Getting an internship is generally the first option when it comes to how to spend the summer after your first year. But what if you haven’t been successful in securing one?
Here’s my recommendation: Go abroad! There are many summer abroad programs offered by various law schools. I happen to direct a summer abroad program in Geneva, which is one of 10 summer abroad programs offered by my school. I know from first-hand experience that students find these programs both intellectually stimulating and culturally fascinating.
Going abroad with a summer program is a great option. Here are my top reasons:
1. It’s a resume builder. It makes your résumé stand out and provides a great talking point to start a conversation with your future employer. In an application process, employers will look for something that differentiates you from the mass of law students competing for a position. A summer abroad experience gives you a great way to launch a discussion about something not everybody has in common.
2. You’ll build valuable skills. Going abroad helps you develop skills and gain experience employers are increasingly looking for. In our ever-globalized world, any additional language skills are a huge advantage. Some programs even offer free language classes as well as immersion home stays for the duration of your experience abroad. Also, being immersed in a new country with a different culture and having to deal with a foreign language shows flexibility, determination, and cultural sensitivity, as well as perseverance and curiosity. Those are all skills employers appreciate when they’re looking for new employees.
3. You can explore the law. Summer abroad programs provide an opportunity to explore different areas of the law in a short period of time. As a 1L, you probably don’t know for certain what area of the law most interests you or what you really want to do as a lawyer. Your 1L summer is the best moment to find out if the areas of the law you think you are interested in are really as interesting as you think. You may also want to take this opportunity to explore some areas of the law you might not focus on during your studies but would still like to learn about.
4. You’ll get more than book learning. Some summer abroad programs also offer unique internship opportunities in addition to the academic portion of the programs. Doing a summer program and possibly an internship abroad is a great way to get work experience. This will be an enormous advantage once you start applying for other internships or jobs during your 2L and 3L years. Employers often prefer someone with some work experience, even if it was in Guatemala, over someone who has never worked in a legal job. Some schools really make an extra effort to match you with your dream internship and work hard to provide students the best legal learning experience possible.
5. It can help you pass the bar— really. Free some time in your third year to start studying for the bar early. Passing the bar is the number one goal for many law graduates. Studying and interning during your 1L summer can help you get ahead on units, as most of the summer abroad programs are approved by the ABA. Earning credits in summer allows you to study more and take more bar prep classes during your final semester. A number of our students have even graduated early after completing two summers of opportunities abroad.
6. It’s just fun. Summer abroad programs are fun, and they open your mind to new perspectives and experiences. Learn about a new culture. Practice a foreign language. Be exposed to new and exciting experiences.
7. You may save money. Finally, studying abroad might even be cheaper than staying home. Some summer abroad programs discount summer study abroad units, allowing you to use that extra money for airfare, hotels, and travelling. And depending where you are going, the cost of living might be much cheaper than in the United States.
Now before you sign up for one of the programs, the ABA recommends that you consider some important things. Students currently enrolled at an ABA-approved law school who wish to receive credit toward their J.D. degree for study abroad should read carefully the applicable criteria for their course of study. They should also consult with members of their law school staff or faculty who advise students about foreign study. These programs are only open to students who have successfully completed their first year of study and are enrolled in an ABA-approved law school. For more information, check the ABA website.
Also check out the January/February issue of Student Lawyer for the 2017 Study Abroad Directory, which is also available at ABAforLawStudents.com.
Summer abroad programs will open your mind and broaden your legal education in many ways. Jobs have gone global, and so should you.
CLAUDIA JOSI is an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.