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Law Clerk vs Summer Associate & Other Opportunities

Wondering about the difference between a law clerk and a summer associate? Click through the post directly below, and read on for detailed definitions of the different types of law school employment.

Or click here if you are curious about the difference between a law clerk and an associate attorney, and how their job duties differ.

Related Post: The Truth About On-Campus Interview

Summer Associate Definition

A summer associate is a law student hired into a Summer Associate Program at a large law firm or “Big Law.” These positions pay very well and generally lead to post-grad employment, which is why many have called the program an “extended job interview.”

Summer Associate Programs are generally open to 2Ls, but some firms hire 1L summer associates.

For an in-depth discussion of what is a summer associate, click here! And for information about preparing for the summer associate hiring cycle, visit check out these quick reads.

Related Post: How to Prepare for OCIs

Law Clerk Definition

A law clerk is a student who works for a law firm or other legal employer that does not have a traditional summer associate program. This is the most common type of law school employment.

Law clerk positions generally pay around $20 per hour in 2022 depending on year in school, practice area, and academic performance.

Law clerk positions may or may not lead to postgraduate employment. Whether the firm decides to bring a law clerk on as an attorney depends on the employer’s needs.

Note: Attorneys who work for a federal judge or state appellate level judge are generally titled law clerks. However, if you work for a judge during law school, your title is “intern.”

Related Post: Is it okay to drink during BigLaw Callback Interviews?

While you are here, check out my new book: The Complete Guide to On-Campus Interviews!

This is a must-read for law students interested in BigLaw. It features,

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Intern Definition

Interns are generally students working for a legal employer who are not getting paid. These positions are typically available in public service or government work. Most law firms pay law students, and in my opinion, all law firms should pay students.

Internships rarely lead to post-grad employment. Instead, it is a way to gain experience, and many law schools offer credit for completing internships. Schools that offer credit sometimes refer to the position as an externship.

Related Read: How to Effectively Research a Law Firm

What is a Clinic?

Clinics are generally run by the law school, sometimes in partnership with another organization. They allow law students to get credit while gaining practical experience.

At most clinics, law students practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Most jurisdictions have court rules that allow for this type of arrangments, and at some clinics, a student may even have the opportunity to appear in court on the record.

Law schools offer a variety of clinics in practice areas that include, among others, criminal defense, business advising, and public interest practice areas like elder law and family law for low-income individuals.

Related Read: How to Answer the Most Common Law Firm Interview Questions

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