I Know What I’m Doing This Summer

April 14, 2010

F.F., 1L

Actually, I have known since January 5, much earlier than many of my classmates had even begun to interview for jobs. For 1Ls, the summer job search is somewhat sporadic, with a few people seeking out firm jobs, some looking for places in the government or with policy groups, and still others looking for jobs with nonprofit organizations. Many 1Ls use the first summer as an opportunity to try out a legal job that they have always dreamed about holding, while others use it to make sure that a particular legal field is not for them.

I have chosen to spend my first summer working for a federal defender in the Southern District of Alabama. This is the district where I grew up, but also a district in need of people willing to defend the values of genuine equality and access to justice across demographics and a district desperately in need of progressive voices in the law. These are ideas to which I am committed, and so they shaped my summer job search. My summer job search, however, was also shaped by other, less glamorous factors, such as whether I could afford to live in other cities, whether I would get to see my extended family (which includes a new nephew!) this summer, whether my husband (a Ph.D. student) would be able to do research for his dissertation, and whether I would be able to bring my dog with me to whatever new city I called home for three months.

These factors were not deciding factors in my job search, but they did lead me to interview for several places near my family, and one of those places turned out to be exactly where I wanted to work. I did not know it before I interviewed there, but seeing their commitment to promoting justice through criminal defense, I felt that this was something that I had to at least experience for one summer before crossing it off my list. I write all of this to say that, had I gone into this job search seeking out only the same experiences that my classmates were seeking or only looking for some ideal of the perfect 1L job, I might have missed out on the perfect job for me: one that combines my interests with my practical needs and offers the possibility of a wonderful experience. Oh, and they also agreed to pay me, but even if my particular summer dream job didn’t pay, YLS would cover me through SPIF (a Summer Public Interest Fellowship, to support students’ summer work in public interest positions). What more could I need?