For most people, law school is about getting a job. If things go well, you’ll probably have some sort of offer for permanent employment in the fall after your first year. But before you get there, you’ll need to get a job for your first summer. For many, this will be a first look at legal work. You’ll have several options.
During a judicial internship you’ll get to work in the chambers of a judge. You probably won’t have a lot of contact with your judge, but you’ll still get to observe cases and you’ll work pretty closely with the clerks.
The great thing about judicial internships is that you get to apply for them before your first semester grades come out. This is around mid December. So, you can have a job offer in hand when grades come out, and if your grades aren’t what you were hoping they’d be, at least you’ll still be set for the summer.
Some judges will wait for grades to come out, so if you miss the first wave of judicial internships applications you’ll still have a shot later in the school year, but you will need to have some decent grades.
Judicial internships are unpaid, but your school might have a public interest grant that’ll help cover some of your living expenses.
Believe it or not, you can get a firm job during your first summer. The pay will vary, but it’s pretty awesome that someone out there will be willing to pay you after only one year of law school.
All the firms I’m aware of that hire 1Ls will want to see your grades. Good grades are necessary but not sufficient. Relevant work experience, diversity status, or maybe a degree in something like electrical engineering, will be big pluses.
This is an extremely competitive option, so don’t bank on it, but it’s well worth a try.
Most 1Ls will end up working at non-profits. The work will almost certainly be unpaid, but again, your school may provide you with a small grant if you choose to accept a public interest job.
There is a lot of variety out there when it comes to these jobs. Non-profits are doing some very exciting things, from immigration law and policy to animal rights. If your school has a public interest career fair, I would strongly recommend that you sign up.
Government jobs can be had as well. Usually jobs with the federal government will be more competitive, whereas state and local government jobs will be a bit easier to get. There is a lot of variety here as well. This year we had job postings at the White House, the SEC, and dozens of other local, state, and federal agencies.
I’m sure I’ve missed some options, but whatever you end up doing, you should do some sort of legal work. To give yourself the best chance at landing a 1L summer gig you’ll be happy with, I recommend getting in touch with your career services office early, maybe November, just so you know what you’ll have to prepare and when.