Law School Discussion

Summer school and out faster or internships/externships for experience?

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.

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.


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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.

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.

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).

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.

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." 


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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.

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.

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.

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.