Summer will be over soon but that doesn't mean you have to lose law clerks when they go back to school for the semester.
Many law schools are now offering courses where students can work part-time and earn credit for doing so. Other students are interested in putting in hours outside of class time in exchange for modest payment.
Still, it can be hard to gauge when hiring a semester law clerk will pay off and when it will make problems. There are some important factors to consider before you put out an ad at a local law school.
- Is the school supervising the student? Law schools that offer internships for credit often include a classroom component. If a student has to report their work to the law school, there's a good chance they'll stick with it even at the end of the semester. For students whose work isn't supervised by the school, it's much more important to determine their commitment-level. Students who aren't required to report their hours might want to scale back significantly closer to exams. If you're concerned, make your needs clear during the interview and hiring process.
- Is your office ready for the responsibility? Students have to work around a class schedule so it's important to figure out how flexible your practice is before hiring. A student might have to come in several times a week for only a few hours or may be available only one day during the week. If that is a problem for your business, consider hiring someone whose schedule is more open. But if you have non-time sensitive work to do, a law student can be helpful.
- What are the ethical considerations? Even certified law students need supervision from a licensed attorney and failure to supervise appropriately can result in sanctions. It's especially important to take supervisory responsibilities seriously when working with a law student who may need more direction. Some schools may also require a certain level of input from the employer during the semester. If you need some help but don't have the time to commit to good supervision, a law student may not be the right choice.
Hiring a semester law clerk can be a great move but it's important to go into the decision with your eyes open. If done right it provides a benefit to both the law student and the supervising attorney.