If you have just begun your law school career, it’s likely that you’ve already thought about how or where to find a job for next summer. This thought may have been accompanied by an increased heart rate and shallow breathing. Wisely, most people have advised you not to think too much about next summer until after the first semester, but I wanted to assure you that as a student at NYU School of Law, you don’t have to settle for being general counsel at your friend’s “startup.”
As a 2L that just finished his first summer, I have this topic fresh on my mind. My advice: figure out what you want to do with your summer and go from there. The opportunities are out there if you have patience, persistence, and purpose. Personally, I wanted exposure to international law and an opportunity to polish my French. I took much longer than most of my peers to solidify my summer plan, but eventually I was able to meet both of my goals, and my summer experience was one I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I ended up splitting my summer between two great internships, both in France. The first six weeks of summer I spent in Lyon working with the Counter-Terrorism, Public Safety, and Maritime Security Directorate at INTERPOL. INTERPOL is the second largest intergovernmental organization (behind the UN), and the General Secretariat, located in Lyon, is its world headquarters.
My specific assignment was to be a legal intern for the Maritime Piracy Task Force. Piracy is a crime of universal jurisdiction, and, as laid out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is one of a few issues that are truly matters of international law. To not just study the unique problems that this international crime poses, but to be thrust into the current and ongoing problem of piracy, was an experience that I will never forget.
While the specifics of my work are covered by the many non-disclosure agreements I signed, I will say that it was an invaluable opportunity for me to see how an organization like INTERPOL works from the inside, and that it was an honor to work with interns, investigators, and prosecutors from around the globe. I will always cherish the interoffice rivalries I developed with my Portuguese, German, and Belgian colleagues during the World Cup.
For the second half of my summer, I moved on to Paris to spend six weeks at the offices of White & Case. This was an amazing opportunity for me to do real work at a top law firm. I wasn’t assigned to any specific practice group, and gained valuable experience in international arbitration, mergers and acquisitions, and capital markets. I read many contracts during my internship, sometimes in French and sometimes in English. Even when working with the arbitration group, I seemed to be reading contracts as often as I was reading witness statements. I learned something quite valuable from this experience: I like contracts. I couldn’t help thinking that Oren Bar-Gill, my 1L Contracts professor, would have been proud.
Law school and legal recruiting in France vary drastically from their American counterparts, and summer associates are uncommon on that side of the Atlantic. Thus, the firm where I worked had no interest in courting me the way the firms in the US sometimes do. I kept the hours of a first-year associate, often working weekends, but I was happy to learn that I truly enjoyed the work. I was able to come back to New York certain that I wanted to be at a large law firm, which is itself quite valuable.
One of the perks of being a student at NYU Law is that the school’s respected reputation provides its students with many opportunities. My summer is a great example of the ample options available to students who are willing to be creative and work hard to find the opportunities they want. Now, as I return to classes, I am already looking forward to next summer.