Monday Mailbag — criteria for summer jobs for 1Ls

LegalJob was asked about exploring a career in a particular area of law.  The question and answer below was posted as part of Monday's Mailbag series.

Q: I am interested in a career in [xyz] and was wondering what would be the best way to spend my first summer, a job in a firm, a government agency, or as an intern or a Hill committee?

Answer:  Good question and those could all be good opportunities.  One approach would be to take whatever you can get given the difficult job market and, in particular, the limited summer job options that may be available for a 1L.  On the other hand, the approach LegalJob suggests is to be flexible such that you are willing to work for free and then seek the best possible opportunity.  Ask your question to lots of different people to get their perspective.  Reach out to alumni who have similar backgrounds, so-called touch points (hometown, undergraduate school, major, work experience) and ask them for suggestions.

One of the most important criteria to look for is which place would allow you the opportunity to do heavy lifting.  In other words, where will you get the most substantive experience and/or have input (direct or indirect) into the decision making process.  Where are you going to best be able to learn how to write, think, and talk like a lawyer?  Where are going to best be able to learn what is truly like to practice xyz law?  You want to be in a position to explain your contributions concisely to a future employer and demonstrate how that particular experience makes you valuable to the employer.

Very generally, working a big firm has prestige, comes with a nice size check, and the potential opportunity to work on sophisticated matters.  However, you may find that working for a small boutique that specializes in a certain area of law provides you more opportunities to gain the type of experience that will be valuable to a future employer.

Working for Congress, especially for a particular committee could be lucrative if folks there are working on major legislation that impacts your area.  But again, confirm that you will be involved (at least somewhat -- attending key meetings for example) in all aspects of the process (in addition to research and memo writing which you enjoy doing).  Same analysis can be done for a government agency.

Image courtesy of