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The Summer After Your First Year
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There are a lot of ways to spend the summer after your first year that will be intellectually stimulating, good for your resume and perhaps (dare we say it?) fun.
As a law student, your summer activities will have a direct impact on your career. Potential employers will want to know how you spent this time, and many law firms hire from among their summer associates. So using three months to catch up on back episodes of Law and Order might not be a wise choice.
Many law schools offer summer classes. If you can, it's a good idea to take one or two of them (particularly difficult ones like, say, evidence) in the summer when you don't have four or five other classes to worry about.
If you thought studying abroad was something that only carefree undergraduates get to do, think again! The summer between the first and second years of law school is a tremendous opportunity to study law in a foreign country. Your school may even offer financial aid to go abroad!
Summer Associate at a Big Firm
If you go to an elite law school (on par with, say, Northwestern or Cornell), and your grades are good, you might have the opportunity to snag a summer job at a gigantic, swanky, oak-walled law firm. You'll make several thousand dollars over the course of the summer. Lawyers at these firms will take you to lunch at chic restaurants, lavish you with perks and generally treat you like royalty. However, if you don't attend a top-20 law school, this experience won't be in the cards for you until second year (and only then if your first-year grades are stellar). Even at top schools, competition for these positions is fierce among 1Ls.
Clerking at a Smaller Law Firm
Another option is to get a job clerking at a smaller law firm. The hours are flexible and the pay is pretty good. Some of the work will be tedious but you'll get a lot of solid, hands-on experience in the actual practice of law.
Working for the Public Interest
The summer after your first year is a great time to work for a nonprofit organization like the ACLU or the Institute for Justice, or for the local, state or federal government. The work will be satisfying, and it will help you decide if you want to pursue this path after graduation.