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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

November 20, 2016
Question

I’m a 9th year lawyer seeking a new job. Should I drop my law school clinics/summer associate gigs from my resume? What if they directly relate to the job I’m applying for?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

Early on in a law student’s professional journey, “standing out” is deemed an important start to career success. Whether it’s grades, activities, law review, Am Jur awards or specialty clinics, the more you can tout on your resume, the more competitive you will be for future job opportunities.

Since law students and newbies don’t have much, if any, in depth legal experience, it is common practice to include experience such as law school clinics and summer associate positions on the resume. This provides an employer with a general sense of practice exposure and mentoring in the early years. Depending on the quality and relevance of the clinic and/or cache of the law firm, the positive impact on a candidacy can range. But the shelf life of this impact is limited. And the more senior and experienced a lawyer becomes, the less important or relevant these experiences are for assessing a lawyer’s substantive qualifications.

As a ninth year attorney with three jobs under your belt, you have likely developed deep legal experience in one or more areas. So when reviewing your current background, employers are going to prioritize (1) the quality of your work experience; (2) the quality of your employers; and (3) the quality of your academic credentials. They won’t care much, if at all about your law school clinics or where you summered back in 1856. So if you want to drop this information from your resume, doing so won’t create negative career consequences.

If a clinic or summer associate employment directly relates to a job you are actively pursuing (i.e. an employment clinic and summering at a prestigious employment boutique firm), including this information on your resume might help…a teeny weeny bit, but the lift will be negligible. If the summer position(s) are not practice relevant, but are off the charts impressive, including the information of your resume could add a little oomph.

If you decide to include a law school clinic and/or summer associate employment, position each on the resume so that it does not take up too much real estate on the page. For example, clinics should be listed as a bullet point under your law school, degree and degree date within the employment section. If you include a description, keep it to one sentence. Example:

EDUCATION

Stanford Law School, Palo Alto, CA
J.D. 2005
♦  Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic, 2004-05

Note: If the summer position you are including is with the same firm for which you worked as an associate, simply add the title and date under the firm designation. Example:

WORK EXPERIENCE

Latham & Watkins, Los Angeles, CA                                              2010 – Present
Associate
Summer Associate (Summer 2009)

Note: If your summer position is with a different firm, place it separately, but keep it to 1-2 lines without description. Example:

Davis, Polk & Wardwell, New York NY
Summer Associate (2009)

Law School clinics and summer associate employment are experiences typically highlighted on resumes to showcase work experience early in a newbie’s career. But as time goes on and deeper substantive legal experience is gained, these two categories carry little importance with employers. So whether you decide to jettison this information or keep it is entirely up to you. It won’t make much of a career difference either way.

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