Part-time Students: Obtaining Legal Experience While in Law School
The OCS encourages all students to obtain as much legal experience while in law school as possible. The experience you acquire while in law school will provide opportunities to hone your legal skills, put you in contact with practicing lawyers, help you decide on a practice area, increase your marketability, give you much to talk about in future interviews, and provide references that can speak of your ability as a potential attorney. For many part-time students, obtaining legal experience can be a real challenge because many of you work full-time in responsible, well-paying positions that make quitting or taking time off to work for significantly less money difficult if not impossible. Below are some ways to become more marketable to future legal employers while you are working full-time and attending law school:
1. Learn about all of the practice settings and practice areas that are available to lawyers. You can do this by discussing this with a career counselor and perusing our website. Our website provides information about the six main practice settings you can pursue: law firms, government agencies, public interest organizations, corporations, judiciary, and alternative careers. Once you decide which area of law you might wish to practice, take courses that will enhance your marketability and talk to your professors about other courses you should take.
2. Network with Loyola alums, alums from your undergraduate school who now practice law, family, friends, and other attorneys in the practice areas you are interested in. If you are not sure of a practice area, network with attorneys who practice in a variety of areas. To learn more about how to network, visit the networking page of our website.
3. Think about the employer you currently work for. Is there a way you can do law-related projects, perhaps with your employer's legal department?
4. Identify and enhance your transferable skills. Some examples of transferable skills include: researching, writing, publishing, contract review, customer service, policy analysis, compliance, negotiating, interviewing, mediating, organizing, marketing, and training. Legal employers value these transferable skills - your task is to make the connection for the employer between your past skills and their translation to the legal field.
6. When possible, participate in a clinic. Loyola has five of them including (1) business law; (2) child law; (3) community law; (4) tax law; and (5) the health justice project. Talk to the director of the clinic in which you are interested to work out a schedule that accommodates both your work schedule and the needs of the clinic's clients.
7. Consider doing a judicial externship. Externships provide an opportunity to see the judicial system first hand, to better understand the judicial process, and to gain hands-on experience drafting opinions and doing research. Some judges and their clerks are flexible in scheduling in-chamber meetings and some of the research and writing can be done at night or on weekends. Check with any judge you interview with to work out an alternative arrangement. Judicial externship information can be found here.
8. Many Chicago public interest organizations offer evening, weekend, and brief time commitment opportunities for law students and lawyers who would like to volunteer their time to a good cause. Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic, CARPLS, Illinois Legal Aid, and LAF are a few of the public interest organizations offering these opportunities. Go to www.illinoisprobono.org for the most comprehensive and current information about pro bono service opportunities.
9. Faculty research assistant positions can provide an opportunity to sharpen your research and writing skills and develop closer contact with a faculty member who is researching one of your areas of interest. Many professors are willing to accommodate part-time students' schedules.
These positions are often advertised through Law School Announcements or are posted via Symplicity.
10. If you know of a practicing attorney, especially one that works as a solo practitioner or in a small firm, consider asking that attorney for a project each semester. This will give you experience working for a practicing attorney, will look good on your resume, and the attorney may turn out to be a good reference.
11. Join bar associations, get involved, and attend meetings. The Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and several of the smaller affiliate group bar associations in the Chicago area are a good place to start.
12. Consider writing a law-related article for publication in a legal or non-legal journal. This is a good way to show a prospective employer that you have a sincere interest in a particular area of law.
OTHER WAYS TO OBTAIN LEGAL EXPERIENCE WHILE YOU ARE IN LAW SCHOOL:
1. Work full-time as a law clerk for some or all of your four years.
2. Work as a full-time law clerk for a firm that needs you only during the school year and use your summers to explore opportunities with other employers.
3. Do not obtain full-time clerking positions during your academic years but take two sabbaticals from your current job to clerk the summers after your 2nd and 3rd years of law school or take one sabbatical after your 3rd year only.
4. Save vacation and personal time and use it to take time off from your full-time job to work over the Christmas and/or spring break on a short-term project.