Having just had your 1L Job Search Skills Workshop, you might be a bit nervous about searching for a summer job. Many questions are probably running through your mind. Other than figuring out the timeline for applying for summer jobs–for most summer jobs, it is safe to focus on first-semester exams, and begin applying after exams are over–you are likely wondering how to go about the job search.
First of all, you should begin thinking about what you want to get out of your summer experience. If you are gung-ho about a particular practice area, it might be a good idea to get your feet wet in that field and try to find a summer job that lets you do that. For instance, if you are really interested in becoming a prosecutor, interning at a district attorney’s office would likely be a great way to not only begin learning the skills necessary for that type of work, but also to make connections within the field and get a better sense of whether being a prosecutor is something you would enjoy.
Having said that, if you were like me as a 1L, you might not have a clear sense of exactly what type of law you are interested in practicing. If that is the case, I would suggest that you strongly consider applying for a judicial internship with a federal judge. Having completed a judicial internship for a district court judge in the Eastern District of New York this summer, I can tell you first-hand what an amazing experience that can be! First of all, I like to think of interning for a judge as “neutral” summer job. By that, I mean that it is the type of job that does not pigeonhole you into a specific practice area, but rather lets you hone the skills that would be necessary for success in a wide range of legal practices. Whether you end up ultimately deciding to apply for a summer associate position in a large corporate law firm, or instead decide to pursue a public interest internship for your 2L summer, employers will be drawn to the skills you learned as a judicial intern. And what are those skills? As a judicial intern you will be doing a lot of researching and writing. Although the prospect of “doing a lot of researching and writing” might sound a bit dry in the abstract (or downright awful…in which case you should probably not pursue a judicial internship), it was the plethora of different legal issues that I had the opportunity to work on and the importance of the matters I was dealing with that made me very glad I chose to do a judicial internship.
For instance, I had the opportunity to do research and draft portions of summary judgment and motion to dismiss opinions concerning legal issues such as false arrest, false imprisonment, denial of the right to a fair trial, fabrication of evidence, state violations of Medicaid provisions, and guardianship orders, just to name a few. It was rewarding to wake up every day and know for a fact that I would not only get one more day of research and writing experience, but that I would also learn about a new legal issue that I had not explored before. Further, and as cheesy as it sounds, as a judicial intern you are given a large amount of responsibility to make sure that the judicial system provides justice. The research you conduct and the drafts of memos or opinions you submit to your judge’s clerks–or the judge herself–do not constitute busywork. Rather, the work you do plays a vital role in making sure not only that litigants are having their claims heard, but also that their claims are being given reasoned and timely consideration before a decision is reached.
Another great benefit of interning in a court is the opportunity to observe fascinating judicial proceedings. Every week the interns would be given a guide to all of the interesting trials, hearings, or sentencings being conducted by other judges in the building. Nothing beats drafting a summary judgment opinion on a §1983 civil rights claim, and then having the chance to watch an actual §1983 case being litigated and play out to its conclusion in open court. In addition, this summer I had the chance to sit in during the penalty phase of a death sentence trial, watch a prominent local politician get sentenced, and witness a shouting match between a lawyer and an expert witness on the stand (the judge admonished the lawyer to “modulate his tone”). Not only do these observation opportunities provide entertainment during the summer, but they also help to give you a sense of what it is like to be a litigator–what works and doesn’t work when you are in front of a judge or jury.
Now, back to the title of the blog post. If you have ever wanted to jam with a judge, becoming a judicial intern is your chance! Although I cannot guarantee that the judge you end up working for will be up for literal jam sessions in chambers (mine was probably not, although I never asked her), as a judicial intern, you will likely have a great opportunity to pick the brain of an extremely intelligent and experienced legal mind. While I never had the chance to show off my Billy Joel-esque piano skills in chambers (I have considerably less talent than him, but hopefully better legal skills and definitely fewer motorcycle accidents), I thoroughly enjoyed having stimulating back-and-forth conversations with my judge and her clerks about hot topics like NSA surveillance, sentencing, and the state of the legal job market. As much as I was interested to hear the judge’s take on these issues, she was interested to hear how the younger generation viewed the legal world…and I never felt the need to modulate my tone!
All in all and for all the reasons above, I could not have asked for a better summer job experience. If I have convinced you that jamming with a judge is as awesome as I say it is, I suggest you strongly consider applying for an internship with one. For more information about applying for judicial internships (federal and state) and other summer jobs, you should visit the Office of Career Services. While you are there, make sure to pick up the judicial internship flier, which has more information about applying for these positions. There is also useful information in the Career Development Resources Manual about applying for summer jobs and judicial internships specifically. Finally, keep in mind that judicial internships now qualify for PILC funding.