The summer has begun and some of you have just completed your first year of law school — congratulations! Hopefully after the release of grades you are able to relax and enjoy the time off from school and remain optimistic about the next two years.
Do not wait until the fall
First, start right now. As much as you may need a break, begin building your resume and brainstorming for your cover letter. If you haven’t already heard, your cover letter gives a law firm’s recruiter a first impression of you and can also serve as a writing sample. Your resume fills in the rest of your story. Creating these documents is and should be time consuming and they need to be error-free. It is astonishing how many typos manage to survive even after your fifth, sixth or seventh round of edits.
In compiling your resume and cover letter over the summer, there can be many opportunities for review and revision. Ask a friend, your parents and especially the lovely individuals from your school’s career services office to go over your application. Keep in mind one caveat: everyone will have their own opinions and suggestions, and the edits may start to contradict one another. Take the edits under consideration but don’t be afraid to reject some of them.
Many of my classmates were very successful at securing summer employment after 2L. One of their secrets: they networked. After the completion of their first year, they used some of their time over the summer to meet with articling students and young associates, and attend events hosted by various law firms like firm tours or student seminars. Some of the larger law firms even hold information sessions on resume and cover letter writing.
I’m always amazed by and very grateful for the amount of articling students and young lawyers who are willing to meet with law students. While I was searching for employment I met with many people who were all generous with their time and incredibly helpful with their information. After all, they have gone through the very same recruitment process. Do not be afraid to email the students at a particular firm to arrange a coffee. Start with your school’s alumni and this will likely open the door to more meetings.
Is there anything missing?
Once you’ve written your resume you’ll have a better idea if certain areas are a little lacking. For example, take a look at your extra-curricular activities. Were you able to participate in student clubs, moots or on committees throughout your school year? Or did you focus all your efforts on your school work? There is nothing wrong with striving for good grades. However some (although not all) law firms want to see a well-rounded applicant. If you need to bulk up your extra-curriculars, start the investigation. Some clubs continue throughout the summer and may accept members. Furthermore, some moot applications are due in the summer — get a sense of those deadlines.
If you find yourself with a surplus of time: volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. There is always an organization looking for help. Of course it will also reflect well on your resume. If you are able to find an organization that aligns with your interests and passions, not only will you give back to your community, but you will enjoy the experience and gain valuable knowledge.
The completion of first year carries excitement, pride and perhaps a level of exhaustion. Take a few weeks to recover and do some of the things you omitted over the course of the school year. For me, it was reading a book. Once you’ve had a little time for yourself, start to plan for the year ahead. (Unfortunately the rumour that second year is easier is just that: a rumour.) Don’t wait. Use the summer months to put together the strongest application to secure the job you want — it takes longer than you think!