2020 1L Clerkship Program: Tips and Advice for Law Students

Applications for the 2020 TCDIP 1L Rotation Clerkship Program are open! Former TCDIP 1L Clerk Stephanie Chen, now an associate at Lockridge Grindal Nauen, took the time to chat with TCDIP about how the TCDIP 1L Clerkship Program helped her career, what she loves about the Twin Cities, and more.

TCDIP: Tell us about how the TCDIP 1L Clerskhip Program jump-started your career.

Stephanie Chen: A position at a law firm or in the private sector generally during your 1L summer can be difficult to obtain because most openings are reserved for 2Ls. The 1L Clerkship Program provided me with an opportunity to work at a law firm and corporate legal department earlier than most of my law student peers. Not only did I gain valuable experience, I had something substantive to talk about during my interviews for 2L summer positions.

More importantly, because I participated in the TCDIP program during my 1L summer, I had the opportunity to clerk at a different law firm during my 2L summer to find the type of work and environment that best fit what I want out of my legal career. I was able to clerk at a large law firm my 1L summer, try a boutique firm my 2L summer, and compare the experiences.

How can 1L students set themselves apart during the application and interview process?

Play up your strengths and showcase them. The application and interview process is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your unique accomplishments, credentials, and experiences. Take the time to identify and critically evaluate your specific strengths to highlight those qualities appropriately.

For the interview itself, practice answering common questions often. You want to be very comfortable with those questions that come up frequently and be able to provide thoughtful responses that best highlight your background. Even if you think you are a great interviewer, it makes a difference to practice and prepare beforehand.

If you’re not from the Twin Cities, remember to convey an interest in the Cities and have an answer ready for why you would like to work here or participate in TCDIP’s program. Employers naturally want to know that you have some interest in committing to their city.

Do you have any networking tips for law students?

Don’t underestimate the importance of networking. I honestly wish I was told more about how important it is a as a law student to get out there to meet with a variety of attorneys – not only get a better sense of what you want out of a clerkship (or ultimately, your career), but also to create connections for finding your ideal position.

I am an introvert, so for other introverts out there, know that you are not alone! Networking can be awkward and difficult, but the more events you attend and the more people you meet, the easier it gets. Keep in mind that you are not going to make a connection with every person you meet and that is perfectly fine and normal!

What makes the Twin Cities legal community different from other markets?

The Twin Cities legal community is very close and tight-knit. I think the six degrees of separation theory becomes just three degrees in the Twin Cities. The Twin Cities and Minnesota are home to several Fortune 500 companies and a number of influential government and policy leaders, which makes that three degrees of separation hugely beneficial. You can connect with leaders from across law firms and corporations at events in the community, including TCDIP events!  

Connecting with other attorneys of color has been easy through affinity bar organizations like TCDIP and the Minnesota Asian Pacific American Bar Association. Attorneys of color and of other diverse backgrounds in the Twin Cities have been incredibly welcoming and are passionate about creating a more inclusive legal profession and investing in future leaders.

What’s great about living in the Twin Cities?

I was drawn to the Twin Cities in particular because it offers a great balance between larger city life and the relaxing parts of smaller cities. I can walk from my condo to art museums or grab brunch and drinks with friends, but at the same time I can find plenty of quiet and scenic spots by the Mississippi River or on a nice lake without leaving the metro area. I grew up in Oregon and went to the University of Virginia Law School, and starting my career in a new place was an exciting adventure for me.

Stephanie Chen (second from right) and other attendees at the Emerging Leaders Group + 1L Clerks annual summer brunch. Photo by Anna Min.

Do you have any other advice for current 1L students?

Maintain an open mind and remain positive during the application process, especially as a 1L. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in such a stressful and competitive environment but remember that as long as you put forth diligent effort into this job search process, things will work out. Don’t forget to take care of yourself in the meantime and reward yourself for the little things. The job search process may not always be a linear pathway, and that’s ok! My job search process was not linear at all, and I would be more than happy to talk to you if you want advice or reassurances. A positive attitude about the job search process – and law school in general – goes a long way.  

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