Ultimate Guide to Working the Summer Before Law School
If you are preparing to go to law school, you are embarking on a journey that is equal parts challenging and rewarding. It is normal to feel nervous. So, what steps can you take to better prepare for law school over the summer? There are multiple ways you can spend this time! Some believe that you should not work at all. Others find it beneficial to spend time getting acquainted with the legal field. In this post, we talk about the pros and cons of working the summer before you begin law school.
Ultimate Guide to Working the Summer Before Law School
You should consider your individual circumstances—physical, emotional, and financial—when weighing the benefits and downsides of getting a job the summer before law school. If you know that working the summer before law school in any capacity will stress you out, don’t do it! You should not start law school emotionally drained and burned out. On the other hand, if you can handle working and you know that you will need some extra money for the school year, figure out what work schedule is best for you! Will you work part-time, full-time, the entire summer, only a few weeks of summer?
Pros and Cons of Working the Summer Before Law School
Just like most things, there are pros and cons to working the summer before law school. We’ve included some of the pros and cons below!
Figuring Out What Interests You
Working the summer before law school gives you a better idea of where you might apply during the summer after your 1L year. The job you get following your 1L year can be important. This position usually begins your real-world legal experience! It also helps you build an impressive resume and serves as a good topic for discussion at future interviews. Getting some work experience the summer before law school can help guide your job search following your 1L year! Read more about how to score a 1L summer position here.
Additionally, working the summer before law school can give you a jumpstart on deciding what area of law you want to pursue post-graduation, which you will continue to explore throughout law school. It might also provide some insight as to what law school classes you should take as a 2L and 3L to reach those career goals! All in all, it is a great opportunity to narrow down what you do and don’t enjoy while taking the time to explore different areas of law.
Developing a Strong Resume.
Prior legal experience can be extremely advantageous when you’re submitting applications for positions after your 1L year of flaw school. This is because the only thing most employers have to look at is your first semester grades and recent work experience. Despite how hard you work during that first semester, you likely will not receive an “A” in every course because of the grading curve applied by most law schools. And with the 1L curve, you might not know your grades until shortly before applying for summer position! Having recent legal experience (or any work experience) on your resume can help to give you the boost you need and set you apart from other students!
Building Time Management Skills.
Working the summer before law school teaches you time management skills because you will be forced to balance your work obligations with your personal obligations. Social calendars tend to be fuller in the summer months, which makes work-life balance in law-related internships during this time more challenging. Good time management is essential to succeed in law school and beyond, so take every opportunity you can work on it, including these tips on you can hone your time management skills!
Gaining Exposure to Legal Jargon and Research.
Although you may not receive many substantive assignments in a pre-law school position, there is still a lot to be gained simply by working in a legal environment! One benefit is hearing common legal jargon and starting to pick up on the everyday legal language. Learning the language of the law can be challenging. Getting exposed to it early gives you one less thing to worry about once law school starts!
Additionally, working the summer before law school also introduces you to legal research. You will do a TON of both in law school and as a lawyer. You may be thinking that you already know how to do research. You’ve probably researched papers in high school and undergrad. Legal research, however, is very likely different from what you are used to.
Check out our post with legal research and writing tips specifically for 1Ls here!
Developing a Legal Network.
The popular saying “it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know” can be applicable to the legal profession. The legal market is much smaller than you may think, so building a strong legal network is important. Getting a head start before you even step foot in law school is even better! If you choose to work for a law firm the summer before law school, the firm may offer you a position as a summer associate after your 1L year or as a full-time attorney upon graduation. Or, if the firm cannot offer you a position, the attorneys you work with may offer to act as a reference, write a letter of recommendation, or introduce you to attorneys at firms that are hiring.
Depending on the type of summer job that you get, working the summer before law school is a great way to save up some extra cash. Law school is expensive, and most law schools do not recommend that you work during your 1L year (your schoolwork will be a full-time job as is!). Some programs may even prohibit you from working your first year. Whether you work part-time or full-time, you can save up some money to make the school year a bit easier.
Less Time for Relaxation, Family, Friends, and Travel
Equally as important as being well-prepared for the start of law school is being well-rested and ready to tackle your 1L year. Taking time to relax, spend time with family and friends, travel, and simply rest your brain should be something you take full advantage of while you do not have deadlines and exams weighing on you. Relaxing will rejuvenate you and help you feel ready to dive into the work that awaits you when you begin your semester. By working the summer before law school, you have less time for relaxing endeavors. Read more about how and why it is important to have a fun summer before law school here!
Work Can Be Stress-Inducing
Unfortunately, not all work environments end up being positive, beneficial ones. Often, you are not able to determine this before starting. You may take a position and realize after you start that the work environment is toxic or stress-inducing. Maybe the hours you are expected to work are more demanding than you originally thought. Perhaps your peers or superiors are unkind. Although a negative work experience happens to most (if not all!) people at least once in their lives, one of the worst times for it to occur is while working the summer before law school. This is because, as noted above, you want to start law school relaxed and refreshed!
Less Time to Prepare for Law School in Other Ways.
There are numerous ways that you can prepare for law school—working is just one of many possibilities! Working, however, typically takes up a great deal of time and energy, particularly if you are juggling a job or internship with personal obligations. This leaves you with less time to engage in other law school preparation activities. Examples of those activities include:
- Reading books designed to help prepare you for law school and understand what to expect. Although there are many helpful books out there, we have listed the top 10 to read before starting law school here!
- Taking a law school prep course, such as our free JD Advising law school prep course, which focuses on teaching students how to succeed academically in law school. The course covers topics such as how law school differs from college, useful legal vocabulary, how to speed-read cases and book-brief cases, how to take notes during class, build outlines, and so much more!
- Building your confidence through public speaking, writing, traveling, and meeting people. Read our post on ways to build your confidence the summer before law school here!
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Just because there are more pros listed than cons does not automatically mean you should be working the summer before law school! You may think of additional downsides that we haven’t listed. There might be personal responsibilities you need to attend to that make working more or less feasible. You need to weigh all factors to consider what is best for you.
Types of Jobs and Internships Available
If you’ve decided that you will be working the summer before law school, your next step is to consider whereyou should apply. First, be sure to check if you actually can apply before starting law school—some internships may require that you at least complete your 1L year first. If you meet application requirements, some ideas of places to work include the following:
- A position with a law firm is the most obvious type of job to seek, as it will offer you insight into your future career. You can select a firm that practices in areas of law that you are specifically of interest to you.
- Many students choose to intern at a nonprofit, which might provide more hands-on experience or substantive work. Nonprofits generally fall into one of two categories: legal aid and advocacy. Legal aid nonprofits provide legal services to indigent clients, either directly or through supporting other organizations. Advocacy organizations, on the other hand, pursue changes in the law through impact litigation, legislative efforts, and organizaiton.
- Many federal and state judges hire judicial externs to support them in their chambers. A judicial externship is a great way to get good legal research and writing experience, as you will be supporting the judge and their judicial clerks.
- Government agencies at all levels (federal, state, local, and tribal) hire summer legal interns. This is an especially good option if you think you may be interested in becoming a prosecutor or public defender.
- If you are interested in pursuing a career in corporate or employment law, consider applying for an in-house position with a company.
- If you are looking for something less typical, applying to be a research assistant for a law professor is a great way to gain exposure to legal field and work on your research and writing skills. This will likely be difficult to get the summer before law school unless you have some kind of preexisting connection.
The possibilities for summer employment are endless—find something that interests you and go for it!
Applying to Your Ideal Position
Once you have an idea of where you want to apply, look into what application materials you are required to submit. These typically include a resume and cover letter. Your resume should be broken into sections that cover (1) name and contact information, (2) educational background, (3) past work experience, (4) interests, and (5) professional licenses/certifications, if applicable. A cover letter is a perfect opportunity to go beyond your resume and explain your interest in the position that you are applying for. Read our top legal resume tips here!
Next, consider factors such as pay (if you will be working in an unpaid internship, check out this post on how to fund a summer internship), location, and hours. You want something that fits your preferences and schedule.
Finally, prepare for interviews. You should go into the interview ready to talk about yourself, your interest in the position, and answer any questions. For more advice on how to prepare for an interview, check out our seven interview tips for law students and lawyers.
In sum, working the summer before law school is completely optional—make the choice based on what works best for you!
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