Advice from TCDIP’s 1L Clerkship Alumni

Law students know that the summers between each year of law school are just as important as the time in the classroom. But even with that awareness, it can still be hard to prioritize applying for summer opportunities during a busy academic year. In this post, we’ll dive into the benefits of applying for 1L clerkship programs and how they are a great opportunity to gain work experience in the legal field early in your career.

For over a decade, the TCDIP 1L Clerkship program has opened doors for students to work within a law firm and corporate legal department setting in the Twin Cities. For example, Samia Young and Brandon Blakely both participated in the TCDIP 1L Rotation Clerkship Program and gained great experience that allowed them to build relationship within their respective firms. Brandon Blakely clerked with Xcel Energy and Briggs and Morgan, P.A. in 2016 as a 1L, was invited back to the firm as a 2L and ultimately gained a job offer to work as an Associate Attorney at the firm. Samia Young clerked with Best Buy and Robins Kaplan LLP in 2018 and will be returning to the firm in 2019 as a 2L summer associate. We interviewed Brandon and Samia and they shared great advice about the TCDIP 1L Clerkship and how to make the most of your summer:

TCDIP: How did the 1L Clerkship program help you on your career path? What are some specific ways the 1L Clerkship contributed to helping you reach your current position?

Samia Young: The 1L Clerkship program essentially helped me get my foot in the door. I knew that if I could get the clerkship as a 1L, I was willing to work hard to get an offer to back to the firm.

Brandon Blakely: The clerkship allowed be to get an offer to come back for a second summer with the firm, and ultimately to getting on offer to return after graduation. Most importantly it allowed me, as a diverse attorney, to get my foot in the door early. The learning experiences I had during my 1L clerkship were instrumental in my focus and development throughout the rest of law school.

TCDIP: What advice do you have for 1Ls applying for clerkships? How can they set themselves apart during the application and interview process?

SY: I would advise students to take the application process very seriously. This is essentially one of the most significant steps that they will take in their legal career. First, students should make sure that their application materials are 100% free from spelling and grammatical errors. Second, they should consider what makes them different from other applicants. I encourage students to know their story and to sell themselves in their cover letter, resume, and in person. Third, students should understand that if they get an interview, the firm already thinks that they may have the skills to be successful at the job. I encourage students to show that they are someone others would want to work with. Students should also do their research before their interview and prepare 3 to 5 thoughtful questions (interviewers are not fond of generic questions). Lastly, students should not be afraid to show that they are eager and passionate about the job.

BB: Apply early and apply often. You never know what opportunities will arise, so apply to as many positions as you can. Be yourself, be relaxed, and come prepared to discuss how your life experiences prepare you to be a summer associate. I encourage applicants to have a long view, as this could be your job interview for your post grad career. With that in mind, students should ask career-oriented questions. If you aren’t comfortable with interviews use the career center at your school, or friends and have them do a mock interview with you. Practice makes perfect.

TCDIP: Our 1L clerkship program includes networking events both within the firms and throughout the Twin Cities. How did you make the most of the networking opportunities during your 1L summer?

SY: Networking is one of the most important aspects of being a successful summer associate. I made it a point to speak to several people that I did not know at each event. I found that being authentic goes a long way with networking. People are more than happy to engage in conversation and get coffee with someone that they think is trying to build relationships as opposed to someone only concerned with getting a job.

BB: I really tried to get around the office to meet people in different departments from where I was sitting. I focused on talking to everyone at the firm, including support staff. And in addition to networking within the firm, I made sure to attend TCDIP events to continue to expand my network beyond my firm.

TCDIP: What are some of your favorite things about living and working in the Twin Cities?

SY: The Twin Cities offers the benefits of big city life without the overwhelming feeling. Downtown Minneapolis is a one stop shop. You can drop off your dry cleaning, grab a coffee, and walk a few minutes through the skyway to get to work. The people are also extremely kind.

BB: The Twin Cities are a great place to live. Coming from the L.A. area, I can honestly say that the ocean and In-n-Out are the only things that I miss regularly. I love how close knit the lawyer community is, especially the community of diverse attorneys. You can reach out to multiple people for guidance and support. Most of all I enjoy that the market supports very exciting work comparable to most any legal market in the country.

TCDIP: Do you have any other advice to give to current 1L students – about the TCDIP Clerkship, law school, law practice, or just general advice?

SY: Law students should focus on developing their legal research and writing skills. I would also advise law students to take their education into their own hands and to create their own experiences. Law school may be the last time that you are a full-time student. Take advantage of that and learn the skills that you will need to get into your desired area of practice.

BB: Remember that it is a grind. You have to pace yourself, but your job goes beyond just success in the classroom. You have to focus on building your network, meeting people, and giving yourself options moving forward. Don’t let people who are jealous ruin your vibe. There will be people that question how, why, and what you achieve. You don’t have to prove anything to them. Focus on those that build you up, not tear you down.


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