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Planning for Your 1L Summer

Now that you’ve finished finals, caught up on sleep, and acknowledged your social life, you’re ready to fully focus on your 1L summer search. While your first summer is not as crucial as the following years, the purpose of the 1L summer is to gain legal experience that you can discuss and apply in interviews for your 2L summer. Here are some things to consider when planning for your 1L summer.


There are a number of options and opportunities for your 1L summer. Law firms, public interest groups, judges, government organizations, and professors all offer opportunities and internships. Large firms typically don’t offer positions to first years but if you are in the top 10% of your class, you will have a better shot at getting one of these coveted positions. Smaller law firms will consider 1L’s more frequently, so make sure to reach out to them early. More commonly, 1L’s work with public interest groups, local government, intern for judges, or serve as research assistants for a professor. Think about how each of these options will contribute to your professional goals when applying. Don’t stress about getting that phenomenal internship at a top 20 law firm your first law school summer – as long as you’re doing something that grants you relevant and practical legal experience.


You should definitely consider location when looking for opportunities. If you desire to practice law in a specific city, you should start building ties to the city if you haven’t already. Law firms look for attorneys that are connected to their respective cities or have demonstrated interest in working in that city. For bigger cities like New York and Washington, DC, this is not as important because they tend to be more transient. Nevertheless, your first summer is an important time to think about where you see yourself working and to get to know the local firm culture and environment.

Paid vs. Unpaid

Because you only have one year of experience, your opportunities for being paid are more limited. Your 1L summer is more about getting meaningful experience that will payoff in the long-term. In other words, sacrificing pay for experience will help you find a better 2L summer position, and ultimately, secure a great job. If money is an issue, there are many opportunities for grants and stipends to supplement unpaid positions. Many law schools offer grants for public interest internships and research assistantships. Check early for deadlines on these kinds of opportunities

There are a variety of paths you can take after your first year in law school that will help you open more doors. Take this time to explore your professional aspirations and gain as much valuable experience as you can.

 1L Opportunities

TypeTimelineFundingLevel of Competitiveness
 Private Sector    (large firm)December – MarchOften paid (and paid well) but sometimes unpaidExtremely competitive, many firms don’t consider 1L’s
Private Sector(small firm) January – MayUsually unpaidLess competitive than large firms but often hard to find
 Public Interest/  Nonprofit  Internships December – MayUnpaid but many grants and stipends are available through your schoolCompetitiveness varies based on organization, location, need
 Government  Internships December – MayUsually unpaidCompetitiveness varies based on organization, location, need
 Judicial  Externships December – MarchUsually unpaidVaries on court and location
 Research  Assistantships Be proactive and contact professors whom you would like to assist over the winter breakResearch grants and stipends availableLess competitive but can be great experience
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