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Stuck for Summer?

April 21, 2011

We all remember being in elementary school, anxiously waiting the few precious months with no school, no responsibilities. We’d sleep until noon, swim all day, eat popsicles and play in the sun. So now that we’re supposed to be responsible adults our days certainly can’t be filled with pure fun, games, and relaxation. Right?

Right. It’s time to buckle down and begin, or continue, to lay the groundwork for what you plan on doing with your career. Not all students have job opportunities lined up and the job market is competitive. Don’t worry if you won’t be working in the legal field this summer, there are many other opportunities for law students.

A great place to start is with Thomas Jefferson alumni. TJSL’s Career Services or Alumni Relations offices can help you set up informational interviews with alumni doing the kind of work you’re interested in.  Stuck on what exactly to ask the alum? Symplicity has an online networking handout with great tips.

Take a trip to the courthouse, any courthouse will do. Stop by the information desk to find out which courtrooms have trials in session and introduce yourself to the bailiff when you enter. The judge may make time to speak to you on a break so remember to dress professionally. Numerous 1L legal writing classes recently visited appellate courtrooms for a chance to sit in on oral arguments. “It was cool seeing how one on one the appellate court was between the judges and the attorneys,” said 1L Richelle Menezes.  “We got to experience how it was more about how well, or sometimes not so well, the attorney could present their argument.” The Career Services office also offers self-assessment exercises to help students determine their strengths and interests. See them for information and advice on these assessments.

San Diego County Bar Association has numerous groups which offer a lot of networking opportunities.  If you join as a student member you can attend bar association events, join a committee, or even get a mentor. You can also offer to write an article for a legal magazine or newsletter, something often published by bar associations.  These associations also have sports leagues that offer you an opportunity to get to know attorney’s in a relaxed setting. 

Volunteer as much as you can.  Having volunteer experience, no matter what the setting, looks great on a resume. Nonprofits that provide legal services are a great place to start. The Career Services office offers Work Study and Volunteer Opportunities handouts that can give students good ideas for volunteering.

With all the extra time off, read as much as you can. It’s often said that reading more translates into being a better public speaker. Furthermore there are a lot of books that can help you gain some insight into the legal profession. For more information about different practice areas, insight into what a typical day as an attorney is like, and the skills needed for and advice getting into a particular area, pick up The Official Guide to Legal Specialties by Lisa Abrams. Another good read for law students is Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams by Kimm Alayne Walton.

Study abroad. TJSL offers two study abroad programs. Students can travel to Hangzhou, China or Nice, France; some even participate in both programs and travel to both countries. Professor Susan Tiefenbrun, Director of the Center for Global Legal Studies is the head of both programs and holds numerous informational sessions on the programs. The programs are filling quickly so interested students should inquire and apply soon.

It’s important, however, to remember to take some time and eat a Popsicle outside, swim in a pool,  and have a margarita. You can fill your days with great resume boosters and be productive right along with the best of them. But when it comes down to it, we all still need to indulge the elementary school kid inside of us just itching for summer break!