The first step in planning for your legal career is to make a realistic assessment of your interests and education, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. You must take an honest look at yourself in order to begin to determine whether your strengths and interests mesh with one another.
You must also determine whether your education and experience match up with your career goals. The more you are self aware, the better you will be able to determine whether a particular job is a good fit for both you and the potential employer.
One important criteria you need to determine early in your job search is where you want to live and work once you are out of law school. For summer clerk jobs, this is equally important; many times permanent employment is a function of where you have clerked during law school.
Once you have given some thought to geography, you will want to start looking at firms in that particular area. Obviously, if you are considering a large city, you will have more choices than in a small town. In order to narrow the field, you need to next consider what types of law you believe you will want to practice. Of course you may not know for certain what you want to do with the rest of your life, but you may already know the types of law in which you do not want to practice. It is good to address these issues as early as possible during your law school career. During interviews, be prepared to discuss why you have chosen to live in that particular location.
The next step is to start searching for firms or companies that you believe will match your criteria and career goals. The internet is increasingly the means for conducting an efficient job search. You should definitely check out the website of each firm, corporation or government agency you are interested in working for, if one exists. Other resources include state and local bar associations, the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) Directory, Martindale.com, employer web pages, Westlaw, Lexis, and from the collection of materials in the Law Library and Career Services Library. Links to these and many other career resources are available on the Internet Resources page.
After you have completed the necessary self-analysis to determine where you want to work and have developed a list of target employers, it's time to draft your resume and cover letter. Make certain that you customize your resume and cover letter to fit the employer to whom you are sending it. For more information about drafting cover letters and resumes, check out the Resumes, Cover Letters & Interviewing page.
Be sure that you begin this process early. For first year students looking for summer clerkships or externships, this means during the winter break and continuing throughout the spring semester. Second year students should consider beginning their search for a summer clerkship after second year during the preceding fall semester, and continuing throughout the rest of the year. Third year students seeking permanent employment should begin as early as August before their third year, and continue throughout the year. Of course, many third year students obtain permanent employment as a result of job searches and clerkships after their first and second years.