During your first year of law school, you’ll be able to apply for summer jobs. Now, in the old days, summer jobs were lucrative positions that every law student seemed able to obtain, and the salary was used to pay for the following year of school. (At least that’s what my ancient criminal procedure professor told us.) Additionally, most attorneys ended up working in these positions with the same company every summer and then landing their first jobs there post graduation. It was, and is, a huge part of the law school experience.
My law school made it abundantly clear on orientation day that getting a paid position for the summer following 1L would be near to impossible, and that we should focus on unpaid internships. After hearing what my friends in other schools were able to garner position wise after 1L, I’ve come to the conclusion that my school (1) didn’t think very highly of my class, and/or (2) was in cahoots with attorneys in the state to provide them with free labor. Very few of my classmates pursued paid positions and most of us ended up working as judicial interns/law clerks for judges within the New England area.
Whatever the situation is for you, at your school, getting any type of work over the summer, whether it is paid or unpaid, is extremely beneficial. These summer jobs can provide you with the confidence and experience you need to take on the following year of school. But it is also very difficult to switch from the “school brain” to the “employed brain.” For myself, after sitting for my exams second semester, I was completely fried. I was sleeping 14 hours a day, my skin was the color of egg shells and completely see-through, and I was anxiously awaiting my grades. By the time the first day of my internship was to begin, I could barely be awake without extreme anxiety. I fidgeted. I would sweat profusely. I wanted to crawl into a hole until the next fall. I did not want to step foot inside a judge’s chambers and start doing research – especially a judge who dressed to the 9s, was the smartest woman I’ve ever met besides my mother, and completely no-nonsense. To say she was intimidating is an understatement.
I forced myself to go, and after the first day of being miserable, I knew I needed to figure out how to shift my mindset so the rest of the summer would be enjoyable. (I would like to point out that I was miserable because I was tired and bored. I had yet to figure out how to ask for work or connect with my superiors. But I figured that out pretty quick!)
For your summer job to go off without a hitch, you must accept that your semester is over. Accept that the hard work you put in for a year is now in the hands of others, there’s nothing you can do about it, and you must move forward. Once you become comfortable with this, you must accept that the next two-to-three months is going to be a different kind of whirlwind.
You may be stressed. You may be overwhelmed. You may feel like you have no business doing the work you are now required to do. But, if you start by accepting that change is coming, you will be able to go with the flow much sooner.
2. Daily Movement
Your summer job is a different beast than law school, but the same self-care tips apply: move a little every day. Movement helps your mind let go of stressors, improves memory, and encourages your body to sleep more deeply and effectively throughout the night, healing you in the process. If your summer job is stressful, exercise can help re-ground you. And it doesn’t have to be big expeditions to the gym, or three hours on a spin-bike, it can simply be a twenty minute slow walk around the neighborhood (in fact, I encourage this type of slow, gentle exercise over the back-breaking kind done at the gym).
Before your summer job begins, try meditating on what you want out of it. If you have a clear vision of what you are going to get out of this experience, you’ll go into it looking for those lessons and enjoying your time in that space. If I hadn’t forced myself to take a step back after the first day of my internship to figure out what I wanted to get out of it, it would have been a miserable summer, and I definitely would not have been asked back every Spring semester.
So every day I set an intention to learn the lessons meant for me. I started that internship with no idea how to properly do legal research or write a memo. The entire concept of LPS had been so jarring for my creative writing brain that I basically gave up on ever being good at it. That is, until my internship. I was able to see how legal research is done in the real world, and in the real world I got real feedback on real issues. I learned how to IRAC in a way that made sense and became effortless, whereas, in LPS, it was such a technical way to write that I felt burdened by it and you could read that burden in my work.
Your summer job will always be different than your classroom time. It will feel like you’re a fish out of water at first, but if you take the time to work on your mindset each day, the work will start to feel like the real achievement. I can honestly say, I have never been more proud of myself during my time at law school than when I wrote a powerpoint presentation for the Chief Justice of the Juvenile Court for her to give to the entire network of First Justices in the state. And I would not have had that experience had I not decided to look for the lessons in each day that would help me soar through my academics.
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