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Frequently Asked Questions

What services does the Office of Career Services provide?
The Office of Career Services (OCS) offers comprehensive career guidance and job search assistance to HLS students. Our office specializes in the private sector and clerkships. The Office of Public Interest Advising specializes in the public sector and government. We work together to provide individual advising and assessment, assistance on resumes, cover letters and mock interviews, and counseling on offers and employment decisions.

What types of summer employment can I expect to obtain during law school?
This depends largely on you. Harvard Law School students have a multitude of exciting opportunities. Only you can decide which of these opportunities you will pursue and what you will make of them. Harvard students generally spend their summers working in a law related area. We organize the largest on-campus recruiting program in the country, during which tens of thousands of interviews are conducted over one week in August. We also conduct additional on-campus recruiting programs in the fall and spring, and assist students with independent job searches. A wide variety of legal employers including law firms, public interest employers, the government, and large corporations recruit HLS students. However, some students chose to pursue business alternatives such as investment banking, consulting or management. In most years, there is at least a small contingent of employers from these areas who come on campus to recruit.

I have just been admitted and wonder if it matters what I do for summer employment now (the summer before law school)?
Congratulations! Do not feel you have to have a legal job or some highly impressive credential to add to your resume. You will have ample opportunity to get legal experience during your summers in law school. Use this summer to explore interesting opportunities, or to do something relaxing or fulfilling so that you arrive at law school prepared to face a challenging year.

An exception to this advice applies if you have never held a job. In that case it would be a good idea to work for at least part of the summer so that you have some sense of the work world and so that you will have an employer recommendation when you seeking employment for your 1L (first year) summer.

What opportunities are available for me if I want to be a public interest lawyer?
Harvard has made a major commitment to aiding students who are interested in public interest work. The Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) has significant resources, in print and online, and excellent counseling staff that can help students identify and pursue opportunities. See OPIA's website for more information.

Where are HLS graduates working?
HLS graduates can be found in almost every walk of life. They are not only prominent attorneys but judges, academics, novelists, business leaders, consultants, policy analysts, journalists, politicians, and international aid workers.
The Employment Statistics page will give you an idea of some of the common practice areas students enter immediately after graduation.

How can I find HLS alumni in my area?
Use the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory at www.martindale.com. You can search by a number of different criteria, including location and law school.

What should I be doing now to prepare myself for recruiting at HLS?
Think about what interests you have within the law – what sort of law would you like to practice? Find out more about the legal profession by speaking with practitioners, and reading articles and websites (see our Recommended Reading lists). Once you arrive at law school, continue to find out more by attending programs on legal practice areas, and participate in the many extra-curricular activities on campus.

By meeting and speaking with practitioners, you are beginning to build your professional network. Your potential references, such as former employers and professors should also be part of that network. Keep in touch with them, perhaps by sending them an update on what you are doing. Make sure you have full and correct names and contact information so that when you are starting the job search for your first year summer you can easily and quickly contact former employers and ask if they would be willing to act as a reference.

Finally, check your online profile. Perform a self-Google search, adjust privacy settings, and create a LinkedIn account: make sure to present yourself online as the professional you are.

What do HLS graduates earn?
The range of starting salaries is quite wide. A recent HLS graduate who chooses to work at an inner city pro bono clinic may earn only $30,000, while the starting salary in the most prestigious big city firms is around $160,000. Don't be discouraged by these figures if you are hoping to go into public service; Harvard has one of the nation's most generous debt forgiveness programs for those who pursue public interest employment. 

I've read a lot about changes in the legal economy since 2008. How has that affected HLS students?
The 2008 economic crisis resulted in changes to the legal job market, but HLS students remain extremely well positioned. Our latest employment statistics are available online.

Why are HLS graduates interested in pursuing clerkships after graduation?
Students pursue clerkships for a variety of reasons. Clerkships, especially those with well-regarded judges or courts, are a prestigious credential valued by many legal employers. Clerkships also give students interested in the courts an opportunity to see trials or appellate actions from the other side of the bench, an opportunity they may never have again in their career unless they are fortunate enough to be appointed to the bench. Even those students who do not intend to pursue litigation as a career path find the experience valuable because it provides the opportunity to do intensive research and writing under the supervision of an experienced jurist. The research, writing and critical thinking skills developed during a clerkship are much sought after by employers.

Should I pursue a dual degree (i.e. J.D./M.B.A, J.D./M.P.A., etc.)?
This depends on your objectives. If you have a clear goal (e.g., your life dream is to work at a legal policy think tank or to teach law and finance) and that goal will be substantially furthered by obtaining a joint degree, then it may be worthwhile. Another great reason to pursue a joint degree is simply because you have a strong intellectual interest in two disciplines- provided you can readily afford the cost in terms of time and money, since a joint degree does not necessarily translate into a higher salary.

There are some reasons not to pursue a joint degree. Don't assume that if one Harvard degree is good two will necessarily be better. Employers are not always impressed by a joint degree and it will not always make you more marketable. While a joint degree may be very desirable for some employers, with others it may backfire as they wonder where your true interests and commitment lie. Perhaps the worst reason to pursue a joint degree is to "keep my options open." It is far better to do the hard work of career exploration and self-assessment now, before you spend an additional year and many thousands of dollars to defer an inevitable decision.

Last modified: November 26, 2014

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