The Career Development Office is committed to getting to know every NDLS student by offering individualized counseling and tailored advice. Through participation in Admitted Students events, 1L Orientation and educational programming throughout the academic year, the CDO and its staff members can serve as a valuable resource during your time at NDLS.
While your focus during the first semester of law school should be squarely on academics, it is important to begin contemplating which career path you may wish to pursue. NALP Guidelines provide that the CDO may not offer job search services to individual 1L students prior to October 15 and also that students and employers may not initiate contact with one another prior to December 1st. 1L students may, however, attend general educational programs hosted by the CDO and view information here on our website to begin charting a career path.
There are a variety of professional opportunities available to students during their 1L summer. Public interest organizations, government agencies, law firms, professors in need of research assistants, and judges all hire 1L students.
The right opportunity for you depends on your intended career path. If possible, it is an excellent idea to spend the summer in the geographic area in which you intend to practice after graduation so that you can establish a connection to the region on your resume and can begin to create contacts within that particular legal community. It is also helpful if you are able to gain experience in a legal field that aligns with your practice interests.
There are several types of employers that hire 1L students for the summer and many different ways to identify potential employment opportunities. The list below contains links to some resources that may be helpful. Additional resources for your job search, including more information on types of legal jobs, how to search for jobs, and resume and cover letter preparation, can be found on the Job Search Guide page. Be sure to chat with a CDO counselor about your career interests and goals so we can help identify the types of opportunities that would be best for you.
1. Public Interest Organizations & Government Agencies
NDLS students have spent rewarding summers working for public defender offices, legal aid societies, prosecutor’s offices, state attorney’s offices and many other public interest organizations and government agencies. These jobs can be excellent opportunities to gain substantive legal experience, but please be aware that the vast majority do not lead to long-term employment. It is critical to maintain your networking efforts and continue to make contacts during your summer employment.
While there are often numerous positions available in public interest organizations and government agencies, many of these employers cannot afford to pay summer interns. Please see the Public Interest page for more information on the NDLS Summer Stipend Program and the Federal Work Study program, which offer funding for your public interest internship. Additionally, several outside funding sources, such as Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps JD program, are available.
NDLS subscribes to several online job search tools for public interest and government employment, including PSJD, which lists internship opportunities nationwide, public interest conferences, and fellowships, and the Government Honors & Internship Handbook (password: GoIrish) which lists government internship opportunities. The CDO also maintains a Fellowship Database with a long list of available summer fellowships. More information can be found on the Public Interest page.
2. Law Firms or In-House Counsel
Every year, NDLS students obtain positions with law firms or in-house legal departments for the summer. The primary means of securing such positions is by submitting an application (often consisting of a cover letter, resume, transcript and writing sample) directly to employers. These employers range in office size and practice groups and generally hire students much earlier in the year than public interest and government employers.
It should be noted that many law firms do not hire 1L students at all. Thus summer associate positions for 1L students with law firms are very limited, and the hiring process is quite competitive. You can check the NALP Directory to identify which NALP member firms hire 1L students for summer positions. Additionally, Vault Career Insider provides in-depth reviews regarding law firm culture and hiring statistics. Keep in mind that many excellent mid-sized and small law firms that are not listed members of NALP may hire 1L students.
See the Identifying Potential Employers section of the Job Search Guide page for more information on researching law firm employers.
3. Judicial Internships
A judicial internship (also called an externship) is the summer equivalent of a traditional post-graduate judicial clerkship, with the exception that most summer internships in a judge’s chambers are unpaid positions. Funding is often available for these positions through the NDLS Summer Stipend Program and/or Federal Work Study Program. These internship experiences provide excellent insight into the judicial system and are especially useful to students intending to pursue a career in litigation or looking to make legal contacts in a community in which they wish to practice. While the post-graduate application process for judicial clerkships does not begin until the summer before your 3L year, an internship will help you decide if a clerkship would interest you and may provide you with a valuable contact within the judiciary.
4. Positions as Research Assistants for Professors
Many NDLS students stay in South Bend during their 1L summer to assist NDLS professors with a variety of research projects. Professors often need assistance in updating a casebook or researching materials for a law review article. In addition to providing you with great training in legal research and writing, the professor may be able to serve as a reference for you in the future. Potential references are especially important if you will be seeking a judicial clerkship after graduation. NDLS professors announce these openings throughout the spring semester.
Additional Methods for Identifying 1L Employers
Symplicity: Symplicity is the recruiting database used for individual job postings, resume collections and scheduling & bidding for all interview programs (on-campus and off-campus). Students should check Symplicity often for updated job posting information.
Job Fairs: There are several job fairs throughout the year that give students opportunities to engage with a variety of employers. Each year, NALP collects information on public interest career fairs for publication online (click on Resource Center for the current list). The Midwest Public Interest Law Career Conference (MPILCC) occurs in Chicago each spring and is a major public interest job fair connecting students with public interest opportunities throughout the Midwest. Also visit the Job Fairs page for more information about job fairs nationwide.
Diversity Opportunities: There are a number of outstanding opportunities available for students of diverse backgrounds. Below are links containing information on diversity job fairs and diversity scholarship and fellowship opportunities available to 1L students throughout the year.