Five Considerations for your 1L Summer Job

As you finish up with finals, your attention will turn to your 1L summer job search. It may seem overwhelming and you may not know where to begin. Above all else, remember that the CDO is here for you and we want to talk to you. Every one of you has unique interests and thus a unique job search so be sure to come to us for the individualized advice that you deserve. As you engage in conversations with CDO counselors, get started on preparing your application materials, and begin to think seriously about applying for jobs, below are five considerations that can aid your thinking.

The story your resume tells

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Your resume tells a story. Your 1L summer job is the very first legal experience that appears on your resume and so it is the beginning of that story. Thus, when deciding what opportunities to pursue for your 1L summer, the ideal is to have a sense for what job you are targeting as your first job out of law school and then work backwards from there. 

For instance, If you want to be an environmental lawyer, imagine yourself as a 3L applying for an entry-level lawyer job with an environmental law organization. When that organization looks at your resume, does it tell an environmental law story? Does your resume make clear that you have taken advantage of as many environmental law opportunities in law school as you possibly could and prepared yourself to be successful in that field? Does it show commitment to the field of environmental law? What would be the ideal 1L summer job to have on that resume? Clearly, it would be an environmental law internship.

So you can take that insight now as a 1L and do what 3L you will wish you had done. Focus on applying for environmental law internships for your 1L summer.

-Work with the CDO to get personalized advice about great organizations that you can apply to work with this summer.

-Go on PSJD and search employer profiles for environmental law organizations.

-Check out the Government Honors & Internship Handbook and make a spreadsheet of government offices you’re interested in and their application deadlines.

Find Notre Dame alumni practicing in environmental law on LinkedIN and ask them for advice. Start to build your environmental law network.

Your 1L summer matters. Whatever you do this summer will appear on your resume for the next couple of years and you will need to answer questions about it, explain why this experience has prepared you for whatever job you’re interviewing for, and be ready to explain why it is consistent with the story you want your resume to tell.

Make that process easy for yourself in that future and put some thought into the opportunities you’re pursuing for your 1L summer. The CDO is here to help.

How you’re going to fund your summer


While some 1L law firm positions exist, especially for diverse candidates, the vast majority of 1L summer internships are unpaid. So you will be infinitely less stressed and more equipped for summer financial success if you start to pull together funding resources and create a plan for funding your summer early.

First of all, check out this blog post, which is a fairly comprehensive resource on various summer funding sources. There really are many funding resources out there but some application deadlines are early so take a look at the options very soon.

Most non-profit, governmental, and judicial internships are eligible for summer federal work study but if you’re interested in working for a company, politician, international organization, policy advocacy group, or in another position that is ineligible for the federal work study funding, you will need to pull together other summer funding sources. (The CDO will host a program on summer federal work study and law school funding next semester so don’t worry about it yet.)

In several cases, taking a position that is ineligible for traditional funding sources is very worth it. But you need to create a financial plan now to make taking such a position possible. Ideally, you will be able to accept a position based 100% on how effectively it prepares you to accomplish your career plans as described in the section above, without having to turn down a great offer because the job offered is ineligible for federal work study.  Putting yourself in that position requires advanced planning so start thinking about how you can fund an unpaid summer.

The early bird gets the worm


There are plenty of 1L summer opportunities available in March and April. In fact, companies tend to hire quite late and some do not even start looking at applications until March. That said, the majority of opportunities have much earlier application deadlines and many organizations actively interview over winter break.

If you want to position yourself to have access to as many opportunities as possible, plan to get the bulk of your applications out over winter break. You will be sure to minimize the deadlines you’re missing out on and to minimize the stress that comes with simultaneously launching a job search and starting a new semester.

To give you a sense of deadlines for some organizations, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago has a December 14 deadline for 1L summer applications, the Department of Transportation has a January 25 Deadline, and the American Bar Association Judicial Intern Opportunity Program has a January 11 deadline, to name a few.

Even organizations with later deadlines often give out offers on a rolling basis so candidates that apply early have the advantage. For instance, The Legal Aid Society of New York opens their 1L summer internship application from December 3 through February 15 but states that “offers will be made on a rolling basis during each hiring period. Therefore, law student internship applicants are encouraged to apply at the beginning of the hiring period.” To reiterate, if you want to get top consideration, be sure to apply over winter break.

The CDO is here to help you with your application materials so please reach out!

Whether you will get the type of summer experience you are looking for


Often, there is a tendency to focus on the prestige of 1L summer opportunities but it is more productive to focus on the type of experience you will be getting when you accept your internship. What do you hope to be doing this summer? Look inward, ask yourself this question, and actually write the answer down on paper. Do you want to get a solid writing sample this summer? Do you want to interact with clients? Do you want to get exposure to corporate law rather than litigation? Perhaps you want to get embedded in an office and get the experience of being a member of a team of lawyers. Or maybe you want to work more independently?

Don’t just think about the perceived prestige associated with a position or the fact that it will be fun to go to LA this summer. Put some thought into the actual experience.

Sometimes, there is a perception that working for a federal judge over summer is super prestigious and should thus be your #1 choice for your 1L summer. First of all, there is no one size fits all prescription for all law students. You all have different career goals and want different things out of your summer experience so any approach that suggests one option is best for everyone is just not correct.

Second, working for a federal judge can be a great experience for the right person but it isn’t right for everyone and if it isn’t consistent with your planned career path, there are other opportunities that will suit you better. If you want to get the chance to observe courtroom proceedings, work independently, and learn about advocacy, a federal court can be a great fit.

If your top priority is getting a really strong writing sample, don’t fail to consider opportunities with state judges, U.S. Attorney’s offices, and public interest organizations and government offices with strong appellate practices. If you want to experience what it is like to work on a team of lawyers who are advocating for their clients, government and public interest positions may be the best fit.

Whatever experience you’re hoping for this summer, apply to positions that are likely to deliver that experience. If you know what kind of experience you want but are unsure which organizations will provide that experience, that is what the CDO is for! We love having these kinds of conversations.

Whether you’re maximizing your potential to build a strong network


If you have heard any point of emphasis from the CDO, it is that you should work your 1L summer in the city where you want to build your career. The reason we stress this point is because building up a strong network is so essential to a successful job search and it is so much easier to network in a city when you are living and working in that city.

Why network? When you’re applying for a job with a particular organization, there is nothing more helpful than knowing someone who works for that organization. If you know someone, when you apply, they can potentially help make sure your resume gets read. Plus, your application materials will be better to begin with because you will know more about the organization and your cover letters will be full of helpful detail.

Imagine applying to law firms for on campus interviewing and being able to state in every single cover letter you write that you spoke to someone who works at each firm. Your cover letters will all be stronger because the firm will know that you did your research and made an effort to learn more about them. To accomplish this, you need to be meeting a couple of firm lawyers every week during your 1L summer and doing so, of course, requires you being present in the city where you plan on applying later.

Moving forward…

I hope these five considerations help you to strategize as you turn your attention to 1L summer job applications. Remember that there is no substitute for speaking one on one with a CDO counselor about your job search plan. We can assist you with resumes and cover letters, help you identify organizations relevant to your interests, and serve as a sounding board if you want to talk things out. Feel free to schedule an appointment on IrishLink, call, or email us. We look forward to hearing from you! Please keep in mind that the law school, including the CDO, is on holiday break from December 23-January 1.

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