Should you apply for an internship during your first semester of law school or after your first year?
The answer to this is not going to be the same for everyone, but some of the things you should consider will be universal.
First off: FIRST SEMESTER AND FIRST YEAR GRADES SET YOUR TRAJECTORY!
Can you hear me yelling this through the screen? Because I cannot emphasize enough how important first semester and first grades are. If you were on a sailboat that had no motor, your first semester and cumulative first year grades would be the mast and sails. The main message here is: Get good grades during your 1L year!
That said, there are other things to consider when deciding whether to pursue an internship during your 1L year. These things are largely based on who you are as a person and as a student. It all revolves around time commitment, attention span, interests, hobbies, special skills, career plans, etc., etc. I was one who, as an evening student with 2/3 the course load of a typical 1L, decided to pursue not ONE BUT TWO internships during my first two semesters in law school. I did not do this haphazardly, however. I actually carefully chose which internships I would pursue that would not only provide me with great learning opportunities but would also be a break from the law school drudgery.
Your time is VALUABLE….
Choose what you want to do carefully because your time IS valuable. In fact, unless you become a real-life Harvey Specter, your time is the most valuable thing in law school. This is because you are literally paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for people to give you work, so that you can demonstrate that you are able to succeed at that work, and in turn…maybe one day….be paid to do that work. To be clear, your time in law school is time that you could otherwise be spending in the workforce making money. That’s called “opportunity costs”. This means that in addition to the $50,000/year that you pay to your school, you are also paying around $30,000/year in lost time- plus, do not forget living expenses and insurance that would probably be at least partially paid for by work- AND each year that you are not in the workforce is time that you are not investing, either gains or retirement, and it also means that it’s time that you are not working towards your annual raise.
All of this means that you are probably spending close to $600,000 on your law degree (this factors in your income potential, assuming your career was unaffected by your J.D.). This means you are spending about $23 an hour, every hour, even when you are sleeping….which means that one full night’s sleep is costing you $168, and a full night’s sleep is an important and necessary expense. But please go ahead and watch that new episode of Game of Thrones, it’s only costing you $23 (plus your HBO fees). Of course, it’s not really that simple, but I hope that you understand my message: Law school is a serious investment, so you should treat it that way. And the reason I am making such a big deal about this is because you want to choose how you spend your time carefully, which definitely includes whether you should spend what little free time you have on an internship.
Find a Volunteer Legal Internship!
Benefits of An Internship in your First Year:
Seriously consider the time commitment and your attention span. If you are anything like me, than you have the attention span of a dog at a dog park at a dog park. You are able to focus on commands (read: assignments) but, ultimately, if all you are doing is listening to commands you will get bored and start ignoring them. In my opinion, this is a sort of “BURN OUT”. The more you focus and work on assignments, the less you are able to truly understand and follow the assignments.
Please note that the author of this blog is the biggest Game of Thrones nerd!