Working In A Law Firm Before Law School

5 Benefits of Working In A Law Firm Before Law School

Any interaction and exposure to the legal field prior to going to law school can help inform your understanding of law school and a legal career. While working in a law firm before law school is absolutely not necessary for success, it will provide you with valuable insight that will help give you a leg-up in your 1L year.

5 Benefits of Working In A Law Firm Before Law School

Here are five benefits to working in a law firm before starting law school.

1. Learning legal jargon.

As an intern or paralegal, you won’t learn to practice law and the majority of your tasks will likely be administrative. However, there’s still a lot to gain simply by working in a law firm environment before starting law school. One benefit is that you’ll pick up on a lot of the everyday legal language.

Learning the language of the law can be challenging. To a layperson, legal jargon oftentimes sounds like a foreign language. And, in many cases, it is! (You’re not going crazy. Rest assured that many of the phrases used are indeed Latin). Simply communicating with attorneys about specific cases or projects will help you become more familiar with the language of the law and make it much less intimidating when you’re actually reading and discussing cases in law school.

2. Exposure to legal research.

Sure, you’ve done research papers in high school and undergrad. Can legal research be that different? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Legal research (and writing) is a core component of your law school education and a daily task of most law associates.  It’s also a skill that you should try to hone as quickly as possible and you can start doing that while working in a law firm before law school. Although you’re not yet a law student, and the attorneys recognize that, by offering to participate in legal research projects you will familiarize yourself with legal search engines and how to effectively navigate within them.

(As a caveat, be very aware that many firms have subscriptions to search engines that charge for each search done. Do not just jump on and start exploring without permission. Law schools will give you a free account the entire time you’re in school to do just that.)

3. Building your interest in the law.

Figuring out what you want to do with your legal career is just as important as realizing what’s not for you. Practicing law may not end up being much like what you see on TV.  Your time working in a law firm before law school should be a chance for you to explore and reflect on whether the demanding lifestyle of an attorney is right for you. If so, contemplate if the projects you’re working on, and the underlying law involved, is exciting for you and something you’d be interested in longer-term. While you’ll have plenty of time to explore a variety of subjects in law school, start reflecting on what interests you now. Don’t be shy about asking to be involved in new projects and take time to explore fields of law you’ve never considered before.

4. Developing your own legal network.

As with much in life, what you know can be just as important as who you know. Despite a seeming overflow of attorneys, the legal market is much smaller and better connected than you may think.  It’s always good to start building your legal network early. This starts while you are working in a law firm before law school even begins. Forming relationships with paralegals, associates, partners, and the entire firm staff can help set yourself up for success later in your career. Your current firm may offer you a position as a summer associate after your 1L year or as a full-time attorney upon graduation.

Even if you have no interest in continuing work at your current firm or practicing in that field, always remember that attorneys move around. The people you are working with now may jump to other firms, build out new specializations for their work, and even become judges.  Make sure you make a good impression on those you work with now; it may just be what gets you a job later in your career.

5. Boosting your resume.

Prior legal experience is not necessary to gain admission to law school, but it can be very advantageous when you’re applying to your first job. When searching for a job for your 1L summer, the only thing most employers have to look at is your first semester grades and recent work experience.  Because all law students are working towards all ‘As’, with the 1L curve you can’t be certain what your grades will actually look like until shortly before you’re applying for summer positions. Having recent legal experience on your resume can help to give you the boost you need and set you apart from others students. If you’re seeking to continue work in the same field, working in a law firm before law school began will allow you to hit the ground running and make a favorable first impression on your new colleagues.

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