Sunday, February 22, 2009

Note to 1Ls: Quit Complaining

Ah…first years. Craig's article below triggered a memory from this fall semester. It was mid October and Fall Recruiting was grinding to a halt. As I closed in on accepting an offer for summer employment, I thought it'd be a wise move to run everything by a career counselor. Judging by the line, it looked as though many others had the same idea.

"Can I help you?" asked the receptionist to the person at the head of the line.

"Yes. I'd like to make an appointment for early November," the student nervously responded.

"What year are you?"

"I'm a first year," the student answered.

The student must be lost, I surmised, thinking he had accidently stumbled into the CDO looking for the fabled rooftop swimming pool. The receptionist would surely correct him and send his dejected soul back to the library.

"And this concerns what?"

"Summer employment," the first year announced.

Summer employment? Clearly, I thought, this must be the class gunner. Gotta get a leg up on the rest of the class, right? There's always one of 'em. But to my astonishment this series of questions and answers continued through the line until I finally made it to the front.

I didn't know what to think. Are all first years this annoying…er, ambitious? Was I like this as a first year? Well, I'm currently writing as a contributing editor to a legal blog, so I suppose I must have been.

But, nonetheless, I couldn't help but be frustrated. Fall recruitment wasn't kind. I know of many exceptionally intelligent law students who were left disappointed. They deserved better, but this economy simply chewed them up and spit them out. And yet these first year law students, who weren't much beyond learning how to tie their shoelaces, were gunning for firm jobs? It just seemed preposterous.

I realize Craig's article focused on summer employment in general and was not limited to summer associate positions. Nonetheless, securing a firm job certainly seems to be the main focus for many first years. Apparently (and unsurprisingly) there are many who, despite donning their finest Brooks Brothers suits and splurging on the fanciest of resume paper, failed to secure a summer associate position. Hey, everyone can't be "nervous t-10 1L" of the Above The Law fame.

So, what are they to do? Crawl into the fetal position and hope for the best? Personally, I think any 1L upset that they were unable to procure a summer associate position needs to step back and put things in perspective. Quit complaining and be proactive. Judging from recent events, a coveted firm job might not be waiting for you next summer, let alone this one.

Be willing to work for…here it comes, get ready for it…FREE. Land a judicial internship. Work for the DOJ. Research for a professor. You'll find something. It's all about getting the experience. Write. Research. Watch a trial. Learn. Make yourself as marketable as possible.

I propose that you focus on three goals for the summer. First, produce a top notch memorandum/brief that will make a strong writing sample for you to use in fall recruitment. Second, make sure to network. Form at least one connection with an attorney who is willing to act as a mentor and as a reference. And, lastly, make sure to have some fun. Find interesting work that you enjoy. Stop stressing out, and relax. It's the summer we’re talking about here!


  1. Joshua,

    THanks, but no thanks. You have NO idea what your talking about, because this economy is brutal. We're not only worrie dabout getting SA positions, we're worried about getting ANYTHING! When people in your class (like mine) have consistently gotten 1L summer firm jobs and all of a suddent CANT, what do you think it does to the rest of us? It makes it harder for us to get anythign! Now everyohe who used to work at a firm wants to "Land a judicial internship. Work for the DOJ. Research for a professor. " Sorry, but it's not so simple. It's war out here.

  2. This has nothing to do w/ 1L job searches. Rather this is a call for a 'bump, please' of the payscale debate with this interesting update...

  3. I have to agree with 1:16. When you go from 30-40% of your class getting firm jobs to maybe 10% doing so, there is a huge overflow into the other areas that are normally gimme jobs for 1Ls. I don't doubt that we'll all "find something," but it doesn't feel good that many of us will be taking a job for the sake of it rather than finding something we're really excited about.

  4. @1.16 and @7:13--

    I don't doubt times that are difficult, but I'm still not convinced that you'll be unable to find an exciting summer job.

    It's true that the market for unpaid internships is more competitive than recent years. There are less first year students at top tier law schools being hired by firms, and thus, an overflow does occur into the "gimme job" market. But if you go to a school that typically places 30-40% of first yeas in firm positions, I don't think you realistically have anything to worry about. It's the students at lower ranked law schools that will feel the effects of this "overflow."

    The biggest problem facing first year students (and 2nd and 3rd years) at top tier law schools is their sense of entitlement. The fact that you qualify certain positions as "gimme jobs" illustrates this. It's rough out there. You didn't get a SA position. Maybe you can't even lock up your first choice of an unpaid internship. You actually have to put forth some effort to find interesting work for the summer. Make the best of the situation and quit complaining. You can still have a fun summer doing interesting legal work.

  5. Joshua,

    I understand your point... nevertheless, when you are at the very top of your class (3%) at a top-50 law school and end up ultimately with research positions and internships with judges, you can't help but wonder why you worked so hard- especially when your prospects for your 2L summer look just as bleak.

    At least that's what I find myself thinking.

    -Anon 1L.

  6. Anon 1L, 6:04

    I certainly understand your frustration. I am at a top 14 (in the top 25%), and have been unable to locate even a judicial internship...possibility because even they are competitive this year.

  7. 6:04 PM-

    You will do well 2L summer if you're in the top 3%. Don't despari.

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