Law School Insider | Summer for a Law Student

Welcome to Law School Insider! This unique series features insights from the Pre-Law Graduate Assistant about different aspects of the law school experience, highlighting the differences between law school and college over a variety of topics including classes, extracurriculars, finals, and more!

What do law students do over the summer?

The summers are a critical time for law students to gain legal experience, build relationships with attorneys, develop professional connections and skills, and explore their interests. Since many students do not work during the school year, the summers are the optimal time to intern for legal firms, judges, government offices, or public interest organizations. While some students may also take law courses over the summer, not all law schools offer a significant number of credit-earning courses during the summer semester. Many students who earn credit during the summer may do so through credit-earning internships (also known as externships).

Just like law students, undergraduate students should take the summer as an opportunity to explore their interests. This can be done through internships, part-time work, or volunteering. Students may also take a few classes through the summer semester to knock out certain degree requirements. Ultimately, students at the undergraduate level have lots of freedom and opportunities to explore over the summer, as there are no specific expectations or requirements for most undergraduate students to complete specific tasks over the summer. Summer employment is also not as directly tied to future employment opportunities as summer internships can be for law students, read on to learn more!

1L summer is often a student’s first opportunity to get legal internship experience and legal employers have no expectation that 1L students will have worked in a legal setting before. It is strongly encouraged that all students participate in some type of internship to help them find an internship for 2L summer. Typically, students will participate in various internships ranging from non-profit work, small firm work, or government work. It can be more unusual for students to work in big law firms, but there are also limited 1L positions available there. Many students will participate in an externship their first summer as a law student. Externships differ from internships in that they are credit-earning, typically with little to no pay, and are exclusive to governmental, judicial, and non-profit/legal aid activities. Externships are typically the most common type of summer work for 1L students and are beneficial for multiple reasons including gaining legal experience, contributing to access to justice, and earning academic credit to lighten course loads in subsequent semesters. Most students do not return to their 1L summer internships, but this will depend on the type of summer position and setting.

Typically, students begin searching for positions in the spring semester, after receiving their fall grades. Students can begin applying to internships before completing the fall semester, which is common for clerkships and public interest positions. However, most students generally get their 1L internship offer during mid-to-late spring semester.

The search for a 2L summer internship can begin extremely early, starting in the summer after 1L year. Many students will hope to secure internships after their second year that will lead to post-graduation offers, particularly at big (and sometimes medium) law firms. OCI (On-Campus Interviewing) is an interviewing opportunity organized by law schools that invites big law firms into their school to interview students from that school. This interview process typically takes place in late July or early August, with timelines occurring increasingly in advance of 2L year. OCI is managed by the law school career centers with students submitting their resume and cover letter to the employers they wish to interview through a process called “bidding“. The employers then select the top applicants who they wish to interview, conducting interviews in-person or remotely. OCI is typically two rounds, starting with a screener interview and a longer call-back interview. Students will also start doing pre-OCI in the early summer, which is the process of directly applying to law firms. Academic performance will heavily inform success within the OCI process, with some opportunities having minimum GPA requirements.

If a student does not find an internship through OCI, they will continue the job search throughout the 2L year. Students interested in government and public interest jobs generally participate in later hiring processes throughout the academic year.

For the summer, students interning at law firms are typically involved in 10-12 week programs. These jobs are much more likely to give return offers where students are given offers for full-time positions following graduation. For this reason, students may try to get their 2L internship in the location they intend to live post-graduation. These jobs are also more likely to be paid. Students continuing in government or public interest positions may find increased opportunities to engage in paid positions during 2L summer or have opportunities to participate in credit-earning externships again. For students interested in these types of post-graduation settings, hiring for post-graduation positions is not typically tied to the summer internship programs, and hiring for post-graduation positions takes place more often during 3L year.

2L summer, like 1L summer, is another opportunity to explore legal interests, determine what practice area you may want to pursue and build relationships with current attorneys. Networking can be especially important during this year, since it is at this point that students need to think about finding a full-time position after graduating. Internships are incredibly important to have during 2L summer for finding future employment.

After graduating from law school, law students look to pass the bar examination to become licensed (practicing) attorneys. Becoming a licensed attorney requires satisfying a minimum required knowledge of the law (typically through the bar examination) and successfully passing a character and fitness review. While each jurisdiction will determine its own unique eligibility requirements, most jurisdictions currently administer the Uniform Bar Examination (state dependent). The bar exam is offered twice a year in February and July, with most graduating 3Ls taking the exam in the summer (usually late July) following graduation. Typically, law students will begin studying for the bar exam immediately after graduation or late in their spring semester third year. Bar studying is usually treated like a full-time job, with students studying every day to complete their bar prep materials. After taking the bar exam, students will either continue the job search or begin working their full-time positions while awaiting bar passage results in the fall (October). Traditional legal jobs require that practicing attorneys pass the bar exam, so most full-time job offers are contingent upon the person passing the bar exam.