Summer Job Search

BY JENNIFER LAU AND CHIARA WOODS

Regardless of whether you are in 1L or 2L or even if you want to article and practice law down the road, the summer is a great opportunity to gain some work and life experience, explore legal employment options in different work environments, and build your transferable skills.  What do 1Ls and 2Ls do with their summers?  Here is a sample of some things that 1Ls and 2Ls have historically done in the summer:

  • UBC Faculty of Law (i.e. research assistant, orientation coordinator, development assistant)
  • Research fellowships which may involve time at the law school, firm, or non-profit organization (Fraser Milner Casgrain Business Law Fellowship and Insolvency Internship, UBC Research Abroad Grant)
  • Internships (i.e. United Nations, Pivot Legal Society, BC Civil Liberties Association)
  • Private organizations (i.e. Best Buy Canada, LexisNexis Canada)
  • Government organizations (i.e. WorkSafe BC; Health Employers Association of BC)
  • Professional associations (i.e. Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC)
  • Public Interest Groups (i.e. LSLAP, BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support, West Coast Environmental Law, BC Law Institute)
  • Law firms (small, medium, or large – and full-service or boutique)
  • Work in a non-law job and gain transferable skills
  • Or travel and see the world!

The Public Interest Work Placement Project will also fund 6 summer 2013 positions exclusively for UBC Law students.  These positions will be posted in February 2013.  Summer 2012 organizations included:

  • BC Coalition of People with Disabilities
  • CHIMO Crisis Services
  • First United Church
  • Golden Women’s Centre Society
  • Nelson CARES Society; and,
  • Pivot Legal Society.

If you are considering opportunities with public interest organizations, please refer to the Public Interest Legal Careers Guide, the Public Interest Opportunities handoutand the Public Interest Funding Optionshandout and consider making an appointment on Symplicity to meet with Tracy Wachmann, our Public Interest Coordinator.

For more information, please see the Summer Employment after First and Second Yearhandout and visit the Job Postings on Symplicity. To see what jobs have been posted in the past (and when), click on “Job Leads” within the Job Postings section to see expired postings.

In consideration of your summer employment, take the time to self-assess, evaluate your current experience, and look for a summer opportunity that develops and strengthens your skills. We encourage students to take initiative and contact smaller law firms, corporations, public interest organizations, government organizations, and other employers with whom they would be interested in working this summer. It’s never too early to start thinking about your job hunt, but do remember that most employers do not hire summer students until February, March & April, so stay realistic when contacting them.  The CSO’s handouts on Finding Unposted Jobs, Networking, and Informational Interviewing are excellent resources for tapping into the many hidden job opportunities.

Lastly, remember that only 25 – 30% of 2Ls at UBC Law work at larger law firms in Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary during their 2nd year summer.  Jobs at the larger law firms for 1Ls are virtually non-existent in Vancouver, and fairly limited in Calgary, Ottawa, and Toronto. Take your summer to explore the many legal career opportunities outside of the traditional law firm environment and build your resume.

INTERVIEWS

It is one word that strikes fear into the hearts of many law students.  Your palms start to sweat and your hands may even shake.  What will they ask me?  Will I sound stupid?  I don’t even know in which area of law I want to practice!

It is normal to be nervous.  It may make you feel better to know that many law firm interviews are conversational.  The lawyers at the firm are just trying to get to know you as a person.  Once you have secured an interview, it is generally assumed that you are qualified for the job.  Therefore, marks do not matter (whew!).  One lawyer on the student committee of a national firm said that as an interviewer, he is trying to determine two simple questions:

(1)  Is this someone I would leave in charge of a file while I am away on holidays (here, the employer is evaluating your legal ability, client management skills and practicality): and

(2)  Is this someone I would want to sit in the office next to me for the next twenty years (here, the employer is evaluating your collegiality, friendliness and general fit with their office culture).

Even though your interview will generally be conversational, you should still prepare.  Preparation reduces nervousness (as much as possible!) and enables you to present yourself in the best possible light.  You should review your cover letter and resume and be prepared to answer the following types of questions:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Why did you go to law school?
  • How do you like law school? What is your favourite course/professor?
  • What practice area/kind of law are you interested in?  Why?
  • Why are you interested in our firm/office?
  • Do you have any questions for us?  What can we tell you about us?

Ideally, you will craft your answers to the above questions without sounding too rehearsed to highlight the type of skill set legal employers seek by drawing on examples from your academic, work and volunteer experience.  Your individual skill set is unique, but may include legal research and writing, analysis, advocacy, interpersonal skills (including client relations), mentoring, and the ability to multi-task and work well under pressure.  You should try to talk about things in which you are genuinely interested, as opposed to things you think the firm wants you to say or wants to hear.  When you talk about things you are passionate about, you will talk slower, be less nervous and more engaging. Remember to be positive about anything and everything you discuss in the interview.

Most government employers, and some firms may also ask behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interviewing is a technique used to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors in order to determine their potential for success. The theory behind behavioral interview questions is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral questions are very specific. You are asked to provide detailed examples of situations when you demonstrated certain attributes or skills. When answering, we recommend using the STAR approach as itallows you to structure your answers and highlight the skills that the employer is seeking. The STAR approach works to your advantage because it provides specific details and showcases specific skills. Answering behavioral interview questions with the STAR approach will differentiate you from other candidates who may provide standard answers. Details regarding the STAR approach are provided in the Interviewing Guide and there are also sample behavioral interview questions that you can use to prepare.

So on a final note, take the time to prepare yourself for your interview and then try to relax and take this opportunity to get to know the different employers.  The Interviewing Guide is available on Symplicity and at the CSO office for students to review.  Students can also sign up via Symplicity for a mock interview with Jenn, Chiara or Tracy.

Get in touch with Career Services

All roads lead to Symplicity (www.ubclawcareers.com).  If you do not have a Symplicity login, email careers@law.ubc.ca so that you can access our Document Library, review job postings, upload your resume, and make appointments with Jenn, Chiara or Tracy. We look forward to helping you with your job search!

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