After the first year of law school, many students have the opportunity to work with lawyers in communities throughout the country. The purpose of this work is twofold. First, to provide students with financial support when they are not in school. Second, to connect students with the law and lawyers throughout the community.
There are several different paths one may travel during their law school summers.
First, students may elect to stay in school. Although there are no external financial benefits (unless a scholarship is available), an extra semester of school allows students to graduate early, take the bar sooner, and begin work after law school.
Second, students may choose to stay in school part time and work with a professor as a research assistant. Professors engage in many other activities in addition to teaching. Most professors also write articles and students may have the opportunity to assist by finding appropriate and relevant case law. Although the pay as a research assistant is generally lower, this opportunity provides students the chance to learn more about the law and develop vital relationships with professors.
Third, many students accept a Summer Associate or Clerkship position. Law firms often hire law school students to help conduct research, communicate with clients and opposing counsel, and advise on the best ways to move forward with a case. Depending on the firm, these positions generally pay the most, give students a wide range of legal topics to explore, and allow students to network with many lawyers within the community (through several social events).
For my first summer, I was fortunate to obtain a position at a local law firm (a perk because I did not want to move) as a Law Clerk. The information below is based on my experiences during my first month in this position.
Research and Writing
Expect to learn a lot at a clerkship. You will be asked to conduct extensive research on a variety of different projects. Consequently, you begin to learn more about the law than you did during the actual school year.
The other skill heavily utilized is legal writing. Expect to write a memo outlining your research for several questions within a single project. Although sometimes writing a memo may seem tedious (the answer is pretty obvious), attorneys rely on the research outlined in the memo to make decisions. Having the answer written down, rather than relayed verbally, gives attorneys the opportunity to return to the memo and review the research conducted.
I have found my doctrinal classes helpful in knowing where to begin my research. But the most beneficial skills utilized so far are research and writing.
You get what you ask for. My to-do list is constantly between five to six projects and focused on two to three clients. Some of these projects are relatively simple, with a memo being completed within a few mere hours to a day. Others are quite complex, with research and drafting taking several days and sometimes weeks to finish.
Many firms enjoy taking the students to several activities. Additionally, many firms market their social events as a reason why students should apply at their firm. These events can range from golf, meals, baseball games, shooting, and more (all of which are luxury items for poor students like me).
All in all, my time as a summer clerk has been an extremely insightful and rewarding experience.