"Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

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Saami
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"Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Saami » Wed Feb 10, 2021 8:18 pm

Can someone give me a good, cookie cutter answer to this that I can say in an interview? I truthfully do not have a good answer beyond I didn't want to leave any option off the table and wanted to see what big law was like. Also, I felt pretty pressured since most people around me were doing EIP.

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Kümmel
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Kümmel » Wed Feb 10, 2021 8:30 pm

I mean it totally depends what you're interview for. I don't think its outrageous to say that you didnt know much about law school/law jobs going into law school and you had to make a decision about 2L summer at just the end of your first year, so you tried finding work you enjoyed at a firm. You realized it wasn't for you, because xyz, and what you really want to do is abc, for 123 reasons.

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Nony
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Nony » Wed Feb 10, 2021 8:43 pm

Yeah, I agree. I'd literally never set foot in a law firm before I interviewed with the firm I worked for during my 2L summer and genuinely wanted to know what it was like, and was able to talk about what I liked but why I ultimately found it unsatisfying. And to be clear, no one actually asked me that question directly - unless you get an interviewer who likes to be adversarial on purpose, you're more likely just to get asked to talk about what your experience was like, and why you want to work in [whatever PI/gov job], rather than being directly confronted.

And I agree it will depend who you're interviewing with, and what other experience you have. If you have a 2L SA on your resume with a bunch of other varied experiences, it takes on much less significance than if you haven't done anything else that might suggest an interest in PI/government work. There are also some PI/government jobs that hire laterals out of biglaw, so they will probably not be offended by you doing a 2L SA. (This is going to sound pedantic, but I don't usually see 2L firm gigs called internships - they're more just jobs.)

Just avoid saying you did it for the money (not that you've suggested you would). Everyone gets that that's a good reason to do a biglaw job, but it doesn't sound good to say it out loud if you're interviewing somewhere that pays way way less.

Saami
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Saami » Wed Feb 10, 2021 10:35 pm

Nony wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 8:43 pm
unless you get an interviewer who likes to be adversarial on purpose
I had an interview today where they were pretty judgmental about it lol.

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Nony
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Nony » Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:16 pm

Well, some interviewers just take the approach of attacking you on random things because they want to see how you handle hostility. Or they do genuinely consider you suspect for having worked in a firm, which tells you something significant about their culture - some organizations really do feel that someone who could ever consider doing any other kind of work is insufficiently dedicated. That said, unless it was an OCI thing where they don't see your resume till the interview (if that's how it works at your school), they chose to interview you knowing you did the 2L SA, which they wouldn't have done if it was going to be a dealbreaker.

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BlendedUnicorn
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:29 pm

Kümmel wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 8:30 pm
I mean it totally depends what you're interview for. I don't think its outrageous to say that you didnt know much about law school/law jobs going into law school and you had to make a decision about 2L summer at just the end of your first year, so you tried finding work you enjoyed at a firm. You realized it wasn't for you, because xyz, and what you really want to do is abc, for 123 reasons.
yup. don't be too negative about it, definitely don't say it was the workload (every lawyer believes they're overworked), but do play on some common ideas about big laws -- associates didn't have any autonomy, wasn't motivated by the clients, etc...

One thing you should be aware of is that people are going to suspect you got no-offered by your firm, so you really should be prepared to tell the positive story about why you want to work at x employer (without being too cliche).

Story
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Story » Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:26 am

Saami wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 10:35 pm
Nony wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 8:43 pm
unless you get an interviewer who likes to be adversarial on purpose
I had an interview today where they were pretty judgmental about it lol.
That’s crazy to me. I think being so judgmental also disadvantages people who are not independently wealthy. Some law students can’t afford to pass up a 2L SA and intern unpaid at a nonprofit during 2L summer.

I would consider avoiding this employer, OP.

If you have to explain why you did a 2L summer, I would try to spin it as an option you were exploring as a young law student. You enjoyed the valuable learning experience, but you realized public interest was your real passion. Something like that, but make it your own and believable.

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Nony
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Nony » Sun Feb 14, 2021 12:33 pm

I do think the non-profit world can be really classist (more so than government) and be filled with a lot of very privileged people, which helps perpetuate and/or get people who can handle the low salaries in the field. And that’s not a good thing. That said, though, you can also usually get loans (or other funding) to cover unpaid summer jobs if you do them as externships, and I think that the added loan amount is a bit of a drop in the bucket if you’re pursuing PI and going to do LRAP anyway (especially somewhere like Columbia which has a very good LRAP). So while I think it’s stupid to be judgy about this with a candidate in an interview, I can see why a PI gig might favor someone who got PI experience 2L summer over someone who didn’t (and might worry that someone who did a firm gig instead might bail for money in the future). It sucks but there’s enough competition that employers can be choosy about such things.

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Kümmel
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Kümmel » Sun Feb 14, 2021 12:58 pm

Nony wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 12:33 pm
I do think the non-profit world can be really classist (more so than government) and be filled with a lot of very privileged people, which helps perpetuate and/or get people who can handle the low salaries in the field. And that’s not a good thing. That said, though, you can also usually get loans (or other funding) to cover unpaid summer jobs if you do them as externships, and I think that the added loan amount is a bit of a drop in the bucket if you’re pursuing PI and going to do LRAP anyway (especially somewhere like Columbia which has a very good LRAP). So while I think it’s stupid to be judgy about this with a candidate in an interview, I can see why a PI gig might favor someone who got PI experience 2L summer over someone who didn’t (and might worry that someone who did a firm gig instead might bail for money in the future). It sucks but there’s enough competition that employers can be choosy about such things.
I very much agree re classist and privileged, but will say I think there's a very different take on people who go to CLS & co. vs schools without generous summer funding. CLS now pays close to 9k in 2L summer PI funding. Not as a loan--just straight up cash. I think its pretty legitimate to say that options were limited financially during summers when you go to a school that doesn't have summer funding like that. But when you go to CLS, there's really no $ excuse (except in those rare circumstances where someone is working at a firm to support a family, but if that's the case, then you're going to a firm anyway after graduation).

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amta
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by amta » Sun Feb 14, 2021 1:23 pm

Money.

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Nony
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Nony » Sun Feb 14, 2021 2:02 pm

I mean, duh, but that's not an answer you can give in an interview with people who took the pay cut.

Saami
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Saami » Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:31 pm

My reasoning truthfully wasn't about short-term money. I attend Columbia on a full ride and I'm very blessed because of this. There was just a lot of pressure after 1L year to do EIP, both from my peers and my spouse, and when like 90% of your classmates go down this route you begin to wonder whether you'll be missing out on something by not doing it. Like damn, I'm a first generation professional and I knew very little about this stuff back then. I know that's not the strongest excuse, but I really hope interning at a firm my 2L year doesn't fuck up my entire prospect of entering PI law. Two of my interviewers had worked at big law firms too before transitioning into PI, which made me pretty confused as to why I was being judged for my firm internship lol.

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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Saami » Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:42 pm

I will add that the majority of the work I did at the firm was pro bono projects (largely by choice), so perhaps I should also stress that. Or would that come across as trying too hard to paint my big law internship as being comparable to a PI internship?

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Johannes
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Johannes » Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:45 pm

“It was a life changing amount of money for me and I thought I owed it to my family to explore the opportunity. Once I started doing the work I learned <insert reason that jives with where you’re applying now eg I wanted to have more of an impact or I wanted to represent causes I believed in>

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Johannes
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Johannes » Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:46 pm

Oh yeah fold in your PI work there. I realized the work I valued most was my pro Bono projects and it made sense to explore PI after that.

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Nony
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Nony » Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:54 pm

No, I totally get the pressure - even at my not-big-law-factory school, there was a lot of sort of subconscious pressure to do OCI; lots fewer students actually got jobs through it than at Columbia, of course, but that made it feel a little like you couldn't pass up the chance to be one of the lucky few.

If your interviewers worked in biglaw first they were probably just doing the "let's be antagonistic and hostile and see how they handle it" thing, honestly, so there isn't a wrong answer as long as you stay calm and don't get defensive. They probably weren't actually judging you.

I wouldn't make a point of saying you chose to work on pro bono stuff as much as possible (because it might just raise the question, why not just do PI that summer then?), but I think you can talk about how you found the pro bono stuff more satisfying and it helped you realize a firm wasn't for you. And it's probably more directly relevant experience than your other work. (And I'm not asking you to answer this, but it can all depend a little on what the pro bono was and what job you're applying for.)

Saami
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Saami » Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:59 pm

I appreciate all your comments on this. Yea, I think I'll spin the pro bono as more of a "I found this more interesting" type of thing. I've also made sure to do two PI internships during my 3L year (my current one is awesome and involves exactly the type of work I want to be doing). I sort of wish I could just erase my firm internship from my resume since it's my least relevant experience at this point lol.

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Nony
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Nony » Sun Feb 14, 2021 11:03 pm

Really don't worry about it. Two interviewers in one interview picking that as a way to needle you doesn't mean it was a mistake.

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BlendedUnicorn
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Mon Feb 15, 2021 12:04 am

Yeah, pretty much the only way to fuck your response up is by being too defensive (or suggesting that the workload had anything to do with it.)

Saami
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Saami » Mon Mar 08, 2021 7:21 pm

My top choice just offered to host me!!! Freaking out, though also not sure how excited to be because I don't know how difficult it is to get the Columbia fellowship. I've been told it's not a guarantee, but I don't know if that's just something the career office says to cover their asses.

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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Mon Mar 08, 2021 7:24 pm

Saami wrote:
Mon Mar 08, 2021 7:21 pm
My top choice just offered to host me!!! Freaking out, though also not sure how excited to be because I don't know how difficult it is to get the Columbia fellowship. I've been told it's not a guarantee, but I don't know if that's just something the career office says to cover their asses.
Congrats!

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Kümmel
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Kümmel » Mon Mar 08, 2021 7:59 pm

Saami wrote:
Mon Mar 08, 2021 7:21 pm
My top choice just offered to host me!!! Freaking out, though also not sure how excited to be because I don't know how difficult it is to get the Columbia fellowship. I've been told it's not a guarantee, but I don't know if that's just something the career office says to cover their asses.
it's a guarantee, don't worry. they just say that to cover their asses

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Johannes
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Johannes » Mon Mar 08, 2021 8:02 pm

Congrats!

Saami
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Re: "Why did you do a big law internship your 2L summer?""

Post by Saami » Mon Mar 08, 2021 8:20 pm

Thanks all! Also, just realized I posted this in the wrong thread lol. I meant to post this in my other one about public interest and Covid. Oops.

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