Depending on your circumstances, the 1L summer job hunt may be a breeze, or it may be grueling. The main tip is managing expectations: 1L summer jobs are ridiculously difficult to figure out, and you should expect it to potentially be a tough process.
Why even bother?
Early on, many classmates wondered what the point of a summer job even was. Why work when you can take summer classes and have a lighter course load later? I’m glad I asked the question because the answer was enlightening. In the midst of learning about things like what the Supreme Court said about the Commerce Clause in the 1940s, it can be easy to lose sight of why you went to law school in the first place, and a summer job helps refocus you on that goal.
The other big reason is it helps solidify your interests. You may be full-on energy litigation when you go into the summer, find out you hate litigation, and decide real estate transactions is the place for you. That’s something you probably want to figure out before 2L OCI, and this is a great way to do exactly that. Oh, and you might make money. Money is always nice.
Short version: this is the warm-up to the race – you should start stretching now. The first thing you should do during the fall is figure out what your circumstances will likely be in the summer: are you moving home with family? Staying where your school is? Are you able to work for free? Do you have any other considerations, like kids or other family members you’re responsible for that you’ll have to plan for care of? Answering those questions helps narrow down the overwhelming array of options you’ll be seeing in the coming months. Also get your resume and cover letter cleaned up and ready early so you aren’t scrambling. Meet with your career office to discuss general goals, plans, ideas, and what kind of support they provide during the summer search. If there are any events put on by employers you’re potentially interested in, go to them and network! It’s a great way to set yourself apart from the stack of other faceless applicants later on. Also find out when applications open and apply EARLY. Yes, before grades and in some cases even before finals. More options are available to you that way. But on that topic, also focus on your grades because if you get an offer pre-finals, it’ll likely be conditioned on you getting certain grades. You don’t want to be in a situation where you get an offer rescinded because your grades weren’t quite high enough. Grades will be also be most important during 2L OCI so you’ll want to set yourself up for future success as well.
This is where it all starts to happen in earnest. Most employers tend to open applications during this timeframe, so you’ll want to get a jump on that. Apply to as many jobs as you can, even before grades come out, because you never know what may stick. Many firms host winter receptions for 1Ls so if you’re remotely interested in them, you should consider attending. It may not help with 1L summer, but it could make a difference for 2L OCI. If you’re traveling for the break, bring an interview outfit in case you get invited for a virtual interview (or in person if you’re traveling to where you want to work) so you don’t have to find something, especially with holiday shopping. Malls are chaos in December, it’s generally best to avoid them whenever possible. And, speaking of avoiding, I recommend avoiding LinkedIn except for the specific purpose of looking for jobs. People tend to be excited about their summer opportunity and will post about it there, which can be discouraging when you’re still looking. Also, look everywhere: your school’s job board, LinkedIn, indeed, cold email alumni and local firms, be as expansive with your search as possible.
Most people will probably still be looking for a job throughout the semester. Some will have something set up for the summer, most won’t, and you should resist the urge to compare yourself to others, as difficult as it is (and believe me, I KNOW how hard it is). Despite what LinkedIn seems to indicate, you almost certainly are not the only one without a summer job, so again, probably keep avoiding it except to specifically look for jobs and keep looking multiple places because jobs are not always cross-posted. Keep looking, don’t give up on it because something will come up. Continue meeting with your career office, they are a great resource for getting a summer job that will give you at least a fair amount of the things you’re looking for – because jobs that give you every single thing you want, while they exist, they’re rare, kind of like a unicorn. And don’t stop networking, because 1L summer is just one step, you still have 2L OCI around the corner, so you want to build your network, get your name out there, and of course keep focusing on your grades.
The 1L summer job search is, like most things law school, a marathon that feels like a sprint. Don’t sprint it, run it at your pace, and know that something will land. It may take a while – I didn’t get my summer even partly figured out until late March – but it will work out as long as you keep putting in the work. You’ve got this, and if you feel like you need some extra support, the amazing CareerDicta team is here ready to help you get where you’re going!
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