How to prepare if your summer associate program might be canceled
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be some uncertainty about whether your summer associate program might be canceled. This is due to news of summer classes being canceled, shortened, delayed, postponed, and going virtual.
If your summer plans are working at a firm, this post will give you some tips on how to prepare in case your summer associate program is canceled.
How to prepare if your summer associate program might be canceled
If you are worried your summer class might be canceled, or maybe it already was, now is the time to prepare.
Looking back, in 2008 when we faced the last major financial crisis, “many firms canceled or significantly curtailed their summer associate programs, and rescinded or deferred offers to incoming associates,” according to Law.com. Summer class offers in 2018 and 2019 were very high. It is unknown if this will impact the offers for the 2020 summer class. Check out this post on how COVID-19 might impact the legal job market.
We suggest not sitting around and worrying about your summer class. Instead, take some time and get ready for the possibility of canceling your summer class. Here are some tips to help you get started. Everything we suggest complies with a shelter-in-place order.
Check-in with the firm
It is very likely that you have already received an email from the firm about your summer class. Use this email as an indication of what to expect.
If you are still worried about your summer class, you can always reach out to get more information. It may be futile to ask, “Is my summer associate program going to be canceled?” If they knew the answer, they would have told you already! Instead, consider asking any other questions you may have. This helps to get a feel for their tone, and also to let them know that you are still highly interested!
Keep in mind that this is a tough time for everyone. Firms are working remotely and dealing with new stressors. Thus, be mindful of this when deciding whether or how to reach out. Do not demand or even expect an answer right away, and say this in your email! Definitely do not bother anyone at the firm by emailing multiple times.
If you are still considering sending an email check-in, here is a template to use as a starting point:
Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. ____:
[INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND EXPLAIN WHO YOU ARE HERE IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE A WORKING RELATIONSHIP]
I hope all is well with you and your family. [ADD SOME PERSONAL COMMENTS HERE ABOUT THE PERSON YOU ARE EMAILING AND/OR YOURSELF]
The purpose of my email today is to reach out and inquire about the summer associate program at [FIRM]. I am extremely excited about this opportunity to learn more about [TYPE OF LAW]. [EXPAND MORE IF NECESSARY]
[ADD IN ANY SPECIFIC QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE, EXAMPLES: PAPERWORK, START TIME, DRESS CODE, OFFICE, ADDRESS, START DATE, PAY, REMOTE WORK, ETC.]
I know you must be extremely busy, so I do not expect a response right away. Thank you for your time, it is greatly appreciated.
[NAME AND CONTACT INFO]
Please keep in mind that this is only a template! What you say to your firm is entirely up to you, these are merely suggestions. Also, there is no need to email your firm. If you feel confident, you already got an email from them, and/or you think an email would do more harm than good, then don’t reach out. It all depends on your specific situation.
Get your resume ready
Preparing our legal resume is something you should do regardless of whether your summer class is canceled. But, it is especially important in this financial crisis. Check out this post for some resume tips!
Additionally, many job postings require a cover letter and writing sample. So, it does not hurt to get these two items ready. Cover letter samples can be found online and through the career services office at your law school.
Keeping up with your connections will be extremely helpful if your summer class is canceled. It will be easier to ask for advice or a job later if you strengthen the connection now.
With the social distancing guidelines in place, it may be impossible to grab a cup of coffee right now. However, you can still network virtually through a phone call, email, text, video meeting, social media, etc. Also, some legal groups are holding virtual events, so check online for any of these in your area! If you really want to have a face-to-face meeting with someone, plan it after the shelter-in-place order is lifted.
If you haven’t already, make a list of all your connections, including their contact information, where you met, and any other important details to remember. This will be helpful throughout your legal career.
Start searching for new opportunities
First, start looking at the jobs available. Search your law school’s job posting site and other sites online for the opportunities out there. Save these for now so you can easily find them later. If you are not finding legal jobs in your chosen area of law, cast a wider net. Look for other prospects that may be interesting to you.
If you cannot find a law-related job for the summer, it may be time to look elsewhere. Ideally, you want to obtain experiences that work to your advantage in the legal field (if your ultimate goal is working in the legal profession). However, a job that requires certain skills ancillary to the law field will be great as well. For example, writing, editing, research, leadership, teamwork, etc. are some skills to look for. We hope that law firms will understand why you took a job at a grocery store instead of a legal job during the COVID-19 pandemic. It may be helpful to write a supplemental letter to attach to your resume, explaining the situation and why you were not able to get legal experience this summer.
Apply for other jobs
If your summer class was NOT canceled at this point, you are in muddy waters when it comes to applying for other jobs. It is up to you whether you want to apply to other jobs, knowing your current employer could find out.
If your summer class was canceled, then we suggest applying for jobs now. After applying for paid opportunities and/or jobs in your preferred area of law, look elsewhere! The current economic situation could mean fewer legal jobs available, so you want to be open to all opportunities. Don’t forget about clinics at your law school and summer classes. Make sure to sign up for those early because they often fill up! Additionally, there are pro bono opportunities to consider.
Don’t forget about your career services office; they are still there to help! Reach out to them with any questions you may have. They may know more about plans at your firm, or other firms in the area that are comparable.
If you do find yourself needing to take a non-legal job, still look for legal work to do on the side, if possible. Search for any unpaid legal work through your law school’s job search platform or online. Inquire as to whether they will let you work part-time. Law schools often offer clinical work, for credit. Or, you could take a summer course to get credits out of the way. The good news is that summer classes likely will be online, so it should be easier for you to both work and take a class!
Alternate sources of income and saving
As discussed above, finding a job outside of the legal field may be necessary. Ideally, find something that requires the skills needed to succeed in the legal profession. Additionally, look for other part-time work or ways to make money. Think about or set up these opportunities now to prepare for a loss of income.
And, this is a great time to review your budget (or make one if you don’t have one!). Cut any unnecessary expenses or subscriptions. Do not go overboard on spending right now, just in case your summer class is canceled.
Do not jeopardize your job prospects
We advise against anything to jeopardize your chances of being hired. For example, do not participate in illegal activity, and do not slack off this semester and get bad grades. There are a lot of law students fighting for jobs right now, so don’t give a firm any reason to pass you up.
If you are looking to start bar prep early, make sure to sign up for JD Advising’s early bar prep campaign. It is free and only takes a few minutes each day!