This week we welcome back guest writer Kala Mueller who offers advice for managing your 2L summer.
I have such fond memories of my second law school summer, which I spent clerking at a district attorney’s office. From the adrenaline rush of appearing in court for the first time to lunches spent bonding with fellow clerks, it was the highlight of my law school experience. Having gone on to a full-time gig as a prosecutor, I know now that summer clerkships allow you to experience a lot of the really fun aspects of being a lawyer (especially if you’re certified under your state’s student practice rules) without all of the not-so-fun aspects like managing a huge caseload or meeting billable hour requirements.
My advice for you is to work hard, but also relish this moment in time. Live it up! Next summer you’ll be deeply immersed in bar prep and after that, most of you probably won’t have another “summer break.” Below you’ll find some advice on making the most of your last summer clerkship experience along with a reminder about the judicial clerkship hiring process.
Try Different Things
I always encourage law students to take advantage of the opportunity they have during law school to do different things. Ask for projects in areas of the law that you haven’t been exposed to through the work you’ve done thus far or the classes you’ve taken. Out of the group of five students I clerked with, only one was assigned to work with the juvenile court attorneys. While I got to do a lot of different things, it never occurred to me to ask to work on any juvenile court issues (the system is very different from adult court so it would’ve been a valuable experience). I imagine they would have happily accommodated me if I’d made the request.
It will never again be as easy as it is now to just try something out, and diverse experiences are beneficial since you never know where your career may take you. All of my law school work experience and many of my classes were focused on criminal law. I don’t regret it because it’s what I was really passionate about, but I do sometimes wonder if I might have discovered other areas of interest if I’d branched out a bit more. Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities that will allow you to get as much as possible out of your clerkship and law school experience. Have you been to court? Sat in on a deposition or client meeting?
If the types of opportunities are somewhat limited with your current employer, consider an informational interview, shadowing another attorney, or – thinking ahead to 3L year – an externship. You can test the waters and learn something new outside of a fully-immersive summer clerkship experience.
Whatever You’re Doing, Do It Well
There’s no doubt this is an important period of time. Some of you may end the summer with a postgraduate offer if you impress your current employer, and if that doesn’t happen (for whatever reason), you’ll soon be embarking on a job hunt. Even if you know with certainty that this job is not leading to a full-time position, putting everything you have into it means that those you’ve worked with will probably be willing to provide a strong recommendation.
Although there wasn’t an opening in the district attorney’s office where I clerked when I graduated, I’m confident I did good work there and developed a number of really strong relationships. I don’t have any doubt that receiving great recommendations from two attorneys with decades of experience helped me stand out in a pool of several dozen applicants and land the job I was offered in another county shortly after graduation.
Don’t Forget About Judicial Clerkships
There are a number of times in law school where it probably feels like you’re having to make big life decisions far earlier than you should have to, and one of those times is now (for some of you). If you’re still mulling over the idea of a judicial clerkship, here’s a gentle reminder that you need to make a final decision soon (like really soon) about whether it’s something you’re going to pursue, especially if you’re hoping for a federal clerkship. OSCAR, the web-based system for federal law clerk recruitment, will release application materials submitted by the class of 2020 to federal judges on June 17, 2019. There are some deadlines for 2020 clerkships that have already passed or are coming up quickly, so I would not advise sitting on this for much longer.
While some state court hiring will extend well into 3L year, there are also a lot of state court clerkships with mid-summer deadlines. There is not much uniformity in clerkship hiring practices around the country, so it’s hard to give specific advice – just make sure you’re checking dates now so you don’t miss the boat on any potential state or federal court clerkships you might want to apply for.