Are You Looking for a 1L Summer Job? Some Tips From a Law School Career Expert

Philip GuzmanAre you looking for a 1L summer job? Lots of people are!

We’ve brought in law school career expert Philip A. Guzman, Director of Public Service Programs at North Carolina Central University School of Law, to share his expertise on the topic. If you’ve got questions, leave them in the comments, as we’ve got plans for another post or two on the topic!

Remember Your Goal

As the clock continues to tick toward finals and the end of your first year in law school, the first thing you need to do is give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. You have made it through, perhaps, the most challenging academic experience that you have had to date! You did it and now know that you belong here in law school!

But wait. What if — even given your best efforts to date (or maybe not!) — you still don’t have a summer job/internship?

  • First, don’t panic and remember everything that you have already accomplished.
  • Second, remember what you need to accomplish in the summer of your 1L year.

The first year of law school is an all-around learning experience: acclimating to a new teaching methodology, unique subject areas, and an entire environment that was completely different from what you experienced in college. You have learned much, but your journey still has two full years remaining.

A 1L is not expected to have his/her career plans set in stone. You have more room and flexibility in the selection of a summer position. It is not until the end of your 2L year that you are expected to have a handle on the specific kind of work that you will be doing as an attorney (i.e. litigation). At that point, your 2L summer internship search must be more specific.

But now as a 1L summer, your job search can be more general.

You need to look for a job with a portable skill set that will add to your overall résumé — a job that will provide you with opportunities to do legal research and writing.

If you can find such a position, you have accomplished your mission for your 1L summer! So why not start looking around right where you are now — at your law school?

Look for Work at Your Law School

Have you considered a job as a Research Assistant for one of the law professors? Such a job will give you the research and writing skill set that you are looking to add to your résumé as you enter your 2L year. 

Plus, this is the very timeframe that law professors are starting to think about, and consider their need for an RA. Such a position can also be intellectually challenging and fun (if not, remember that you’re building your résumé). The good thing about RA positions is that you will get paid! Many schools have work/study programs, and/or other direct salary sources for law students. Start now! Speak with your professors and get a handle on which ones may be in need of an RA and go for it!

(Note from Alison: If you’re considering applying for clerkships, an RA position is a great way to get a strong letter of recommendation!)

Other good sources for job leads at your law school are the adjunct professors who work outside of the law school. Ask about possible employment opportunities where they work, or who they would recommend you contact for job leads.


At this point in time, it may be difficult to score a paying position. Thus, you may need to “bite the bullet” and volunteer for a job that will give you the research and writing skills that you are looking to add to your résumé.

What public service entities (or law firms) are near where you will be this summer? If possible, walk into the office  (no emails, please) and simply say that you are looking to volunteer to work for the summer.

If your geographic area is already saturated with law students thinking the same thing, then spread your net to other less populated areas of the state where there may be less competition for such positions. (I am mindful that “real life” issues — i.e. how am I going to live? — come into play, but you will need to be resourceful to get it done and secure that position.)

Work Your Network

I know, you hear this one all the time. Well, you hear it because it’s true! The best way to find a job occurs in situations where you have an opening from someone you know.

If you’ve already gone through your network, then do it again! Who have you forgotten?

Haven’t spoken with that working uncle or cousin lately? What do have to lose? Are you a member of a church or a social group? It stands to reason that there are lawyers there as well. Think! Then act quickly.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, it’s not easy, and there are no pat formulas for getting that first summer job. However, given what you have worked so hard to accomplish to date, there is no reason why you still can’t land a summer position that will serve you well in the future.

Good luck?  No, work hard and “make it so.” (with apologies to Captain Jean-Luc Picard)

Philip A. Guzman, Esq,
Director of Public Service Programs
North Carolina Central University School of Law

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Thanks, Philip! Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @pag2010, if you’re not already! Also check out his earlier interview on getting a law job, for more excellent advice.

Do you have questions or tips on landing a 1L job? Leave them in the comments and we’ll see what we can do!

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  1. Another great piece by Philip! There is so much valuable information here – and it is particularly timely as law students finish up their 1L year. The advice to look for a job that provides the opportunity for research and writing is invaluable. As a member of my law firm recruiting committee for many years, an applicant’s writing sample was among one of the most important pieces of his or her application. Your 1L summer is an excellent time to hone this skill, especially because most law schools tend not to offer too much in the way of writing after first year. It is also important, as Philip has said before, to use your network. Instead of starting from scratch, turn to people you know who might be able to help you. I agree that it certainly can’t hurt, anyway, and something great may come of it. Philip’s bottom line here – to have clarity and go after what you want in your 1L summer – is a lesson that applies nicely to 1Ls and transcends! Thanks for posting, Alison!

  2. What I love about Philip’s post is how he clearly expressed the importance of being proactive, and of making contacts in person. Relying on emails to be considered by organizations you want to volunteer at may be easier, but it is easier for you, not them. As the former recruiting chair of a non-profit that takes in law students for summer internships, when looking at a stack of 10 resumes and cover letters for students who all “seemed reasonable,” and realizing how little time I had to put into interviewing and choosing the right candidate as a volunteer board member, having someone walk in the door who was great would probably have wiped out the competition. Taking action to make things as easy as possible to choose you is the way to go.

    Also, working your network as Philip proposes is key, and doing so in person can be so much more powerful for the same reasons. See from a contact’s LinkedIn page that they are going to an event this week? Make a point of attending and bumping into them. Some coincidences are orchestrated, and having the foresight to set that up may get you the leg up you need for someone to pass on your resume or business card (yes, please get business cards made while you are job searching) to someone they know who is hiring.

  3. Great article! Getting the job you want is not easy and making sure you are covering all of the important areas is crucial. There are always many people applying for jobs and this article illustrates how certain things can give you that edge and set you apart from the rest. Great job!

  4. I just want to add that you should not limit yourself based on “disappointing” first semester grades! They do not define you or your potential. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked the first semester of my 1L year, and I managed to land an awesome (paid) position clerking in a law office down the street from my law school. They never even asked about my transcript! I worked hard to make my resume stand out, and was careful to tailor my cover letters for each firm. I printed everything on resume paper from a print shop, printed the addresses on 8.5×11 envelopes (so my materials weren’t folded), and followed up after I mailed them. I ended up with multiple interviews because I was so much more proactive (and memorable) than many of my classmates. Act confident and know that you can do anything if you believe you can! It’s all about the mindset, how you present yourself, and just going for it!

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