As soon as you’re able to do so, sign up to take a clinic and, if available, an externship as well.
Why? Clinics and externships are an excellent way to get practical, real world experience, improve your resume (and your marketability), and make valuable connections with potential future employers – all while earning credits. Many also give you the opportunity to serve the low-income community and to provide desperately-needed legal services to people in need.
Which ones? Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter which clinic or externship you take. All of them will be valuable experiences. Even if you have no interest in practicing criminal law, for example, the criminal defense clinic will give you the opportunity to draft motions, interview clients and witnesses, and appear in court. And even if you think you think won’t be a trial lawyer, you might find out that you love being in the courtroom. Keep an open mind and expand your horizons. This is the time to try different areas of the law.
How? Clinics and externships are often in popular demand and getting into one can be a competitive process. So sign up every semester as soon as you are qualified to do so. In other words, don’t wait until the second semester of your third year to apply. If you have a particular clinic in mind that you know you want to take, go and see the clinic professor and express your interest. If it’s a clinic that will serve the low-income community and that is one of your motivations for taking the clinic, make sure you let the professor know that.
Should I try to get on law review, try out for moot court, or apply to take a clinic? (“I can’t do all three.”) Try out for everything. If you’re fabulous enough to get an opportunity to do everything you’ve tried out for, you can talk to faculty advisors and other students to help you decide which one (or two) you can and should do.
~ Rhonda Brownstein
Executive Director of the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania
Former Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Don’t forget who you are, why you are where you are, and what you want to be. It is ok to go out and have fun in law school. I lived in NYC during my 3 years of legal education and I went out during the week and weekends.
But at the end of the day you’re in law school to be a lawyer. That is a huge deal, and the majority of your focus should be on your schoolwork. Try treating law school life it’s a full time job. Do your work during the hours your brain is most likely to stay focused, allowing for some downtime to blow off steam in the afternoon, helping you stay relaxed throughout the semester. Make time for school, make time for friends, and make time for yourself.
~ Jared Hinsey
New York Law School ’13