The Virtue of Splitting Your Summer

BY PAMELA FOOHEY

As most 2Ls place their OCI bids, most 3Ls are deciding whether to participate in OCI at all. Those 3Ls returning to OCI this fall do so for a variety of reasons: they want to settle down in a different city, they want to work at a firm with different specialties, they worked at a firm over the summer but now want to work for the government, or they want more exposure to different firms before committing.

Many 3Ls, even those who ultimately will decline a repeat engagement with OCI, are asking themselves: Do I really want to work at a firm? Or do I want to work in the public or non-profit sector? Is it true that there is a dearth of training in the public and non-profit sectors? Will I even receive training beyond how to review documents at a law firm? Maybe I will be able to succeed in the public sector without the training? Do I really want to work in NYC, or DC, or LA, or whichever large city I worked in this summer? Will I have similar opportunities for career development if I choose a firm in a smaller market? My firm required me to pick a specific practice area – do I really want to go into that practice area? Will I like working with the attorneys in that area? What will be my transition options in the future?

As they place their OCI bids, 2Ls are asking themselves similar questions. Sometimes they even ask 3Ls for advice. 3Ls still contemplating their offers are asking other 3Ls their opinion. The 1Ls are thankful they aren’t interviewing.While the advice and experiences of classmates is informative, it is a poor substitute for personal experience. Most 3Ls may have missed their chance, but for the 2Ls grappling with these questions, the best way to answer some of them is to split your summer. There are many ways to split the summer. There is the private/public split, the geographic region split, the large/small market split, and the large/small firm split. What split is right for you depends on the weight you ascribe to the above and on other questions.

I chose to split my summer between the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in DC and the Minneapolis headquarters of Dorsey & Whitney, a large, international law firm (where I had worked my 1L summer). I had an interesting and informative time at Dorsey both my 1L and 2L summers. Dorsey is an inviting and engaging place to work. The partners, associates, and other attorneys are accomplished, intelligent, respectful, and eager to work with summers to help them explore their potential interests. They give summers challenging assignments (with appropriate support) and include them in team and client meetings. Moreover, Dorsey has a long list of impressive clients that engage the firm in intriguing work, yet still maintains a collegial and accommodating work environment. By the end of my 1L summer, I had the answers to my more pressing questions about working in a large firm in a smaller market, what practice area interested me, where I could transition in the future if I chose to, and whether I would interface well with the attorneys in that practice area.

But when I entered law school I swore I would not step foot in a law firm, and definitely not work at one permanently. I arrived in Minnesota and Dorsey in an unlikely way: my only connection to the state was my college roommate, and because I had such a great interview with Dorsey, I didn’t hesitate in taking their summer offer. With that unusual background, I knew I wanted to use my 2L summer to explore what it is like to practice law for the government and what it is like to work in a city closer to my home state of Connecticut. The Federal Trade Commission also offers interesting and exciting work, with the added bonus of unparalleled autonomy, just as I expected and was informed by my classmates. Yet, with the personal experiences and insights that the marvelous summer split solely can provide, I am confident in my decision to return to Dorsey and Minnesota.

I know from experience that the mere thought of proposing a summer split to prospective employers brings angst. While it may not be something you want to lead an interview with, just remember that firms want you to be committed to them just as much as they are committed to you. This is even truer in the public and non-profit sectors. Timing should not be a barrier either. There are sixteen weeks in the summer. Employers that demand ten can be negotiated down to nine, leaving six or seven to spend at more accommodating places (likely firms). Similarly, there is no need to lose sleep over whether you will receive two offers. You will receive two, likely times four. In last year’s Record career issue, in commenting on how to secure a job at a firm, the Anonymous Lawyer joked that: “More firms come to campus than there are students looking for jobs. If you want a job at a law firm, you’re going to find one.” It’s true, and the same is true of public and non-profit sector jobs. So go ahead 2Ls, take two.

Pamela Foohey is a 3L.

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