TLS was very helpful to me about a year ago, and I feel the need to pay it forward. Let me caveat this by saying that I did not light the world on fire, i.e., I was not #1 in my class like some of the folks that have posted advice things on here. I did, however, have a good time my 1L year while doing well enough to transfer to the T14. So if you are gunning for numero uno, you might want to research some of the other posters on here that achieved that rank (Arrow, JayCutler’s Combover and XEO spring to mind).
I finished top 6% at a T30. I have been accepted as a transfer to at least one T14 as of right now and waiting on a couple of others. I graded onto the flagship law review. I am working for a major state supreme court this summer and turned down some good opportunities to do so. This poast will cover 0L prep, first semester, second semester (there is a difference between the two), the job search and the transfer process.
I can offer you no advice on the LSAT aside from study like it is the most important test of your life (because it is), take practice tests until you are dreaming in parallel reasoning and give yourself 31 mins per section while practicing instead of 35 because it goes faster on gameday.
My views may be slightly unorthodox but they worked for me.
If you have any questions, PM me or ask them here and I will answer.
This will be broken down into the following sections:
1. 0L Prep
2. First Semester
3. Second Semester
5. 1L Summer/Employment
6. The Transfer Process
I am of the opinion that 0L prep is exceptionally important. Without my regimen of preparation during the summer months before law school, I would not be where I am today. This prep includes lowering the golf handicap, working on a tan, spending significant amount of time on various beaches, traveling, going to concerts, working out routinely, the consumption of alcohol and, perhaps most importantly and always the first thing to go, pleasure reading.
Anyone that reads hornbooks, E&E books, or does anything besides peruse this site for advice posts needs to have their heads examined. Perhaps this is what it takes to do super well, like number one in your class well, but I don’t think so. I actually went to school with a handful of kids that took this approach and I am almost certain that none of them did better than me.
The reason behind this is a simple but oft forgotten truism about law school: you are not learning the law, you are learning the professor. You are learning the professor because the only thing that matters is that 4 hour typingfest that occurs 15 weeks after your Civ Pro professor explains what a pleading must contain. The E&E may say that IIED has 3 major elements, the hornbook might say 4, the casebook may also say 4 but if your professor says IIED doesn’t even exist, then by all means, IIED does not even exist. Each semester of law school should be treated the same way that a top notch appellate lawyer would prepare a case in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Imagine that the first 11 weeks are sort of like discovery, 4 weeks are crunch time and the finals period are the days leading to the actual oral argument. The final itself is the actual show. Now imagine that you are catering that entire argument to one justice and one justice only which is often the case with SCOTUS. The appellate lawyer would be spending that entire time framing the facts and shaping the arguments to suit that one justice. Everything would be viewed in that lens because that is what will work. Each law school class should be treated the exact same way. You need razor vision to determine what the professor wants, likes and needs and that needs to influence your outlining process, your exam practice, your note taking and, on the day of the exam, how you write the 8,000 words that will determine your future.
When you have this philosophy, you realize the folly of 0L prep. You are reading things entirely out of the only context that will matter- what is important to your professor. You don’t know your professors yet, you don’t know what will make them tick, thus, I see no reason to start the preparation process. It would be like the aforementioned appellate lawyer researching the entire spectrum of caselaw without knowing what he is even arguing. Yes, you are going to take contracts, torts, etc., but, I am telling you, the way you will be learning torts will be different than the 100 people in the classroom next to you. This is so much the case that they might as well be thought of as completely different classes.
I cannot for the life of me imagine teaching myself promissory estoppel last summer. Microsoft Word doesn’t even know what “estoppel” is, how the heck would I have figured it out? Even if I sort of figured it out, I would have figured out the E&E way, not my professor’s way. I am certain it would have hurt me, not helped me. Stay far away from substantive 0L prep.
One thing I will recommend is making a study calendar. You will have 15 weeks from the beginning of classes to the final. Plot those out on a piece of paper or two and begin visualizing the class as a semester in its entirety, not a day at a time. Denote when you will begin taking practice exams (I recommend 4 weeks before finals), when you will begin outlining (I started week 1, both semesters), and when it shuts down for serious business (four weeks before the finals period). Mark down when you have your classes so you begin to get a view of how much time you will have during the weeks to study. Any 1L that says he/she doesn’t have enough time has clearly never worked a real job. All you have as a 1L is time. Sometimes it takes plotting it all out to realize that.
Another thing to get ready is the work stuff. The NALP deadline is November 1, there is a HUGE advantage to having your stuff ready to go by then. This really doesn’t require much. Get a few generic cover letters ready to go and have the resume dusted off and sharp. Begin searching places you might want to work. I will go into more detail later but I think that 0L prep is a farce for the most part.
State the facts of Hawkins v. McGee. Now. The first law school related scene of The Paper Chase is telling. Some crazed professor putting a visibly shaken 1L on the spot within the first 4 seconds of law school is pretty much standard issue for most 1L classes (at least this was the case for me). What you are getting is an immediate introduction to one of the most pervasive pitfalls to ever hit law students- razor sharp focus on the facts and cold calling to the detriment of the bigger picture.
Nobody wants to look like an idiot and certainly nobody wants to look like an idiot in front of 100 of their closest friends who are internally somewhat hoping they don’t get called on and/or that the person that does get called on sounds like an idiot. Getting cold called is not a fun process and can be greatly exacerbated when one has not prepared for class. So, to wage battle against this fear, you will see a flurry of 1L’s armed to the teeth with their chosen arsenal, typically several different shades of highlighter, feverishly reading cases, preparing themselves for Socratic warfare. Notice you don’t see any 2L’s or 3L’s doing this. The reason for this is simple- how you do when you are called on does not matter. Not one iota. Not one scintilla. There is such a thing as blind grading in law school, the whole thing comes down to the final exam, not how you did the day you were called on for the Dudley Stephens incident.
The sooner you realize this, the better. You can free yourself from the shackles of using orange for the facts, yellow for the holding, burnt sienna for dicta, purple for publishers notes, turquoise for page numbers and magenta for precedent. Some might differ with me on this- they may tell me that you get a bump for good participation but I disagree. My contracts professor loved me, I visited office hours, we got along exceptionally well, I participated in class frequently, I was good. I missed getting an A by 1 point out of 100. No bump. I beg to differ on the whole “bump” thing.
So how should one prepare? I am a big proponent of seeing the big picture right off the bat and understanding how it all fits together. Your first step is to get a good note taking application for your computer. Some folks advocate taking notes by hand which I strongly considered for a time. The reason I think this winds up being a bad idea is that class is really the opportunity to get to the know the professor better, get inside their heads and develop an understanding for what they might ask on an exam. The only way to do this is to type down what they say. Quickly. Handwriting would not allow one to capture the nuance nearly as well. I recommend using Microsoft OneNote. In OneNote, you will have the chance to create one overall “notebook,” similar to XEO’s advice, call this “First Semester.” Then create a subheading for each class (K’s, Torts, Crim Law, ConLaw, whatever).
This is the key- within that subheading, create 4 tabs: notes, cases, outline and professor. Under notes, this is where you type down your non-case notes as you read your casebook. Under cases, I suggest briefing every case. It is a pain in the rear but it teaches you how to pay close attention to what matters. Here is an example of a case briefing that I feel is relevant because it skimps on the facts and focuses on the holding:
People v. Fuller
California Court of Appeal, Fifth District, 1978.
86 Cal.App.3d 618, 150 Cal.Rptr. 515.
• D had robbed several parked vans in broad daylight on a Sunday at no risk to humans
• D was spotted by police, attempted to evade for 10-12 minutes of a high speed chase, struck another car at an intersection killing the driver.
• Trial court struck the count of felony murder
• Appeals court reverses, upholds felony murder
• If D did not have the intent to kill, can this still be murder?
Holding and Rule
• CA felony-murder statute: "All murder which is committed in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate arson...burglary, is murder of the first degree." Intent does not matter.
• Had the mens rea for the felony, have the mens rea for felony murder.
This is a basic criminal law case dealing with felony murder. Get the facts out of the way very quickly- some people might go into huge depth on these but I think that would be a waste of time. The key is the second bullet of the holding and the rule: “Had the mens rea for the felony, have the mens rea for felony murder.” Now, assuming you did all the reading before class which is absolutely crucial, you will have cases and notes in black font on your “notes” and “cases” portion of your notebook. These are notes you have taken. When you get to class, you need to add in what the professor says. I suggest that everything the professor says be typed on the same page as your notes in red font instead of black. This allows you to quickly see what the professor focused on and to be able to use the professor’s own words which is the critical piece of doing well on the exam (in my opinion).
At the end of the week, you will have this monster document (notes and cases) filled with black and red font. I would take my Fridays after class and a workout and start outlining. Grab the hornbook for the class, and begin condensing what you took notes on during the week into the “outline” tab of your notebook. This process of merging the red font and the black font is quite helpful and allows you to really see what the professor keyed in on. Anything that requires extra help- turn to the hornbook (more on this later) and pepper that stuff in for flavor as you make the outline. The outlining process is a painful one, especially on a Friday, and took hours. However, if you stick with it and do it consistently once a week, you will have these things buttoned up by the time everyone else is just starting theirs and can move on to practice exams while everyone else is just outlining. This is a distinct advantage.
The other tab I mentioned is the “professor” tab. In this tab, you write down anything the professor mentioned, gave deference to, focused on, etc., that you think could be relevant for the exam. If they begin a sentence with “If this were to come up on the exam…” it goes in that tab. If they talk about their love of class actions, note that in the tab. If they begin saying how long the exam is going to be, what kind of questions they will ask, etc., put it in there. This becomes your intelligence document for the final. If you pay close enough attention to this now, it will pay you back in spades later. You will hit that professor tab 2 weeks before the final and will remember that the professor paid close attention to a little nuance in one case in the third class. These are the sorts of little nuggets that differentiate the A’s and the A-‘s and you can basically keep a running log of them throughout the semester by using that tab.
So you have a blueprint for how to set up the notebook and remember, case briefs/notes build outlines, outlines build exam answers, exam answers build your entire future. It is good to look at it that way. How does the actual timing of this work? I look at each semester like the 10,000m race in track and field. It isn’t a marathon but it also isn’t a sprint. It is a race that becomes 100% dependent on strategy and a plan. The people that go out too fast will burn out and not finish. The people that try to mimic others are also going to fail because those folks have a training regimen that works for them and may be very uniquely tailored to their individual situation, thus leading to burnout for another. You need a very personal plan with one caveat- have enough in the tank to give yourself a massive “kick” for the last 400-800 meters (the finals period).
Divide the semester in thirds. The first third is spent getting to know your classes, getting to know your routine and getting to know your professors. Go to office hours but go in there with a specific question. Do not, I repeat, do not allow yourself to be that person that corners them at the lectern at the end of every class. Nobody likes that person including the professor. You are reading all the cases before hand, doing all the necessary work, focusing on the big picture, and outlining at the end of the weeks. I would consider taking your outline into your professors at the end of week 5 or so and asking them if they would mind flipping through it at a high level to ensure that you are on the right path. They will almost always oblige this and it lets them know that you are serious. They appreciate this as long as you don’t take up much of their time (say 30 mins). You can go out and have a great time during the first 5 weeks. Here is the weekly routine for those first 5 weeks:
Monday: Class all day, relax during breaks, gym immediately after class, library until 9 or 10, go home.
Thursday: Same + go out at night
Friday: Same + outline at the library and then go out
Saturday and Sunday: do ALL of the reading/briefing/note taking for the week ahead.
A few things to notice here. First, you are going out a solid 2-3 nights a week. This is fine. You need to meet your friends, you need to blow off some steam, you need to have a grasp of the flow of law school which includes the social side. Second, the routine is the same every day. This is very important. Law school is all about routine and once you find a good one (a balance of study, socializing, working out), stick with it and don’t deviate. Third, doing all the work over the weekend. This chews up hours like nobody’s business but I knew that I would be more likely to do “assigned work” on the weekends than “self study” because I can have trouble being disciplined. Yes it will suck being locked in there all day but it will pay off. Fourth, I did not make good use of my breaks in between classes and I admit that. However, I was much better about using library time than the hordes of others that spent 80% of it on Facebook. It’s a balance.
Once the second third of the semester hits, this is where you need to turn it up a little bit. Maybe going out once a week now. The first legal writing memo might be due. A chill might be in the air. This is also the time to begin really looking at old exams and getting a sense for what the professor asks. If the exam is open book, this changes things. If your legal writing class is pass/fail, you shouldn’t be spending anything more than 2 hours a week on it. Seriously. But this is the time where doing the work on the weekends comes up big because you spend the time during the weeks polishing. Having trouble nailing down something in k’s? Give it a day with a hornbook and you will figure it out. These are what the library nights are for during the weeks. At this point, you should be tightening up those outlines and getting all the little pearls of wisdom from the hornbooks into them. This is another golden opportunity to visit your professors once again with a checklist in tow- ask them anything you are still hazy on. Start printing out your outlines and reviewing them during these nights too.
The final third is what separates people. At this point, you have to shut it down completely. No going out, no monkeying around. Serious time. Four weeks into finals (by this I mean the finals period itself, not an individual final), you need to start ripping through practice exams. Even if an exam is closed book, take the exam with your outline because you probably wont have it memorized yet. Get a few answers out (under timed conditions) and ask your professors if you can meet with them to go over ONE exam answer. You may attach the answer to your email. They will give you very good feedback (in most cases) which will let you know if you are on the right path. At this point you need to spend your every waking moment either reading your outline (to memorize it regardless of whether the exam is closed book or open book), doing practice exams and staying current for day to day class. It is a bear but this is where the “kick” comes in. Those that were staying in, pulling all nighters in week 1 are going to burn out. Those that were attempting to stay with the pack, highlighting like a crazy person, pulling library hours because they know others are pulling them (and facebooking) and those that are now just starting to outline, etc., are now in serious trouble. But you with the plan- you are golden. You are peaking now, you have shifted the tables. While everyone else is still on the “input” side of the equation (reading, making outlines) you are on the “output” side (writing exams). The shift is critical because your only output of the whole year happens on exam day so the sooner you cross this threshold in your preparations, the better.
A word or two on exams.
If an exam is closed book, you need to have everything memorized which requires copious amounts of time spent with your outline. Some people brag about the length of their outlines, how they reduced Torts to 15 pages. If the exam is closed book, who cares how long the outline is? The outline doesn’t need to be functional in this case, it does, however, need to have everything in it. My closed book outlines ranged from 75-100 pages depending on the class. I would then reduce this outline into a more functional outline that only contained the black letter law- stuff that I absolutely had to memorize. This condensing process forced me to pull the major stuff out of my larger outline but I had to pay attention to the small things in the process as well. It isn’t enough to just memorize the BLL, you have to know the small things and the nuance too.
Open book exams are a different story. Open book exams require you to create a HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL outline that you organize to meet your needs on test day. This means canning some answers so that you can type the answer directly into the exam on test day (or at least the intro) and also making notes of what the professor wants to hear. For example, I knew that my conlaw professor loved talking about individual SCOTUS justices. To the furthest extent possible, I referenced individual justices by name when talking about what the Court has done on certain issues in the past. I could have memorized this but it was helpful to have it in an easy-to-flip-to location in my open book outline. This means creating a tabbed binder, a table of contents and a checklist to ensure that you hit every potential item on a particular answer.
For example, here is my Conlaw checklist. I would look at this before and after answering to ensure that I hit everything I needed to:
1. READ THE QUESTION STEM CAREFULLY
2. PLOW ALL GROUND- LEAVE NO WORD UNUSED
3. STATE THE RULE, APPLY THE RULE
4. LIMITS OF FEDERAL POWER:
a. CHECK THE ENUMERATED POWERS (TABBED)
b. WHERE IS THE POWER FOR THIS DRAWN FROM?
ii. COMMERCE CLAUSE?
c. SUPREMACY CLAUSE/NECESSARY AND PROPER
5. COMMERCE CLAUSE
a. HAS CONGRESS REGULATED ANY SORT OF ACTIVITY THAT IS NOT BORNE OUT OF THEIR ENUMERATED POWERS?
b. IS THIS THE BASIS FOR A LAW?
i. IS THE EXECUTIVE MAKING THAT LAW AND USURPING CONGRESS?
ii. PULL IN SEPARATION OF POWERS
6. 10TH AMENDMENT ISSUES (APPLY TO ANY CONGRESSIONAL ACT)
a. ARE THEY COMANDEERING A STATE?
b. PULL IN SEPARATION OF POWERS
7. DORMANT COMMERCE CLAUSE
a. ANY STATE LEGISLATION
b. MARKET PARTICIPANT? PUBLIC DUTY?
8. P&I- APPLY TO ALL INTERSTATE ISSUES NO MATTER WHAT
9. SEPARATION OF POWERS- WORK IN PREEMPTION DOCTRINE
a. POTUS DOING SOMETHING? DOES HE HAVE THE POWER?
10. SUBSTANTIVE DP
a. HAVE YOU ALSO APPLIED P&I
11. EQUAL PROTECTION
a. HAVE YOU ALSO DONE A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS ANALYSIS?
b. HAVE YOU LOOKED AT P&I
Conlaw was my lone A+ of 1L year but I think the lessons apply to any class with an open book exam. There was simply no way I was going to miss an issue with this checklist. Not only would I hit the issue, but I would do an in-depth analysis that was intimately tied to the facts in the question stem.
I found that a good way to approach an exam question is as follows:
1. State the spotted issue
2. State what law/rule you are going to be applying
3. Apply it TO THE FACTS AS PRESENTED, CONSTANTLY REFERENCING THE FACTS
4. Argue the other side using such words as “D will have an uphill battle but could plausibly argue X” or “Though a long shot, D will argue X”. Even if it appears that the other side has no leg to stand on, you still need to argue their side.
5. Never be conclusory. Even on a slam dunk question, do not, under any circumstances, make a conclusion that is anything other than “on the facts as given, it appears that P has a strong case for IIED” or something like that. Don’t make conclusions no matter how tempting it may be.
6. Pepper in the stuff from your “professor tab” or overall policies. You need to do this to separate yourself. Here are some halfway decent examples of this:
a. “Though this is a race-notice jurisdiction, there is the potential that the court will penalize the prior purchaser for failing to duly record in a timely fashion. In the 27 race-notice jurisdictions in the United States, courts are more inclined to punish the prior purchaser for failure to record instead of punishing the subsequent purchaser for failing to expend significant resources to do an exhaustive search.”
b. “Though the SCOTUS has yet to determine whether health care is a fundamental right, when viewed through the lens of ordered liberty, there is a case to be made that the Court may embrace it though the lawbooks are certainly not mono-vocal on the issue.”
c. Anything law and economics related is usually pretty good. You can talk about Carroll Towing all day and night if you want.
Another important sticking point is to pay close attention to time. First semester, I got in the horrible pattern of talking ad naseum about some minor issue and realizing that I had chewed up both minutes and words without going into as much depth on a larger issue. You need to pay very close attention to this when you take your exams and spend more time strategizing your answer than just typing. If you have all day to chop a tree down, you would be wise to spend a good chunk of it sharpening your axe (Lincoln put this better than I did).
You need to start looking at your professor’s old exams very early in the process to get a sense for how they ask things. If the exam is multiple choice, god help you. If it is open book, that changes the way you structure your outline. If the exam is closed book that changes how you study. You need to know these things early and have them in your head from the get go.
On the day of the exam, I recommend wearing ear plugs and ignoring the rest of the room before the test starts. Everyone will be chattering and annoying, I loved my classmates but gameday is gameday, you need to tune them out and keep your head clear. During the exam, sadly much of law school just straight up comes down to who can type the fastest so it behooves you to get quick in a hurry. After the exam, don’t talk to anyone about the test. This is counterproductive and will either make you feel terrible or undeservedly good. You did your job, move on to the next one.
As much as I would like to tell you that effort correlates with grades, I am not sure about that. My lowest law school grade was in the class I absolutely prepared for the most and hardest. My highest grade was in the class I loved the most. I also got an A in a class I barely touched. There is often no rhyme or reason but I will tell you to avoid the self fulfilling prophecies. I hated Class X that gave me my lowest grade and feared it from the very start. On the flip side, I loved Conlaw and knew I would do well. Try to find a glimmer of something to be excited about in every class because it helps motivate you to do your best.
Second semester is different because it separates the men from the boys. You can distinguish yourself in the first semester by coming to websites like this and learning some tricks of the trade. Even in this day and age of ubiquitous sites like this one, your classmates will not have visited and you will be at an advantage.
Second semester is different though. People have a better understanding of what they need to do to do better. A solid chunk of folks will have killed themselves last semester, done poorly, and will quit trying. This is inevitable. A fair number of folks will have killed themselves first semester, done well and lay off it a little bit second semester and wind up doing worse. This is also inevitable. But beware the third group- the kids that did well or well-ish but not as well as they wanted to. They will gun harder than ever and it will be very noticeable.
Since so much of law school is just about Cal Ripken-esque consistency, my goal for you is that you will have established your patterns very well in the first semester and will just repeat them second semester with a few changes. First, visit every first semester professor to go over your exam. This is critical. Even if you got an A, you need to hear why you got that A and the professors will be exceptionally candid about it. This is so important to do, everyone says they are going to do it and then, lo and behold, few if any actually will follow through on it. This isn’t just “check the exam” this is “sit down with the professor and go through it.” It is painful as can be but this is your one chance for true feedback on the exam taking process.
Once you have done this, you now will approach things a bit differently in the second semester. My key takeaway from meeting with my professors was that I was very good at writing exam answers but did not go into as much detail as I should have on some larger issues. If the question is an onion, my A- answer in a few classes peeled back a boatload of layers but the A answer left nothing on the table. So second semester, instead of pounding out practice answers (which is really just an exercise in exam writing) I decided to spend my time really honing and memorizing my outlines to ensure that I would have the ammunition to peel the onion all of the way back on test day. This isn’t to say that practice exams are overrated. There is a very valuable lesson to be learned in shifting your brain synapses from input to output on the material and practice exams are your sole opportunity to make that shift. But once you have figured out how to write those exam answers, it is time to make sure that you have enough arrows in your quiver to deploy effectively on test day which means spending a whole lot of hours with your outline. The second thing I learned was to manage my time better which meant spend slightly more time strategizing on what parts of a fact pattern to really drill hard instead of just typing like a banshee. I think this is why I went from primarily A-‘s to A’s during my second semester.
Second semester will really prove who has the grit to stay in the game and who doesn’t. Everybody is gunning like crazy during the first semester, it’s like the first quarter of the Super Bowl and adrenaline will fuel everyone. But the February-March timespan will really separate people. First, a chunk of folks will be looking for jobs still (something you will avoid by following my advice later on) and this will distract from their studies. Second, a chunk of folks will be spending time doing absolutely worthless extra curriculars for no good reason whatsoever. Third, the weather is going to start getting warmer and the temptation to vacate the library earlier and earlier will present itself. Fight it. Stick to your plan and understand that you have the entire summer to do the fun stuff.
This isn’t to say that I was a hermit- I went out plenty but I didn’t go berserk to the point of two day hangovers. Much. You can definitely go out and still do well, I just think it requires those working weekends that a lot of people will punt on. People will also be focusing on Legal Writing yet again which is the world’s greatest mis-appropriation of effort (if it is pass/fail). Just stick to your guns from first semester and you will be pleasantly surprised by how things go.
Study Groups- Good if kept to 4 people, once a week tops to go through practice exams. Worthless for anything else. I didn’t do them but see the merit in doing them right.
Office Hours- Good if not overdone. Send the professor an email every now and then too especially if there is something in the news that you think they would find interesting.
Exercise- Critical. I do not understand why folks give up on this when you have so much time during the day.
Living close to the law school- Bad idea, in my opinion. If you have to drive to school, you are more likely to camp out at the law school all day and treat it more like a job. I knew folks that would run home for lunch, dinner, etc., and there is a lot of time lost that way. Just get yourself to the law school and treat it like a job. An 8:30-11:00pm job but a job none the less.
Briefing- I did it. It is a huge pain but worth it. It makes you pay attention to the key points but keep them, well, brief. Some have issues with this.
Highlighting with 17 different colors- Pay attention to the people that do it and notice that none of them will do it as 2L’s (or probably even during second semester).
E&E’s- I think these are too simplistic and do not convey enough nuance to really help.
Sum & Substance CD’s- Ok if you have a long commute, worthless for anything else. People that listen to this stuff while working out never cease to amaze me. I dont really want to hear about the statute of frauds when doing the military press. Then again, those folks were #1 in their class and I wasn’t…
1L Summer Employment
It is very helpful to get a clear idea in your head of what type of job you want during the summer before law school. It really breaks down into 4 categories for us 1L’s:
1. Firm job that pays
2. Government job that wont pay
3. Non-profit that wont pay
4. Judge that won’t pay
If you do not go to a top 10 law school, have no IP background, and are not a diversity candidate, you will face a very tough job market in major cities re: paying firms. This does not mean that you shouldn’t try. Draft a cover letter that clearly outlines your ties to the firm’s market and your unique interest in that particular firm and send it off as soon as the NALP start-date hits (11/1). You can do these over the summer.
I knew kids that applied to 200 firms with cover letters and got nothing. This should not be a surprise to anyone and has nothing to do with the market. You need to tailor your search and focus on realistic possibilities. It is much better to target a handful of firms that makes sense for you and go all out in pursuing them then to carpet bomb the eastern seaboard with your resume. Follow up by sending your grades once they are released.
My friends that are 1L SA’s at good firms are enjoying themselves a lot right now. I don’t know how substantive their everyday work is but they are definitely enjoying themselves. This is not a high number of people though, these jobs have become very hard to find.
The US DOJ website is king here. They take a ton of 1L’s at the DOJ but it is competitive. The same is true for the USAO in the district you are looking for. As is the case with judges, I suggest focusing on the district that your school is in/has ties to + the district you are from/have ties to. This can mean the district that is home to your undergrad school, this can mean the district you spent a summer in once. Whatever. Just have that connection and be prepared to talk about it in the cover letter.
State AG’s offices, county prosecutors, PD’s, etc., these are all good jobs too.
I want to make a pitch for the summer spent in chambers. For those of you that want to clerk after law school, I think this makes a lot of sense. I draft opinions everyday and am able to really hear how my justice feels about certain approaches lawyers take over others. I also don’t think it matters whether you are in state court, federal court, appellate level or state supreme. What matters most is the jurist you work for. If you have a cool judge that gives you a ton of good work and spends time mentoring you a bit, you are golden. If not, it could make for a bad summer.
I would say that sometime in early December you should mail a cover letter and resume to any judge you would be interested in working for with the same ties as mentioned above for the USAO’s. I got phone calls when I mentioned something about the particular judge in the letter and this is not hard to do thanks to Wikipedia and Judgepedia. Just mail it directly to chambers and consider updating it when you know your grades.
I figure you have all career to work for the man so you might as well take one summer to see how a judge operates (as long as you don’t mind taking a financial punch to the chin).
I think, ideally, you want to have the job search wrapped up by February at the latest. This may mean biting at something early on even if it isn’t your “dream job.” You just need something legal as a 1L and I think that you should keep this in mind. The key here is that the search be targeted and not scattershot.
The Transfer Process
I am going to intentionally leave this blank for the time being until I have more content to add. What I will say is that it is a pain and it’s usefulness is highly questionable at best.