Tips from a Legal Recruiter on Finding a 1L Summer Job

1L Summer JobIt’s December, which means that 1Ls can look for summer work. Just what you have time for, right?

To set you on the right path, please welcome back Angela Kopolovich a former BigLaw litigator who’s now Managing Director of Alegna International, a boutique attorney recruiting firm.

Without further ado…here’s Angela.

Finding a 1L Summer Job

During your first few months of law school, the National Association for Law Placement (aka NALP, you’ve heard of them already right?) has paternalistically lovingly kept you from worrying about what you will do this coming summer.  

Now, just as everyone is recovering from their tryptophan-induced comas, the clock strikes December, and your cushy cocoon is suddenly shaken by the realization that you’ll have to start looking for your first legal job.

The process can be stressful, but if you properly manage the things that are within your control, you’ll be way ahead of most other 1Ls scrambling in the spring.

What Should You Do 1L Summer?

Law students approach their 1L summer in different ways. Some use it as a resume builder while others use it to explore a specific practice area. Regardless of which way you go, there’s no need to fixate on the job you did or didn’t get.

Your 1L summer will not make or break your career.

Rather, you should use this time as a practice run for OCI, which is much more important, and is just around the corner. Whether you clerk for a judge, intern at the public defender’s office, or work as a research assistant to a professor, you should approach the process, from application to interview, with the utmost professionalism and maturity.

What Does the Internet Know About You?

Before you even begin thinking about looking for a job, it is imperative that you Google yourself to see what comes up. It doesn’t matter how squeaky clean you think your profiles are, I bet I can find something potentially objectionable.

  • Set every social media profile (except LinkedIn) to private.
  • Block your visibility in search results, clean up the links that currently come up (yes, you can ask Google to delete old cached entries), and protect your tweets so they aren’t public.

Believe me, you never know what seemingly innocent thing can turn an employer away from your application.

This is NOT the Time for Typos

Next, make sure all your materials (resumes, writing samples, cover letters) are absolutely perfect. Read, re-read, and then ask a friend to read them for you.

Lawyers are very busy, tired, and often impatient. A single typo, or glaring grammatical error, can fast track your application to the trash.

Yes, they are that particular. In their view, if you can’t take the time to perfect a few pieces of paper, you are not serious about your future.

Instructions? Yeah, Read Those

When submitting job applications, you must follow instructions.

  • If a job posting asks you to copy and paste your resume into the body of the email, do it.
  • If the instructions require you to fill out an application online, don’t try to circumvent it by sending someone an email with your resume instead.
  • If the posting asks you to describe why you’re interested in this particular position, take the time to answer the question.

The instructions are there for a reason — trying to do it some other way (because you think you know better and want to stand out in a crowd), will certainly get their attention, but it’s not the kind of attention you want.

Mind Your (Virtual) Ps and Qs

Finally, follow electronic etiquette in your communications.

Use an appropriate email address (snowprincess4u@gmail.com is not). Send all attachments in .pdf format unless instructed otherwise.

If you haven’t heard back, wait a week or two, then send a follow up email that is gracious, without appearing desperate or entitled.

Don’t use social media to harass the employer into giving you an interview.

You should not tweet, like, friend, or connect with the employer or decision-maker at this stage. It’s just not appropriate. If they’re not into you, they’re not into you.

Acing the Interview

As it turns out they are into you, and have asked you to come in for an interview.

Let me say this without igniting a heated political debate, where I get pummeled by any radical feminist readers…how you look and the way you present yourself, matter a lot. It’s important to understand that the practice of law is a client-facing business.

Whether you’re in the boardroom or in a courtroom, you will be judged on your appearance, as well as how you conduct yourself.

Often times, an interviewer is not just assessing your intellectual competence, but she is thinking about what kind of impression you’ll make on her clients. Whether this is fair or not, isn’t relevant. It’s how the world works.

If you intend to compete in the corporate arena, you have to be polished and well put together.

What to Wear?

When dressing for an interview, always err on the side of business formal. Regardless of geography (the dress codes in NYC and Silicon Valley are very different) choose an outfit that will not be remembered. That cuts both ways — sloppy, wrinkled, or disheveled is obviously bad; but flashy, trendy, or God forbid sexy, can hurt you as well.

For purposes of interview attire, channel Chelsea Clinton, not Nicki Minaj.

An interview is not a runway show at fashion week; it’s best you leave the six-inch Louboutins at home.

How to Prepare?

Lest you think I’m completely superficial, here is a more cerebral piece of interview advice: Prepare for the interview by researching absolutely everything you can about the employer.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is a start; but also run a Lexis/Westlaw search for news articles or press releases.

In the interview, casually bring up one non-controversial item: “I read recently that….” They will be impressed that you’ve done your homework. Also, your research will probably reveal sensitive topics. These are obviously things you’ll want to avoid bringing up in the interview.

One other thing, while cyber-stalking the hell out of the employer, make sure to prepare questions for the interview that their website doesn’t already answer.

Oops, You Said What?!?

Finally, most people get very nervous in an interview setting. They have nightmares about all the things that can go wrong.

Here’s my million-dollar piece of advice about interviews: if something horrific happens (you spill coffee all over a partner’s desk, you trip and fall outside her office, or you say something that sounded great in your head, but comes out kinda racist) don’t die of shame, just own it, whatever it is.

Acknowledge that it happened, apologize for it, and move on with a smile. This is a difficult thing for most people to do, but if you pull it off, it will actually work to your benefit (i.e. “this girl really knows how to handle herself in awkward situations”).

Don’t let a mistake, and your inner self-conscious berating monologue, derail the opportunity. Things happen. The best thing you can do is minimize the damage, and maximize the positive impression you’re making otherwise.

Good luck y’all.

— – —

Angela Kopolovich is the Managing Director of Alegna International, a boutique attorney recruiting firm. A former practicing litigator with a large global law firm, Angela now specializes in placing attorneys with law firms and corporate legal departments, around the country and abroad. She can be reached at angela@alegnainternational.com or via Twitter: @Recruiter_Law.

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