10 tips for managing the spring semester

“Spring” is an elastic term in Minnesota, covering a wide range of weather events. The Spring semester is similarly elastic. It goes fast, and requires focused attention. Touch base with your career office, and get started.

1ls framed1.  Review at your briefs. Compare your first case briefs with your last ones, and congratulate yourself on your progress. Are they longer?  Shorter?  More or less detailed? More on point? Note the changes and celebrate them.

2.  Think about summer. You have choices: paid or unpaid legal work, summer school, study abroad, judicial externship, faculty research assistant, or returning to previous employment. Although every option may not be available to you ($1500/week will go to a select few), the one that you want to avoid like the plague is doing nothing. A classic interview conversation killer is “What did you do last summer?”  When you reply “Nothing,”  the air leaves the room, and your chances with that employer have disappeared. You will need to tell a story in the fall.

3.  No job yet?  No surprise. Requiring 1Ls to focus on school before they transfer their energy to job searching is sound policy. Do not panic.  Many employers will wait to hire until you have first semester grades. Others will focus on your skills (research and writing) or your interest in their work. Because the legal market is based on real clients and their actual needs, jobs are posted throughout the spring semester — up to and right through the final exam period. Clients have no respect for your exam schedule, and they will insist on presenting problems to their lawyers who will need to post jobs.  It is on record that some of the best jobs are posted in April.

4.  Think about 2nd year coursework.  Your school will have programs presenting options and pathways. Think broadly about the skills that you will need, and think equally broadly about the kinds of courses that cross disciplines (Administrative Law, Conflicts of Law) that will fill in the gaps as you practice.

5.  Have a summ2ls frameder job? Don’t relax if you have secured summer employment. You need to keep your law school work in tip-top shape, and you need to begin to learn everything you can about your future employer’s work — all of the businesses and industries that it touches, and all of the hot topics that concern its clients. Employers are much more impressed by law clerks who show that they have learned about the clients’ businesses than by law clerks who can’t spell clients’ names.

6.  No job yet? Conversely, if you haven’t secured summer employment, don’t fret. Put the notion of being hired by a large firm behind you, and focus on the employers whose clients are presenting problems this very minute. The Little Secret of Hiring is that jobs are posted throughout the spring semester — up to and right through the final exam period. Many public sector employers hire in the spring when budgets are sorted out by their funders.

7.  Collect bar exam application info. Begin to collect the information that you will need to apply for the bar exam. Get a copy of an application so that you will know what you will need. Not knowing  where you will practice is no excuse for avoiding this task. Most bar exam applications extract similar information from 95% of their questions.

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8.  Bar exam application. If you haven’t applied for a bar exam, get ready to do so pronto. If you don’t know where you will practice, apply to the exam with the smallest application fee, the largest number of your classmates taking it, or the jurisdiction where given what you know now, you are most likely to  work.

9.  Do not wait for the February bar. If you take it and don’t pass, you may not become an attorney until more than a full year after graduation. You will never care more about Torts than you will during the July following graduation.

10.  Relocation and a new bar exam. If you take and pass a bar and then relocate for a job, three things may happen:

  1. Having taken and passed one bar exam, when you take a second, you know that you will not die from the experience;
  2. Your employer may pay for bar review and the exam;
  3. You may need to take only part of the new state’s exam because of rules you can find in the ABA Section on Legal Education’s Guide to Admission to the Bar. This is updated annually.


Susan Gainen presents a suite of programs designed to help law (and other) student move from school to work: Alternative Careers, Professionalism, Job Search Outside of OCI, Job Search Skills are Business Development Skills, I’m a 3L and I need help, and 2nd Career Law Students.  Contact your career office to schedule one or more of these programs.

About susangainen

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