The summer before you apply to law school is a great opportunity to gain relevant professional experience.
If you are serious about applying to law school, use this summer to demonstrate the qualities law school admissions committees will be looking for: a strong work ethic; excellent research and writing; creativity; and initiative.
Nurturing relationships with the managers and mentors at this summer positions can help with your letters of recommendation for law school and for other career opportunities down the road. In addition, your experience during the summer may also provide quality material for your personal statement.
This article provides seven ideas for how you can make the summer before you apply to law school as productive as possible!
Law Firm Internship
Working at a law firm — small, midsize or large — can give you a sense of the nuts and bolts of how legal practice works.
Many Stratus clients have gained valuable experience as legal assistants working on actual legal matters for clients. In the legal assistant role, you will most likely be tasked with performing vital research and providing assistance with the preparation of research memos to clients or other parties and you may even be asked to draft initial versions of certain litigation or corporate documents. A good research assistant will not only have a keen eye for detail, but will also be able to connect the dots and understand the broader goal to be achieved.
Generally, the smaller the firm, the more likely you may have a chance to dive into the legal work. In all likelihood, you would also be responsible for administrative duties such as making copies, ordering lunches and booking conference rooms for meetings — but all of these seemingly mundane activities are essential for a strong legal practice to function, too.
Stratus clients have also worked in a wide range of businesses, both on the legal side and on the business side. We have clients who have worked in a variety of industries and projects during their summer before applying, including working with the General Counsel of a technology company to develop patents and at a real estate company on acquiring new portfolio properties.
All corporations require some type of legal support, so gaining background and knowledge within a particular industry or business can help you understand the attorney’s role within that business and will be an asset when applying for jobs in law school. You will be able to show admissions committees that you are able to work in a competitive atmosphere with real responsibilities and deadlines, things that you will need to navigate in law school and as a lawyer. In addition, you will be able to build your professional network, which will be valuable as an attorney.
Working as a research assistant for a professor is a role that many Stratus clients have taken on the summer before law school. Whether the professor you work for is writing a text book or a cutting-edge article, this role is a chance to hone in on a particular academic field, further a professor’s research, and strengthen your research and writing skills.
This type of experience can be especially advantageous since law school admissions committees want to see letters of recommendation from professors who can attest to your capacity for academic rigor. Working closely with the professor, you can showcase your ability to think critically and write eloquently about complex issues.
Many Stratus clients have worked in local, state or federal policymaking before applying to law school. Such internships can provide valuable exposure to drafting legislation, organizing briefings and meetings, and gaining expertise in specific regional law and policy.
An internship outside of the United States can be a very enlightening experience — not to mention a lot of exciting travel. Stratus clients have worked for judges, corporations, and human rights organizations in many countries including China, India, the United Kingdom, and Mexico. Global events clearly shape law and policy in the United States, and such exposure can help inform your own legal career path. Furthermore, if you are able to develop or strengthen a second language during this time, that would be a tremendously valuable asset for you as an attorney.
Nonprofit/Legal Services Internship
Legal services for the indigent is a critical area of law in the United States that requires engaged, active pre-law students. Many Stratus clients have worked at organizations like Catholic Charities that represent immigrants in asylum hearings, tenants who have been evicted, or families in custody and child support hearings. Similar to small law firms, at these organizations, interns are more likely to have substantive involvement in the legal work, which could provide you with a leg up as you enter law school.
Be An Entrepreneur
Millennials are known for launching their own companies and nonprofit organizations. Stratus clients have built manufacturing firms, launched nonprofits, and built their own newspapers and magazines. Demonstrating entrepreneurship qualities before you apply to law school showcases your creativity and hard work. If you have a great idea for a business, do not put it on hold because it is the summer before you intend to apply for law school.
Many pre-law students may not have the networks or resources necessary to secure these types of internships or build their own business. Law schools also understand and appreciate that many pre-law students need to support a small family business, be a caregiver for a parent, or focus on raising their child — all of which is valuable experience, too. So even if you don’t focus on one of the seven areas in this article, it’s certainly not the end of the world!
Ultimately, you want to gain experience that demonstrates your work ethic, research and writing, creativity and initiative — whether it is through these seven areas or not. The work you choose to do before applying to law school is not just valuable for your law school applications. It can also shape your long term path and help you decide what area of law you may want to focus on as an attorney.