Answers to law students' FAQs about summer internships
How do most law students find summer jobs? When do most students find jobs? Can I get a job after my first year of law school? How important is it to get summer internships in law school anyway?
The Career Services team at New England Law | Boston answers these frequently asked questions and more below.
When do I need to start looking for summer employment?
In general, internship application deadlines for government and public interest jobs usually fall in January, February, and mid-March, at the latest. Mid-sized and small firms often hire interns on an as-needed basis, and many small law firms and solo attorneys do not begin to think about their summer intern needs until much later in the spring semester.
Given how busy your first semester will be, it’s not unreasonable to start thinking about summer employment as soon as you get to law school. You should schedule an appointment with a career counselor as soon as possible your 1L year to review your résumé and go over your job search strategy and timeline.
How do most law students find their summer jobs?
To find a summer internship in law school, you will need to do more than just a couple online searches. Sure, you should do that too—but that’s just the beginning of your search. And you need to cast a wide net. Here are some tips that might help:
- Check the usual suspect job posting sites for legal work opportunities. But don’t limit your search to any single job posting site. Use a variety, such as Indeed.com, Lawyers Weekly, and Craigslist. And don’t forget to look for job and internship listings posted through your law school’s Career Services Office.
- Continue to network. Nearly 85 percent of all Americans get their jobs through someone they know. In law school, your network can be an invaluable part of your job search strategy too. At New England Law, typically more than a third of our students find their summer jobs through someone they knew, networking, or self-initiated contact. Inform everyone you know that you are looking for an internship. Your professors and mentors may be especially helpful in connecting you with job opportunities. You never know if someone you know has heard of an opening that would be perfect for you! This law school networking guide should help get you started.
- Initiate contact with legal employers. Do not wait for a summer job to be posted. Be proactive in your search by contacting firms, attorneys, and legal organizations directly. Stay organized and follow up with each employer you contact as you would when applying for posted jobs. Use online legal directories like Martindale or even LinkedIn to search for employers according to specifications such as practice area, location, and firm size. Then follow-up with them about possible opportunities. However! This does not mean you should “cold call” hundreds of employers. Try to focus your search on a small group of firms and legal organizations that may be seeking new interns but do not have the time to recruit. This is a great way to connect with small and medium-size law firms.
- Apply for federal government work. A broad swath of federal employees will be eligible to retire in the next few years, which could result in a hiring boom. Start by checking USAJobs for legal internship listings.
- Contact government and public interest agencies. All state agencies should be listed on state and local government websites, so you can research and reach out to them directly. Public interest positions are also posted on PSJD.org.
- Request reciprocity. If you are looking for jobs out of state (like your home state), you may be able to request reciprocity from a law school in that state in order to access their career services office’s job or internship directory.
- Be flexible. If you have a car, look for opportunities outside of major metropolitan areas. Also consider becoming an unpaid legal intern and balancing your time with a paid non-legal position. The more flexible you are regarding pay and location, the better your chances are for finding summer employment.
- Contact the Career Services Office. Last but certainly not least, let your law school’s career services office do what they do best: help you find a job! Do not be afraid to ask for help at any point in law school (and after you graduate!). Send in your résumé and cover letters to be reviewed, schedule a mock interview appointment to improve your interview skills, and meet with a counselor to go over your individual job search needs.
When do most first-year law students find their jobs? When should I start panicking?
There is no single time of year when most 1Ls find their jobs. Some students know where they will be working by February while others won't find something until April.
Small firms will continue to look for summer interns and law clerks throughout the late spring. So, even if you have not found a job by the end of April, know that there are still employers out there looking for summer help.
Are most summer internships unpaid? How do I find funding for an unpaid internship?
There are a number of resources for students seeking funding for an unpaid summer internship. Eligible students may be able to receive federal work-study funding for various positions, and students working for a public-interest organization may be eligible for third-party grants.
FYI, all New England Law students participating in our Summer Fellowship Program receive a $3,500 stipend (funded by the school), even for unpaid internships.
What if I want to do a summer study abroad program instead?
If you decide to participate in a study abroad program, you should still try to find a volunteer opportunity or internship for when you return, because gaining real-world skills and experiences over the summer is critical in law school.
Many study abroad programs end in the early summer, so you still have the rest of the season to gain experience. For example, law students who participate in our study abroad program in Galway, Ireland, come home in time to participate in an internship or do a Summer Fellowship.
Should I list my current GPA on my résumé?
Once you have received all of your grades at the end of the academic year, list your GPA on your resume if it is a 3.0 or above. Otherwise, it is misleading to list a GPA using incomplete information (i.e., a GPA using grades from just one or two classes).
If an employer wants to see your current grades, let them know that you can give them a copy of your unofficial transcript.
Is it true that the job you get your second-year summer determines what you will be doing after graduation?
Not necessarily. Large firms usually give their summer associates offers for postgraduate positions at the end of the second-year summer. However, those firms only make up 10 percent of the legal employers out there.
Will I limit my career options if I work in a practice area I am not sure I want practice after graduation?
No. Any legal experience you gain is valuable and will help you in finding future legal work. Many of the skills you gain (e.g., research, writing, interpersonal, etc.) in one practice area can be applied to another field of law too.
Do not get discouraged. There are more summer jobs and internships for law students out there than you realize! We hope our FAQs, tips, and advice help.
Learn more about the Summer Fellowship Program for law students at New England Law | Boston.