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Explore Nontraditional Law School Summer Activities

From research to starting a business, law students have a number of productive summer options other than an internship.

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Summer opportunities outside the legal field can help students explore their interests and could even lead to a future career.

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Law school students traditionally prepare for postgraduate work by participating in internships and filling associate positions during the summer. That path is the surest way to gain hands-on legal experience and industry contacts that could lead to future employment. But if you do not feel it is the right thing for you to do this summer, there are other options to explore.

Here are a few nontraditional​ summer activities that some law students pursue:

1. Academic research:​ Performing research at your law school can be a great experience, particularly for those whose goal is a career in academia. The best way to obtain a research assistantship position is to chat with professors in the spring to see if they foresee needing an assistant for a summer research project. Some universities also post summer opportunities online, so be sure to search the listings.

Legal students who enjoy writing tend to be partial to such work, as often it involves researching and writing law review articles with a professor’s guidance. Because research generally means working one-on-one with a professor, students often garner glowing references from fostering a close relationship. Finally, assisting with the creation of materials that get published looks great on your resume.

[Be sure to make the most of your first law school summer.]

2. A business venture: Many law students have an entrepreneurial spirit. If you’re not interested in working for someone else over the summer, consider working for yourself.

Choose a business venture that, once launched, you can maintain once you’re back in school. Websites, apps and other technical models are great examples of this.

Another way for students to get entrepreneurship experience under their belts is to start a business that satisfies student needs. Think of a service you find lacking for you or your peers, and then fill that void.

[Check out five unique career paths for law school grads.]

For example, you could start a used book exchange to cut education costs, or create a travel planner that encourages carpooling to airports or popular destinations, since many students have to travel between semesters.

3. Other career fields: If you’re not excited about, or were unable to obtain, an associate position over the summer, a traditional legal career might not be right for you. That doesn’t mean your legal degree is useless.

Find an internship in another area of interest, like journalism, nonprofit work or business. If you know what you don’t want to do, use the summer break to figure out what really excites you.

[Learn how to use a law degree if you don't plan to practice.]

I worked with a prospective student on her law school applications a few years ago who has now secured an internship with a digital marketing company this summer. While she was initially excited about legal studies, she found that her passion lies in a more creative field. However, she is still going to complete her legal degree since she found from internship interviews that her writing ability, critical thinking skills and legal knowledge were a huge plus.

As long as you partake in an activity that interests you during your law school summers, you are taking important steps forward in your career. If you are planning a traditional legal career, then you will have unique experiences to discuss during interviews. If you find yourself dreaming of a different career, you can use your law degree and summer activities to take your career in a new direction.

What are your summer plans? Let me know in the comments, email me or contact me via Twitter