Law School Discussion

Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?

Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« on: March 03, 2008, 03:59:21 PM »
I got into a 1L diversity clerkship program that guarantees me a job for the summer (I have a 2nd round of interviews with law firms and employers the likes of which include Dorsey & Whitney and Medtronic). However, one of my connections back home got me an interview with a Federal District Court Judge (Western New York, where I live) and there is a strong possibility he may offer me the opportunity to intern with him during the summer (he already expressed an inclination at least). Before I interview with the judge this week, I had several concerns:

(1) If I could only choose one, is working for a law firm or interning with the judge a better option as a 1L? (I've been told 1L jobs can be pretty lame and unfulfilling. Granted I do get paid, that isn't an overriding concern. (FYI, I interned at the DOJ as an undergrad so I had something to write about beforehand)

(2) I have considered trying to see if certain firms I am interviewing with might entertain a split summer and then possibly do the 2nd half with the judge. Is this a good idea to even entertain? WOuld I be better off just sticking with one or the other for 10-12 weeks?

(3) What exactly do judicial interns do? I know that clerks are the real people judges consult in writing and researching opinions, but will I be doing anything substantive? Will future employers look more strongly on one experience over the other?

Thanks in advance.

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2008, 07:26:41 PM »
I would also like to know whether a firm job or a judicial internship/externship for the 1L summer looks better on the old CV.

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2008, 07:53:15 PM »
When will you know what job you get?  If the firm is one you'd want to work at after you graduate, and you don't think you'd have gotten it without the diversity program, you should definitely take that. 

1L jobs at lots of firms aren't any more lame and unfulfilling than 2L jobs.  Finding out the differences between the 1L and 2L program should be among the questions you're asking in the interviews. 

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2008, 11:16:32 PM »
Definitely agree with Peaches that the first question here is are your grades good enough to land a decent BigLaw job for your 2L summer (assuming that's what you want to do). If not, of course take the BigLaw job for this summer. Other than that, however, I'd suggest the clerkship. This summer is your only chance for a while to do something different and non-BigLaw related. It will be interesting and will benefit you later. You'll have interesting stories, good resume experience, and hopefully a good relationship with a judge (which will help you down the line). Plus you'll get some great insight into litigation strategy and tactics (what works, what doesn't). You will also know what really happens in chambers when the judge is deciding an issue, and that will help you down the line too (assuming you're a litigator). So that's my advice.

And no, don't split your summer (if you even can, which I doubt).

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2008, 06:56:12 AM »
Any particular reason not to split?  The advice I've heard is if you can split as a 1L, go for it.

I think the issue here is whether the firm's normal rules apply to the diversity summer program.  If you're in through the program, then you may be expected to stay for the entire summer -- especially if you're someone that they otherwise would not have hired.  But I don't know much about the diversity programs' guidelines.

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2008, 12:36:17 PM »
My take on splitting your summer is that instead of really getting know a place and the people that work there, you don't really get a good sense of two different places. In addition, it will be harder to foster relationships wherever you go based on the fact that you split. For example, at the firm where I worked for my 2L summer, there was one person who split. The whole summer they were known as the split summer person. By the time they came halfway through the summer, relationships were already formed. Lunch groups were solified and social events were planned. If they come back after law school, who knows, that might affect their ability to get the best assignments. To me, it seems like it's better to get the full experience of one, instead of a not-full experience of two different places.

This is not to say that it can't be done effectively. Peaches, or anybody else, I would love to hear the other side of this issue. I've always believed don't split, but would love to hear some counterarguments.

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2008, 01:11:44 PM »
How big was the firm you worked for?  And did he get no-offered because of it?

I can see that there can be an advantage to staying one place the whole summer if it is THE place you want to work.  But if you don't know, it's nice to go into 3L year with two open offers and two experiences.  You can worry about if you get to sit at the cool kids lunch table later.

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2008, 01:28:02 PM »
Big firm. And yes, they got an offer. That's a fair point, but the disadvantages go beyond the cool kids lunch. First of all, if there not enough offers available to accommodate everybody, I guarantee you the split summer will be one of the first ones cut. They couldn't commit to our firm/court for 12 weeks, so how will they commit for several years? That could be the reasoning. So I think first, your offer is at risk. Second, developing relationships with partners and associates and staff can help you in your practice. I just think unless a student is absolutely torn and is willing to take the risk, sure go for it. But I think it's a smarter, safer play to choose one or the other.

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2008, 01:47:20 PM »
I don't really think it's a loyalist "couldn't commit."  I think if there aren't enough offers to go around, the people who turned out terrible work product, had poor work ethic, and bad social skills will be the ones to go first. 

I have really never heard your advice from anyone, and I just don't think the data is there to support it.  There certainly isn't enough for you to "guarantee" that the splitters are the first ones to be cut.  Besides, if you're a 1L you're mainly just hoping for a return offer since permanent offers are rare. 

I think firms understand that you have two summers to find where you're going after you graduate and that you'd have preferred to have worked for firms you're choosing between.  Students with multiple offers are usually desirable candidates, so it's as much about a firm selling themselves to the student as it is the other way around.  Most firms view a summer as the best sales tool they have, and they allow splits so they can have the opportunity to sell themselves to highly desirable candidates. 

Building relationships is important, but you can build substantive relationships in 6 weeks that are enough for them to see if you're competent and fun to have around.  I just think the overall advantages to a split outweigh the possible disadvantages.  And here's another tip: don't work at a firm that doesn't have enough offers to accommodate everybody. 

Re: Federal Judge internship vs. Law firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2008, 02:06:41 PM »
Definitely agree that the totally incompetent summers will be the first to be cut, but if everybody is doing similar work I think it's a valid point that will be considered by the partners. Especially at a big firm. Summer associates cost firms a LOT of money. They want to be sure that an associate will not jump ship right away before they have a chance to make a profit on them.

And it's great advice to avoid places that don't have enough offers to go around (that shows a whole bunch of negative traits that you want to avoid). However, you don't always know which places are like that until it's too late.

You may not have heard my advice from anybody, and I'm not sure what data you are referring to, but I still believe it. And I retract my use of the word "guarantee." I believe that it's very likely (not guaranteed) that the split summer will not get the offer if there's one short and everybody had the same basic work product.