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, 04:03:11 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.


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Re: Federal Judge Internship vs. Law Firm (Summer Job 1L)?
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2008, 06:13:55 PM »
(1) If money is not a big concern, I would definitely intern for a federal judge. Its a great opportunity to see the legal system from behind the scenes and to make great connections early in your career. Hopefully you'll get alot of face time with the Judge too, but every chamber is different. I've heard horror stories of clerks who were afraid to talk to their Judges and never got do discuss their recommendations. If this is the case, you may be better off making big money at a law firm. My judge, however, was an overall great guy. I got to discuss every motion with him and we talked all the time. Through him, I got to meet local attorneys and politicians too. You should ask the Judge what the summer experience will be like on a day-to-day level.

(2) I doubt a federal judge would let you split the summer but it never hurts to ask. But law firms are generally good about letting students split summers.

(3) A law clerks' job really depends on the judge he/she is working for. Each judge has his own system for dealing with motions and trials. When I clerked during 1L summer, I read the motions, researched the law, wrote bench memos with my recommendations, and discussed and defended my recommendations to the Judge before each motion hearing. It was an awesome experience. I'm also clerking for the same judge after graduation so it worked out really well.

From an employer's perspective, a summer federal internship looks good on the resume but I still think grades matter the most. You also have to consider that if you land a 1L summer associate job, you'll probably get an offer from the law firm as long as you don't get hammered at a recruiting event and yack on the partner.

One thing I would caution against is working for corporate counsel during 1L summer. Corp counsel rarely hires students out of law school and in the rare cases that they do, they won't pay very much.