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Schoolwork and Thinking about Employment during Your 1L First Semester

John Fortin


  • Thinking about summer employment during your 1L year is important. It can expose you to lots of different opportunities, so it is important to ask questions and think about where you want to work.
  • This article breaks down the first semester by month, letting you know exactly when you need to start thinking about employment.
Schoolwork and Thinking about Employment during Your 1L First Semester and Patty Thomas

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Thinking about summer employment during your 1L year is important. It can expose you to lots of different opportunities, so it is important to ask questions and think about where you want to work.

For ease of understanding, I broke down the first semester into months and the categories of school and employment.


School and Employment

During the first six weeks of school, these are both entwined. You must figure out law school to be able to spend time on employment. Rhythm and routine are crucial. By October 1, you should have started outlining most, if not all, of your classes. You might have a mid-term, hopefully ungraded, scheduled by this time.

You also should take note of the classes you are taking. Which class do you enjoy reading? Which class do you dread doing work for? In addition to substantive areas of law, look at where these substantive areas of law are practiced. The world has gotten smaller, but certain practice areas require you to be in certain locations, think about that as you narrow down employment options. Focus on class, your assignments, and sit down with as many people, professors, attorneys, and students about options.



In October, you should get back your first writing assignment. This writing will be very important, so make the corrections your professor advised. I would schedule a time to review this entire assignment with your writing professor if they are available. I did not edit my corrections when I got them, and I will explain why that became a big deal below.

Additionally, continue taking notes, outlining, and going to class. Fall break will allow you to escape the law and spend time with family and friends. Do not spend the entire break just doing law school-related things. You will have limited time to take a breather over Thanksgiving break, and now is a good time to recharge.


In the middle of October, the ABA and NALP authorize your career services to begin communicating with you. You will want to go to these meetings with targeted questions. A draft resume, a stab at a form cover letter, and ideas for summer employment plans are important items to discuss with your career adviser.

Starting these conversations and edits to these items in mid-October, when career services become available, will allow you time to space out this work without overloading. If you wait to meet with your adviser and do not have drafts ready when the employment doors open on December 1, you will struggle to catch up until after exams. Or if you do work on these things after December 1, your grades likely will suffer.

This will not be fatal, but it may mean you wait until grades before you submit for your job. I chose to submit my materials to judges and firms on December 1 because of my conversations with my career adviser.



Edit and polish your resume and cover letter. Because you have already polished your writing sample, keep that to the side and be ready to employ it when needed. December 1 is the first day you can apply to anyone. I would spend this month researching judges and law firms around your law school, where your family lives, and where you want to live post-graduation. Spreadsheets are great for this work.

Contact the recruiting coordinator at firms to ensure the addresses listed on the website are correct. Research the chambers and the clerks working for the judge and speak with them to see what the judge is looking for in a candidate. Some career services can offer advice on things to highlight for different judges in cover letters.

Best advice: cast a wide net. By Thanksgiving ends, you should have a polished resume and completed cover letters all printed and ready to go. Do not spend too much time on this that it hinders your school work but plan accordingly and get this done.


Read, finish reading everything. The goal should be that as Thanksgiving break ends, your outlines are up to date, and each class after Thanksgiving is just filling in the final holes of your outline. Outlines are tools to assist in studying. You are not graded on an outline, so make sure it is understandable and usable for you, but who cares about the micro-edits of grammar and stuff that no one else will read. Make sure that over Thanksgiving, you make clear to your family and friends that until exams are over, you will likely be radio silent. I would advise against social media, limit email usage to only school-related activities and live and breathe the law. Do not stop your routine but sharpen your focus. Exams are a big deal and will dictate certain doors that will be open to you moving forward.


School and Employment

School and employment also come together at the end of the semester. Mail off your resume and cover letters on December 1, and forget about them. It is hard to do, but you must focus on exams. Study, work in groups, work independently, and figure that out independently. Just work hard to do your best in all your classes.

Above, I mentioned completing your edits on your writing sample, but you will notice I do not advise sending the writing sample. In the best-case scenario, a judge, more likely the judge’s clerk or firm, contacts you days after receiving your resume and cover letter. The judge or firm likes something in your cover letter or resume and wants to see your writing sample and interview you over Christmas break. This scenario happened to me. The only issue was that my writing sample was not polished, and this request occurred between my first and second exams.

Two things. First, there should not be a ton of corrections to your writing sample by the time you turn it in for a grade, so polishing should not take very long. Second, you will be stressing out during exams, and switching gears from throwing a semester of law in your head to editing a writing sample is hard. I wasted time I should have spent studying. My grade for my second exam was still good, and I got everything turned in and got the interviews; it was just an unnecessary stress I added because of my poor planning. Learn from my mistake.

Once you complete your exams, hang out with your friends and family. Do not talk to your classmates about the exams! You will confuse one another and likely will freak each other out unnecessarily. A good exam with multiple correct answers and rehashing it could be an honor code violation, but it will not change your writing. After each exam, I recommend doing a self-assessment of what worked well, what did not, and what could have been better regarding how prepared you felt for the exam.

Enjoy your break, lick your wounds, and get some rest. Prepare for the second semester because the professors will not ease in like they did the first.