Why 1Ls Should Consider Transactional Work for 1L Summer

There are lots of great options for your 1L summer job and while some of those options get a lot of buzz, others, such as transactional opportunities, are less talked about. Everyone talks about working for a judge but what about working for a City Law Department or at a company? Let’s delve into these opportunities, how to find them, and why they are worth considering for your 1L summer job.

1L year is all about litigation

How many 1Ls are really sure what kind of work they want to do? How many 1Ls really know what transactional work actually involves? It is no surprise if you don’t because 1L classes are all about litigation. Even contracts doesn’t teach you how to draft a contract; you read cases about litigation over contracts. So if you want to try out transactional work and see if it is a good fit for you, 1L summer is really your very first chance. If you aren’t sure what kind of law you want to pursue, pursuing transactional work your 1L summer is the perfect chance to learn all about an area you don’t learn anything about your 1L year.

And it isn’t as though you are pigeon holing yourself into transactional work for the rest of your career by doing it 1L summer. Since 1L year is all about litigation, if you go into OCI or 2L summer interviews wanting to do litigation, having a summer of transactional experience won’t hurt you. In those interviews, you can simply talk about the fact that you chose to try transactional work out your 1L summer to see if you liked it since you spent 1L year focused on litigation. It turns out, you prefer litigation. But you’re glad you gave transactional work a try.

But when you are interviewing for 2L summer jobs, if you want to be competitive for transactional jobs, your 1L courses won’t provide a compelling argument that you are really interested in transactional work. You’ll need that transactional experience 1L summer to make your best case.

Finding transactional opportunities for 1L summer

I often hear that if you want to do transactional work, you have to work at a big firm. This is not true. Big firms offer great transactional work for sure but there are plenty of great transactional opportunities outside of big firms too.

My first stop is City Law Departments. Every major city in the country has a city law department or city attorney’s office and they all have transactional divisions.

The City of Chicago Law Department, for example, has four transactional divisions:

Aviation, Environmental, Regulatory & Contracts

Finance & Economic Development

Legal Counsel

Real Estate

These divisions work on things like financing city projects, representing the City  in the acquisition or sale of services and intellectual property, providing advice on airport leases, contracts, and airport bond issues. In other words, this is solid transactional experience!

If you aren’t interested in Chicago, the city you are interested in has their own law department. You can find it easily by googling “[Name of city] law department.” Many law departments have strong summer programs and some are even paid such as the New York City Law Department and the San Diego City Attorney’s Office programs.

Beyond City Law Departments, companies regularly hire law students over the summer. Hyatt Hotels, for instance, hires a 1L every summer to work in their Chicago headquarters. When opportunities are sent our way, we will post them to IrishLink and include them in the 1L Weekly Docket. Companies regularly post summer jobs to indeed so be sure to check there as well. Every summer I see postings from companies such as Royal Caribbean, Jet Blue, Verizon, and tons more.

There are also plenty of public interest opportunities in transactional law. Most cities have an organization that works with non-profits and small businesses to help them with their legal issues. In New York, it’s the Lawyers Alliance for New York, in Chicago it’s the Community Law Project at the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and in Los Angeles, it is the Community Development Section at Public Counsel. Similarly, several law schools have clinics that focus on transactional issues. Some examples include the Community Development Clinic here at Notre Dame, the Social Enterprise and Non-profit Clinic at GeorgetownInstitute for Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago, and the Entrepreneurship Clinic at the University of Michigan. Email me at katelynn.mcbride@nd.edu and I can help you find the relevant non-profit or clinic in your city.

Lastly, there are quasi-governmental organizations that do transactional work. In Chicago, we work with several of them through the Chicago program. Some that come to mind include the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund and Metropolitan Pier Exposition Authority. I did a keyword search for transactional on PSJD and the  California State Water Control Board popped right up.

All this said, if you are dedicated to a specific career path, then just do that. If you came to law school wanting to do immigration law and you’re certain that’s where you are headed, then do immigration law your 1L summer. But if you’re open to possibilities and not set on a particular path, consider exploring transactional opportunities.


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