Last summer (my 1L summer) I split my time between two different sections at the Department of Justice. For the first half of the summer, I worked in the Federal Programs Branch defending various executive and agency programs (like State Department regulations related to 3D printing of weapons). In the second half, I moved over to the Antitrust Division where I investigated anticompetitive conduct by various airlines and corporate farmers. There were both pros and cons in splitting my summer; I hope these observations help if you are considering splitting your summer.
First, splitting my summer allowed me to see two different types of public service and two different sets of offices. Going into the summer I was equally excited about both offices, but I didn’t know anything about the differences in culture in each office. For example, “Fed Programs” had many attorneys who had bounced back and forth between public service and private practice. These attorneys had developed generalized civil litigation skills that were widely applicable across contexts. Alternatively, at Antitrust I worked with many more people who had spent their whole career in the Division and had developed very specialized areas of expertise (for example, competition in the airline industry). Splitting my summer allowed me to pick up on these differences, and many other nuances that I couldn’t learn in any other way.
Second, by splitting I met more mentors than I would have been able to otherwise. Each division had a separate intern program, where I was assigned a mentor and had the opportunity to meet attorneys at all levels of the division. This has already been immensely helpful – as I’ve talked with many of these attorneys as I have applied for 2L summer jobs and clerkships. These experienced attorneys have given me invaluable advice and will continue to be great mentors as I begin my legal career.
However, there are important downsides to splitting a summer. The first, and most important, is that it isn’t possible to go as deep into your work as you would be able to if you spent the whole summer at one place. After getting to my second half, I realized people who had been there longer already were way ahead of me in their institutional knowledge and trust of the attorneys. Of course, you can partially overcome this by working hard and proactively getting to know the other attorneys. Going into the summer I didn’t have a preference for one office over the other, and so I was more than happy to make this trade, but if there is one office that you know you want to end up in I would recommend spending the whole summer there.
Another potential problem with splitting summers is that it can make a hectic time even busier. During this past summer I was applying for clerkships and going through the OGI process, and splitting my summer meant that I worked from the Monday after finals to the Friday before OGI. It certainly would have been nice to have more time to work on applications, but on the whole I was willing to work harder in the short term in order to be exposed to two wonderful public service offices.
Joshua Wade is a 2L hailing from the bustling metropolis of Winchester, VA. Josh also attended UVA for undergrad and is trying to figure out how to live in Charlottesville his whole life. Josh is currently spending his non-law school brain power thinking about the beauty of small communities and how they function in both urban and rural environments.