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An Insider’s Guide to Law School: 2L [by Hanna Stotland] You read case law at the speed of light. You write three-hour exams in your sleep. So why is 2L known as the year they work you to death?

In September of your second year, the on-

about journals. While many schools still

excellent training if you intend to go into

slaught of extracurriculars, recruiting, and

have only one journal, usually called the

litigation.

clerkship hunting pick up where academics

“Law Review,” student-edited journals are

left off in May. Your second year is unlikely to

proliferating, and you may have an array to

If you’re looking for the most practical expe-

be as nerve-racking as your first, but in many

choose from. At some universities, only the

rience of all, clinicals offer upper-class stu-

ways, it’s just as tough.

flagship journal (e.g., Harvard Law Review)

dents the chance to work on cases for actual

holds an entrance competition, but at most,

clients. Clinical work may involve anything

Academics

high grades or winning writing competitions

from assisting in the composition of a friend-

There’s a knack to taking law school courses,

are necessary hurdles for any journal work.

of-the-court brief to single-handedly arguing

and by the time your second year rolls

These competitions, or “write-ons,” usually

an eviction trial in front of a jury. Although

around, you’ll finally feel like you know what

take up a week at the end of 1L spring; expect

handling a divorce case for a battered woman

you’re doing. “Expect that the material will

a lengthy project that tests your legal writing

or helping to research a death-penalty appeal

begin to come a little more easily,” says

and editing skills.

can be emotionally exhausting, it’s likely to

Sam Pollack, a 2L at Boston University. But

be the most satisfying achievement of your

the important thing about your second-year

No matter how you get it, a position on the

classes isn’t whether they’re easy or hard,

editorial board of a legal periodical is a use-

it’s the fact that you pick them yourself.

ful credential throughout your career. The

Tip: “If your school offers clinical programs

After a year of being force-fed civil proce-

prestige comes with a price tag, however:

or externships, don’t hold them off until

dure, torts, and contracts, the opportunity to

Anywhere from 10 to 40 hours of your week

your third year,” urges Seth Eichenholtz, a

choose classes that inspire you is a welcome

will be consumed in evaluating manuscript

2L at Syracuse University.

change.

submissions, editing the accepted articles,

law school career.

and tediously checking the accuracy of

Recruiting

Douglas Sondgeroth, a 2L at Boston College,

hundreds of footnotes. If you are intrigued by

Deep down, the professors know it: Until 2Ls

finds his second-year classes “more difficult,

legal scholarship, the challenge can be fun.

have their summer offers, no one is paying

but definitely more interesting and reward-

For some students, though, it’s just another

much attention in class. That’s one reason

ing,” in part because they allow students

obligation. “Be careful what journal you work

law schools keep moving the fall recruit-

to “explore their own interests and focus

for, if you work for [one],” cautions a New

ing season back; at some, like New York’s

on specific issues that a general first-year

York University 2L who is less than fascinated

Brooklyn Law School, on-campus interview-

course cannot consider.”

by cite-checking. “It can be a big time-suck

ing begins as early as August.

and is not very rewarding.” Tip: If your law school allows you to cross-

Recruiting exposes the naked elitism of the

register for courses in other parts of the

Upper-class moot court is another extra-

legal profession. Top firms may refuse to

university, take advantage of it. A course in

curricular option that can impress potential

interview students whose GPAs are below

business, government, or a foreign language

employers; it’s a step closer to the real work

a certain cutoff, and they adjust that cutoff

adds perspective to your legal education and

lawyers do. Most schools field mock trial

based on the name of the school. For exam-

gives you the opportunity to meet graduate

teams who argue fictitious cases in nation-

ple, a firm might grant interviews to students

students in other disciplines.

wide tournaments. Many also offer intra-

at second-tier schools only if they have GPAs

mural appellate competitions, where teams

of 3.7 or above and are members of the law

Extracurriculars

of students prepare and argue simulated

review; to students at top-20 schools only if

For resumé-building types, year two is all

Supreme Court cases. These activities are

they have a 3.3 or above; and to any inter-

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CAREER COUNSEL

ested student who attends Yale, Stanford, or

anywhere else, as well as a lifelong resume

Harvard.

boost. Federal circuit judges interview as early as October of your second year, and

Tip: Some firms shun certain schools alto-

district and state judges follow close behind.

gether. But never be shy about contacting a

Unfortunately, law schools outside the top 10

firm that doesn’t recruit at your school; you

don’t always do enough to encourage their

have nothing to lose but one copy of your

students to clerk. If your school doesn’t pro-

resumé.

duce many clerks, that may be because few of its graduates apply. If you want a clerk-

Signing up for on-campus interviews is

ship, go for it.

usually easy; all you have to do is submit a resume. If there are many options available,

Part 3 | The home stretch: How to make the

choosing firms can be challenging. The num-

most of your last year in school.

ber of firms recruiting at each school varies, but most students interview with anywhere from 10 to 30. The pressure to choose wisely is high; 2L summer jobs usually turn into offers for full-time postgraduate work, and many firms hire only those students who have worked for them in the summer. Tip: Talk to as many 3Ls as possible about their experiences at various firms, and do as much independent research as you can. Interviewing can be surreal and all-consuming. Brief on-campus interviews force you to present yourself in sound bites to a succession of suits. You need to be poised, focused, and fast on your feet. Callback interviews get more intense. They are usually on-site and can last an entire day as you spend more substantial amounts of time with several members of the firm. Read Interviewing 101 for detailed advice and strategies on how to breeze past the on-campus interviews and turn callbacks into offers. Tip: If you make callback interviews at a big firm, you’ll probably be treated like a maharajah by rich and powerful partners. But don’t let the lobster and champagne banquets distract you from the task at hand: Judge the firm, not its marketing department. Clerkships Clerkships (one or two years of researching and writing opinions for a judge) provide an inside look at litigation you can’t get PAGE 2


An Insider's Guide to Law School: 2L