Four Tips for Summer Law Job Success

AB and FAToday, we’re excited to welcome Annabrooke Temple and Fairuz Abdullah from the UC Hastings Office of Career and Professional Development. After practicing law for a number of years, Annabrooke and Fairuz decided to put their legal minds and skills together and focus on coaching law students and lawyers about legal careers. They’re here to talk about how to make sure your summer legal jobs are successful.

Welcome, Annabrooke and Fairuz!

Happy summer! If you’re a 1L or 2L student, you’re likely still reeling from the end of your last final and getting ready to start your summer job. Whether working at a private firm, a non-profit, a government job or in-house, here is your toolkit for summer success.

Your summer job should be treated as a months-long job interview!

First impressions count so make sure you strike a balance between producing quality work and professionalism.

Remember pulling that all-nighter to get your LWR memo in? You checked and re-checked your citations and proof-read your assignment a gazillion times so you didn’t make a sloppy mistake that would tank your grade.

Welcome to your summer job. You have to be just as diligent because you want a strong reference or offer for future employment.

The employer should see you as someone they would like to work with long-term or recommend for a job later on.

Aside from producing quality and timely work, show your enthusiasm for being there by having a positive attitude, engaging the people around you, and showing your critical thinking and problem solving skills. Show up to work on time and stay the full day. Take cues from how people dress at work but err on the side of dressing slightly more conservatively then your fellow co-workers. You want to be remembered for your contribution as a future lawyer, not the slogan on your t-shirt.

Here are some tips to keep in mind this summer.

Understand the Art of Communication

Most of the trouble we see students encounter in their summer jobs could have been avoided by more, and earlier, communication. Here are three communication tips for this summer.

1. Clarify assignments and priorities

Always confirm the nature of the project before you leave the assignment meeting by summarizing it for the supervising attorney. If you find you’re confused about something once you’ve started the project, follow up with the person who assigned it. Asking questions now could save a lot of time, and embarrassment, down the road.

When you get an assignment, here are some useful questions to ask:

  • Do you want this assignment in writing, or do you want to be updated verbally? If written, is there a page limit?
  • Who is the intended audience of this work? The supervising attorney, a client, a judge? (This will inform the level of detail and background you will need to include.)
  • How long should I spend on this project?
  • How should I conduct my research? Online or manually?
  • When do you need this from me?

If a longer term project: When would be a good time for me to check back in with you about this project?

If you’ve been given multiple projects and competing deadlines, talk to the supervising attorney about how to prioritize the projects. Keep track of dates and make sure to calendar when assignments are due so you can turn your work in on time.  If you have multiple attorneys giving you work assignments, make sure your supervising attorney knows everything you are working on. You don’t want to be making excuses later for missing a deadline: if you anticipate a problem, bring it up right away.

2. Carve out time to edit your work

Make sure you spend time a good amount of time editing your work product and checking your citations. You should read your drafts multiple times, and plan to read your final draft out loud to yourself to catch mistakes.

3. Invite feedback

Asking for constructive criticism demonstrates maturity, and can alert you to issues that might otherwise not be brought up until much later. Asking specific questions of your supervising attorney can help elicit feedback (e.g., “Did I cover all of the relevant authority in the water law assignment? I wasn’t sure how many cases to reference.”) At the end of the session, thank the attorney who’s given you feedback, and — even if you disagree with what’s said — don’t argue during the meeting.

4. Don’t rely on email

Face-to-face communication is the best way to build relationships in the office, so don’t be afraid to visit an attorney to ask a question in person. Be alert to cues: if the door is closed or the attorney is on the phone, it’s probably not the time to drop in. Sometimes email is the best way to get a quick question answered, but if you have a lot of questions, in person is probably better.

With these tips in mind, go forward with confidence!

And remember that your law school’s Career Office is there for you throughout the summer. If you encounter situations where you could use some outside expert advice, call your Career Office!

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Fairuz Abdullah and Annabrooke Temple practiced law for a number of years before deciding to focus on coaching and counseling law students and lawyers. They joined the UC Hastings Office of Career and Professional Development in 2010.

Fairuz counsels and advises students and alums committed to public interest and judicial clerkships. She develops programming and provides tools for applicants to carve out successful career paths for themselves.

Annabrooke not only counsels students and alums on multiple practice areas but orchestrates career and professional development programming and events. Annabrooke is skilled at cultivating professional relationships with alumni and members of the legal community. Both are passionate about helping people find the career paths that are right for them in and outside of the legal profession.

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