Law Student Hiring Timeline

As you begin thinking about obtaining legal employment, it is helpful to first think more broadly about gaining legal experience throughout your time in law school and keep the hiring timelines of legal employers in mind. The National Association of Law Placement (NALP) provides a helpful overview of the general hiring timelines of legal employers.

It is important to note that law students may be working their way through their legal education at varying paces. The information shared below about hiring timelines should be used as a guide for students who are attending law school full-time. The hiring timeline for law students attending law school on a part-time basis may vary and look different depending on a variety of factors unique to the individual.

Large Law Firms

Summer after 1L Year

Large law firms hire very few students to work the summer after their first year of law school. The small number of large firms that seek to hire 1Ls will often look for those with very strong geographic ties, very high grades, or other special qualifications. December 1 is typically when first-year law students can begin applying to these firms and most large law firms do not make 1L summer hiring decisions until February or March. Summer hires at large law firms are typically called "summer associates" and paid a monthly salary.

Summer after 2L Year

Recruiting for second-year summer positions begins in July and August PRIOR to the start of your second year of law school and will likely require connecting with employers in a variety of ways: you will apply directly to firms and participate in on-campus or virtual interviews coordinated by The Office of Professional Development. Firms will typically recruit and interview through the fall and generally conclude hiring by November.

Entry-Level Hiring After Law School

Most large law firms hire entry-level attorneys out of their summer associate class. Your summer experience with the firm is an interview for a permanent offer to join the firm. Not every summer hire will receive a permanent offer. Offers tend to be made in September of your third year of law school. Occasionally large law firms will supplement their hiring with a select few third-year law students, but overall OCI as a third-year law student offers limited choices and opportunities

Mid-Sized Law Firms and Small Law Firms

Summer after 1L Year

How and if mid-sized and small law firms hire summer help will vary from firm to firm. Summer hires are typically called "law clerks" and are paid on an hourly basis. First-year law students cannot begin applying to mid-sized and small law firms until December 1, and for most firms of this size, you should wait to apply until after first semester grades have been released.

Summer after 2L Year

Mid-sized and small law firm hiring timelines vary greatly. Most firms of this size do not make summer hiring decisions until the end of second semester. Many small firms do not post job openings which makes networking within the legal community a key way to find and secure summer and permanent positions with these types of firms. Often, mid-sized and small firms will provide the opportunity to work during the school year during your second and third years of law school.

Entry-Level Hiring After Law School

Some mid-sized and small firms hire entry-level attorneys, but many do not. Entry-level hires tend to be students that worked with the firm over the summer and during the school year. It is not uncommon for firms of this size to wait until after you have graduated and passed the bar examination before making an offer for permanent employment.

Public Interest Organizations

Public Interest is a broad category that is used to cover positions in Government, Non-Profit, and Public Interest Law Firms. Almost all law student public interest positions are unpaid. Summer funding or credit may be through law schools, and some funding is available from outside grants. Public interest organizations provide a number of volunteer opportunities for law students, both over the summer and during the school year.

Summer after 1L Year

You cannot begin applying to public interest organizations until December 1. Many students wait until after first semester finals are over to begin applying. Most public interest organizations do not begin interviewing first-year law students for summer positions until January or February, and many will not complete the process until March or April.

Government Positions

Government agencies on every level (federal, state, or local) provide a number of volunteer opportunities for law students, both over the summer and during the school year. Most law student positions in government agencies are unpaid. Summer funding and course credit can be available (externships may exist).

Summer after 1L Year

With the exception of a few specific agencies with lengthy background check requirements, you cannot begin applying to government agencies until December 1. It is not uncommon for students to begin applying after fall semester exams are finished. Most government agencies do not begin interviewing for summer positions until January or February, and many will not complete the process until March or April-and some will take longer.

Judicial Clerkships

Judicial clerkships are prestigious and competitive full-time, paid positions. A term is typically for one or two years. Judicial Clerkships have a unique application process. It is important to begin gathering information about these types of positions in the Spring of your first year of law school. In the spring of the second year of law school, you should begin lining up judicial clerkship recommenders.


Hiring in these areas will vary by sector and employers will be looking for specific industry knowledge or applicable legal training.

Let’s start a conversation!

We’re ready to talk about your goals and how we can best collaborate.