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Avoiding "Law Dorkery": An Insider's Guide to Landing Your Summer Clerkship

Part 1: Your Resume and the "General Rule"
Let's begin with what I will refer to hereafter as the "General Rule". The General Rule is that, all things being equal, there is very little that sets you apart from everyone else. You are competing against people just like yourself who also did well in college and have done well tus far in law school. It is sad, but true, so get used to it.

As far as your resume goes, the General Rule is very true. Law firms receive thousands upon thousands of resumes from people just like you all of the time; however, there are only a finite number of cushy jobs. As a result, your resume must set you apart from the crowd. Here is how that process generally works: Once a firm receives your resume, it generally goes through a very simple exercise that I will refer to as "weeding out the idiots". For starters, most firms (at least the good ones) have a grade cutoff. This means that a candidate must have a certain GPA or class rank or else their resume gets filed with what is left of the hiring partner's (or whatever unfortunate person who is stuck reviewing resumes) lunch. This cutoff varies, of course, by the school you attend and the quality of the firm. With some firms, you could be last in your class, so long as you come from an Ivy League school. By the same token, there are firms that won't even give you the time of day even if you are first in your class at a lower tiered school (if you don't know your school's ranking, you can find it here). If you have received your grades, there isn't much you can do about this now, so don't worry about it. My only advice is that if you are a student at "Print-A-Degree Online Law School", don't waste the money for postage sending your resume to the elite firms, unless you like rejection (although they might not even waste a piece of paper and stamp on you). Now, some of you may have made crappy grades your first year and think you can circumvent this process by leaving including the minor details of your GPA and class rank off of your resume. If you do this, you can expect an expedited trip to the garbage can. Never leave this information off of your resume. Period. If you think you can slip past a bunch of lawyers and land a summer or permanent job without a law firm seeing this information, you should either drop out of law school right now or start thinking about a career in public interest work. NO GRADES = NO INTERVIEW.

Once the "weeding out the idiots" process is complete, the firms then try to narrow down the number of candidates to fit the number of pre-determined interview spots they have available. For example, if a firm is coming to your campus, they may have one interview room for the day. Most interviews will last 20 to 30 minutes, meaning that the firm will likely have somewhere between 10 to 15 interview slots. Although it is inevitable that much of this process will be tied strictly to grades, there are a number of things that might help you stand out from your competition. I saw a ton of resumes in my day and couldn't believe some of the crap that people put on there.   Here are some do's and don'ts:

  • Don't put any menial jobs on your resume. A firm could care less that you flipped burgers, sacked groceries or worked as a carnie in while you were in high school or college. Listing these jobs just make people think that you are an idiot. Those jobs may have taught you some great life lessons, such as the lesson that those jobs generally suck for a variety of reasons, but every time I saw these on a resume, I wondered if we are interviewing for a janitorial position. Delete all of this crap, immediately.

  • Don't put your high school on your resume. This may come as a shock to some to you, but as a whole, people really don't care where you went to high school. Some people think it is cool to list the preppy private high school that their parents paid for them to attend. Guess what? For every one snotty lawyer that this turns on, there are five that it pisses off. When lawyers see this on a resume, you are very likely to be referred to as Richie Rich or Thurston Howell.

  • List your hobbies at the end of your resume. You would be surprised at how many times people can land a job or succeed in an interview if they share a common or interesting hobby with a potential interviewer. For example, if your resume indicated that you enjoy trivia related to The Simpsons television show, I would be much more likely to give you an interview than some schmuck whose resume said that their hobbies include reading law books. On my resume, I put that I was the founder of this website. It is amazing how many times I heard lawyers tell me that they couldn't wait to meet me because they could tell I had a sense of humor.

  • Proof-read your resume. It is sad that I even have to mention this, but it is amazing how many resumes show up with typographical and grammatical errors. I realize that there are probably typos and grammatical errors in this piece, but then again, I am not looking for a job and you are. As a group, lawyers are among the most anal of creatures and will definitely notice these things. I have even been in an interview for a lateral candidate where my co-interviewer pointed this out a typo to the candidate. Hitting the spell-check button isn't enough. Read it over at least ten times yourself and then have a couple of other people look it over as well.

  • Don't use colored or scented paper. This doesn't even need an explanation, I hope.
Please check back soon to read Parts 4, 5 and 6 of this article, which include, How to Accept or Reject Job Offers, I Didn't Receive Any Offers - Now What? and The Clerkship: How NOT To Get a Permanent Offe

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