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Since it's been requested, and I don't see such a thing here in Content Competitions, I thought I'd throw together an initial article on this subject. If anyone reading wants to add to it, please either PM me or comment below, and I will add it and credit you.
0L: Beginning at the Beginning
Congratulations! You've decided to go to law school. However, you're not entirely sure how things will go once you get in. What will you have to do during your first school year to improve your employment options? How will you find work for your first summer after 1L? Since you're on TLS, you may already be asking these questions despite not yet being in law school. There's nothing wrong with this, and in fact it can be important to know what to expect before your first year of law school begins. This guide is intended to give 0Ls an idea of what to expect during their first year of law school.
Let's start with a discussion of the calendar, because with the job hunt as it is with most things in life...
Timing is Everything!
The first and perhaps most important thing to know is that once you start law school you are forbidden from speaking to future employers or even your school's career services center when you arrive. This is due to an NALP rule forbidding schools and employers from talking to 1Ls before certain deadlines, which is supposedly designed to keep 1Ls focused on their studies, but due to the schedule they've set up it can actually have the opposite effect on the unprepared.
You will not be able to talk to your career services center about employment until November 1. As I mentioned, this is an NALP rule which all accredited law schools follow. You can speak to these people, but if you try to get anything specific out of them regarding employment opportunities they'll quickly stop and tell you to come back in November. If your law school has a separate public-interest career services office, they'll tell you the same thing. This rule doesn't just apply to law firms, it applies to all legal employers.
With that said, even after November 1 you're still not allowed to speak to employers! You can after that date start talking to your career services counselors, and they will start giving you information on how to apply for jobs, but employers are still forbidden from contacting you until December 1. This also means you should not try to contact them about summer employment until then, either.
The big problem with this is that if you wait until December 1 to start looking at where to apply, well, you're going to have problems. At many schools December 1 falls on the last week of classes or the first week of finals; you'll be getting into the most hectic and important part of your first semester, and so busy with trying to cram and study for finals that you may not have time to do real job research then. Even if you do, you're likely to feel burned out from all the studying and not wanting to think about anything else law-related when your nose isn't in your books.
For this reason most people either look at where to apply in November, or wait until after finals are over. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages that are worth considering.
The Sharp Deadline
Many employers will keep accepting job applications until December because they have to in order to consider 1Ls, but they'll close that door quickly once the December 1 deadline passes. This is especially true for judges and prestigious public interest positions; some of them keep accepting applications up to December 31, some close sooner, and some actually stop taking applications on December 1. If you want any chance of being considered for these jobs at all, you'll have to apply for them while you're taking your finals, which means you won't have any idea what your grades are.
Because of these short deadlines, if you go to a top law school and want to work for a judge or a federal/prestigious public service job, it is in your best interest to look these jobs up in November and be ready to apply in December. These places will still care about your grades, but they know you don't have them yet and will allow you to update them with a transcript once yours is complete. You've gotta get that application in first by the deadline and then follow up with grades later.
One advantage to this, especially if you go to a top law school, is that sometimes the stars align and you can do an interview during winter break. I know classmates who applied in early December for 1L summer positions with the US Attorney's Office or prosecutor/public defender's office in their home district, interviewed for those internships while they were home over winter break, and already received job offers by February 1. These people have their job search wrapped up and can relax for the rest of the semester while the rest of us have to keep looking.
The Long Game
In contrast, a lot of 1L summer employment isn't even posted yet by December 1. Some places want to see grades and don't want your application until you've got grades to send with it, so they won't even post information on how to apply until late December or early January. Schools will have databases of jobs, most of which are online these days using Symplicity or a similar job-searching system; you'll get your credentials to log into this database in November, but jobs will continue to be posted and updated to Symplicity throughout the winter and into the spring.
For this reason it's important to not just plan on doing all your job searching in November, and also to not give up if your early job hunting doesn't pan out. There will be more options popping up in January and February and you can continue to keep looking. Not only that, but once February rolls around and grades are finally out, some employers will actually come to you.
Many schools do Spring OCI sometime in January or early February after fall grades are out. This makes sense because employers coming to visit will want to see grades before deciding who to interview. This will be your introduction to OCI and the bidding process, and even if you think you're going to find a better job outside of Spring OCI, it's still a good idea to participate so you know how OCI works. After all, 2L OCI is coming up quickly in the fall, and you'll want to know how things work when it's time to bid for 2L interview slots.
The way interview bidding will vary from school to school, but it will most likely work on a method along these lines: A list of employers coming to the law school will be published. You review them and then rank them in order based on your preferences; the one you most want to interview for is ranked 1, your second most desired is ranked 2, and so on. Then career services takes everyone's numbers, does some kind of mystical voodoo and magic, and notifies you which interviews you've been chosen for. It's important to at least try to learn how the rankings and your grades affect the likeliness of you getting an interview while you're a 1L, because you'll be doing this very soon for 2L OCI and you want to know what you're doing by then.
A variety of law firms will come to OCI, but many top law schools also have government and public service employers come as well during the Spring OCI. An important consideration here is that at least at some schools, Spring OCI is the only time public service groups show up on campus for interviews, so you may be competing with 2Ls for interview slots. This wasn't as much of a problem in past years, since most 2Ls would plan on working for a law firm their 2L summer even if they wanted PI work when they graduate, but in this economy a lot of 2Ls are still struggling to find employment by the spring and may compete with you for those public service interviews, making things far more competitive than they used to be for both public service OCI slots and finding unpaid summer internships in general.
Whether you're doing an interview on-campus or being invited to one at a job office, you need to know how to conduct yourself during the interview. Typically the career services office will provide helpful information on this, but many law schools these days go even further and conduct mock interviews to give you experience interviewing before it's time for the real thing.
If your school offers this, it's important to take it seriously. You can gain a lot of useful knowledge from a mock interview that will carry you through your real interviews. It's better to correct any mistakes in how you present yourself before you go interview for the job you really want. Even if the only thing you learn is that you interview well, that's still good to know and can be a confidence booster.
At some schools the person conducting the mock interview will be someone in the career services office or a professor. However, some top law schools go so far as to bring in actual employers to conduct the mock interviews just as they would conduct the real interviews. If this is how your school handles mock interviews, it can be a valuable experience for more than just getting feedback. You get to meet a real interviewer who you might be able to contact in following years to try to schedule interviews, and I have heard that some firms who do mock interviews take notes of people they should be sure to offer an interview during 2L OCI if one is requested.
Choosing Where To Work
Suppose you go all-out, blanket everywhere, and get more than one interview and subsequent job offer. How can you decide what to accept? Here's some thoughts on what your 1L summer work will mean later on down the road:
1) It's very important to do something law-related. The one thing that will truly hurt you in your 2L job search is not having done anything legal your 1L summer. Law school teaches you a lot of law in theory your first year, but it's that summer job that gives you your first real exposure to different fields and what actual legal application is like. It also gives you more hands-on experience dealing with the law, and that's something important to future employers since they don't want to have to train you from the beginning.
You may end up thinking something is relatively bland or not quite what you wanted to do for the summer, but the biggest mistake you can make is to not do anything at all. Just blowing it off and taking a long summer vacation or doing non-legal work is going to make selling yourself as a serious legal professional a lot harder during your 2L summer interviews and your 3L interviews for post-graduate employment. Everyone else you're competing with for jobs as a 2L will have done something legal their 1L summer, and your lack of job experience will stick out like a sore thumb.
2) Don't plan on finding paying work. You may think "I want to work in a law firm my 1L summer!" but trust me, it's not very likely to happen at all. Summer internships have always been a relatively wasteful expenditure for law firms, which are the only organizations who have the money to do paid internships. With the economy the way it is, law firms have cut back so much on summer internships that many 2Ls are having trouble finding summer jobs that pay. If you want to work in a law firm later, it doesn't hurt you to not work in one your 1L summer, which is good because odds are you wouldn't be able to find such a job anyway.
The good news about this is that there are opportunities at many law schools to apply for grants and fellowships that will fund your living expenses during your 1L summer. These are usually limited in nature (they may specify that they only cover public service internships, defined in specific ways) and aren't going to pay enough to let you live the high life, but there are still ways you can find money to get by during the summer. Depending on what kind of grants/fellowships are available to you, this could end up dictating where you work. After all, if one unpaid internship makes you eligible for a $3000 grant and another doesn't, you'd want the first one more, right?
3) Think ahead, but not too hard. Depending on your ambitions and goals, you can start laying the groundwork for your future legal education right away by getting a job in your desired field your 1L summer. For example, if you want to get involved in criminal law, interning with a prosecutor or public defender your 1L summer will show your dedication to future employers. From what I've gathered, it's especially true in public-service fields that they like to see you've already worked in that field to show your dedication to public service.
Under the old model, many law students who wanted public service would go do an internship in their desired field their 1L summer, do a summer with a law firm their 2L summer because it paid good money, and then use their 1L summer to show public service employers they're serious about that kind of work during the 3L job hunt. This kind of thing isn't as easy to do these days, though, since law firms aren't throwing jobs at 2Ls like they used to.
Many people in this economy will have to do unpaid internships both summers, so if you can't do the exact thing you want to your 1L summer, that's okay; you may still end up doing an unpaid internship your 2L summer, so you'll have a second chance to do the internship you really want then. So don't sweat it if you can't find work that's exactly in your desired field your 1L summer (though if you can you should take that over something else).
4) Don't apply to a judge you won't work for. Apparently people are pretty serious about this! If you apply to work for a judge and he/she accepts you, it is considered highly inappropriate to decline the offer. Judges are pretty powerful people, so if I were you, I just would not be the guinea pig and try to find out what happens if you violate this highly ingrained rule.
With that said, besides law firms, public service internships, and judicial internships, there's one other possibility for your 1L summer that honestly won't come up until later in the spring semester, and that some people seem to regard as a job of last resort.
As I mentioned earlier, it's better to do anything law-related than nothing at all. There seems to be some stigma about it among students, but especially in this economy where it's hard to find work, it's far better to take a research assistant position than nothing at all. It's also an excellent chance to get to know a professor and earn yourself a great letter of recommendation if you'll need one in the future. Not only that, but some of them pay stipends, and you can keep your current apartment and just stay where you've been staying over the summer.
Each professor at a law school will post information at some point during the spring semester on how many research assistants they will hire for the summer, whether a stipend is available, how many hours a week they expect you to work, and how to apply. You may end up assisting a professor with a law review article they're writing, a revision of a textbook they've authored, or a new book that seeks to be the authority on a certain unexplored subject. Some people see these type of things as a kind of last resort, though I've talked to at least a couple classmates who are eager to be a research assistant for one of the more esteemed professors on campus. Doing so can give you great insight into legal research and writing and possibly be a first step toward entering the world of academia yourself.
Let's End Back At The Beginning
So, now you have some idea what the job search may look like for you as a 1L. The question should then be, "How do I prepare myself as a 0L for the 1L job hunt?" It's a great question and I can give at least some advice on it.
One 0L-specific piece of advice I've seen that I should start with is to read the book "Guerilla Tactics For Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams" before you even start law school. The idea is that you won't have time during your 1L year to sit down and read this book. I'm a 1L and I haven't had time to go track down a copy and read it, so I can definitely agree with this. As such I have no idea whether it's worth reading or not, but if you think you'll want to read it at some point, read it before school starts and you still have time.
Beyond that, consider how competitive the job market is right now. It's hard for everybody, and that means that you should be prepared to give yourself an edge right from the beginning. There are two ways you can do that. The first is kind of obvious; try to get good grades. Do everything you can to study both the material your first semester and how to take law school exams effectively. How to do that is outside the scope of this article, but there's plenty of information on TLS and elsewhere on these things for you to pursue that.
The other thing is to get involved right away during your 1L year. If you balance your schedule you can both spend sufficient time on your studies and start making connections right away. You're forbidden from talking to employers about summer work, but something you can do is look around for local public service organizations and start volunteering to do work for them right away in your evenings or weekends. Many such organizations have programs set up with your school so that you can get pro bono credit for the hours you volunteer and earn recognition and awards that you can place on your resume.
For example, here at my school there is a "Pro Bono Challenge" that gives special recognition to students who do at least 25 hours of pro bono work for each of their three years at the school. Participating not only earns you that award but gives you work that you can put on your resume right away so you stand out even during the 1L employment search. You may think that since you're a brand new law student you won't know what to do, but many of these organizations are eager for bodies to help them and will train you as you go. Even if you're not intent on doing public service when you graduate, these things show that you are building up real-world experience and are more a more whole applicant than many first-year law students.
You can also participate in student organizations and use that in your job search. Some student organizations will bring speakers to campus or organize activities that will let you meet alumni who work in different fields. Others simply give you something to add on your resume that give you something interesting to talk about during the interview.
I hope all of this is useful to 0Ls who are curious about the 1L job hunt. If there's any further questions I'll be glad to answer what I can, and I may come back and continue to add things as I learn them. After all, I'm still in the hunt myself.
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I'm working abroad this summer, and a lot of international jobs tend to interview later than most domestic ones. Being aware of this from the start would have helped me plan a bit better and stress out a bit less.
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Competitiveness of obtaining an RA position and the "stigma" attached to it will probably depend on the school you're at and the quality of the faculty. At my school, the majority of the faculty are stars in their respective fields, so there is a lot more competition than you would think, and you generally wouldn't dream of waiting until the last minute or going into the interview treating the job as a fallback. Particularly, many of the top students that are seeking clerkships are going to be aiming for RA positions with good professors. Most of my friends that were seeking an RA position were near the top of the class, and even spamming a ton of professors with personalized cover letters and good grades, I didn't have too many responses.
I'm sure this varies by school and by the state of the economy. Where there aren't many firm jobs for 1Ls, you're necessarily going to have more students applying to RA positions. But I think in any economy, the top professors will always be competitive. The value of gaining research skills, a mentor, potentially having your name on their law review article, etc. is immense.
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No it's a great rule that should be enforced by the death penalty. Use the "subscribe" feature.D Brooks wrote:That's a retarded rule.Anastasia Dee Dualla wrote:Tagging is prohibited all...Just FYI before a mod yells at you.
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Subscribe?Renzo wrote:No it's a great rule that should be enforced by the death penalty. Use the "subscribe" feature.D Brooks wrote:That's a retarded rule.Anastasia Dee Dualla wrote:Tagging is prohibited all...Just FYI before a mod yells at you.
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That was directed toward you.Anastasia Dee Dualla wrote:I didn't make it...D Brooks wrote:That's a retarded rule.Anastasia Dee Dualla wrote:Tagging is prohibited all...Just FYI before a mod yells at you.
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