Ready, set, go! Summer Preparedness for Law Students

by Ashley Ahlbrand

As the spring semester draws to a close, and law students prepare to embark on their summer jobs, law schools often offer “prepare to practice” programming, whether in the form of Lexis/Westlaw/Bloomberg reps offering trainings on practitioner-focused products, career services offering sessions on professionalism and networking, or law libraries offering research refreshers. At our library, we offer a series of “Jumpstart” sessions that range from general overviews of legal research topics to jurisdiction- or discipline-specific sessions, upon request. Although voluntary, these are traditionally quite popular, especially among 1Ls, but determining what to cover and what to emphasize always proves a challenge.

In the first-year curriculum, the law librarians at my library provide guest lectures in the Legal Research & Writing program, limited to case law research, statutory research, and a few prominent types of secondary sources; in short, the basics. Because our primary audience for Jumpstart also tends to be 1Ls, we typically begin with a review of cases, statutes, and secondary sources; then briefly discuss regulations, court rules, legislative history, and general legal-research-process advice. Sessions end with practical pointers, such as being sure to learn what resources are available through their summer employer, what resources they’ll still have access to through the law library over the summer, where the nearest law library is to their summer employer (and their access to it), and most importantly, our law library’s contact information, should they get stumped!

Sessions are only one hour long, so this is billed as an overview. We encourage students who know what type of work they’ll be doing to request specialized Jumpstart sessions, which tend to be particularly popular with upper-class students. These specialized sessions tend to focus on specific disciplines, such as tax law or intellectual property research. These latter specialized Jumpstart sessions are relatively new for us. Traditionally, we would add ask students when they signed up for the overview sessions where they would be working and what they would be doing for the summer; out sessions would then end with us addressing those particular topics, tasks, and jurisdictions specifically. The problem was, first, that some students did not have summer jobs lined up yet, and were thus sitting through portions of the Jumpstart session that were irrelevant to them, and second, that these particular topics, tasks, or jurisdictions really needed their own hour-long session to do them justice; fifteen minutes at the end was inadequate to provide any meaningful instruction.

One thing that is often hard to determine is timing — last year we offered several more sessions, all during the noon hour (the school’s lunch break, when no classes meet), and ended up with several empty or nearly-empty sessions. This year we offered four initial sessions, two at noon and two at other times of the day. We have enough signed up for these general sessions this year that we have opened up two additional sessions to accommodate the wait lists. What makes one year more popular than the last? Is it timing? Is it other law school events (although we schedule to avoid those)? Is it just something about the culture of that particular 1L class? It’s hard to say, but we typically survey the students immediately following the Jumpstart sessions and again in the Fall, and in both instances the sessions prove popular. We implemented this new version of Jumpstart two years ago, and I have been particularly pleased to see the rise in upper-class students interested, particularly in the specialized sessions.

I know many of you offer this type of programming for your students as well, and I would love to know what other topics you cover? Do you discuss data security or other technology topics? Ethics and client confidentiality practices? Time management techniques? Something else entirely? I would also love to hear from court or firm librarians, both as to topics you cover in trainings for summer associates, as well as topics you would suggest that academic librarians cover to better train students to be effective researchers in their summer positions. We all want to see our students succeed, and this is an area where we are definitely strongest together. Thank you in advance for sharing!


About ashleyahlbrand

I am the Educational Technology Librarian at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law. I am deeply interested in exploring how emerging and existing technologies can be used to enhance library services and legal education.
This entry was posted in Legal Research, practice ready and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Ready, set, go! Summer Preparedness for Law Students

  1. For the last five years, we’ve offered a Prepare to Practice lunch session for our law students and recent grads. While we’ve done different programs in different years, the most popular session has been our panel: The View from My Chair – What I Expect from a Law Clerk or Associate. The panel usually includes two judges and two shareholders/partners, and offers students a chance to ask them anything about how to be successful in a summer job or as a new hire. It’s an open conversation, and students get great advice from our panel. Almost always, the panel reinforces the importance of learning legal research and writing. This year we had 72 students attend.

    The link to this year’s panel is below:

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