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5 Tips for Summer Job Applications (Even Though It's Winter)

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By William Peacock, Esq. on December 08, 2014 11:57 AM

1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls: finals are nearly here (or gone) for all of you. What should you be doing over winter break?

Besides having a few drinks and unwinding, you'll probably want to accelerate your job-hunting efforts. Most 3Ls probably know what they are doing by now, and 2Ls might have some idea, so this is mainly for 1Ls who ignored career services in favor of studying for finals. But the tips apply universally regardless.

Here are five things to keep in mind:

5. You Do You ... Kinda

You know what would make your cover letter more interesting? Personality. I've read far too many cover letters that are cut-and-pasted from the career services office. "I am a ____ student at ____ school contacting you in regards to _____."

Boring. I'm not saying to do anything crazy here -- like writing your letter in haikus. Be professional, be polite, but don't be afraid to stray from the template a little bit. But if you're into leather, keep that to yourself. Forever. Or at least while you're wearing your lawyer hat.

4. Cast a Wide Net

So you've always dreamed of being a prosecutor. Wonderful. You might be tempted to target only the local D.A.'s offices near your parents' home.

Bad idea. There are lots of law students out there clamoring for gigs. Check out offices everywhere -- near school, your parents' home, near siblings' homes, cousins, old roommates, anywhere else you can find a couch. Consider other related job types as well: working for a judge, or working for a professor at your school.

3. Show a Local Connection

Here's an interview I had once in Northern California:

"I'm not sure that I like that you're from Washington."

"Washington? I went to Washington and Lee, but that's in Virginia."

"Yeah, Virginia. That's far away."

"I have a place to stay in town and I went to undergrad a few miles from here."

"But Washington? That's so far away."

In the end, I got her to reveal her real concern (that I wasn't serious about living in the area long-term) and allayed that concern. (She also, eventually, realized that Washington and Lee was not in Washington.)

Many employers want local candidates that are more likely to return and someday work for them after graduation. This is less of a problem if you send your materials with a return address in the area -- a sister's house, your mother's house, whatever. Describe your connection to the area in your cover letter too.

2. Apply Early and Often

Did you catch the hint of desperation above, when I told you to cast a wide net? It applies to time-frame as well: apply early (much like law school applications, spots fill up) and apply often (to compare offers, or hopefully get at least one good one).

The reality is: there are a lot of law students and not a lot of summer jobs. Firms know that summer employees can do little to nothing to benefit them because you aren't yet ready to practice and don't know even one-tenth as much as a paralegal. The only real reason to bring you on is to either recruit you for after graduation or to show off how wonderful their lawyerly lifestyles are. (Lawyers love to talk about what they do.)

1. Ask Around

I hate networking. I love people, I love sharing genuine connections and interests, but I hate networking for the sake of networking. It feels phony and artificial.

"Hey Jim! Nice to meet you. I'm Willie. What do you do? Corporate taxation work? I'm fascinated!"

Nobody is fascinated by corporate taxation. (Okay, fine, there was that one time.) But you have to play the game. Any hiring manager who has two options -- one with a connection to an employee, one without -- is going to go with the "birds of a feather," assuming all other things are equal.

Got a tip for law students on the prowl? Tweet us @FindLawLP.

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