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3L Tips: Practical Experience and Post-Grad Planning

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

This is the year that they are supposed to "bore you to death." Remember that little nugget of wisdom, "scare you to death, work you to death, bore you to death"? It's only half-true today. We'd venture a guess that you'll be more stressed than bored during your final year of law school, the year of uncertainty.

What's on your plate? Unless your 2L summer led to a permanent gig, you'll need to line up post-grad housing, pick a bar prep class, apply to anything and everything, and if you can, get some practical experience before you graduate.

Bored? We think not.

Graduation Until Bar Passage: We Call it Torture

If you are planning to practice, the first few months post-grad are going to be spent studying like it's 1L year, except shorter. Find a place to live, preferably with as few distractions as possible. Though failing the bar won't doom you to a life of desperate homelessness (then again, got student loan debt?), it will set you back another six months or so.

When it comes to bar prep courses, from what we've seen of their materials, paper and online, BarBri and Kaplan offer pretty much the same thing: in-person or recorded lectures, outlines, and sample essay and MBE questions. If you can score a deal with one or the other, go for it. If you're more self-motivated, the purely online experience of other providers, such as Themis, are an option as well.

Jobs: You Aren't in a Position to be Picky

Have any interest in maritime contract law? Of course you do. How about commercial construction defect litigation? Nothing would make you happier.

This is the new legal job market. Take what you can get -- to start. Employment, in a job where you actually practice law, is an increasingly rare thing. Get it, work it, and if it doesn't grow on you, plan your escape after getting some much-needed resume filler.

Besides networking and personal connections, your best bet is applying in bulk. Consider creating different types of good cover letters for each practice area, such as a criminal-focused letter, a litigation letter, etc. And for each employer, tailor the letter. Finding a job is itself, a full-time job.

Clinics and Externships

Some schools, such as Washington and Lee, build the externships, clinics, and practicum courses into the third-year curriculum. Others require a bit more legwork. As a product of the W&L 3L year, I can say that the practice-based courses were far more intellectually stimulating, and practice-preparing, than casebook courses.

For example, during my 3L year, I took the Entertainment Law practicum course. The contracts we reviewed, hilariously enough, had, word for word, the exact same contractual language as a reality TV deal that I reviewed for a friend a few months back.

Other possibilities to explore: a semester-long externship for academic credit with a local judge or a spot in one of your school's clinics.

Bored? Clearly not.

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