. Again my grades aren't great, and I'm at a T30.

My question is whether it would be more worthwhile to go to DC for the externship, or do law review next year as an editor? Thoughts?

If I don't go straight into politics/policy after graduation, I would strongly prefer a big law firm/clerkship. Nonetheless, the economy is down, and big law jobs are hard to come by. That said, the downturn might be a good excuse to go straight into the career field that if I did big law, I would plan on going into in 10-20 years (or running for office, but only douche bags tell people/strangers that someday they're going to run for office). The only reason I have any interest in big law is for the money.

If money did not matter, I would take the policy/politics route in a heartbeat. Nonetheless, I feel like I might be wasting a talent/prestigious opportunity if I pass on being an editor for law review next year.


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Re: DC Externship or Law Review Editor?

Postby DCLabor25 » Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:22 pm

As somebody who worked in DC at a prestigous think tank before coming to law school, let me just give you my two cents.

DC is largely about connections -- honestly, people really don't care that much about where you went to school or what grades you got or any of the stuff that matters a lot in law school (I went to a decent private university and had very good grades in undergrad but it was never the reason I got a job at the places I did) -- what matters much more is if you have connections and if you can bring some tangible skill to the table (i.e. real knowledge about some acrane congressional topic like the budget, education, health care). So -- in that respect -- if you have zero experience in DC or the policy world, I think the DC externship is the better choice. It can probably open some doors for you, especially if you really dedicate yourself to the schmoozing, hand-shaking, etc. that is required of that world.

That being said -- let me just add a word of caution. The think tank world is very interesting and I feel privileged to have worked in that world for a part of my life -- but you will literally make no money (try half of what even lowly attorneys start out making, with the added expense of living in DC which is uber expensive), and there will be probably zero chances for advancement. Look at any website of the major think tanks -- you have a lot of people with really impressive bios. You might have some underlyings -- and you might not even see these underlying listed at other thinks because at most think tanks these low-lecel people are simply not important enough to mention and usually leave within two years. Very, very, very, few people "advance" in the think tank world. They work for a year or two and then pursue other opportunities. I would say that lobbying is even more difficult to break into -- you might (if the stars align the right away) get a very entry level job at a lobbying firm, making basically no money again. In order to do "real" lobbying you must have real connections -- it's like being a partner at a firm. You have to bring clients or connections or both. The other option of course is to go work on the Hill -- but here again the money is basically nothing. In fact, you could be working for free as an intern before you find a real job. And that is even considering that you can get a job on the Hill -- from everything friends of mine have told me, finding jobs there is tougher than ever right now because of the cutbacks everywhere else.

I am not saying this to burst your bubble -- I am just trying to offer you some reality. It's entirely possible that you could do the DC externship program, get a little bit lucky, and find a job (it still will probably not pay well). But you might not either and that's something you should consider in making this choice.

I am not sure which school you are at -- but obviously you have to know about all of the doom and gloom job prospects in big law now. I don't know how in the world you would get into biglaw if you weren't lucky enough to get a job at OCI -- and if your grades are not good, I doubt you would have a very good chance at a clerkship. I know people at my school that were top 5% and did not get clerkships.

I would take law review if you are sure you want to be a lawyer. It doesn't sound like that's what you want to do. Thus, I ultimately think the externship is the wiser course, but you should also be aware of the risks inherent in taking that path and the realization that it might not pan out exactly as you want.

If you have other questions about DC, please feel free to pm me. I am happy to help.

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Re: DC Externship or Law Review Editor?

Postby steve_nash » Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:47 pm

Last edited by steve_nash on Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: DC Externship or Law Review Editor?

Postby Cavalier » Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:55 pm

Are you going far?

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