Stacks Law

When I was a kid, I always participated in the summer reading program at my local library. I think there was probably some sort of small prize for reading a certain number of books or pages, but I’ve long forgotten what it was. The reward for me was always the pleasure of reading itself.

NYU School of Law is a good place for a book-lover to end up, certainly. During my first year, it was exciting and challenging to devote myself to reading again. But an even greater treat was waiting for me the summer after my 1L year: I had landed an internship in the legal department of the New York Public Library.

One half of Patience and Fortitude. Not bad attributes for a lawyer, incidentally.
One half of Patience and Fortitude. Not bad attributes for a lawyer, incidentally. Photo by Jeffrey Zeldman.

Flanked by the lions Patience and Fortitude (pictured), the Library’s iconic Bryant Park branch is one of the most recognized buildings in the city. Given my passion for literature and the Library’s access-to-information mission, I knew the summer was going to be wonderful no matter what projects I ended up working on. As it turned out, that part of the experience surpassed my expectations, too.

My day-to-day tasks at the Library fell into two basic categories. First, I wrote about half a dozen legal memos over the course of 10 weeks, and my supervisors were careful to give me extensive feedback on them. Thanks to that experience, I have a good idea what I want to write my student note on, and I have substantial portions already drafted. Second, I got to dabble in real-world transactional problem-solving, reconciling proposed Library programs with legal realities and writing releases and licenses to govern relationships with and among patrons.

My first-year coursework was quite relevant, too—particularly Contracts and Legislation and the Regulatory State. Trying to figure out how to do a legislative history search would have been basically impossible without access to a step-by-step PowerPoint provided by my professor.

That experience was a good reminder of the importance of staying mostly focused on classes, rather than employment, during 1L year. This year’s 1Ls typically will not need to start thinking about securing summer employment until winter break at the earliest; while a handful of deadlines come sooner, the vast majority come later. But a little bit of timely self-assessment can go a long way.

When deciding where to apply for summer jobs, I thought about what skills I had and what skills I wanted to develop. NYU’s first-year Lawyering Program teaches students a sampling of legal writing formats, such as affidavits and memos, but applying some of those to real-world problems really drives home the lesson. Seeing how a legal team operates from inside a large entity can be a valuable lesson for those who want to join corporate transactional practices, as I do.

Thinking through these considerations made me better prepared for interview questions come NYU’s annual PILC Fair for nonprofit jobs at the beginning of the spring semester. It also helped me decide on a few other places to apply individually; I ended up securing the Library gig through a cold call.

Many students choose to work as research assistants for professors in addition to their regular summer jobs. I was wary of overcommitting, but in the end I went for it, and I’m really glad I did. Doing research and writing memos helped me hone my ability to write in someone else’s voice and practice my Bluebooking. This experience, too, will serve me well as I begin writing my student note this year.