The Importance of Summer Intern/Extern/Clerk-ships: A Guide

It’s back to school season and though some students do get very excited about returning to the classroom and learning something new, many of you out there are already planning for next summer. Some are thinking about the vacations they didn’t get to take, and others about their uncompleted bucket lists! Summer is a beautiful time to relax and recharge, but it is also a very important time to demonstrate commitment to your career goals, going the extra mile to gain experience and hands on skills. The best way to do that is to find yourself in a real-life workplace setting, i.e., an internship, externship, or clerkship.

For law students, the summer after your second year of law school is an essential time to broaden your experiences. In particular, you don’t want there to be a gap here. When recruiters are skimming your resume, they look for key words and red flags, finding reasons to weed a resume out of the stack. It is not always about what you do have on your resume, but it’s sometimes about what you don’t. Gaps in employment, irrelevant experience, and no summer jobs tells recruiters that you’re not that invested in your career. It seems that summer is the forgotten semester. Sure, it would be nice to take a three-month vacation, but when the competition gets hot, do you want to be a step behind or a step ahead?

Holding an internship, externship, or clerkship shows that you are dedicated to your career and interested in practicing law. It may also be your ticket into some of the largest, most prestigious law firms. Some firms are highly selective and look for specific clerkships in their young attorney prospects. A good clerkship could outweigh which law school you went to and how good your grades were. Overall, there is not much bad that could come from gaining real industry experience and filling out your resume. Not participating in a summer experience begs the question: Why? Hiring managers will wonder whether you weren’t hirable or you just didn’t put in the effort to apply, so you’ll need to be prepared to explain why you have a gap there. Empty summers are a major red flag on your resume, and you will need to compensate for it.

Here is a quick breakdown of a few types of summer experiences you can look for:

Externship – usually offered for school credit or as a part of a course of study, and usually unpaid

Internship – usually for 1Ls seeking to gain firm experience, and usually unpaid

Clerkship – experience working with a judge or court, working closely with the judge, chamber staff, and law clerks, research and writing heavy, and teaches intricate knowledge of the court. Federal clerkships, especially with the Supreme Court are the most prestigious.

Summer Associate – Usually for 2Ls or upper-level law students to gain practical legal experience, and usually paid, often a steppingstone to full time position with the firm after school, offers many networking opportunities.


Get started with your search today.