Thursday, February 10, 2011

on internships, gunners, and navigating the rules

we've had a few responses to our questions post so far. these are my always, i don't promise that they're right, but i do promise they reflect what i've learned from my experiences in law school.


first, MEK asked:

I'm going to a 4th tier law school and just completed my first semester. I got just below a 3.0, but I want a good summer internship. Also, this is a second career so I'm not the typical twenty-something. I'm not that interested in doing something related to my past career. I'm going to a public school so fortunately I won't have crazy debt when I get out. I'm perfectly willing to do a free internship. What's your best advice for landing a great summer internship? Do you have any suggestions for types of internships that most people won't think of or ones that are more available than one would expect?

first and foremost, apply early. i don't support applying for internships before grades come in, since so many employers say to come back when the grades are out. but, once you have your grades, get those resumes out to as many jobs as you can find that may interest you. especially in a market as saturated with law students this holds for both paying internships and unpaid ones, both public-interest and private-sector -- since virtually every law student is trying to get a legal summer job, there are invariably more law students (1Ls and 2Ls both!) applying for any given organization than there are positions they're offering. your biggest advantage, no matter what your grades are, is to get that application in before they start interviewing and hiring.

secondly, cast a wide net. if a job posting you see looks even remotely interesting, apply for it. you have nothing to lose by putting your name into consideration: if you don't get the job, you're in the same place you were if you didn't apply. if you get it, you have an option for legal employment for the summer, and may end up really liking it if you take it. sending a lot of applications is time-consuming, but worth it if it's more likely to result in a job.

personally, i never had any particularly interesting tactics for finding job leads; i consulted my career services office, as well as online postings. my 1L summer i worked an unpaid public interest position in a legal clinic in St. Louis for victims of domestic violence; my 2L summer, i worked for a large law firm in Chicago. both jobs i actually took i ended up finding through my law school's career services office.

i knew a lot of people who had a lot of luck finding internships through people they knew. i wasn't in a great position for that, since i was going to school in a city where i didn't know anyone outside the law school, and whose job market was particularly distrustful of those who were not born and raised there. as a second-career law student, you're more than likely in a better position to find jobs through people you know, especially if you're attending school in the market where you've previously lived and worked. ask around -- people you've worked with in the past, people you know from clubs or involvements around town. if they're not lawyers or working with companies who hire legal interns, ask if they know anyone who does. it seems daunting at first, but this really is the best way to find out about unadvertised job opportunities -- and there's the added bonus that if you're applying to work for someone who knows you or a friend of yours, the fact that you come highly recommended is going to overshadow your grades, the tier of your law school, or anything else.


Joe asked:

How do you deal with gunners? I had a scored assignment where the two of us were opponents negotiating a contract and my opponent decided he needed to make the most one-sided ridiculous contract he could. He wouldn't move on his terms and as a result, I was graded down because I didn't really exchange numbers with him. I think he did it because he either didn't know better, or because he really wanted to win. But either way, he cost me.

first off, these appear to be two separate questions: how to deal with gunners, and how to deal with someone who made a crazy one-sided contract in a negotiation competition. sure, the guy who made that one-sided contract may have done so to game the system (a classic gunneresque move), but it could also be because he didn't know any better, or because he thought he was generally somehow clever in doing so.

as for how to deal with gunners? take any advice i provide on that question with a grain of salt. why? because, i have a confession to make: i was a gunner in law school. i may not have been the kind who spent large amounts of time (or, really, any at all...) in the library, but i sure did like to hear myself talk. i talked way too much in class, and annoyed the crap out of my classmates and even some of my professors. i wasn't the smartest guy in the room, usually far from it, but i compensated for that by talking 'til i was hoarse.

so, what's my advice on dealing with gunners? ignore them. seriously. short of stuffing a gag down their throat or getting an injunction barring them from the law school premises, there's not a whole lot you can do to stop them from being gunners. you can tell them to stop their knock it off until you're blue in the face, but they're probably aware of what they're doing, and either don't care that you're annoyed, or are appalled that more people in class aren't getting the most out of their educations by being gunners like they are. cut your losses, ignore the gunners, and move on.

as for the grading of the negotiation exercise, that's a much more difficult question. did the professor say in advance that exchanging numbers was one of the significant grading criteria? if not, then my best suggestion would be to adopt a reasonable tone, throw out a suggestion that's particularly favourable to your client (either a number in a client negotiation, a result in a mock trial, et cetera...depending on the event) instead, and bring up facts that support giving you what your client wants. it's good to adopt a reasonable tone given the out-there suggestions your opponent was making, and trust that you're going to look good for calmly making demands far more reasonable than your blustering opponent. if that doesn't get your opponent to calm down in a reasonable amount of time, though, go ahead and play hardball, and call him on being unreasonable.

if, on the other hand, the professor did tell you in advance that discussing numbers would be a grading criterion, then it was your responsibility to remember to do that within the time of the negotiation, no matter how ridiculous your opponent tried to get. in future negotiations, make a note of that (or any other criteria that the professor gives you in advance) before going into the negotiation.

always keep in mind that these "negotiation exercises" or "mock trials" or "moot courts" or anything along those lines that you see in law school don't necessarily reflect real-life work. it's a game with a finite time limit, and there will always be a series of rules that you're going to have to follow to maximize your score. following those rules may deviate from what you'd do in a real-life situation with looser rules or more time, but they'll lead to a better grade in the exercise.

(and, that was one of my biggest gripes about law school as i went through it...there seemed to be a lot more contrived situations to deal with than there was anything actually useful to prepare me for legal practice.)


Feel free to keep asking questions, or chime in on the questions already asked, in the comments!


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