Law School Discussion

Law Students => Current Law Students => Topic started by: jeffislouie on April 04, 2008, 11:21:07 PM

Title: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: jeffislouie on April 04, 2008, 11:21:07 PM
An interesting discussion at law school about summer courses resulted in two seemingly conflicting positions, and I'm curious to hear what others have to say...

I plan on taking 6-7 hours of summer school courses each summer while at law school.  I started in January, so I only get 2.  The idea is that if I do that, I graduate a semester early.  In my opinion, the sooner I can take and hopefully pass the bar, the better.  I'm a non-trad who started at the age of 32.  I got to chatting with some other one l's about their summer plans, and was surprised to hear some resistance to taking classes.
The most prevalent position was to focus on internships/externships/clerkships/etc. to gain experience, and only take summer school if they can make it work.
So which is the more correct approach?  Obviously, I think in my situation, and with the contacts I have in the legal world, getting out as quickly as possible is the best option.  I also understand why someone might be more interested in experience, especially for younger students who haven't held any real jobs down (I don't count working at best buy or burger king, I mean real jobs with real responsibility).  Should I concern myself with this much?
My plan is to take 6 hours this summer and try to follow my brother, an attorney, around the courts and help out as much as possible.  I'll probably do this twice a week.  Hopefully, that will get me some decent experience while getting me out of school a bit ahead of normal.
Opinions?

I am really not interested in negativity, argument, nit-picking, petty bickering, or insults.  If you plan on engaging in such activity, I reserve the right to :
1) ignore you completely or,
2) return the favor with nastiness and anger or
3) Call you names and behave like a child.
If you find yourself considering ways to make yourself sound smart or better than me, stop.  Understand that your efforts will be wasted.  You will prove the opposite.
Thanks for reading.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: jacy85 on April 05, 2008, 05:26:34 AM
Depending on what you want to do, and what sort of guarantees you have from your contacts, if any, the experience may not be necessary.  But other practice areas and other settings/types of firms and practices care more about seeing LEGAL work experience (even if you have other substantive work experience from before law school).  So if you want to go into that type of setting or work in whatever field of law that might be, then regardless of your age/experience, you best be getting a summer job or internship in that field.

As for which is better for you, as I said before, it really depends.  If you plan on being a solo practitioner, or working with your brother or whatever after you graduate, then summer classes seem the way to go to save money if nothing else.  If you want to go into a firm of whatever size, and you're 150% sure your contacts will get you in, then your plan seems sound.  But if not, or if you want to do something competitive, etc., then you may be wasting a necessary opportunity to get something legal on your (perhaps already extensive) resume.  I think its important to remember that even if your resume is stellar for one position, it may be completely inadequate to get you a job in a different field.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: broken on April 05, 2008, 09:22:53 AM
Is there any way you can work part-time or for a few weeks at a not-for-profit? I have to take a class this summer b/c I'm dual-degree, but it doesn't start until mid-July, so I'll be able to get in 8 weeks of legal work in before it starts, and then maybe I'll do it part time while the class is going on.

If it's just one summer, I don't see the problem. A lot of people go abroad and take classes, they don't seem to miss out on job opportunities b/c they didn't work in an office the first summer. As long as you get some legal experience in before you graduate, you should be fine.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: thorc954 on April 05, 2008, 09:53:35 AM
I think your approach is alright if you have connections that are guaranteed to come through upon graduation.  However, if you dont, its pretty important to have summer legal experience.  Something you may want to consider is whether you can call the following your brother around an "internship" without any ethical dilemma.  Also, you may wish to consider doing externships for credit either during the semester, or during the summer, and pursuing legal clinics for credits.  These give you the option to work towards graduation while still getting a resume together.  I know that my law school gives the opportunity to complete an internship during the summer (4 credits for the work, 2 credits for a coreq class).  This means 6 credits from the summer while having an internship to fill up your resume.

I think that you may just want to keep your options open and try not to pass up any opportunities to get experience.  Again though, you are a non-traditional student, so I dont know for sure what your exact career goals are (did you go to law school because your friend offered you a job after you graduate, etc).
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: dandlewood on April 05, 2008, 10:10:36 AM
I came to lawschool a little late myself, (was 26 when I started, and I'll be 28 when I graduate) and I'm graduating a semester early because of summer classes.  Bear in mind, I also have some legal background, as I was a certified paralegal for several years, and have continued a part time working relationship with my former employer throughout law school. 

That being said, I highly advocate summer classes, even if you don't graduate early.  A lot of the pressure which gets in the way of learning evaporates when you only have one or two classes to worry about. If you're in a school with a forced curve, the curve usually is less of a factor in summer classes.  Also, many teachers who are tough to get during the school year become available during the summer. 

As long as you think of some way to get some experience while taking those summer classes, you should be fine.  I think there is a lot to be said for being aggressive in your studies in an interview setting.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: Peaches on April 06, 2008, 05:02:00 AM
One of the tracks is to work for at least one major firm during your 2L summer (some people work for 2 or 3) and make between $2,000 and $3,000 a week.  In the fall of 3L year, you usually don't have to worry about a job because you'll take an offer from your 2L summer positions.  They then pay for your bar preparation and give you money until you pass the bar.  Making $25,000 to 30,000 in a summer is nice, and so is not having to worry about getting a job and how you're going to live until the bar.

That path may or may not be an option to you based on your law school's ranking.  But if you wind up with excellent grades, then it could be.  Don't want to shut yourself out of a lucrative option because it doesn't fit in your plan. 

Also, even small lawyers are now aware of the typical "get firm experience your 2L summer" mantra, and if you just do summer school each summer they will assume that you're just doing summer school because nobody would hire you.  And if nobody would hire you, there must be something wrong with you that they're missing.  Employers like seeing experience on your resume, but they also like to see the firms on the resume to know that other legal employers have decided you were worth hiring.  You should try to find something paid, and not with your brother, for the second summer. 

If you graduate in December, you can run into some problems with the hiring cycle.  Also, lots of people think they have connections.  Many of these don't come through, so you should make sure they're guaranteed or that your brother is willing and able to take you on and help support you.   Job shadowing your brother is helpful for deciding if you want to do what he does, but it is not "experience." 
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: jacy85 on April 06, 2008, 05:44:49 AM

If you graduate in December, you can run into some problems with the hiring cycle.   

This statement assumes the OP wants to work for a decent sized firms; if he wants to go solo or work in a small firm (which is what I'm betting based on his post), there is no hiring cycle.  Hiring happens whenever the need arises.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: Peaches on April 06, 2008, 06:20:10 AM
You CAN run into the problems, not *will* run into the problems.  And then they come on LSD and post about it.

I didn't assume he wanted to work in a decent-sized firm; read the first two paragraphs.  My point main point was that his ties him up and doesn't give him a real opportunity to change his mind.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: txlawstu on April 06, 2008, 09:25:55 AM
Thorc has it right.  It all depends on what exactly your connections and plans are as to the answer.  But the best idea is to combine the two and do an externship where you get course credit and legal experience at the same time.  The amount of credit varies as the most you can get at my school is 3 hours as opposed to the 6 at thorc's school.  It will mean you don't get paid for the work, but you get the course credit and out of school faster.  Since you were planning on school instead of work anyway, the pay shouldn't be an issue.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: jeffislouie on April 06, 2008, 10:37:04 AM
Thanks to all who have posted so far.
Perhaps a little more information can help to clarify things.  The thing with my brother is essentially an internship.  The truth is, I haven't really discussed it with him, but I'm completely certain that I'll be doing internship stuff (research, document filing, memo writing, initial interviews, etc.) and I'm also completely certain that he wants me to be around (he's been hinting at it and asking me what my summer looks like). 
I appreciate the advice about 2L summer.  My plan is to reevaluate as things progress to try and figure out where to intern and in what field.  I spoke to a friend and he is interning 2 days a week and going to school this summer, so it can be done.
The question came up about my connections, so perhaps if I expand it would help you to give better counsel.
One of the reasons I decided to go to law school was the constant encouragement by family friends with whom I have had extensive interaction.  One such person is a divorce attorney, a named partner in a boutique divorce firm in Chicago.  She wrote one of my LOR's, and gave me a copy.  In one section, she spoke about how I would make an excellent addition to her firm.  She has sinced offered, several times, to help me in any way she can.  When I told her I was taking family law this summer, she made sure to point out that her downtown office was close to where I go and that I should feel free to come by to discuss any concept that I feel uncertain about.  Another person who encouraged me to attend law school is a personal injury attorney who I've known since I was 6 years old.  He's arguably one of the best in Chicago, and has several times offered to help me with any concepts in torts that I may have questions about.  I know half a dozen criminal defense attorney's, all of whom both encouraged me and offered help.  I know lawyers who do real estate, divorce, criminal defense, personal injury, and corporate litigation.  I have no doubt in my mind that I could get internships at any one of 4 or 5 law firms where I have personal connections.  Additionally, I have been told in no uncertain terms that upon passing the bar, I will be able to find a job through my contacts in virtually any field of law that I would consider (it feels like criminal defense or personal injury is where my head is at).  I recently met the former head of the cook county public defenders office at a family function as well.
Please understand that I truly believe that I am extremely lucky to have these connections.  I also understand that there is nothing like experience.  I definitely approach law school with a degree of humility as well.
Last week, I set up an interview with the G.C. for a Chicago sports team for a student who is interested in sports law.
It appears that the consensus is that I should get SOME experience, at least during 2L summer, and try to take summer classes.
And for the record, while I can appreciate the draw to big-law or mid-law, I don't see myself enjoying that work environment.  I am willing to get paid less for the first 5 years or so with the expectation that I will break 6 figures within 5 years.  I don't intend to make half a million or a million a year at any point in my career.
The externship is a good idea as well, and one I hope to take advantage of.
When I get my 7-11, my brother thinks he can set me up in DuPage county to prosecute some tickets under states attorney's he knows as well, so that could be interesting....
Then again, I might end up a public defender.  It's too early to tell yet.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: jacy85 on April 06, 2008, 10:48:01 AM
One thing I'll add, since you mentioned at the end of your post there is a chance you may consider becoming a PD (or that such a path may end up as one of your options).

If your primary market is Chicago (seems like your post is Chicago heavy), I would guess that the Chicago PD has a TON of interest from students of all types of backgrounds and the all sorts of schools.  From watching a good friend go through the interview process with various metro PD offices across the country, it seems like they are all extremely focused on people with experience doing defense work, preferably, according to what she ran into, for PD offices.  They also liked people w/ personal ties to the area, and although that's not a req (my friend got a job in an area she had no ties to), you'd probably have that strongly in your favor.

I would just keep that preference in mind while you're re-evaluating what you want to do next summer after 2L and if you begin to feel you do want to go the PD route (and also keep it in mind while looking into possible internship/externships/field placement opportunities your school offers!).
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: Dr. Balsenschaft on April 06, 2008, 11:40:38 AM
If I were you, I would not take summer classes.  Instead, I would pursue a different internship each summer.  With all of those connections, you have a great opportunity to be exposed to a number of different areas within the legal profession. The only way to figure out what you're interested in is by doing the work.  A summer internship allows you to experience doing the work on a daily basis so you really get a better idea of whether you would enjoy working in that field for an extended period of time.  An externship or part-time job really doesn't give you the same experience because you're mixing work with a number of other activities, making the experience better or worse depending on the situation.  Of course, externships and part-time jobs still give you some great experience, but I suggest you pursue those activities during the school year in addition to your summer-long internships. 

I doubt graduating a semester early would save much money because summer classes cost money too.  I also don't see what the big rush is because 6 months does not make a big difference regardless of whether you are 25 or 35-years-old (I'll be 32 myself when I graduate).  Of course, I would rather stab myself in the eye than take summer courses so I'm sure that influences my take on your situation.

Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: Peaches on April 06, 2008, 06:16:34 PM
I agree with Balsenschaft.  Use those connections to get some great experience and try out different fields of law.

FWIW, while your connections seem like a great network for finding a job, none of them sound like guarantees of a job, especially if times are hard and you're up against candidates with actual experience in the area of law you're applying in.  Your connections aren't really any better than many other students entering law school, so a dose of perspective may be helpful.    And, I hate to say it, but generic offers of help (no matter how enthusiastic) really cannot be counted on to materialize into jobs unless they are specifically offered and guaranteed. 

While I'm sure you could go solo or work with your brother, it just seems smarter to get actual full-time work experience for at least part of the summer.  Making yourself more marketable seems more important than starting 5 months "late." 
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: jeffislouie on April 06, 2008, 10:18:23 PM
Thanks to all who have commented so far.  I appreciate it.
I spoke with my brother today about it and he was excited that I was interested in helping out this summer.  I told him I wanted it to be more like an internship than just following him around.  He seemed very interested in having access to me 2 days a week.  He could use a hand and it would save him alot of hassle to have me be able to pick up some of the work.
Thank you to the good doctor and Jacy as well.  Good points.
Peaches - Your advice sounds good too, but I can't work full time this summer.  I'm already enrolled for classes, with the prof's I wanted and the classes I was interested in.  I do plan to take advantage of my connections to get soem experience in different fields.
Doc - It's not about the money, it's about time.  As I get older, I grow weary of some of the less mature stuff I've witnessed.  I watched a knucklehead crack wise with a teacher (who called on her and worked her over for the first 45 minutes of the next class as a lesson), I've seen students make nasty comments about staff and their office decorations, and I'm generally a little sick of listening to people act dumb because they think it's still cool in law school and that's how they got through undergrad.  It's not about the money, it's about getting back into earning money coupled with the excitement of starting yet another career (hopefully my last).
Jacy - I'm Chicago born and bred.  The only other place I have any interest in working would be south Florida.  I have no contacts there and I've already turned down jobs down there in previous careers, so it's really not likely that I'll end up there.  Chicago is my target.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: txlawstu on April 07, 2008, 06:18:14 AM
Sounds like your on the right track.  I did summer school and an internship my 1L summer.  I also did summer school with part of it being an externship my 2L summer.  But, I was making up time for going part-time the first year, so I was trying to get out in 3 not 2 1/2 like you.

If you are seriously considering the PD's office, look into an externship with them.  Most of those offices, like the DA/CA's offices, will hire interns before they hire any other baby attorneys.  In addition, many of those offices will only hire people with experience and they count interning as experience.  So make sure and check into that with your local office to see what their policy is so you will be prepared.  You may even need to apply for that internship/externship early in the fall semester for next summer, so check into it now.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: Peaches on April 07, 2008, 06:25:04 AM
Sorry, to clarify: summer school is fine for 1L summer, but 2L summer you should really find a FT legal job not working for a family member.  Working for your brother is better than nothing, but it's still working for your brother on a resume.

I just find it unfathomable that someone who wants to get back to earning money again wouldn't want to take advantage of the summers as an opportunity to stop the bleeding.  Even in small firms you can get $800-1400/wk.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: linquest on April 07, 2008, 09:08:56 PM
Hello, fellow non-trad here :)   I think you should seriously consider what Peaches is saying: 1) your connections in no way guarantees you a job anywhere and  2) you need FULL-TIME legal experience before graduating.  So although I think it's fine that you'll be taking summer classes this year, you should definitely try to get full-time experience next summer.  Basically, I just don't believe that the benefits of graduating a few months early outweighs the costs of foregoing substantive full-time legal experience.

You may not think that there's much of a difference between working full-time vs. part-time at a legal internship, but there is.  The difference is much more visible when you have both full-time interns and part-time externs working at the same time.  It is easy to overlook the part-timers when you have a full-timer constantly there.  The full-timer is likely to get the choice assignments first because: 1) the full-timer simply happened to be there when the project came up and the part-timer was not present  2) the full-timer has more time to express a preference for certain kinds of work  3) there is a short turnaround time required of an assignment and the part-timer would not be able to complete the assignment in the time available.   The part-timer may thus get relegated to non-legal work, like clerical tasks or paralegal tasks.  Another factor is that you simply get more face time with the attorneys as a full-timer and are more likely to be invited out to social events.  As the BigLaw model of summer associates show, sometime internships are less about the substantive experience and more about the networking

Unfortunately, sometimes non-trads have a harder time finding a job right out of law school.  Part of this is due to age discrimination.  Part of this is due to the fact that non-trads often over-estimate the extent to which their past experience and prior connections will help them with starting their new career as an attorney. True, a prior successful career can help you stand out in a field of applicants, but legal employers are more concerned with substantive legal experience.  This is why someone who went to law school straight from undergrad but had two full-time legal internships  may be more likely to be hired than someone with 10+ years experience in a related field (i.e. a former engineer/project manager wanting to go into IP law) but chose not to get full-time legal experience.

Lastly, I think it would behoove you to get legal experience from someone other than your brother.  At most interviews, you will be asked how you got the previous job.  Working for family may not be taken as seriously, especially if it was only part-time. 
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: NATUREBOY on April 07, 2008, 09:12:21 PM
I strongly recommend that everyone take a full load of classes during their first summer.  1L jobs are usually non-paying, do not provide you with any substantial legal experience, and do not give you an advantage during your job search later down the line.  The only people I'd recommend take one of these jobs are 20-somethings with zero work experience.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: jacy85 on April 08, 2008, 04:16:37 AM
1L jobs are usually non-paying, do not provide you with any substantial legal experience, and do not give you an advantage during your job search later down the line. 

This may be the case in many situations, I don't know that its "usual".  I think you'd find a lot of people, even just here on LSD, that feel they got a lot of their 1L job.  For me, I got great substantive writing experience doing appellate work, and while the job itself likely didn't give me much of an advantage beyond the obvious benefits of becoming a better writer, the contacts I made have DEFINITELY helped me a ton - one supervisor in particular knows A LOT of people, and is more than willing to make calls on your behalf, etc.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: linquest on April 08, 2008, 12:27:07 PM
Agreed.  I got a paid internship after 1L that also exposed me to an area of law that is not taught in most law schools (and which I now hope to specialize in the future) and helped me get another paid internship for the next summer.  The 1L interns did the same work as the 2L interns there.

Also, considering that the OP is interested in very different legal fields and practice settings, multiple internships may help you make a more informed decision about which route to pursue out of law school.
Title: Re: Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?
Post by: jeffislouie on April 18, 2008, 01:09:44 PM
I definitely appreciate the advice given.  I started in January, so my options are summer school, unpaid internship with the PD office, or clerking/interning for my brother.
I've chosen to take two electives this summer and intern for my brother.
While it may be true that there are no guarantees, my brother has explicitly offered me a job pending graduation and bar passase - so at least there's one job waiting for me if I want it.  He's way too busy to handle all the work he has now and has been pushing me to go to law school for quite a few years.
That said, I may not be interested in dedicating my life to his specialization.  Perhaps next summer, I'll work on getting some sort of paid internship with a larger firm.
And I should clarify - I've pretty much got law school expenses all paid for with investments and savings, so I'm not terribly concerned with 'stopping the bleeding', though I certainly appreciate that concept. 
Thanks to all who chimed in....