Research Assistant Positions: What they are and how to apply

This is a guest blog post from Chris Kozelichki.

While there are many working opportunities available for 1Ls during their first summer in law school, working as a research assistant provides students with a unique opportunity to grow as attorneys and legal scholars. During my 1L summer and during the subsequent academic years in school, I served as a research assistant to my criminal law professor. That experience was one of the formative experiences in my young career. Not only did I have the opportunity to work on an interesting project regarding sentencing consistency among judges, but I had the opportunity to discuss other legal issues as well as my career with an accomplished jurist and professor. To this day, I still maintain contact with the professor I worked for. 

Benefits of a Research Assistant Position

From a candidate standpoint, the benefits of a research assistant position vary based on the ultimate career goals of the student. Students who are interested in post-graduate clerkships benefit, in particular, from research assistant positions. Clerkship candidates benefit from developing a strong relationship with their faculty supervisor. This is invaluable to the clerkship candidate as letters of recommendation from their faculty are one of the most important parts of the application package. That said, all students can benefit from a strong relationship with faculty, not just clerkship candidates. Our faculty have many contacts from their time practicing as well as former students whom they have taught. So having a strong working relationship with a preeminent scholar in the profession can be beneficial to almost any student.

In addition, having the opportunity to hone your research and writing skills with a renowned scholar is a benefit to any aspiring attorney’s career. By working one-on-one with a professor, the student will receive guidance and mentorship that he/she likely otherwise would not have had. Additionally, having the opportunity to delve deep into a particular area of law can create a career-long interest in that area of law. While the first year of law school is a whirlwind view of the law at a high level, the opportunity to focus on one particular area can be a welcome one.

It also doesn’t hurt that Research Assistant positions are paid.

If you are unable to work as a Research Assistant this summer, keep in mind that many professors hire RAs throughout the school year as well.

What makes a good Research Assistant candidate?

It goes without saying, but one of the primary traits that professors seek are strong legal research and writing abilities. A professor relies on his/her research assistants to review materials, provide summaries, and gather arguments together in order to aid their writing. In addition to this, the RA is often asked to review sections, provide revisions or, in some cases, write portions of a piece a professor is preparing for publication. Beyond those obvious traits, the ideal candidate will have an interest in the subject of the research project. For most people, having an interest in the work allows him/her to work more effectively. So while it’s not a strict requirement for the position, it certainly helps the candidate be more successful as a research assistant.

While many students have concerns about having the opportunity to network in their desired market while being a research assistant, this isn’t a problem for many of the positions as some professors allow their assistants to work remotely. This allows the assistant to both work closely with the professor as well as build a network in their chosen market.

How to apply for a summer Research Assistant position

If you’re interested in applying for a Research Assistant position, all RA postings with our faculty are on IrishLink. The postings are live all at the same time for about two weeks in January. At the close, all applications will be forwarded to the designated faculty member for consideration.

Each job posting discusses the pay rate, whether the position is remote or not, and application materials that the faculty member requires.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.