In a career counseling session early in my 1L year, our career services counselor told us, "Most of you will be working unpaid public interest jobs this summer."
Law students know that one of the most important things that you can do over the course of your legal education is to secure quality internships during your summers. However, a lot of these internships are public interest jobs that pay either very little or not at all. While these can be good learning opportunities, they can also be disappointing for people that want to work in law firms, corporations, or just make some money during the summer. I knew that I was a person who eventually wanted to end up in a law firm, so I figured it would be much more beneficial to try to intern in a firm.
I was lucky enoght to get a summer associate position at an incredible firm, which was essentially a dream job for my first summer. But all my friends that are working in public interest consistently ask me what it's like in a firm. By now I've become an expert at describing my job, and I love gushing about how great it is. So, I thought I would share some of the highlights of working in a firm with all of you!
- The pay is great. Most summer associate programs pay somewhere around the starting attorney salary. Depending on the market, this can be $1,000-3,500. Of course, some do more and some do less. But if you land a job in a firm, you can probably expext a decent paycheck.
- Expect to work long hours. I've heard horror stories about summer associates sleeping on cots in their firm offices and only getting a few hours of sleep per night. I got told to expect to work 50+ hours per week if I ended up in a law firm rather than public interest. Luckily for me, I've only been working around 45 hours per week, which is a pretty average full time job. But definitely expect to be working at minimum 40 hours per week, and probably more.
- You'll work on a variety projects. I work in a full service law firm, so I've done everything from writing memos about family disputes, researching property values, writing a brief for a motion to dismiss, or researching advisory matters for a small town city council. You might get a chance to work in several practice areas, which is great if you don't quite know what you want to do yet.
- They'll wine and dine you. . . a lot. At my firm, they take us out to lunch a minimum of two times per week. Probably more on an average week. We've also had firm dinners, outings to baseball games, and several happy hours. They want to spend time getting to know you, and you want to take advantage of it. This is definitely one of the most fun parts of a summer associate program.
- They might be really competitive. My firm distributes projects equally. Some tend to be more of a competition to see who can get the most work. Depending on what your drives you, a more competitve atmosphere could be appealing.
- You'll learn more than you did all school year. Doing actual work has been so much more informative than actually attending classes. This is probably typical for most internships, but overall it has been a great learning experience.
- Stock up on suits. You have to wear one every day. The downside of working in a firm is you will probably have to wear a suit most days, if not every day. Not only is the dress code more formal, but you never know when an attorney will ask you to come to a client meeting, or a trial, or who knows what kind of event. So be ready to rock the suit every day.
- You'll feel like a real attorney. Becuase you're doing real work, for real clients, billing all of your hours, and attending client meetings, depositions, and trials - you'll start to feel like a real lawyer. And it's pretty awesome.
If these things sound appealing to you, then I highly recommend checking out some summer associate programs at local law firms. Remember, these positions are highly competitive, so boost that resume, get good grades, and cross your fingers. Good luck