Summer Activity Ideas for the Hopeful Future Lawyer
For many high schoolers, the school year is a busy time packed not only with required coursework, but also with sports, clubs, and service projects too. For the student who has some idea of a potential career path through and beyond college, planning these activities may take on even more meaning. Aspiring pre-med students may volunteer at the hospital and take a course load heavy with math and science. Prospective political science majors are likely getting their feet wet in student government while studying history and the social sciences.
But what if you’re an aspiring lawyer? During the school year of course there might be mock trial or debate club. And there is valuable content across your curriculum from writing classes to research methods and social sciences. But when summer draws near and school lets out, where do aspiring young lawyers go to advance their knowledge and experience? What are some valuable summer activities for the future esquires out there?
The Path to Law School
If you’re considering a career in law, before you can really start to think about valuable high school summer activities, you need to understand the factors that will and will not weigh into any potential law school applications you submit in the future. Law is an extremely competitive career path with top law schools being among the most competitive programs of any academic path.
Keep in mind that law schools want well-rounded candidates. There is no pre-determined path or prescribed prerequisite undergrad work for law school acceptance, which means there is certainly no requirement for high school extracurriculars, which will be so distant by the time you submit your law school applications that they are unlikely to figure much in your admissions decision. Instead, maintain a strong GPA, build relevant skills, and create a well-rounded resume.
In fact, despite some colleges offering dedicated pre-law programs, in reality these programs give you very little advantage in the law school application game. In fact, some law schools report that these tracks devalue you as a candidate because you are less well-rounded that a student who has pursued a more diverse course load.
Indiana University advises that high school students interested in a career in law should “develop skills in writing, analysis, critical thinking, and research. They should develop a broad understanding of the world around them, and they should investigate the realities of a legal career.” In short, build core skills and explore the field of law professions.
Purpose of Summer Activities
Because there is no prescribed path to law school acceptance, you have a little more liberty in your choices for summer activities. Essentially, anything that builds relevant skills, creates a stronger college application, or allows you to explore your possible career path is a great fit.
Generally speaking, you can build the strength of your college application by pursuing activities that support your existing academic profile. Your summer pursuits should confirm dedication in areas in which you’ve already built strength over time, or they should fill in some blanks. For a student-athlete who is a proven leader, you might volunteer as a youth sports coach. Or, for a student who performs well in school and has served on student council but not participated in a service project, a summer spent giving back to the community is a good option.
Law school is not only exceptionally competitive. It’s exceptionally expensive too, and there is no guarantee that you will come out of law school with a job. For that reason, you’ll need to be ready to hit the ground running when you finish your law degree. That means that multiple and varied experiences in the greater field of law could potentially help you to define your career path sooner rather than later, giving you a bit of a head start when it comes time to select an area of specialty.
If you’re a high school student potentially interested in a future law career, read on for four smart summer activity choices.
How Should Potential Aspiring Lawyers Spend Their Summer?
- Service Projects.
Service projects are always a great choice of summer activity, regardless of your intended career path. These types of community-oriented activities demonstrate your commitment to selfless causes and, when chosen mindfully, can fit seamlessly into your academic profile.
A new trend in service projects is volunteer abroad programs. These programs are typically part-international-adventure and part-service-learning. While this can seem like a fun and exciting option, there are some points to think about before signing up for one.
First, consider the financial feasibility of this option. Programs like this tend to be very expensive since they include international airfare, full-time lodging, and meals. Is a program like this cost-prohibitive? Also consider the emotional toll of serving in third world regions, working with limited resources to help real people in crisis. Are you emotionally mature enough for this kind of experience? And finally, think about the long-term goal for your service. These experiences abroad tend to be somewhat superficial as you don’t have the time to fully integrate into the community. Harvard’s recent Making Caring Common campaign, points out that it can be difficult to have a meaningful experience when you don’t have the time to form relationships with the people and community around you.
Rather than trying to find a community service project that complements a career in law or brings you to an exotic destination, think carefully about the issues that matter most to you on a local level. Do you live in a community affected by addiction or mental health issues? Do you have a grandparent who lives in assisted living? Find a cause that you truly care about, regardless of its relation to a career in law, and demonstrate that you are a well-rounded student who isn’t afraid of branching out for the benefit of the greater good.
- Jobs or Internships
Unlike service projects, jobs and internships can be more easily tailored towards a potential career in law. Even internships that don’t necessarily seem directly related to a law profession can help to build relevant skills.
One thing to keep in mind is the importance of strong writing skills on the path towards and through law school. In the majority of law school courses, especially during your first year, grades are based largely on a single essay exam given at the end of each semester. In addition, the bar examination required of every law school graduate in order to practice law is at least half essay in every state. The ability to write well is integral to your success in law school, so any internship that incorporates writing skills will be beneficial in the long run.
Some common internships or jobs that build writing skills could include editing or communications. You might be able to score an internship with a local newspaper or help researchers with proofreading and publishing.
If you’re interested in internships specifically related to law, you’ll need to look into what is available in your region. For example, the Boston Bar Association provides a summer jobs program for high school students and the District of Columbia Courts host a Passport to Work Youth Employment Service.
You could also reach out to local law firms and ask if it might be possible to shadow in their office for a week or two to learn more about what they do on a day-to-day basis. If you can make a few connections, capitalize on them by asking lots of questions: find out why they went into law, how they chose a specialty, and how they recommend you prepare for a career in law. Before you finish shadowing a professional, ask if he or she can connect you to another in a related field.
- Summer Programs
Although it’s unlikely that a law school will give any weight to summer programs that you participated in before your undergrad years, the value of many of these programs comes from the insights you’ll gain about the career and yourself. It’s important to learn as much as possible about the profession and to get your feet wet in it before you commit the time, energy, and money to pursuing it. Summer programs are a good way to try the career on and see how it fits.
Some great options for summer programs that can give you an idea of what a career in law might be like include:
Although these are all good options to experience a little bit of what being a lawyer might be like, it’s also good to explore summer programs outside of the field of law. Specifically, it’s a good idea, if possible, to pursue a summer program offered by a college in which you’re interested. Whether or not these programs offer relevant curriculum will be less important as the connections that you are able to make while there.
Building and maintaining a relationship with the faculty and staff at schools you’re interested in attending can give you an advantage when you apply for admission. To take full advantage, keep in touch with these mentors after the program, use them as resources during the admissions process, and be sure to let them know when and if you decide to apply.
- Take an SAT Class
This might seem like a small, trivial thing to do over your summer break, but standardized tests aren’t left behind after high school. In fact, if you end up applying to law school, the SAT won’t even be the most important standardized test of your academic career.
Instead, the LSAT will take that honor. The LSAT, like the SAT, assesses reading and verbal skills through multiple-choice questions in sections such as Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning. High school is admittedly way too early to begin preparing for the LSAT explicitly, but it’s not too early to begin becoming a standardized test master. Many of the strategies you learn to take your SAT will translate well to the LSAT.
Along with your undergrad GPA, your LSAT score is one of the most important factors weighed on law school applications. Learning how to take a standardized test, such as the SAT, is a lasting skill that you can carry with you to the LSAT in later years.
Ultimately a career in law is built on a broad foundation. You’ll need skills in writing, reasoning, and research, so the first step to preparing for a career in law is building these skills, which are ultimately marketable in many career paths. Gaining exposure to a professional law environment will help you to focus your career path, or might even inspire you to choose a different one. Regardless, plan to spend your summer building your skills and learning about the career to set you on the right track.
If you are a high school student who is considering your options for summer activities, find more information from CollegeVine here:
- What You Should Be Thinking About as a Junior – Part II: Extracurriculars and Summer Activities
- 6 Things You Should Do the Summer Before Senior Year
- 5 Things You Can Do this Summer Instead of an Internship
- How to Spend Your Summer as an Aspiring Engineer
- How to Spend Your Summer as a Prospective Poli Sci Major
- How to Spend Your Summer as a Prospective Econ Major
- Summer Activities for the Prospective Pre-Med Student
For more information about Pre-Law lines of study and preparation check out these CollegeVine articles: