Student Post: Let’s Talk About Co-Ops, Baby

by Cory Lamz ’16

It’s finals time for 1Ls at NUSL – so what does that mean? Little time, lots to do and handfuls of stressed students. One thing that helps alleviate some of that stress is knowing what co-op you have lined up for summer 2014.

Let’s start with the basic question: what is a co-op? A co-op is a hands-on learning experience during which you, the student, get to live, breathe, and work as a lawyer. NUSL is unique in that the co-op program, the school’s experiential learning component, is built into the curriculum such that, upon graduating, you have completed one year of lawyering work. Pretty cool.

With that foundation, let’s move to the intricacies, particularly with regard to scheduling. (This is all stuff I didn’t know about prior to enrolling at NUSL, and I wish I would have… so indulge me for a little bit if this is old news for you.) Logistically, your 1L year is on the semester system – fall and spring. Immediately after spring semester ends, your NUSL academic track switches to the quarter system – summer, fall, winter and spring. Beginning in the summer quarter after your 1L year, you either go on co-op for at least 10 weeks or you start your 2L classes. Students who do this are on the summer/winter rotation – they will be in class in the fall quarter, co-op in winter, class again in spring, and then all over again for another year until graduation. Students who are on the fall/spring rotation have the inverse schedule – co-op fall quarter, class winter quarter, co-op spring quarter and class during the summer.

I am on the summer/winter rotation. This is partly by choice, but mostly by mandate (I am a dual-degree student and my masters program, Music Industry Leadership in the College of Arts, Media and Design requires this schedule). Because I’ll start my first co-op this summer, I have already submitted applications to various opportunities. NUSL does it right – it has a whole office, and therefore team of employees, devoted to helping prepare and place students “on co-op.” This office, the Center for Co-op and Professional Advancement (CCOPA), leads resume and cover letter writing workshops during the beginning of your 1L year, as well as panels on what types of legal jobs are even out there (trust me, there are more than you realize). The CCOPA office also matches you with an advisor who, in essence, helps you with everything co-op-related, from reviewing your resume to helping you determine a co-op strategy to letting you know about various opportunities related to your legal field of interest. Built within this structure is also the emphasis on these co-op experiences leading to job opportunities upon graduation.

For all of those summer/winter rotation students, we had to prepare our application materials for the different co-ops we’re interested in (all available co-ops are listed on an internal NUSL website… or you can always create your own!) and submit them near the beginning of November to the CCOPA office. The CCOPA office then collects these materials and submits them directly on your behalf to the different agencies. If the agency likes what they see, they offer you an interview. If not, onto the next one. Most students I know have already had at least one co-op interview already – and a small group of students have received offers for employment.

Like I said, managing finals right now is already stressful enough, so imagine juggling exams with the co-op process for all of us on the summer/winter rotation. It’s intense! But it’s also rewarding.  And knowing what you’re doing for the upcoming summer already is a nice little light at the end of the 1L tunnel.

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