Flexibility key for students

February 9, 2009
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Some advice for law students struggling to find summer work: be flexible and think broadly. That’s what the director of the career and development office at Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington told Indiana Lawyer Friday.

Comments from our previous blog on students’ summer associate searches last fall and this year shed a little light on the issues facing current law students. Summer associate positions are being slashed and fewer are receiving offers. The ones that did receive a position are keeping their joy to a minimum to spare the feelings of friends who didn’t get an offer.

Some law firms have eliminated summer associate positions for 1Ls; and many are cutting back significantly on their 2L programs, according to Caroline Dowd-Higgins from the Bloomington law school. She said as a result of the cuts, students have to be more creative and scrappier to get other experience.

Dowd-Higgins has suggested students look to non-profits and small law firms. Students may be able to earn credit from their law schools for their internships at non-profits, and small firms do consider hiring an unpaid law student.

In fact, the small law firms may have more business right now because of their typically lower hourly rates, so it would be in students’ best interests to consider contacting small firms for possible summer work.

Dowd-Higgins said the law school is encouraging students to network and build new connections so when the market does bounce back, they will have a leg up on others.

There’s no sugarcoating that this is a bad time for law students, she said, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. In the meantime, students should keep sharpening their skills and consider looking outside large firms for summer work, even if that means accepting an unpaid position.

How many of you have summer work with a small law firm or non-profit this year? If you tried to go that route, did you find it was tough trying to get a job there?
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