A realistic look at a summer legal job search

Matt MeyerAs many people know, there has been a heightened focus on the legal job market in the media lately. Most notably, the New York Times recently ran an article on the doom and gloom of the legal job market and the unemployment struggles of new law grads. As a 2L inching closer to my impending graduation in May 2012, I have spent much of the last year and a half job searching. And with the less-than-encouraging stories in the media I thought it would be valuable to provide prospective 1Ls and current 1Ls alike with some realistic insight into a 1L legal summer job search.

A law student’s job search begins halfway through 1L year. This is when students can finally meet with Career Services, per rules of the American Bar Association, and begin to contact legal employers. The Office of Career Services provides several opportunities to begin your job search. For starters, Career Services holds Legal Career Options Day in the fall where students have the opportunity to speak with different types of legal employers (firms, corporations, government, etc.). Career Services also has a mentor program where 1Ls are matched up with KU Law alumni. The program provides a great way to begin networking and gives 1Ls the opportunity to ask questions of people who have been in their shoes. In the spring, 1L on-campus interviews (OCI) take place. During OCI, employers come to campus over several weeks and interview selected students. OCI is a great way to get experience with legal interviews, and some students do get jobs through them. But a majority of students find summer employment through other avenues. Along with checking job postings on the Symplicity website, other avenues include networking with family, friends and alumni.

I took advantage of all of these opportunities provided by Career Services during my 1L year. I also attended various workshops for resume writing and information sessions on different types of legal employment. After four or five months of my 1L job search, sending out countless emails and networking, I found myself without a job. Although I was a bit discouraged at first, I spoke with Career Services Dean Todd Rogers, took a week or two off of looking for work, and then resumed my search.

When late April rolled around, I still didn’t have anything lined up, so I enrolled in two summer classes. After enrolling, I continued to apply to postings on Symplicity, and I finally received an unpaid clerkship at a courthouse, along with a part-time position with a small law office. My summer turned out to be the best of both worlds; I was able to gain legal experience while taking additional courses.

In the end, my 1L job search was more difficult and took longer than I had thought it would. However, I think it prepared me for my 2L job search (another blog entry entirely) and my future post-law school job search. Something others can take away from my 1L job search is that, although the economy is tough, there are opportunities out there for 1Ls to gain legal experience and position themselves for their future job searches.

Here are some tips, pointers and thoughts to keep in mind for the 1L job search:

  • Do something law related, whether it is taking a class, doing an unpaid externship or working a paid job. As nice as it might sound, do something other than sit around the entire summer.
  • Be persistent. It is unlikely that one email or phone call – or even interview – is going to get you a summer job. Continue to search, apply and interview until you find something.
  • Take a break. There may be times where you feel discouraged. Take a week to stop job searching. Get outside, hang out with friends, focus your efforts on school work or do something else. When you get back to it the next week, you will feel rejuvenated and ready to continue your search.
  • Networking is as important as everyone says it is. In a tough job market, nothing can get you a job faster than networking. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Ask your family and friends for referrals. Once you meet someone, follow up with them and keep the lines of communication open. Networking is more than just asking for a job.
  • Career Services is your friend. Todd Rogers, Karen Hester and LaVerta Logan are great. Make an effort to introduce yourself and get to know them. They are there for you if you need someone to review your resume and cover letter, to help you create a job-search plan, or even if you just want to talk. Work with Career Services!

Matt Meyer, 2L and Student Ambassador