The summer between each year of law school is a vital time to gain and exercise skills while working in a law-related field. Landing your summer placement may seem like a daunting task, but with some strategy and planning, finding a relevant and meaningful summer internship is within your reach. Third-year law students working for BYU Law’s Career Services and Professional Development (CSPD) shared some tips with fellow students about how to find the ideal summer placement.
1. Network, network, network
It may seem the most oft-repeated bit of advice, but networking counts big time when it comes to landing your summer placement. You can begin your networking by reaching out to past employers, friends, and family. Ask them for references to contact. Make sure to capitalize on every opportunity to network: family vacations, job fairs, and any happenstance opportunity that comes your way.
2. Leverage social capital
Professionals and professors have a far greater ability to influence than you do. Reach out to these influencers and ask them if they can vouch for you. The catch? Make sure you have a real relationship with them and they know your work ethic. A title is nice, but it means little to prospective employers unless they can sense that the professional has a genuine relationship with you.
3. Find the best way to apply
Just because there is an online application process does not necessarily mean that it is the best way to apply. Presenter Roland Christensen credited the success of one of his applications to his reaching out to a fellow BYU alum instead of applying through the traditional website process. However, remember that application systems are set up for a reason, and sometimes applying through them may be the best—or only—way to land the job. If possible, talk to others who have applied to the positions you are seeking, and ask them for advice.
4. Reach out to alums
Reaching out to fellow alumni of the school may be one of the best ways to achieve the placement you seek. They can remember being in your shoes and are often excited to help a fellow student. Look for members of the JRCLS in areas you may want to work. Alums are generally more willing to respond to your inquiries. According to presenter Morgan Brungard, every alum she has reached out to has responded.
5. Utilize CSPD services
The CSPD offers an abundance of resources to help you in your quest, but effectively utilizing this resource is your responsibility. The office can be particularly helpful when it comes to searching for placements that match your interests; editing cover letters, resumes, and even cold call emails; and offering other tactful professional advice. The professionals working here have years of experience in the placement process, so don’t underestimate the amount and quality of help they can provide.
6. Don’t be defined by your grades
A 3.9 GPA is not a prerequisite to every great placement. Your relevant skills, work ethic, and professional references carry significant weight as well. If your GPA isn’t quite what you wish it was, don’t despair. Draw on other positive experience and skills, especially leadership, to help you stand out as a candidate. In addition, keep leveraging your references who will vouch for your work ethic and the quality of work you produce.
7. Look for less saturated markets
Applying locally for internships may have some conveniences, but the local market of candidates will probably have many candidates with your same qualifications. Instead, consider other opportunities where you can play the “BYU Law” card to your advantage. Do you want to travel internationally? Try some work in Texas or DC? Presenter Cameron Christensen found an enjoyable experience working for the U.N. War Tribunals. By looking for opportunities where “BYU student” is a rare title on a resume, you automatically stand out. Tie in the elements of your BYU Law experience that are of unique advantage to you, and you’ll find yourself a more distinguished candidate than many in the applicant pool.
8. Don’t be overly determined to get paid
It’s no secret: law school is not cheap. But, according to presenter Adam Chevrier, you shouldn’t worry so much about trying to replenish your savings during the summer months that you forego a meaningful opportunity to gain relevant work experience. Rather, think of your summer placement as an investment: a great, unpaid placement will yield greater dividends in the long run than a paid one where you simply do the busy work.
9. Be persistent and determined
If those you’ve reached out to haven’t responded, don’t give up. While maintaining professional etiquette, continue to reach out to those you hope to work for. In addition, consider that sometimes emailing may not be the best way to get a response—a direct call is likely to leave a more lasting impression, and, according to presenter Carla Davis-Bay, it may be harder for them to tell you no. Whatever your method of outreach, keep at it until a decision has been made. While you don’t want to come off overbearing, you should remember that employers generally like to see persistence and determination in a candidate. If you can remain polite yet resolute, you may be just the candidate they’re looking for.
10. Keep up your work ethic and build character
The best trick to landing any job, during the summer and after graduation, is to build and maintain character. Those you’ve worked with and those you’ve worked under will remember this about you. If throughout your law school experience—and your subsequent professional career—your person is characterized by such values as honesty, diligence, and compassion, others will be happy to recommend you and you can be confident when calling upon the contacts in your network for help.