While many law students still have had their hearts set on a six-figure BigLaw position right out of school, others are deciding to take a detour for their first few years as a JD--or to change direction entirely. Though we can all agree that the current economic situation isn't ideal, there are still plenty of opportunities to pursue while waiting for the tide to turn. New programs and incentives are available to buy 3Ls a little time while waiting on a deferred start date, and overseas and unpaid positions offer a less stressful alternative to vying for one of the elusive spots at BigLaw. Schools are strongly encouraging these safer routes, and are offering tempting summer stipends and public interest positions.
Here are some of the alternative paths students and graduates are taking, according to our 2010 Law Student Survey:
"LOTS of 1Ls are looking to study abroad over the summer, and the university is strongly encouraging it. I would much rather find a job, but it seems next to impossible."
"I personally earned my own 1L summer job from on-campus interview, though the competition for jobs was substantial. The difficulty in finding jobs was exacerbated by the country's economic downturn this year as well. However, most students who were seeking out employment this year did eventually find it, I believe. However, some of the positions were non-paying positions with governmental agencies or with a professor conducting research. In addition, some students choose to study abroad with one of the law school's programs rather than seek employment, and this is especially true after the first year."
"Even with the recession, [students at my law school] still maintain a high employment rate as compared to other law schools. While not common, some 1Ls did get firm positions for their first summer. More commonly, 1Ls interned at public interest organizations or with judges. [My law school] has a number of students who have spent their summers interning abroad including students who have gone to England, Switzerland, Cambodia, Ecuador, Brazil, and Sierre Leone. For those interested in public interest, [my law school] just guaranteed funding for any second-year student who commits their summer to a public interest position."
"Given the economic situation, students at [my law school] seem to be doing fairly well in terms of employment prospects. The good news is that faculty and student groups have filled in some of the gaps for public interest students so opportunities through these avenues are available to students. [My law school] has a high rate of placement for 3Ls in clerkship opportunities. [My law school] also has a loan repayment assistance program though it seems to be in the early stages of development. There are summer opportunities for 1Ls at local nonprofit organizations, legal aid and the OR DOJ. Also, as mentioned earlier the OLSPIF program and FLAW stipend program fund about 20 students per summer ($3,000 each) for summer work in public service positions. Both of these programs are open to 1L and 2Ls."
-Posted by Megan Cassidy
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