In part two of our three part series to help law students get ready for their law internships, we share ideas for law students to make the most of their summers even if they didn’t get the big law offer they hoped for. Read more for great ideas and input from the Associate Dean of Students at the University of District Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and two practitioners. Read Part 1, 5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Summer Associate Program & Land a Job Offer. Stay tuned for our next article on the subject on February 22, 2017!
The summers between your law school years are an ideal time to develop your emerging skills as a legal writer, advocate, and practitioner in a law internship. During a law internship, you’re likely to improve them when you get daily, focused attention from experienced lawyers. Those months also are an opportunity to dive deep into an area of interest you only touched on in law school or to study overseas. You’ve just learned, however, that you didn’t land that highly coveted summer associate position you really, really wanted. While your classmates may be at top-tier firms and enjoying plush dinners, sporting events, and concerts, you’ll be toiling at a far less prestigious practice. You might even be (gasp) living at home and working for a local attorney.
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Here’s a little secret: You can still make the most of your summer even if you didn’t receive an offer from your law firm of choice. There is still an opportunity to develop those important job skills that will help you secure employment after law school in an area of law you’re most interested in.
3 Ideas to Make the Most of Your Summer Break During Law School
“For most people, [summer] is the last time they can easily spend a concentrated time in a foreign country,” said Annamaria Steward, Associate Dean of Students at the University of District Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and president of the D.C. Bar. Dean Steward recommends studying abroad to hone your language skills in classes taught by a country’s high-level lawyers and judges.
Enrolling in an overseas summer program with reciprocity lets students earn credits for their courses abroad. They can later take a lighter course load, a helpful way to boost grades, Steward said. With fewer courses demanding their attention, law students may be able to add a law firm internship in the fall and spring, when there’s less competition for slots.
Choose a Small or Solo Law Firm
Jennifer Kain Kilgore had no competition for her summer law internship. She spent two summers under the tutelage of a solo practitioner who was the friend of a friend of her mother. Early on, the attorney tore apart a memo Kilgore had painstakingly composed in a class at the New England School of Law | Boston (“I was crushed,” she said) and then showed her how to write a compelling brief. She also learned to use effective body language, interview clients, and gain confidence handling meetings.
“I got more experience than my classmates did at large firms,” said Kilgore, an attorney editor for Enjuris.com, a personal injury website. “I distinctly remember feeling like I had an advantage.”
Following your own interests during the summers paves the way for a meaningful legal career, she said. “You get to create a niche for yourself, and by doing that, you can stand out from the competition.”
Follow Your Interests
Irnande Altema spent one summer interning at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the next at the HIV Law Project in New York City. In Washington, she drafted memos about ethical issues involving gifts to government workers and employment contracts and observed a general counsel in action. Learning to navigate a maze of government agencies and how to find and arrange information are valuable skills she uses regularly in her job as chief of staff for Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-Md.).
Altema, who holds a master’s degree in biomedical science and advocacy, spent the next summer helping HIV-positive clients with housing and benefits and immigration matters. She appeared in court, spoke with opposing counsel, and sharpened her negotiation skills.
A Hofstra University School of Law graduate, she didn’t choose her summer internships to pad her resume with impressive credentials. Instead, she chose opportunities that let her explore areas of interest and use her legal knowledge. Her best advice for deciding how to spend those summers while in law school? “Pick the jobs you’re passionate about,” she said.
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While there are no guarantees, keeping these tips in mind as a law student can help you land a job offer at the firm or corporate legal department of your choice post law school. Contact us today to request more information about how we can help you with both temporary and permanent opportunities in the legal field.