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Sam Clarke, 3L's picture

Sam is a 3L from New Bedford, Massachusetts. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a degree in Economics, she worked at Panera Bread for a year. Sam came to law school as the result of a crippling addiction to television crime procedurals. She has since...

Sam Clarke, 3L's Post

The Rundown on Law School Summers

Posted by Sam Clarke on 09/16/2013 at 01:45 AM

It’s fun to be at the Y-M-C-A!

When I was a kid, nothing beat summer. I got lucky because my dad worked at the local Y camp during the months he had off from teaching, so every summer I’d shoot arrows, swim in the ocean, and rack up an impressive number of mosquito bites at Camp Massasoit. (Also known as Camp Messy-Toilet, not to be confused with Camp Metacomet, or Make-You-Vomit, a subtle but important distinction not lost on a ten-year-old.)

It was jarring to lose those three months of freedom to play when I started law school. Perhaps it was more jarring to walk into class 2L year still so blindingly pale that my classmates wept openly.* But spending June, July, and August indoors actually turned out to be a lot of fun, despite the notable absence of archery practice.

*I exaggerate. Slightly.

1L summer

My first law school summer after 1L year, I did what a lot of students do, which was to try and pack as many experiences as possible into three months. I researched for two professors that I admired, interned for an incredible judge, and took a class so that I could get a bar requirement – the MPRE – out of the way. It was a busy summer, but the variety of opportunities kept me challenged and interested. I loved that one day I could spend an hour debating the merits of a particular sentence with my judge and his clerks, and the next day research a little-known area of law for my professor.

I would encourage first years not to limit themselves to one summer experience. First, it’s easy to take the time to get a class out of the way. You will thank yourself come second year when you have the room to take more electives, and if you choose to take Professional Responsibility, you can cross the MPRE of your list of things to do your 2L summer, when you may have less time. Second, you’re probably still figuring out just what you want to do, so it’s worthwhile to cultivate as many different experiences as possible. You never know what you will like, and 1L summer placements generally come without the expectation that you will come back to work as a permanent hire, so if you don’t like what you’re doing, there is little pressure to return. Third, your utility as a 1L may be limited to employers. You may be doing lots of observation, and where that’s the case, it’s nice to view the practice of law from as many angles as possible.

2L summer

After my second year of law school, I headed south, road tripping to Atlanta, Georgia for a ten-week position with the Federal Trade Commission’s Southeast Regional Office. Like many rising 3Ls, I hoped for – and received – a much more hands-on experience at my summer internship. The expectations are higher for students who have completed two years of law school, and I received extensive constructive criticism from my supervising attorney. In fact, I received more feedback at that internship than perhaps my entire second year of law school. That’s a real benefit in a legal position; comments and critiques are some of the most useful things you can receive, but in the academic year that feedback is often limited to post-exam follow-up meetings, sometimes months after the work has been done.

Unlike a rising 2L, who has only completed one year of law school and may be less sure of their desired legal career, a rising 3L has two years under their belt and can perform far more assignments, even appearing in court to represent clients. I had several friends doing just that, and the ones who had those chances rated their experiences highly. To second years, seeking out a position that you can focus your energies on, and really hone your skills, will be valuable come time for the job search third year, especially if your employer is looking to hire from the summer associates or interns. Also, the recommendation from a second year internship is also an important piece of any application process.

By the way, it’s still summer

Here’s the other big secret to law school summers: don’t neglect the sunshine! I made that mistake first year, locking myself away in the library and shunning any sounds of laughter or delight. I rarely made it to the beach, despite living literally steps from the water (one of the benefits of living in Bristol).

This summer, I swam in the ocean! I racked up an impressive number of mosquito bites! (This is in part due to the fact that there are no screens in my bedroom windows, but that’s a story for another time.) And Trader Jan’s indoor archery range in Fall River is open year round. I plan to get back there before summer’s over. I still have another week, right? Now if I could just finish all of this homework…

See? I told you I made it to the beach!