Kristine Bridges provides a list of professional development opportunities during the summer. Kristine D. Bridges is Associate Dean and Director for Professional Development at The University of Tulsa College of Law. She is Chair of the NALP Law Student Professional Development Section.
Although the summertime is usually thought of as a break for most students, there are a number of opportunities for student professional development during these months. Law school career counselors should encourage students to have a plan to ensure their summers are a time to energize their professional development efforts. After graduation, students will need to continuously devote time to their professional development, so now is a great time for them to start making those endeavors a habit. You should encourage students to think outside the box and seek out opportunities to grow, but the following is a tried and true list of great student professional development opportunities during the summer months:
Compete in writing competitions. Strong legal writing skills are the most consistently sought after strength by employers. By participating in a writing competition, students will draft an original work to add to their pool of writing samples. If students place in the writing competition, they will likely earn a cash prize and a great entry on their résumé, in addition to a strong writing sample. Lewis and Clark Law School maintains a great, current list of law student writing competitions (http://law.lclark.edu/academics/student_writing_competitions/).
Audit CLEs. CLEs are a standard for lawyer professional development and provide great value for students as well. For law students, there is usually only a nominal fee to sit in on CLEs whether it be an all-day session or a brown bag, hour-long session over lunch. CLEs provide great networking opportunities for students to meet the speakers and network with lawyers in the room. They also allow a student to explore and get exposure to different areas of law in which they may be interested.
Work those networks. Students should send out update emails to all of their substantial connections to offer an update on their law school progress. Oftentimes, students are hesitant to reach out to their network and do not understand that their former colleagues and other connections would love to hear from them. A short email from a student relaying an interesting class or placement experience could lead to a personal visit later in the summer.
Social Media. If a student has not already invested time into a professional LinkedIn profile, the summer is a great time to do so. If they do have a current LinkedIn profile, students may reach out to contacts they know and add them to their network. Students should also conduct a regular check for “digital dirt.” The NALP E-Guides on E-Professionalism are a great resource to help a student evaluate their social media usage (www.nalp.org/eguides).
Grab an empty seat in a courtroom. Students, no matter their area of interest, should spend some time at the courthouse. They may sit in on dockets, hearings, arraignments, or other matters. Court staff, judges, and attorneys always enjoy students in the courtroom. Some judges have now moved many oral arguments into chambers. If students establish relationships with judges and their clerks, perhaps they will invite the students to sit in behind closed door proceedings.
Update job search documents. Students should also spend some time knocking out that résumé and cover letter template that needs to be updated. Preparing competitive application materials takes time and energy—the summer is a great opportunity to put some thoughtful effort into these important documents.
Mentoring and shadowing. If the student has not found a mentor, summer is a good time to start the search. Students, especially 1Ls, should use this time to shadow another lawyer or mentor. They should ask a lawyer to attend a client meeting, witness interview, deposition, or court hearing or just follow a lawyer around for a day to see what a typical day is like.
Read professional development materials. There are a variety of personal growth books, interview tip articles, and job search resources available online and through most career services offices. Polishing up on job search and personal growth skills will make students more competitive candidates in the fall. A student’s summer break is precious, but any time spent on these and other professional development endeavors will pay off in the long run. Your career services office might consider hosting a program on summer professional development ideas if it does not already do so. Students may return in the fall both refreshed and invested even more in their professional development.