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How to Land a 1L Summer Internship

Q: My son is a first year Harvard Law School student and is hoping to find a 1L summer law internship in New York City this coming summer. As of this writing, he has been sending out about 35 resumes and has received about 15 rejections with the reason given that the law firm does not hire 1L summer interns. Please advise where and how to land a 1L summer intern position? Thanks!

A: Although most first year students contact employers on their own, one of the steps that your son should be taking, rather than just blindly sending out all of these resumes on his own, is to work with his school's career services office to help identify career objectives. Harvard has an excellent career services office that can help guide your son in determining the best opportunities for him after his first year. Career services within the law schools themselves develop relationships with employers and facilitate the interviewing process fro law students. Oftentimes, career service offices have career libraries, with helpful books, periodicals, and directories. Also, many career services offices maintain their own websites to provide easy access to career resources, such as guides on writing resumes, cover letters, and interviewing, as well as online access to commercial publications.

Unfortunately, some firms have pared down the amount of summer associates they are taking on beginning the summer. Obviously, where this has occurred, it is a function of a faltering economy. Even in a good year, many firms don't hire first year law students for the summer. Most law firms concentrate their efforts and resources on second and third year students, who are more immediately available for permanent positions. So, given that there are fewer positions for summer associates this year, combined with the fact that most law firm summer associate positions are reserved for second year students, it is not altogether surprising that your son has received little response.

If your son continues to have a difficult time with finding a law firm position, he should consider other internships with government agencies or private companies. Ultimately, the most important thing he can be doing is focusing on his academic performance, which is so critical the first few months of law school. Your son should strive to keep his grades up and polish his transcript, which so many top firms will look at when it comes to recruiting time. Not getting a job in the first year market should not unduly discourage your son or bother him. What he chooses to do in the summer will have the most impact between his second and third years.

My best advice is to tell your son he should be more expansive in his job search, and rely more heavily on the resources within the law school. Some first-years obtain their summer jobs through employers who have contacted the law school's career services office, while others get them through their own efforts, so he should utilize both. If his finances allow, he may want to consider working as an intern without a salary or with a salary far below that of private law firms, which could give him some great experience to help fill out his resume.

Some types of positions that first year students typically take during the summer, in addition to summer associate positions in law firms, are summer internships with public service or public interest organizations, assisting professors with research, or clerking in the summer with a judge. A research position with a professor is advantageous because it would give your son a chance to get to know that faculty member, as well as doing something that will increase his understanding of a substantive body of law. In an internship with a public service organization, your son would have more practical experience, and be able to feel like he is contributing to the community, but many of those types of positions are volunteer. If your son were to clerk in the summer with a judge, he would get the chance to see how a courtroom works and how judges make decisions. Not all judges are willing to take on summer interns, though, so your son would have to find out what judges hired students last summer. Again, your son doesn't have to concentrate strictly on a law firm internship, because experience is what is important, but any of those types of positions I mentioned, even if they do not pay, would be extremely beneficial. Ultimately, though, it is your son's next position that will be the most important in the long run.

by A. Harrison Barnes, Esq.

This article courtesy of BCG Attorney Search.

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