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No Summer Internship….What’s a 1L Supposed to Do?

It’s that time of the year again: while a whole new crop of law school graduates will be graduating soon and preparing to sit for the bar, another crop of law students are about to enter into the exciting world of their summer internships.

The summer internship is something all law students are supposed to do. 2L summers are focused on setting the foundation for post-graduation employment. 1L summers are…what are they exactly?

1Ls enter law school knowing that they are supposed to secure a summer job. On the one hand, they know that securing something early means they can stress less during the school year, focus on grades, and prepare to leverage that opportunity into something for their second summer. On the other hand, they are also told it really doesn’t matter what they do, so long as they do something legal.

All of that is not a problem—that is, unless you haven’t successfully secured something by this point of your first year and are starting to panic as you are finishing up finals (and why does it seem like everyone else had it together?).

I am often asked one of two questions by nervous 1Ls who haven’t landed a job yet: a) What do I do now? or b) Can I have a summer vacation? The bad news is that you shouldn’t just go on  vacation and do nothing related to the law. The good news is that there is a unique alternative that sort of satisfies both: participating in a summer program abroad (or domestically, but in another location).

If the thought of participating in a summer program has crossed your mind and just never came to fruition for whatever reason, consider the following merits to participating in one:

Resume Builder: of course, the program should fit in your overall narrative and you should be able to intelligently connect your experiences in the program with your goals. Participating in a summer program and receiving specialized training or getting to know a foreign market certainly makes your resume stand out in today’s global market. You are differentiated from the mass of law student resumes, and have a great talking point during the interview to build rapport.

Education and Exploration: within a limited scope of time, you have the opportunity to look at the law in a different way. This exposes you to new viewpoints and explore areas you might not have been able to while in law school, giving rise to research topics, potential practice areas, and new industries or ideas of interest. Many summer programs also have built in, short-term internships and volunteer opportunities that can provide you with the summer experience you were seeking. As a bonus, many law schools offer credits towards graduation if you are participating in an ABA approved summer program.

Unique Skills: if you are going abroad, chances are there will be some form of language training, immersion, and other experiential learning component. Immersion into a new culture demonstrates dexterity, determination, cultural competency and sensitivity, and curiosity. Any specialized courses and training conveys commitment to a particular practice area or setting. This not only provides you with a great opportunity to collaborate and learn, but also gives you an arsenal of unique experiences from which to draw answers for behavioral interview questions.

Fun: summer programs are generally fun—and who doesn’t want some fun in their summer? There are the challenges that come from taking this risk and deviating from the normal “summer job” path, but you also get to experience the triumphs of learning, new experiences, excitement, and great friends from the program. Depending on where you are abroad, you might also benefit from the additional bonus of saving money if the cost of living is lower than home.

Tip: wherever you are, remember to network and connect. Get to know practicing attorneys, hear their insights and perspectives, and try to see them in action. Not only does this unite all of the merits of a summer program together, it might even land you your job next summer! Remember what is important of any experience is what you make of it. So long as you are able to highlight the relevant experiences and work over your summer program to the area of law or practice you are interested in, you are in good shape. As you consider different programs, think about the value you hope to gain from it, and the value you hope to contribute after you complete it. This step ensures that you are choosing a program with intention and deliberation (as opposed to choosing one out of desperation). Remember to think long term, and check out my previous post with more advice for law students.

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