A: Instead of jumping right into searching through specific job listings, you should begin by making an assessment of your skills, interests, abilities, values, and goals. The better you understand yourself and are able to discuss your reasons for wanting to practice in a particular area of law, in a particular location and for a particular type of employer, the more impressive you will be in an interview. More importantly, this understanding should help you find a position you will enjoy and in which you can be successful, and will ultimately lead to job satisfaction.
Here are some questions to consider:
What do you like to do? What would be your ideal job?
What do you like most/least about the law or law school?
What are your goals in a job? Short-term? Long-term?
What type of problems do you like to solve: research, people-oriented or numbers?
What type of employers deal with those problems?
What skills can you offer those employers?
What do you like doing each day? Lots of people contact? Research & writing?
What is your ideal workplace? What is around you? How do you want to dress for work?
What do you like to do when you are not working or studying?
How would you describe yourself?
What do you like to read in newspapers/magazines? What articles interest you?
CDO has collected some useful self-assessment resources, which can be found in the Self-Assessment section (under “Career Exploration”) of the CDO’s website. You may also want to check out the self-assessment exercises in What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles, Running from the Law by Deborah Arron, or Kimm Alayne Walton’s Guerrilla Tactics for Getting The Legal Job of Your Dreams, all of which are available in the CDO Library (290 Simon Hall).
If you want to pursue self-assessment more formally, the UC Career Center offers several Self-Assessment Workshops and administers the Meyers-Briggs personality test.
A: Consider the following:
Visit the Practice Areas webpage
Attend Career Development Programs.
Throughout the year CDO presents informational programs with attorney participants designed to inform you about different legal careers and practice areas. You should regularly check the Upcoming Events section of the CDO homepage and the Berkeley Law master calendar for events that may interest you. In addition, programs are publicized by email. Do informational interviewing to explore different practice areas and to develop professional networks. Make a list of people you know (or who family members or friends know) who have a law degree. Contact them and introduce yourself as a Berkeley Law student and see whether they would be open to meeting or talking with you over the phone (at a convenient time) about their work and their career path. It is important to start building a network of colleagues. Not only can they be a source of jobs, but also a source of future collaborations. They can also be a source of valuable advice on what steps you should take to learn more about a particular field or who else to contact to gain information and expand your network.
Berkeley Law alumni/ae, faculty and lecturers are also an important source in building up your network and getting information about different areas of practice. Contact one of the CDO’s counselors for assistance in identifying/contacting appropriate alums.
Also, fellow students are an excellent resource. Talk to current students about their summer experiences. Take some interesting classes. To the extent you can (especially as a 2L and 3L), consider classes in areas of the law that genuinely interest you and may help you explore a particular area of the law, rather than loading up on “bar” classes.
Consider talking to any professors who teach in an area that interests you, and ask them about what job options exist in that particular area of practice. Explore the possibility of working for them as a Research Assistant to deepen your knowledge on the subject of study.
Consider a field placement or externship for academic credit.
A great way to research public interest/public sector employment is to enroll in a field placement for a semester. A number of public interest/public sector employers offer students an opportunity to work in their office in exchange for academic credit. Approval is required for any placements for which academic credit is sought. Sue Schecter, the Field Placement Director at Berkeley Law, has information on, and is responsible for, field placements. Her telephone number is: (510) 643-7387.
Sign up for a Clinic
The Clinical Programs provide many opportunities for you to work on real cases as part of your legal education. During your second and third years, you can participate in a variety of clinical projects that provide legal services directly to individual clients or that involve close interaction with lawyers on large-scale cases or other legal matters. Clinical opportunities at Berkeley Law include: the International Human Rights Law Clinic, the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Domestic Violence Clinic, the Death Penalty Clinic, and several student-run clinics, including: the California Asylum Representation Clinic, the East Bay Workers’ Rights Clinic, the HIV Outreach Program, the Homeless Outreach Program, and Migrant Legal Services. The student-run clinics are typically open to first-year students who work under the supervision of 2L and 3L students and skilled practitioners. No course credit is given for participation in student-run clinicals.
Become a student participant in the Center for Social Justice
The Henderson Center for Social Justice was formed in the Spring of 1999. The Center sponsors a facilitated discussion series for first-year students (Social Justice Thursdays), which is meant to enrich the first-year curriculum by providing a forum in which to discuss social justice issues and alternative perspectives on legal education. The Center also sponsors a brown bag lunch series (Social Justice Mondays and Thursdays) to bring together students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and practitioners who share a concern for social justice.
Check out “The Official Guide to Legal Specialties”
This National Association for Law Placement publication provides the reader with an inside look at what its like to practice law in thirty major specialty areas, from entertainment to immigration, from tax to telecommunications. Two Boalt alumni are included in this publication. It’s available in the CDO Library in 90 Simon Hall (and also available for purchase though amazon.com or other bookstores).
A: The most common jobs that new attorneys take after graduation are judicial clerkships, associates in private large firms, public interest staff attorney or fellowship positions, and entry-level or honors government positions (federal, state & local).
A: The practice of law has become a highly specialized business. There are very few generalists left in the profession. The spectrum of legal specialties is wide, ranging from Admiralty Law to Executive Compensation. The first decision most people make is to choose between litigation and transactional work, which are two very broad areas that each encompass many specialty practices. Don’t worry too soon about choosing a specialty or feeling as if you have been “pigeonholed.” You will have time to explore many practice areas during law school, field placements, summer positions and even after you begin legal practice. Know your strengths and how they can be applied to making you successful in whatever specialty you choose.
Once you have considered which practice area you would like to learn more about, there are a number of helpful guides in the CDO Library that introduce and explain the various types of law practice, such as:
The Official Guide to Legal Specialties [156aR]
The Legal Career Guide: From Law Student to Lawyer [153R]
American Bar Association Career Counsel’s Attorney By Attorney
Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Job Search Guide [576R]
Lawful Pursuit: Careers in Public Interest Law [554R]
A: You will need a polished resume and cover letter and you will also need to hone your interviewing skills. CDO can help you with all of these things. The CDO provides guides (via the Career Development and Job Search Skills webpage) that will take you through the process of building and drafting resumes and cover letters. Read the guides carefully before you begin to prepare your resume and cover letters. CDO career counselors are available by appointment to review resumes and cover letters with students individually. CDO panel presentations on interviewing and the Mock Interview Program, a version of which is held at the beginning and towards the end of the Spring semester. Specific dates will be announced via email, in the Berkeley Law online calendar (accessible at the top of the school’s homepage), and in the News and Announcements section of the CDO homepage. In the Mock Interview Program, practicing Bay Area attorneys (many of them Berkeley Law graduates) conduct one-on-one “interviews” with students and provide specific feedback. Also, you may want to review the CDO’s Guides and Webcasts that deal with the subject of interviewing. Counselors are also available, by appointment, to conduct individual mock interviews.
Northern California Public Interest/Public Sector Career Fair (see “Public Interest Careers” — under “Jobs and Career Options” on the CDO homepage)
Federal Government Honors and Internships Handbook (see “Public Sector Careers” — under “Jobs and Career Options” on the CDO homepage)
Spring On-Campus Interview Program
A: Here are the general timelines on which legal employers do the bulk of their hiring.
Summary Timeline (more details follow):
|Private Sector (large firm)||December through March|
|Private Sector (small firm)||January through May|
|Public Interest||December though May (N.B. Northern California Public Interest/Public Sector Career Fair takes place in Feb.)|
|Government||December through May|
|Judicial Externships||December through March|
|Research Assistants||Be proactive and contact professors whom you would like to assist over the winter break|
N.B. Applications for Berkeley Law Summer Public Interest Fellowships to fund your summer public interest or public sector work are due generally in late March or early April.
Outside funders of summer public interest work have application deadlines as early as mid-January to as late as mid-April. Consult the Summer Public Interest Fellowship section of the Fellowships page for additional details.
First year students can have their resume reviewed and begin to attend career-related events in October. Students may want to start preparing other job application materials as well, such as a list of references and a writing sample.
Some students choose to do a mass mailing at the beginning of December (when the NALP guidelines permit first year students to send out job applications). The choice whether to do a mass mailing is the student’s, but it has been our experience that the expense and effort invested in this approach are better spent in a smaller number of applications, tailored to a more informed job search. A generic job application is unlikely to be noticed in the deluge of applications received by employers early in December. At the least, we suggest that students who do a mass mailing also develop a “short list” of preferred employers, and compose applications specifically directed to those employers.
Students should remember that large firms hire a very small number of first year students, and some large firms do not consider first year students at all. There is no harm in contacting an employer to express your interest, particularly if you possess special qualifications making you a good “fit” with that employer. However, it is unusual to get a job with a big firm in your first summer.
Small firms hire on the basis of a short-term assessment of their needs, and while you may want to make an initial contact with small firms in December or January, you should be prepared to hear they have not yet decided on their needs for the summer (or to hear nothing at all). Then, you can follow up with the employers later in the spring (sometimes, the availability of your transcript will provide a good occasion for doing so).
Starting in December, you should keep an eye on the “Jobs” area of the b-Line and http://www.psjd.org/ for student opportunities (if you have questions about how to use these resources, feel free to meet with one of the career counselors). You should also keep in mind the annual Public Interest/Public Sector Career Fair (“PI/PS Day”) that takes place in February: information will become available about PI/PS Day in December, and you should make sure that you are keeping pace with the deadlines involved in its application process.
If you are interested in doing research for a professor over the summer, be proactive and contact professors doing research in areas of law that interest you. Research assistant positions are also posted on the BBB. Do not be discouraged if you find that spring has arrived and you have not yet finalized arrangements for the summer: opportunities continue to become available during the spring and even the early summer.
A: The National Association for Law Placement (NALP), an association of nearly every law school and a significant number of legal employers, adopted a set of guidelines intended to govern the conduct of law students and employers. The guidelines state that: “Law schools should not offer Career Development to first-semester first year law students prior to October 15 [and] [p]rospective employers and first year law students should not initiate contact with one another and employers [and] not interview or make offers to first year students before December 1.” Nearly every law school, including Berkeley Law, adheres to these guidelines. Their purpose is to allow students to focus on their studies, acclimate to law school life and learn about some of their options before they have to engage in a time-consuming job search. Even if these guidelines were not in place, the fact is that many employers do not even begin to think about hiring first-year students until they have completed their hiring decisions regarding second- and third-year students in November or December.
A: Few large law firms have 1L positions and even those that do only have one or two positions available. (Some students find positions (paid and unpaid) at smaller firms, but often these are obtained through personal contacts.) As a result, most students find legal work in the public interest or the public sector. These positions are typically unpaid, but there is the potential for you to secure a summer grant (in the range of $3,000 to $5,000) through Berkeley Law or one of the student organizations. Many students also find positions as judicial externs. A significant number find work at the Public Interest/Public Sector Career Fair held in February. Several serve as research assistants to law professors. To find out more about what students typically do for the summer, you can see what last year’s 1L class did by browsing the results of their evaluations available on b-Line, click on “Profiles”, then “Evaluations” and “Search” -or- click on Quick Link “Summer Evaluations”.
A: Most students do, and, all other things being equal, employers will favor students who have had some legal experience, whether it was gained over the student’s 1L summer or in the course of clinical or volunteer work during the school year. But there are many factors that go into an employer’s hiring decision and not having worked in a law job over your 1L summer will not necessarily disadvantage you. The key is to convince the legal employer that what you did over your 1L summer gave you transferable skills or experience that will be relevant to that employer. For example, if you are interested in doing human rights work in South America, spending your 1L summer learning the language and culture of a South American country will be viewed favorably. In addition, an exceptional academic performance in your first year may, in some cases compensate for not having legal experience.
A: Some students do receive a salary although it is not uncommon to not receive pay. The few who work in large firms are well compensated (up to in excess of $2,000 per week); those who work in smaller firms or as research assistants can be paid anywhere from $14 – $40 per hour. You should view your 1L summer as an apprenticeship; the experience will further your legal education and make you a more attractive candidate in your 2L year and beyond.
Although students working in the public interest or public sector will not usually be compensated, they are eligible to apply for a summer public interest fellowship.
A: Your focus in your 1st semester ought to be your studies. It is typical for students to wait until the break to send out cover letters and resumes. The vast majority of opportunities will not have been filled by this time. However, the most competitive employers (in private and non-profit sectors and some judges) will start to fill positions in December. If there are certain employers that you are particularly interested in and have reason to believe will be extremely popular among law students, you may want to send your materials soon after the December 1 start date.
A: While law firms typically have one or two 1Ls in their summer programs, if any, we have observed that 1L students who do receive summer offers from firms often had prior related work or industry experience, a science background, or exceptional academic performance in their first semester. Large firms also often seek 1L candidates from diverse backgrounds. You should think about whether you or the people that you know — friends, family members, business contacts — know someone at a firm or may know someone who knows someone else. Working your network also helps to obtain employment at a large private firm as a 1L.
Also, a limited number of students obtain 1L summer associate positions through the Spring On Campus Interview Program (details to be announced in January).