Many students split their summers, often between a law firm job and a public service position but occasionally between two jobs within public service.
Negotiating a split summer
Be careful not to discourage employers by insisting right away that you cannot spend your whole summer at their organizations. Wait until you have received a job offer before you broach the subject with a potential employer.
If you have already committed half the summer to another organization, you should be upfront about your commitments.
Be aware that although most nonprofits and government agencies allow splits, not all of them do. Check the organization’s website and talk to former interns to see whether or not the organization you are interested in offers a split summer. On a related note, be sure you are aware of the internship lengths of the organizations that interest you; for instance, the State Department Legal Advisor’s office only allows half-summer internships.
If you cannot work the minimum amount of required weeks and still want to work at both jobs, then you should tell your employer that you are considering a split summer before accepting the position. You can base your decision about whether to accept the job offer on the response you get. Just be prepared to do some negotiating.
Remember the downside of splitting: it will be harder to get a sense of the work and to forge strong relationships in half a summer than if you had spent a full summer with the employer.
Split summer logistics
Historically, we have recommended split summers to students who are very interested in postgraduate public service work, yet want to try out a law firm their 2L summers. In recent years, many law firms have shortened their summer programs, so you may find that you can fit in an internship with a nonprofit or government agency after your law firm commitment, without asking the firm for a split.
Some firms have strong public interest and pro bono programs and will allow you to spend part of your time at a public interest job while on their payrolls. See OPIA’s Guide to Law Firms Sponsoring Public Interest Summers for a list of firms that offer this option.
Splitting your time between a paying and nonpaying job is an excellent option if money is a major factor that keeps you from pursuing public interest or government work. When considering finances and split summers, be sure to review the ins and outs of SPIF eligibility.
Keep in mind that the timing of your internships can make all the difference in your experience. If you are interested in Capitol Hill, you may find some Committee and personal staffs have little work to do during the month of August; as such, it may make sense for you to go elsewhere during that time.
We generally recommend against splitting your summer between two public sector employers. If you do split, you will have half as much time in each organization and therefore half as much time to learn the substantive work (and figure out if you like it) and get to know your supervisors and other permanent staff.
Alternatives to splitting your summer
If you have a number of practice settings, issue areas or types of work that you want to explore before graduation, we recommend that you try to use clinical and volunteer opportunities and journal work/research assistantships (the latter to see if you are intellectually interested in particular subjects) to supplement your summer experiences. Keep in mind that this includes two possible winter terms.
If you find that you do not have enough time to try out everything you want to, even if you use all available term-time opportunities, then it does make sense to split a summer.