Beyond Law School
Although very few corporations hire recent law school graduates, several offer summer programs for first and second year students that are available through the OCPD's job listings. If you are interested in eventually working for a corporation, you should try to obtain one of these summer positions, in addition to law firm experience that will give you a solid litigation, corporate or real estate background.
Practice in a corporation compares favorably to law firm practice. Salaries and benefits are comparable, and hours are usually (although not always) better. While many corporations still refer their more complex matters to outside law firms, many others have responded to rising legal costs by increasing their legal staffs in order to handle more matters in house. This trend has made corporate legal positions more interesting, challenging, and sought-after.
Together with the faculty's Judicial Clerkship Committee, the OCPD helps second and third-year students and alumni in obtaining post-graduate judicial clerkships with federal and state court judges across the country. The professional staff reviews cover letters and resumes that will be sent to judges and counsels students regarding the clerkship application process. Because timing is critical in the application process, the OCPD provides a full mail-merge service to ensure that the applications and recommendations are sent out promptly and accurately.
Government practice is a particularly attractive career choice for law school graduates. Although there is a substantial difference in salary levels between the larger law firms and government agencies, the difference is less significant when compared to smaller law firms. Hiring patterns vary among government agencies, but most prefer to hire someone who has worked for them previously or who has demonstrated an interest in government work through clinical experience, summer employment, or experience prior to law school. Practicing as a government lawyer can be a very rewarding and exciting experience.
At the federal level, you can obtain experience in nearly any type of legal practice, including environmental law, consumer protection, labor law, international relations, immigration, energy law, civil rights, contracts, criminal, torts, securities, business and tax law and intellectual property. A government lawyer usually has more responsibility than an associate in a law firm, and the work often involves issues of national significance. At the state level, State government positions are as varied as those in the federal government. Opportunities exist for attorneys interested in numerous substantive areas and for litigation, regulatory, investigative, and administrative work.
At the city level, among the most sought-after positions are those with the offices of the District Attorney and with City Law Departments, that represent major cities in all types of litigation. Assistant District Attorneys prosecute persons accused of crimes. They are given enormous responsibility for substantial caseloads and opportunities to grow and develop as litigators. Lawyers who represent major cities work on a variety of civil matters, including torts, real estate, and civil rights, and in some instances, criminal law, and are given responsibility for substantial caseloads.
Lawyers in private practice are in the business of delivering legal services to clients for a fee. The term private practice includes the solo practitioner as well as a law firm of several hundred attorneys. Differences in size determine salary, hours, atmosphere, client contact, and entry-level opportunities. Size is relative to geographical location. Large corporate firms recruit second- and third-year students almost exclusively during the Fall On-Campus Interviewing season, and many of their first-year associates are drawn from the second-year summer program. There is almost always an emphasis on class rank, as well as law review or journal membership, and/or moot court honor society membership.
Smaller law firms do not have structured hiring programs, nor do they follow any kind of hiring patterns. Generally, they hire on an "as needed" basis. They are most likely to hire second-year students in late spring for summer positions and recent graduates in the late summer and fall following the bar examination. Emphasis on academic criteria is mixed, but these firms seek students and graduates with relevant experience that will enable them to “hit the ground running.”