If you don’t have a summer associate position this year, you should seriously consider volunteering with an attorney. Many small firms and solo practitioners don’t have the budget to offer a paid summer position. However, those same firms and attorneys may be more than willing to accept quality free help.
Yes, it may suck a little that you are not making the “big” dollars this summer and you’re missing out on all of the large firm summer outings. However, your objective right now should be to do all that you can to ensure that you are building a solid foundation for future success as an attorney. Doing so includes getting as much “real world” experience as possible.
Additionally, most reasonable attorneys who take on volunteers or interns are more than willing to share a wealth of advice regarding the practice of law as well as law school. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear that you found yourself better prepared for building a law practice than your peers who worked at a large firm over the summer. (Just in case you think you do not need to know how to build a law practice…please realize that being a partner at a large firm is essentially building a practice within a large firm structure…so whether you end up at a large firm or as a solo practitioner, at some point, you’ll need to know how to build a law practice.)
Some of you will be able to volunteer your time this summer without worrying about any of your bills or living expenses. For those of you who do not fall into that category, remember that you are volunteering your time so you don’t have to volunteer every day. Look into setting up a schedule where you volunteer one or two days a week for 4-6 hours a day. Being consistent, reliable and producing quality work is more important than the quantity of days you volunteer.
Remember that you don’t have to lose out on the opportunity to become a better lawyer just because you weren’t able to land a summer associate position this year.