How To Get Your First Job As A Law Student: Can’t Miss Guide!
Phew – you got into law school, so now you only have to study, pass your courses, and participate in extracurriculars, right? While all of that is extremely important for law students, a key part of your time in law school that will set you up for future success is legal experience, a.k.a. a job! In this post, we will tell you where to start your job search, how to build a network, and the types of jobs available to law students. Getting your first job as a law student can seem overwhelming at first. However, as a law student, there are plenty of resources and people available to you to help you land your first job and grow your career.
How To Get Your First Job As A Law Student: Can’t Miss Guide!
Where Do I Start?
As a law student, the first place you should start is within your law school. Every law school provides career services to its current students and graduates. You should definitely take advantage of these resources as you search for your first job as a law student!
Career Services Office
Almost every law school across the country is equipped with a Career Services Office. The sole purpose of the Career Services Office is to prepare each student for life after law school and to help them achieve their professional goals. Oftentimes, each Career Services Office has multiple advisors and/or counselors who work with students individually. They give advice on resumes, cover letters, interview strategies, and opportunities that are in line with students’ goals.
Your law school has to make a report each year stating the percentage of students employed and the general nature of their work (e.g. JD-required, JD-preferred, etc.), the size of the firm where students find work, etc. So your law school has an incentive to help you get a job because they want to be able to report these numbers!
You can look up any ABA-accredited law school’s report here.
To get your first job as a law student, we recommend starting with a meeting with an advisor or counselor within your school’s Career Services Office.
Job Search Platforms
After meeting with your school’s Career Services Office, your advisor or counselor will most likely introduce you to a job search platform that is available through your school. Most schools use platforms called “Symplicity,” but this varies by school. These platforms are incredibly useful for law students searching for their first internship or job. Oftentimes, local law firms searching for law student-workers reach out to the local schools directly and post openings on their platforms.
Outside of postings on your school’s job search platform, there are plenty of other online resources you can use to expand your search. For example, your local Bar Association’s website will most likely have a career opportunities page or tab with opportunities for law students. LinkedIn is also a fantastic tool to use to find opportunities and gain valuable information about the potential employer. If you need help with your LinkedIn profile, check out our tips for creating a professional LinkedIn profile for law students.
On-campus interviews, or OCIs, are when law firms or other legal employers visit law schools to interview candidates for internships and jobs that typically start the following summer. In fact, most large law firms hire the majority of their summer associates and new graduates through OCIs.
While OCIs are a great way to hone your interviewing skills and potentially land a great job, please keep in mind that you may need to meet certain GPA and/or work experience requirements to apply for certain positions offered through OCIs. Generally speaking, employers who participate in the OCI process typically seek students within the top 10 to 15 percent of their class rank. Moreover, these employers typically interview at many schools both locally and nationwide, so the competition for opportunities is very high. That being said, local law firms might also participate in OCIs, which can make for less competition. Be sure to check out the requirements for each position to see if you qualify!
If you do wish to participate in OCIs, you will have to go through your school’s career development website to find the list of employers conducting OCIs. Then, you will have to upload your application documents which typically includes a resume, cover letter, transcript, and writing sample. You will then be notified if any of the employers you applied for wish to interview you.
If you do not participate in OCIs, or if you apply and are not granted an interview, don’t worry! There are plenty of other resources to help you get your first job as a law student. Remember, the majority of legal professionals do not get their first job through OCIs. A very common way for legal professionals to land their first job is through networking.
How Do I Build A Network?
Although we understand networking can be a daunting task for most law students, it is surprisingly easy to get started – all you have to do is talk to people! The legal industry is surprisingly small, which means that most lawyers, professors, and other industry veterans know a lot of people. Talk to anyone you know and let them know that you are looking for an internship or job opportunity. Ask them if they know of any opportunities – you won’t know unless you ask!
If you don’t know anyone currently in the legal industry, no need to worry! There are plenty of opportunities available to meet people who work in law firms or law-related jobs. Most law schools host networking events with their alumni. Moreover, if you are involved in any clubs or extracurricular activities at your law school, they will likely host networking events throughout the school year. Making connections with alumni from your school is an excellent way to start networking. Check out our tips on what to do at networking events here.
Another way to start building your network is by reaching out to people directly. For example, you can use LinkedIn to find alumni from your law school and send them a thoughtful, direct message asking to connect. If they respond to your message, ask if they would like to connect with you over coffee or if they have fifteen to thirty minutes available for a call so you can introduce yourself. While it is important to make an initial connection, it is even more important to maintain those connections for your network.
How Do I Maintain A Network?
The best way to maintain a network as a law student is to keep in touch with your connections. If you meet someone once, you should follow up with them periodically to keep the connection alive. For example, if you meet someone at a networking event that you think could help you get your first job as a law student, you should plan to follow up with them no more than three days after you meet them. In the past, students have followed up via email or letter. But if you have a LinkedIn account, adding them as a connection on LinkedIn and sending them a message is also a great way to follow up! Not only will this show them that you valued meeting them, but it will also make you stand out. Check out JD Advising’s post for more legal job search networking strategies.
What Types of Jobs are Available to Law Students?
Once you have built your network and have a better idea of what type of law or career you are interested in, it is important to understand the different types of jobs available to law students. There are a number of different jobs that are available to law students, with the most common being internships and law clerks. While all three are legal jobs, we will explain the differences between them below. Understanding the differences can help you refine your search for your first job and focus on the opportunities that best suit your goals.
Internships cover a broad category of jobs, but in the context of a law student, an internship typically refers to a job that you perform (usually over the summer) in exchange for course credit instead of wages. They also refer to summer or part-time work performed for the government.
Internships in exchange for course credit are a fantastic way to get experience, make connections, and get closer to your credit requirement for graduation. Plus, these types of internships could also give you an inside track to a part-time paid job throughout law school or an offer for a full-time job once you graduate.
Government internships are a great option for law students who see themselves as future prosecutors or public defenders. Law students in these roles are typically handed a lot of responsibility from day one, so they are a great way to start building experience. In addition, there are countless local, state, and federal politicians and government agencies that look for legal interns to assist with policy work and research.
Finally, judicial internships are excellent opportunities for law students to experience how a courtroom works and how judges operate. Judicial internships are available at courts all over the country and at all different levels – federal, state, trial, appellate, and administrative. Judicial interns are responsible for a lot of research and writing. They review motions submitted to the court, research applicable law, and draft memos for their judges to help them make decisions. If you are interested in litigation, a judicial internship is a great opportunity to learn from a judge’s point of view.
Law clerks are typically law students who work during school for a law firm. Generally speaking, law clerks shadow attorneys within their firm at depositions, court hearings, and other meetings to gain hands-on experience in one or more areas of the law. Law clerks are also usually responsible for helping lawyers draft opinions and memos, conducting legal research, and helping lawyers analyze different arguments and situations.
Being a law clerk is a fantastic way for law students to gain practical experience that they might not otherwise receive at school. It is also a great way to make connections and build your network!
Outside of internships and law clerk positions, there are other types of work available to law students. Many law students work in volunteer, or pro bono, positions throughout law school. Not only can they help build your resume, but it is a rewarding way to give back to your community and help those who need it most. Common examples of pro bono work for law students include working at help desks and legal clinics.
If you have already graduated law school, check out our ten tips for how to get a job after law school. As you get started on getting your first job as a law student, please keep in mind all of the different resources available to you. There are countless opportunities out there in a myriad of different areas. We hope these strategies and tips help you get started and alleviate some of the nervousness you might feel. Good luck!
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