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To Split or Not to Split, That is the Question
Our students are frequently in the position of having to decide among numerous summer job offers. Roughly 7% of first-year students and 20% of second-year students decide to split their summer between two employers, typically spending 6 to 8 weeks at each position. The pros and cons and various nuances of splitting the summer are discussed below.
Potential Pros to Splitting
- Opportunity to explore two different jobs. This is especially helpful for students who are trying to decide between different sectors of practice.
- Ability to expand your network of contacts.
- Greater likelihood of working on a variety of different types of legal projects.
- Opportunity to investigate more than one city.
- Insufficient time to thoroughly explore the position.
- Potential for employer to underestimate your commitment to its organization.
- Inability to secure a strong reference if a supervisor is unable to get to know your work sufficiently.
- Failure to create a strong writing sample if you have insufficient time to work.
- Less time to rehabilitate in the event of a mistake. When you only work on a handful of projects with a limited number of attorneys, an error may take on greater significance.
- Logistical issues associated with moving to a new city and finding new living arrangements.
For most 1Ls, their first-year summer job will be their first legal experience. It may take some time to get acclimated to the work environment, to the process of conducting research, and to dealing with fellow attorneys and support staff. Additionally, the importance of securing good references and a writing sample can be particularly important during this time because of the potential need for them when applying for second-year summer jobs. Also, with FIP in early August, students will need to cease work and return to New Haven for interviews. For these reasons, splitting the first summer may not be a wise choice.
By the time their second-year summer rolls around, most 2Ls will already have had some experience working for a legal employer. This experience, coupled with an additional year of school, usually provides a level of confidence that will enable a student to hit the ground running during the summer. As a result, second-year students may find splitting their summer to be a wise choice if they wish to explore more than one workplace.
Employer Policies on Splitting
The NALP Directory (in the Recruitment & Hiring tab, under Summer Associate Hiring Questions) provides information about firm policies on splitting. Most firms that allow splits require interns to spend the first half of the summer with the firm and work for a minimum of eight weeks. Public interest employers vary in their approaches to splitting, but often are more flexible than firms.
To get a sense of which firms enabled students to split their summers, look at the YLS Student Employment Lists which will indicate if a student reported working for more than one employer during the summer.
Common Types of Splits
- One Law Firm, Two Offices. Most firms interviewing 2Ls at FIP have offices in multiple cities and may allow students to work in two different offices of the firm during the summer. With some firms, this can include a stint in an international office.
- Two Different Law Firms. Trying to navigate a split between two law firms in the summer can be quite difficult given that most firms want you for the first half of the summer and expect to have you at least eight weeks. There are some exceptions to this. For example, many Texas firms are willing to have interns in the second half of the summer and expect only six weeks of work.
- Law Firm/Public Interest. Because public interest employers are often more flexible than firms in terms of the parameters of splitting, this type of split is often workable. A typical approach for 2Ls is to interview at FIP and then commit to a firm for the first half of the summer while continuing to pursue public interest opportunities for the second half. Students unsure about whether they want to work for a firm at all may wish to make use of NALP’s April 1 public interest extension policy which states that “Candidates may request that an employer extend the deadline to accept the employer’s offer until as late as April 1 if the candidate is actively pursuing positions with public interest or government organizations. Candidates may hold open only one offer in such circumstances. Employers are encouraged to grant such requests” (see NALP’s Principles and Standards Part V.C.2). At YLS, in our Employer Recruiting Policies, we say that employers recruiting at YLS “shall” extend a deadline under these circumstances. Ultimately the student may decide to work at the firm, split between the firm and a public interest position, or forego the firm completely.
- Law Firm-Sponsored Splits with Public Interest Employers. Law firm-sponsored splits is a particular type of law firm/public interest split in which the law firm has a program through which students can work for part of the summer with the firm, and part of the summer with a public interest organization, with the firm paying the students’ salaries for the entire summer. A list of these special law firm/public interest split opportunities is available on the CDO website here.
- Splitting with a Business Employer. Some law students wish to split their summers between legal employers and employers that are in the business sector. Many business-sector employers are open to summer splits and typically handle splitting requests on a case-by-case basis. Students exploring law firms and business opportunities may wish to make use of the Yale Law School Recruiting Policies, under which, upon receipt of a firm offer through FIP, a student can request that the firm extend the acceptance deadline until as late as April 1 to enable the student to pursue positions with business-sector employers. A student may hold open only one firm offer under these circumstances. Ultimately the student may decide to work at the firm, split between the firm and a position at a business employer, or forego the firm completely.
Keep in mind that the fact that you are interested in splitting your summer is not a selling point to an individual employer as it indicates that you are less than fully excited and committed to working for their organization. Thus, in most situations it is better to wait until you have an offer before inquiring about the possibility of splitting. One question you can ask during interviews is about the length of the employer’s summer program. Some employers have surprisingly early end dates, as early as mid-July. You are not going to be able to spend the second half of the summer working for an employer with an early program end date.
Deciding Where to Work First
Many firms will require that you spend the first half of the summer with them because there is a perception that students do better work during the first half of the summer and are more likely to accept an offer. Also, employers provide orientation programs for students arriving at the beginning of the summer and it makes it easier for all interns to be present for that. When you have choices, you may wish to work for the employer in which you have a greater long term interest during the first half of the summer.
Conflicts of Interest
If you will be working for more than one employer in the summer, be sure that both employers are aware of your employment plans. It is likely that you will be asked to participate in a conflicts check to determine whether the potential for a client conflict exists. It is important that you do not reveal any confidential information. If you have any questions when participating in the conflicts check, consult with your employers.
-Updated September 2017