The legal profession is a large industry that is an integral part of our daily lives; it analyzes and interprets laws and regulations. Lawyers provide legal advice and representation to those who have been harmed by defective products, fraud, or unfair employment practices; those who want to buy or sell a house, start a business, or create a will; and those who have been accused of a crime—to name just a few services provided by lawyers. Attorneys also play key roles in the business world; in local, state, and federal court systems; in government agencies; and in nonprofit organizations. They provide legal advice and representation regarding hundreds of issues such as labor/employment, intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, civil rights, national security, the environment, and bankruptcy.
Attending an ABA accredited law school to obtain the Juris Doctorate degree and passing a state bar exam is required to practice law in a state within the United States. The most common career path for law students is to practice law within a law firm or to clerk for a judge (1 or 2 years usually) in order to learn specific practice areas of law. Although the skills gained through law school are transferable to many other career areas, if you are uncertain about practicing law, then it’s wise to consider other types of graduate schools that specialize in the career area of specific interest to you. If you are considering law, explore the field through informational interviews with attorneys practicing different types of law in diverse work environments and/or working full-time as a legal assistant in a law firm after graduation.
Job Title Examples:
- Legal executive
- Court clerk
- Oral and Written Communication
- Analytical and logical reasoning
- Time Management
Attend an ABA approved Law School: earn a Juris Doctor degree
- Take and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
- Identify law schools and complete applications - Our website contains further detailed information on applying to law school.
- Pass the Bar Examination for the state in which you want to practice
Using IrishCompass, LinkedIn, and ND’s alumni association directory called myND is the best way to start on the networking front. Building relationships and networking is a key factor when it comes to finding out about opportunities in this sector as well. Stay in touch with ND alumni groups in whatever city you’re pursuing a career in - most likely they will be willing to help you get connected and find potential opportunities.
Law firms hire recent college graduates as legal assistants, project assistants and sometimes as paralegals (the job title varies). Federal government agencies also have paralegal specialist positions for recent college graduates. Interning in a law firm can be a good experience if a lawyer has the time to train you or select a more established law-related internship.
To prepare for a career in law while at Notre Dame:
- Study what you love, obtain the best GPA you can
- Gain research and writing experience
- Take a class related to legal or policy issues
- Talk to a number of Notre Dame alumni practicing law
- Intern in career areas that interest you
- Obtain a law-related internship
- Attend the law school fair and law career related workshops
Figure out how law touches the areas that interest you
- American Bar Association Undergraduate Internships
- Department of Justice Antitrust Division Paralegal Specialist
- District of Columbia Courts Undergraduate Internships
- Federal Communication Commission Internships
- U.S. Supreme Court Judicial Internship Program
California Judicial Fellowship Program
- Work for 10 months in courts or Judicial Council offices across California, gaining direct experience in the administration of a complex and changing court environment
SEO Law Fellowship Program
- Offers talented incoming law school students of color the opportunity to work at a top law firm during the summer before law school
K&L Gates Lloyd Meeds Policy Fellowship Program
- An opportunity for exceptional college students to spend a semester or summer at K&L Gates actively participating in the policy affairs of a Washington, DC law firm and learning about the federal political process
Holland & Knight Public Policy and Regulation Internship Program
- A fall, spring and summer internship program geared toward current undergraduate students
Organizations do not come to Career Fairs. Paralegals are hired two to three months before the organization may even need one.
Applying and Interviewing
Your resume will often be the first impression for a potential employer. You want to make sure that your resume is concise, direct, and specific. Ensure that your resume is tailored for the position and for the industry. Highlighting relevant coursework can demonstrate your fit for a particular position. Review our guide on resumes for more information on how to construct one. It is important to stress research and writing when applying to law related opportunities.
A cover letter introduces you to a potential employer. Use the position description to make specific connections between your skills and experience and what the organization is looking for in a candidate. The cover letter should be concise and well-written—if a potential employer reads your cover letter and is intrigued, they will then read your resume. Your cover letter should not repeat your resume verbatim, but enhance it. Together the cover letter and resume can help land you an interview. Review our guide on cover letters for more information on how to construct one.
Most interviews will contain a mixture of resume based questions (questions about your past experience) and behavioral based questions (your ability to handle prospective situations at work. Most positions will begin with an interview that has a mix of these questions. Review our guide on common interview questions.
Preparation is extremely important for interviews. Research the company/organization, current and previous projects they’ve worked on, and even the people that you’re interviewing with. This will not only help provide talking points but will show your knowledge and genuine interest in the position. Utilize our resources on how to best prepare yourself to excel in your interview.
Top three preparation suggestions from a Notre Dame alum to prepare for the paralegal interview:
1. Study the law firm's background, practices, and most importantly the practices of the
attorneys with whom you are interviewing.
2. Memorize three questions for each interviewer. For at least one of the questions, refer to something you found through your research on them.
3. Practice your responses out loud with a friend before the interview. This helped my
answers seem a lot more natural.
- Meruelo Family Center for Career Development, Undergraduate Career Services
Prelaw Advising for Business Undergraduate Students
- Mendoza College of Business
- Vault Law Overview
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Lawyer Employment Outlook
Martindale Lawyer/Law Firm Locator
- Search for Notre Dame Law School alumni or law firms by location and/or practice areas; network to search out legal assistant opportunities. Larger law firms will hire full-time legal assistants – search for opportunities on the firm’s website or through CareerShift
Public Interest Law
- Patent Lawyer Career Q&A Video
- Vault Patent Lawyers Overview
- American Intellectual Property Law Association
- American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law
- United Nations International Law
- American Society of International Law
- International Law Association
- International Public Interest Law
Assistant Director, PreLaw, Government, Public Policy, Non-profits
- K&L Gates Government Affairs
- Georgetown University Law Center Criminal Justice Clinic
- White & Case, LLP
- Federal Trade Commission
- U.S. Supreme Court
- Holland & Knight Public Policy and Regulation
- Capital Fellows Program
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