Law school is very expensive—many students graduate with debt, and then spend years trying to pay it back.
The good news is that there are a number of ways for law students to earn some income while in school. There are opportunities both on and off campus, and many related to the law. Some students might even prefer to take a break from school, and seek out opportunities to do something outside of the law. A job with a small or flexible commitment will not interfere much with your studies, and, in fact, might bring some balance to your life, as well as a new perspective on the law.
1. Research or teaching assistant
Law professors are always looking for students to help with their scholarship—research assistants, or students who’ve done well in their course to support others new to the subject—teaching assistants. These positions not only pay, but offer the opportunity to learn about a specific topic or understand a subject matter more deeply. Especially if the subject of the class is on the bar exam (like Contracts or Civil Procedure), being a teaching assistant is a great way to review the concepts and apply them to different scenarios.
2. Student representative for companies
With an abundance of competition among research service and bar preparation companies, it is no surprise that they want to market themselves to law students early on. These companies often hire student representatives who can spread the word about events, trainings, discounts, research tools, and incentive people with food and goodies. Working for a research service, you will be paid to understand the platform and the tools, so that you can explain their benefits to other students, which helps improve your legal research skills.
3. Other on-campus jobs
Each university or law school has programs for which they hire students. Some schools hire tutors for 1L students, learning consultants for undergraduate students, and community advisors for on-campus housing residents.
Note: Unfortunately sometimes, on-campus opportunities are not widely broadcast, but rely on word-of-mouth. If you don’t know whether these opportunities are available to you—ask! Ask upperclassmen students; ask your professor; ask your career services office.
4. Part-time jobs
Depending on the locale, there can be many paying opportunities for law students outside of school. Law firms and government agencies often hire students to conduct research, assist in preparing for litigation, or perform other legal related tasks. These jobs allow you to gain practical experience and observe lawyers at work. This also provides great material to draw on during your job search.
There are other non-legal jobs, such as working as a tutor for general academic subjects or the law school admissions test, coaching a debate team, etc. While not strictly legal, they call upon skills that are helpful as a future legal professional: communication, logical reasoning, and people skills.
5. Summer job
Summer break is the prime time to earn some money while seeing how the law is practiced on the ground. 1L summer opportunities tend to be unpaid, but you can apply for stipends or other funding. Summer jobs for 2Ls are usually paid, with a range of salaries depending on your workplace: generally, biglaw summer associate positions pay the most, while government roles pay the least. This post offers tips and resources for finding the summer job you want.
I am a huge advocate of applying to scholarships. There are scholarships year-round, offered by law schools themselves, law firms, companies, bar associations, and more. Some scholarships are targeted to certain demographics or legal interests.
As I have discussed previously, it doesn’t take a lot of time to put together application materials, and the payoff can be tremendous—awards range from $1,000-$15,000. Many people in the legal profession are eager to give back and support aspiring lawyers; take advantage of it!
7. Your own small business
More and more, I see my friends and classmates turn their hobbies into businesses: selling greeting cards, artwork, stickers, baked goods. This can be a flexible way to make money on the side while doing something you love.
Some students are more entrepreneurial and business-minded, and are thinking about using their legal skills in unconventional ways, such as starting a business or becoming a venture capitalist. Some law schools support these students with venture funds or summer fellowships.
I hope that I’ve given you some ideas to alleviate the huge financial burden that is law school. Remember to check that you are not violating any school guidelines about outside jobs, as they could impact your standing or financial aid. Also, don’t forget to evaluate, from time-to-time, whether your job is a good use of your time and skillsets, and will help further your professional development.
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