Advice on Summer Jobs: Both for Now and in the Future

Jobs: the ever dreaded and worrisome topic among law students. After reading articles online, talking with students about the economy’s affects on opportunities in the legal field, I think it’s time we students take matters into our own hands. Though I am not in the top of my class, not on law review, or moot court I believe that being aggressive and taking the initiative in your own education is the key to getting where you “want” to be.
I am sure many law students are aware that, most, if not all, law schools have a program or class which allows law students to work for a non-profit or government office while obtaining school credit. As a first year law student I took advantage of this opportunity, looked early on as to whom I would want to work with, and how the job could help me in the future when looking for another job. Ultimately I decided to work for a local judge, which has proven to be a wonderful decision. The most essential issues I observed during my externship are the importance of attorneys being prepared, and acting professionally while in the courtroom. I knew beforehand that such skills were important; however seeing it action made it apparent to me what type of lawyer I wish to imitate. Though first year law students may be developing legal research and writing skills, experience under your belt can mean more sometimes than your GPA. It simply means that even as a child of the Instant Gratification Generation you have to be patient with yourself, and do not expect a job to be handed to you on a silver platter your first summer. Do the research, make the calls, do not be shy.
During my second year I decided that in order to distinguish myself I would need to work during the school year. If you are curious about an area of law or how to become “of counsel”, but not sure whether you actually enjoy the practice area, I suggest calling a law firm that looks interesting and seeing if you can shadow an attorney for a few days. Yes, it does take time out of your busy day, but it is worth it. A student could find that the work does not fit their personality in the slightest, and it would be another thing they could check off their list, and move on. However, if one is seriously interested in a practice area, like me, then talking to your career service office about a local firm that might be willing to let you work during the school year would be one way of making a job connection. Nevertheless, do not underestimate the value of talking with fellow students, or simply taking matters into your own hands and calling law firms. It is doable to work during the school year, or even a semester. I understand time management is an issue, but pushing yourself and making the time can really make a difference.
Beyond just being aggressive when searching for a job, networking and putting yourself in professional social situations can be extremely helpful. For example, go on the ABA website and look to see what events are going on in your state or with the local Young Lawyers Division, look up the local bar association, or go to Continuing Legal Education classes on a subject your curious about (they even do teleconferences so you do not have to travel). All in all, if I can emphasize any overarching point it would be to be friendly to those that you work with, and keep in touch with any and all contacts you make, because you never know when you will need a helping hand. And believe me you will need help at some point. For those that may be discouraged, know that as lawyers we must persevere. We are a tough breed, and what we want may not always come in the forum we initially expect
Contributed by Kelly Williamson