View Full Version : The summer after graduating from law school?

05-16-2019, 07:50 PM
One of my characters just finished law school at an Ivy league college. She is stressed out and wants to take the summer to relax before applying for jobs.

From a logistical standpoint- when would she be taking the boards? I'm assuming she would have to have passed her boards before applying for positions. Or do most new grads spend the summer preparing for the boards, or other?

If you or someone you know graduated from law school, what did you/they do the first summer after graduation.

05-16-2019, 08:19 PM
Ideally, job hunting is done during your third year, and you're hired with the understanding that if you fail to pass the Bar exam, you're out of work. If you don't have a job before you graduate, you're in desperation mode about looking for work.

Bar exam is the end of July and the next one won't be to February. You usually start a Bar exam prep course and spend the rest of the time studying, which if you're lucky you can spend on a beach working on your tan as well.

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-16-2019, 08:22 PM
If you don't have a job by graduation, you're probably not really looking for a position, because you're kinda fucked if you are and that's the case.

Bar schedule depends on job, school, etc. Some places prep you, some you're expected to have passed, schools if you're on a different time schedule (a lot have moved away from the strict non-flex), yada.

05-17-2019, 12:07 AM
Thank you JClarkdawe and cornflake!

Based on these responses, it leads me to my next question:

Is it unusual/possible for an applicant to accept an offer, with a start date after passing the bar (not boards, oops), but before they start, one of the other positions they REALLY wanted, makes a last minute job offer? Or do potential hires have to sign contracts?

05-17-2019, 01:33 AM
How old is your student? Are they fresh out of undergrad, going straight into law school, and then graduating? Or have they already spent time pursuing one career, and decided to transition into law?

Many of the students who have done-something-else in life before transitioning into law will take evening classes while keeping their day job. They often end up graduating in December-- as do students who weren't quite able to make it all in 2 years.

After graduation, it's straight into bar prep. In Texas, BARBRI is the big test-prep program, but there are probably others in other areas. Bar prep is even more stressful than law school itself was. The thing about law is that it makes sense, and is very logical... the thing about the Bar is oh-my-goodness-I've-got-to-have-it-all-in-my-head, regardless of the type of law you plan on focusing on. The Bar is essentially a guild system, and they work hard to keep the field from being flooded with newcomers. The test gets easier (higher passage rate) when they need more new blood, the test gets harder (lower passage rate) when there's not enough work to go around for all the current attorneys. In Texas, there's a certain set of blue books that basically breaks down every municipality and lists how many attorneys-per-capita there are... The last time I checked them, there might be one attorney for every 2,000 or 5,000 people in some rural areas, whereas in metropolitan areas, it's more like 1 attorney for every 250-300 people. It was very enlightening.

How many times you can attempt to pass the Bar varies, also depending on how many people they want to let in at any given time. When DH took it in Texas, I think you had three? four? shots, or else you were out of luck. Then it shifted to infinite tries, if I recall. Then it shifted again to five times, where it currently is, if I'm not mistaken. Other states will vary-- North Dakota will give you six tries; South Dakota requires Supreme Court permission to take it again after three tries; Virginia gives you five tries; and so on. However, the bar exam always includes the last Wed in February, and the last Wed in July, regardless of where you live in the US. In TX, it takes three days to administer-- a Tue/Wed/Th, where the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) takes place on the Wed.

During your last year of law school, you generally get an internship/clerking opportunity as one of your prereqs for graduation. It gives you the opportunity to make connections and get real-world experience. DH came from a nonprofit background before he got into law, so he went with one of the major firms in the area that dealt with nonprofit law. He absolutely hated their firm--- the attorneys there fit all the usual stereotypes. The secretaries were sad when he left, because he was a decent human being who treated the support staff like human beings as well. ;)

Nepotism is alive and healthy. :) One girl DH went to school with had a job lined up clerking for the TX Supreme Court-- her dad knew the right people, so the position was offered even before she took the bar. Right now, one of DH's colleagues is trying to get his son to take on his practice so he can retire. The son was cock-of-the-walk when he graduated law school, and acted like he owned the courthouse, but I think he's on his third or fourth try to pass the bar. (DH had offered to help him with his exam prep, but he was too cool for that...) One woman was a legal secretary for a local practice; her niece graduated law school and passed the bar. She'd wanted to bury herself in contract law, but was given a job at her aunt's workplace, where she had to do criminal work, which she hated. If your graduate doesn't have a job lined up-- I'd probably look at them a little squinty and wonder what's wrong with them. ;)

For DH-- he graduated in December, studied for the bar exam, took it in February, found out that he passed it in April. During all this time, he continued working at his day job. (At a local university.) He did a few things in private practice--- wills, estates, trusts-- for coworkers while we figured out where we were going to land. I was tied to the area with my job until September. After September came, however, we started shopping around to see where life would take us. A married pair of attorneys invited him into their firm in City A, but then promptly got divorced, which broke up their law office and made them rescind their offer within days of having made it. Then an attorney in City B invited him to join his firm, and I got a job in a nearby city as well. So we spent December/January getting our ducks in a row and relocated, and we both started work in February.

If he wasn't married (and thereby didn't have to take my limitations into account), and didn't already have a day job--- he would have been able to fast-forward his schedule by almost a year-- he would have just had to wait for his passage to be confirmed in April.

You can work in a law office without your license, but you're limited in what you're allowed to do, of course. Whether they do that will depend on how closely tied they are to their employer (dad/a friend/someone they have history with is going to be more flexible) and how much debt they graduated with (gotta start earning those paychecks to pay it off!).

If someone wanted to take a vacation, the best time would be while waiting for their exam results to come back in. Presuming they're not up to their eyeballs in debt. And presuming they're not carrying around a knot of stress in their stomachs for two months while they waited for the pass/fail verdict.

The legal community is very small and tight-knit-- at least, where I am. I asked a corporate attorney friend how many different firms she'd worked with. She said that if you hop around to more than two or three firms in your entire career, people will perceive you as unstable and unreliable, unless one of those times is to hang your own shingle. Corporate attorney etiquette may be different from, say, wills/estates/trusts/family law/criminal law etiquette, but that sort of last-minute change-of-horses would be something I'd be super-leery about.

When DH was a freshly minted attorney, he hated the term "baby lawyer". But as he's gained experience--- he understands it better now. Many of his colleagues who went on to join major firms spent the next three, four, five years pushing papers in back offices. They had to put in their time before they got the good stuff. He ended up working in a small practice in a rural community-- a big fish in a small pond-- and he got more hands-on experience in his first six months than many of his classmates got in six years. Likewise, the ones who were working for big firms were expected to put in 80-hour weeks... so if you mentally cut their salaries in half, it wasn't as good money as it would have seemed. So if your Ivy Leaguer is planning on joining a major firm, know that (a) she's the low man on the totem pole for a few years, and (b) is destined for long hours and mehh pay. So she needs to find a place where she'll be content to be for the next 10, 20 years... but the dream part of a dream job probably won't kick in for another 10 years as well. ;)

05-17-2019, 02:10 AM
I'll throw in my own experience here as another data point. I went straight through undergrad and law school. I did not have a job when I graduated. I spent my time that summer with bar review and job hunting. I found a job (Legal Aid) and was hired after I took the bar, but before the results came out. I think I worked about a month, learning up on the particular area of law I was getting into (not coincidentally not one of the ones covered on the bar exam). Once I was sworn in I started going to court with clients.

Some states (WV is one) allows third-year students and recent grads to practice under the close supervision of a licensed attorney while they do all that stuff.

Speaking personally, so much of law school is learning stuff for the bar exam that taking a year off after graduation makes little sense.

05-17-2019, 02:42 AM
To illustrate how much planning can go into this process, let me tell you about my daughter. She was an E-6 (Petty Officer First Class) Legalman (paralegal) in the Navy. She was presented with an opportunity to take a 3 years off and decided to go to law school. Planning started at that point and she decided to leave the Navy in August. In this way she would get through her Bar exam before she had to return to the Navy.

She graduated in May with an offer from the Navy to be an officer in JAG. However, this offer was contingent on her passing her Bar exam. However, the contract she had signed with the Navy required her to return to service in August, well before the Bar exam results would be out.

So she returned to the Navy in August as an E-6, waiting on her Bar results. Officer Development School was scheduled for October and the plan was for her to get her Bar results, be commissioned as an officer, and go to the school. Meanwhile, she could sit at a desk doing virtually nothing while waiting.

Finally, two or three days before ODS started, the NH Bar results came out and she had passed. The officer dealing with her and arranging her orders, got her orders signed, she was able to schedule a commissioning, and make it to Newport with a few hours to spare. Of course, she had to get special leave from ODS to go to New Hampshire to be sworn in, as until you are sworn in, you're technically not an attorney.

When she got done with ODS, she went to a JAG command. There, despite the fact that she'd been trained to be an officer and was a licensed attorney, she was still not allowed to do anything useful. She had to wait until she went to JAG school to be actually trusted to do anything.

Let me tell you keeping track of all the dates was enough to drive one crazy.

Is it unusual/possible for an applicant to accept an offer, with a start date after passing the bar (not boards, oops), but before they start, one of the other positions they REALLY wanted, makes a last minute job offer? Or do potential hires have to sign contracts?

Potential hires do not usually sign contracts, but your issue here is more whether people would believe this. In a romance this could fly, in most other genres probably not. I gave you the story of my daughter to illustrate how complex this process is and how people plan this from both the employer and employee side. It is extremely unusual for a law firm to do spur of the moment anything. Lawyers aren't big into surprises and we're paid to avoid them.

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-17-2019, 07:37 PM
Think I need to change the major/career trajectory for my character. It doesn't seem plausible or believable for the book to have her graduate law school, then move back to her parents house, taking the summer off to figure out her life/next step. She grew up with my MC. They were co-valedictorians in high school. She went off to college and he didn't ( due to a traumatic event). I need her and MC to meet up again when they are 25-26 years old. She is confused and scared about her future and ends up in a brief relationship with MC. She is only in one section of the book, and it is not a romance.

Need to rethink some things here.

Thanks again to all who responded!

05-17-2019, 08:34 PM
If she doesn't want to practice, it's possible, but if she's looking for a job as an atty, she'd spend the summer in bed with a bottle of vodka bc she has no job and didn't study for the bar.

05-17-2019, 09:44 PM
There are a number of jobs/careers in which a law degree is an advantage, but doesn't involve the actual legal practice of law ( e.g., civil/criminal investigation at the federal level, large scale municipal police administration, etc.).

05-17-2019, 09:59 PM
If she doesn't want to practice, it's possible, but if she's looking for a job as an atty, she'd spend the summer in bed with a bottle of vodka bc she has no job and didn't study for the bar.

Aww man, I love this idea (spending the summer in bed with a bottle of vodka), it's so angsty and tortured. But, I need this character to pick herself back up at the end of the summer and get back "on track" and out of MC's life. I'm thinking she should be waiting to hear from her dream job, while trying to string along/put off making a decision about a mediocre offer from a position in her home town. She's torn with indesicion. Based on logistics, I don't think I can make this believable if she just finished law school.

05-18-2019, 03:28 AM
According to DH, there were roughly two categories of people who went to law school. One category was people who wanted to make a change/make a difference--- those were the kinds who were usually attracted to ending up in things like Legal Aid. The other category was people who were in it for the good money/steady income-- those are the ones who end up in private practice, or perhaps in government at some level. There are other sub-motivations as well-- the desire to excel, the desire for power/prominence, the desire to be admired, and so on-- but it basically boils down to an idealistic desire to help people, or a practical desire to earn money.

So, someone who's gone through the trouble of studying for the LSAT, applying for law school, making it through law school, and presumably studying for the bar, and then passing the bar--- and all of that at an Ivy League school, of all places-- for them to suddenly be aimless and directionless, it's very out-of-character for the kind of drive you need to walk that path. Whether her motivation was to "help people" vs "make money"--- it's taken her years to accomplish what she's got, and she's not likely to put the brakes on now.

What kind of law does she want to practice in her dream job?

She would look at the prereqs for her dream job, and work to accomplish all those things to make herself more desirable than any other candidate. Step #1 was to become an attorney from an Ivy League school; what are steps #2-#5? Go to a job search website, and plug in the equivalent of her dream job, to see what her checklist would be. Remember that she's starting off with zero experience, so her ability to be picky needs to be balanced with her need for experience.

So, just a quick glance at some employment searches--

A litigation/real estate law firm requires--

Litigation: 1 year (Preferred)Briefs: 1 year (Preferred)
civil: 2 years (Preferred)

A personal injury firm has--

an immediate opening in our --- office for a 0-3 year Personal Injury Attorney

An Assistant City Attorney position requires--

a minimum of four years of government law or other relevant experience
in addition to your JD and your license.

A federal position requires--

have at least three (3) years post-J.D. legal or other relevant experience.
in addition to your JD and being an active member of the Bar.

A position with a charity requires-

Bilingual English/Spanish required; Demonstrated experience with multicultural populations; Interest in immigration law, previous experience preferred; Litigation experience is preferred.

So in each of those cases, your path is clear, and she was probably cultivating some of those things before she ever went to law school, if possible. (ie, learning Spanish and working with multicultural populations if she's on the charity path, for example.) In other cases-- like with municipal/county/federal/military positions-- there's usually a way to work your way up, and the way is made smoother if you already have internal connections, or if you're in the middle of nowhere where there's not a lot of competition, and you just need to be competent. She has to remember that her dream isn't (likely) something she's going to land right off the bat; it's something she's going to work her way towards, and graduating/bar passage was just the first step that got her on the ladder and opened the metaphorical door.

05-18-2019, 03:34 AM
IANAL, but I would find it very odd that a person would fight their way through law school, then spend the summer sitting around wondering what to so with their life.
It's hard to envision someone going to law school on a whim.
At the risk of fostering stereotypes, that's more an Arts major kind of thing.

05-19-2019, 06:52 PM
On the other hand, I can imagine someone who is very goal-focused having spent years heads-down doing all the things you need to do to Become a Lawyer -- and then, on crossing the finish line and achieved the goal, looking up and having the horrible realization, Now that I have Become a Lawyer, I'm going to have to spend the rest of my working life *among lawyers* -- but if I have to do that, please somebody kill me now!!

And then spending the summer in bed with a vodka bottle, or volunteering at a nonprofit, or learning Python.

Or maybe she did have a job lined up and there's some complication around it -- maybe it's overseas and there's a snag with the visa she'll need, or she was hired in the legal dept of a corporation in the middle of a big re-org & they've put onboarding on hold while they figure out which city her group will be located in when the dust settles -- that gives her unexpected downtime in which to wallow in these Oh god am I really cut out for being A Lawyer?!? anxieties. But in the fall the complications go away and she's back on track with Plan A after all.

05-19-2019, 07:35 PM
On the other hand, I can imagine someone who is very goal-focused having spent years heads-down doing all the things you need to do to Become a Lawyer -- and then, on crossing the finish line and achieved the goal, looking up and having the horrible realization, Now that I have Become a Lawyer, I'm going to have to spend the rest of my working life *among lawyers* -- but if I have to do that, please somebody kill me now!!

This is not an uncommon scenario, happening about a year to three years after passing the Bar. I know a couple of people this happened to. Unfortunately, very rarely do these people continue in directly in the legal profession. Sometimes they move a bit sideways, like becoming a law librarian, but more often they move a lot sideways, like becoming a chef or a carpenter.

Problem is that the recovery rate is usually long and slow and the timeline doesn't seem to work for the story.

Another good place where lawyers go off the rails is about 5 years in, went to work for one of the top firms in the nation, and didn't make partner, and is now facing unemployment. But again the timeline doesn't seem to work for the story.

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-27-2019, 06:38 PM
The only lawyers I know of who did not walk out of law school with a job at a law firm or county prosecutor/public defenders office and that took time to find their calling are all in politics of some sort. Or completely unrelated fields. I do know one who left law school for medical school and became a surgeon, he now is a lawyer for a large medical group.

The ones I know who left the law profession after a few years have not returned to law. Many reasons, marriage, disillusion, finding a different passion, etc.


06-05-2019, 07:34 AM
I'll add my experience to the mix for a different perspective. I went to school year-round and graduated from law school in 2 years, and when I graduated I didn't have a job waiting for me. I was a BARBRI rep so I got the course for free and studied nonstop from graduation until the bar exam - a 3 day exam. (I'm from California.) I lived with my father while I studied, who is also an attorney, so when I wasn't studying on my own, practically every conversation with my father was an impromptu verbal quiz where I had to explain different legal concepts to his satisfaction. After taking the bar I worked for my father's law office, who was a general practitioner, so I had the opportunity to experience both criminal and civil law, and I followed him to court and I helped out in the office.

Without knowing whether or not I had passed the bar, I really wasn't interested in finding a job until after I knew for sure I had passed. People who I knew that had a job out of law school were told their continued employment depended on them passing the bar and I didn't want to be in that position in case I didn't pass. When I passed, I continued working for my father for about a year, co-counseled a civil trial with him and my first felony trial and I also made court appearances for him until I was hired by a Public Defender's Office.

From my experience, only about 50% of law students had a job when they graduated and they remained employed while they studied for the bar. It's very unlikely that a law student would take time off before taking the bar because you want everything you learned in the prior 2 to 3 years to be fresh while you still remember it when you take the bar. They may take a week off after the bar, but if it's a student who's already employed, their employer expects them back at work after taking off 3 days for the bar.

Some people become disillusioned with the law, but it's usually after working for at least a couple of years, rarely before they start practicing. I typically see a lot of second and third year students who work at my court as summer externs and while they may be stressed while in school and taking the bar, I've never met anyone stressed out after taking the bar except for the usual anxiety waiting for bar results.