Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The (Legal) Universe in a Nutshell

A couple weeks back Armen promised advice about 1L summer employment. I believe the date for speaking to employers is coming up sometime soon, so I figured it was time to get the ball rolling.

Thinking back to the halcyon days of my 1L year, I wasn't real sure how to land a legal job. But beyond that, I was also pretty clueless about what kind of job I even wanted. I didn't (and really still don't) know anything about the legal market. The only jobs I heard about my 1L year were firm jobs and judicial externships. I knew I didn't want a firm job, so I applied to judges, thinking it was basically my only option. But when I started talking to classmates about their summer plans, tons of people were doing interesting stuff that I'd never even considered.

All of this is a long way of saying that 1Ls should know all of their options. To help 1Ls (and others) figure out what's out there besides judges and firms, I'm hoping 2Ls and 3Ls can post their summer jobs in the comments. Did you work for a public interest group? For an NGO? For the government? Locally or federally? Travel overseas? Take classes at another school? Work for a small firm? A big firm? Hang out on a beach with your significant other?

Whatever you did, tell the 1Ls about it. I don't mean this to be advice on how to land the job--that is still a little ways off and can be a later post. I'm just hoping to get a quick sketch of the 1L job universe, if you will, so they can start thinking about what might be interesting.

Try to include the name of the organization, location, if you got paid or funded in some other way, and any pros/cons you think are relevant. Comments about firms are welcome, but try not to repeat earlier comments unless you have something new to add. I started it off in the Comments section.

Comment away! Hopefully your posts will inspire some younglings to pursue a job they may not have normally considered...

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32 Comments:

Blogger Max Power said...

Judicial externship, appellate court.

This is a great summer job. I learned a ton, it was always interesting, and I felt like the work I was doing really mattered.

The downside of it was that I didn't get paid, and externs are not eligible for any of Boalt's grants or other funding (if this has changed, someone please say so). I also worked pretty long hours, which is tough when you're not being paid.

10/24/2006 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What should you be doing right now if you want to give yourself a decent shot at a 1L summer position?

They won't have our grades to review, so how do they pick amongst us?

10/24/2006 7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:29 - the most important factor in landing a 1L job is having connections. Aside from that, there's really nothing you can do except be persistent.

10/24/2006 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for getting the ball rolling on these tips. I would really appreciate some advice on picking classes for next term as well.

10/24/2006 8:44 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

7:29, 1L firm jobs tend to be for those with advanced science degrees or diverse backgrounds. I didn't bother with a firm job as a 1L. But there's a cost to that. It becomes harder to split your summer during your second year. Almost every non-southern firm insists on having you for first 6 or 8 or whatever weeks. If you do the math, it's impossible to be at two places at once. Anyway that's something to consider in your long term planning that I completely neglected as a 1L.

With that said, I still think a judicial externship to be the best experience. Civ Pro II was a breeze after a summer of jurisdiction checks on cases that were filed. Your writing doesn't have to be persuasive, it has to be right. To that end, you read good briefs, bad briefs, some in the middle, but in the end you have to look up the law yourself and come upon an answer for the judge. Sometimes the judge agrees with you, sometimes he/she doesn't. But your job is always to digest the arguments of the attorneys and apply them to the law. This is the exact opposite of what you will be doing as a litigator, but the best place to start is from the other end. You won't know what a bad argument looks like until you see it next to a good one. You won't realize how facts affect a decision until you see two sides construing the same set of facts. And last but not least, you will develop (hopefully) a relationship with a judge.

The above applies to District and Magistrate judges, not Appeals Court judges.

10/24/2006 9:29 PM  
Blogger Willie said...

I worked at a small plaintiff's side litigation firm and got paid about as much as I did when I was a waiter.

This was a great experience because it helped me decide to do litigation since I had no idea what I would do before I worked there.

Working in a small firm is a great opportunity because you can get more hands on experience than you would get elsewhere, and you're able to make solid connections. The downside is that lawyers in big firms tend to look down on small firms, and especially on plaintiff's side firms. So if you're looking to land the big firm gig, don't count on biglaw to be impressed that you have actual legal experience.

10/24/2006 11:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Strongly second Armen and recommend a district/magistrate judge externship for students interested in litigation.

And they will have your grades for a number of positions (Spring OCIP, some externships).

I have no idea how one obtains transactional experience. Caddy?

10/24/2006 11:52 PM  
Blogger Max Power said...

A couple of responses:

7:29--who are "they"? a "1L summer position" doing what?? I'm guessing you mean a big firm. That's fine if you want to ask, and I hope it gets answered. The point of this post, though, was to get out some info that is normally a bit tougher to find, about things besides firms and judges. But so far all the comments concern....you guessed it, firms and judges.

Come on 2Ls and 3Ls! I know you did interesting things. Post them. It doesn't need to be a dissertation. Just a 5 word description is fine.

Armen: Maybe appellate isn't perfect preparation for litigation, but I think what you said still most does apply to appellate. The mechanics are different, but you're still reading briefs, researching cases, writing memos, helping with opinions, seeing court in action, etc., but without all those pesky motions. Best of all, you get to work alongside super brilliant clerks and judges. Overall, it was the most I ever enjoyed going to work on a daily basis.

8:44--well aren't we greedy. try to get a bar-type class out of the way (Con Law, Evidence, Civ Pro II, etc.). But don't take two of them, that is just too much. Make your second class something you're really interested in--some kind of specialized seminar, or other type of smaller class that you're taking for your own reasons. If it requires less work, that much the better.

10/25/2006 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be an RA! You earn $14.50 an hour and get a great reference out of it for future job searches. It looks good on a resume, you go to work in flip-flops and old tshirts, and it's super flexible-- you can work four ten-hour days and have three-day weekends throughout the summer, or longer ones if you care to arrange it so. Some arrangements let you work while traveling at least part of the summer, so you can go visit the fam, take your laptop, and earn money while traveling. If you can get a full-time RA gig (or two half-time ones) for the summer, you can earn around 8K.

Not all profs advertise for RAs but all profs have funds and some just don't bother to think about hiring them. So ask your profs-- go to office hours in January and ask if they are looking for someone, or if there is a paper they're thinking about writing but haven't researched yet. Or ask that prof you haven't had yet but would like to know better.

10/25/2006 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a vacation. You'll have plenty of time to work in the future. Snag one of those trips to Italy or Australia, where you study law for two weeks, and then have fun.

10/25/2006 12:13 PM  
Blogger Tacitus said...

I worked for the US Dept of Justice. It was a great experience, made somewhat greater by the fact that my little corner of DoJ didn't do a lot of investigative/trial work, it was more on the policy side. So I actually got to do something that wasn't very related to practicing law, which may not have been great from a skills development perspective but was an interesting and welcome break after 1L year.

There are a million and one internship possibilities in DC: every little federal agency (ok, there's no such thing as a little fed. agency) has a bunch of interns running around; advocacy groups; congress; clerkships in specialized courts... It just takes some searching on the internets.

While I don't subscribe to the 12:13 school of slacking (because it is important to have _some_ job on your resume for OCI/job search purposes), I do think you can be really creative your 1L summer and work in an area you find interesting. After all, one of the biggest fruits of your 1L summer job will probably be as a conversation piece during your 2L fall interviews. You might as well try to make that as interesting a conversation as possible!

10/25/2006 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I externed but I would recommend for 1Ls interested in public interest working at EBCLC. I believe they have summer positions for 1st years and you'll get actual client contact! I worked there during the year and loved it. I'm not sure that they pay summers though, since they are public interest, but it should qualify for the boalt grants.

10/25/2006 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Externships are great. Apply Dec 1 for these because they take tons of 1Ls so you probably have a better shot than mass-mailings to firms.

I learned a lot at my externship and really enjoyed the people I worked with. Just don't expect to be taken out to fancy lunches like your firm-employed friends. But even for those who are planning on doing OCIP it's great because firms love to talk about your experience AND they think you're interested in a clerkship which they really love.

10/25/2006 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody on this blog notice the new LRAP program?

Anybody on this blog know if it's hard as a federalist at Boalt Hall to get laid? My guess is that the unprincipled liberals will get in bed with a federalist as quickly as they seem to be willing to work for John Yoo.

10/25/2006 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:33 I'm going to take a wild guess here, and say good luck with the application process.

And it wouldn't be hard unless you intoduce yourself as "Mr. Federalist"; not because you are one, but that attitude don't get great mileage with the ladies.

10/25/2006 10:56 PM  
Anonymous TJ said...

What about an unpaid internship in a DA's office? Anyone do that?

10/26/2006 9:54 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

Let's get one thing clear, the only thing that's REALLY unpaid is a judicial externship. Everything else qualifies for a Boalt grant.

10/26/2006 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My expert 3L advice is to do nothing. Don't think about the law. Get away from Boalt. Spend some time with your family. Spend some time with your friends. Travel around. Have a fun summer.

Ultimately, what you do over your 1L summer really doesn't make a difference, unless you work as an extern. Externs write a lot, which is good and looks good to an employer.

I wasn't an extern. What I did my 1L summer, work for a non-profit in the city, was interesting, but didn't help me land a 2L summer job, or give me great writing experience.

You'll work next year at a firm, 1Ls. Don't do anything this summer. Relax. Do something you've never done before and your future firms will appreciate your willingness to buck trends.

10/26/2006 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:54 - I worked for a DA 1L summer and I highly recommend it. You get to see how the court system works, meet judges, research law, and participate in all aspects of a trial. It's very fast paced and the cases are really interesting.

My advice is do something that sounds really interesting to you in a location that is fun. Apply to externships in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands or Alaska, and spend your weekends hiking or sailing or lying on the beach. This is your last free summer, so make the most of it.

10/26/2006 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent my 1L summer in Europe. I travelled for the 1st month, and then spent the next 2 months taking a comparative law class. The best thing was that I went through a law school that not only has classes, but sets you up with a legal internship in Europe (or Asia, or wherever you decide to go). I definitely recommend spending the summer this way. It's expensive, because you don't get paid and have to pay for your trip, but you get to spend the entire summer travelling around Europe (or the destination of your choice), and during OCIP, firms love talking to you about your trip and experiences working in a foreign law firm.

10/26/2006 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Alice B. said...

I worked for the State of Alaska Attorney General. It was a great job in an even greater location. I did the typical 1L summer thing - wrote a bunch of memos - but they also let me work on a few sexy cases. My friends who worked for the California A.G. all seemed to really enjoy that too. Alaska A.G. pays for a roundtrip flight up there and you get free housing (house-sitting for A.G. employees), but otherwise it's unpaid.

My two cents: it doesn't really matter what you do your first summer, as long as it's something law related that you can slap on your resume for 2L interview time.

Regarding the advice to do nothing: please don't take that advice. For some reason people here at Boalt like to tell underclassmen to not worry about anything; don't work your first summer, don't worry about grades, don't worry about applying for jobs. It's all a lie. Unless it is simply inherent to you to not worry about this sort of thing (in which case you probably would not be in law school), you should worry about those things. Well, maybe you don't have to worry about applying for a job until later since so many job opportunities come out in April, but unless your transcript is a double row of railroad tracks - which of course 1L's don't know yet, you do have to worry about these little things.

10/26/2006 10:21 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

I'm with Alice, to an extent. There's really no reason to blow off an entire summer. You're about to enter a profession with a steep learning curve. Use that summer to add to what you've learned your first year. If that means getting tan on the Riviera while taking an EU copyrights class, so be it. But use the summer to add to your skill set.

One drawback to coming straight to law school from undergrad is that I had no savings to speak of. In fact I had all my debts from undergrad. In the end I chose to extern where I could not earn any money from any source, meaning I was limited to LA where I could live with my parents.

10/27/2006 12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tactitus,

Where on the internet did you find the most promising Fed Govn't positions?

Thx.

10/27/2006 6:41 AM  
Blogger Tacitus said...

10:27-
That's a really good question, and one that doesn't have a very satisfying answer. The Fed. Gov't is at once highly centralized and totally diffuse. The good news: almost every department and agency in the federal government has their own lawyers, and I bet most of them take law student interns. The bad news: there's no one site you can go to trawl for federal law internships, and the hiring process can be opaque or hard to understand from the internet.

My advice is to pick an area that you are interested in, say for example international law. Talk to professors and think yourself about what federal organs deal with international law issues: State, Dept of Justice (a few offices), USAID, maybe Commerce. Look at those Departments web-pages. Often you have to apply to the summer internship program generally, but you should try to find a contact person and see if you can apply directly to those little offices that interest you most. Unfortunately, there's usually a lot of legwork that needs be done to find where internships are offered and how to apply, and the government can be kind of impersonal on the hiring end.

Be creative when you're brainstorming organizations to work for. If you're interested in corporate or regulatory work, for example, don't just limit yourself to DOJ or Commerce but also look at the Overseas Private Investment Corp. or the SEC or the FTC (I know the FTC hires interns even for their SF office). State attorney general's offices, especially in New York and Cali, hire a lot of free summer labor and work on some really interesting cases.

As an aside, I forgot to mention this in my initial post, but the key to the 1L job search is to be diligent in sending out resumes but never to panic. Opportunities arise ALL THE TIME. I remember some of the coolest jobs I heard about people getting 1L year were coming through in April. Have a general goal and work towards it, but don't flip out if it's March and you don't have a job. Just keep looking. Like OCIP, the pack mentality that accompanies the 1L job search can be a little terrifying. A lot of the judicial clerks will be hearing about their jobs in January. But if you are looking at federal or state government jobs, especially more obscure programs, they may be hiring well into April or later. In the immortal words of Coach Valvano: Don't give up. Don't ever give up.

10/27/2006 11:34 AM  
Blogger casey said...

I agree that its a bad idea to do nothing your first summer. Beyond making money, getting writing experience and having something to put on your resume, working gives you an inside, risk-free view of whether you'd like to work in that sort of place after you graduate? Think you want to work for a small non-profit, the DA, or direct services? Wouldn't you like to try it out for a couple of months and see if you like it before you have to make a real commitment?

While I'm here, I'll plug the nonprofit (Communities for a Better Environment, in my case, which does litigation on all kinds of environmental justice issues, mostly air quality). As a general rule, you will work an 8 hour day, wear a t-shirt in the office, meet tons of interesting people working at similar organizations, and rake in $4,000 for doing work you believe in. ahhh.

10/28/2006 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several posts ago, someone asked about working for a DA. I worked for a DA this past summer (which was my 1L summer) and it was AMAZING. I would recommend it to anyone. If you're not prosecution-minded, working for the public defender is also fantastic experience. I became very comfortable inside a courtroom, got to do lots of writing and really interesting reserach, saw some fascinating and really scary stuff, saw actual trials from start to finish...I'd be happy to gush about it to anyone. It was unpaid, but I was able to get a Boalt Hall Fellowship, for $4000. It's not much, but it's completely worth it. During OCIP, employers were actually really excited about my experience and I was able to go on and on about it.

10/30/2006 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll throw a voice in for studying abroad. Go someplace interesting, party your ass off, work for a professor there as an RA (if you want), and come back well-rested for OCI with something truly interesting to talk about in interviews. I actually figured out what I wanted to do with my life because of a class I took over the summer that I wouldn't have been able to take at my home institution, and landed a plum job through a genuine interest in an obscure area of the law. (I'm a 3L now and it couldn't have worked out better.)

Just do something legal related, even if it's just one class or volunteering. Can't overemphasize the importance of that.

10/31/2006 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recommend living in a new city. After deciding I wanted to live in Austin, I wikipedia-ed the city and found a cool environmental non-profit (Save Our Springs) - also where two Boalt alums worked. SOS is only three lawyers large, so I got a lot of good work - mostly litigation. Employers didn't care that there was geographical inconsistency on my resume - they mostly thought it was interesting.

A plug for Austin: UT has a research library agreement with Berkeley and Standford where grad students at one can check out books at the other's library. This was really helpful b/c of limited non-profit resources. But get your library card from Doe before you leave for the summer. Good luck and do something fun!

11/02/2006 1:47 PM  
Blogger Manikandan said...

Hi .nice blog.I am HR of a well-developing concern.I need to post jobs .can anybody suggest best way..
thank you............

2/22/2008 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone talk more specifically about jobs in California and the Bay Area for 1Ls? I have to establish residency and am nervous about opportunities in the area.

8/03/2008 7:57 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I'm not sure what you are asking, or what year you are a 1L, but you can send me an email pbageant AT gmail.com, and maybe I can steer you to someone who can answer your question.

It's been a while since Oct. 2006. I doubt you'll get an answer by posting here . . .

8/03/2008 8:28 PM  
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