For many law students heading back to school this fall, a return to classes is less than a month away. You have my sympathies. Given that the legal economy is still shedding jobs, students returning to law school for the last year need to start getting in the right mindset.
Have a plan
Things move slowly in real life. Jobs do not fall off trees two days after you graduate from law school. You need to start your job search right now, about a year before you actually take the bar.
Start with what you know. Having you been working as a law clerk? Find out if there is any chance of working there in the future. If there is no chance of getting hired, then tell the attorney you have the best relationship to keep you in mind, and make an effort to stay in touch with that person.
Do you have any positive relationships with professors? Make a note to touch base with just before, or just after going back to school. Law school professors know the economy stinks, and they can always help with job searches.
You still need to go to classes, but your focus should be on your job search, or at least laying the groundwork for job possibilities down the road. First year, law school was everything. Third year, you have to realize the real world is around the corner, and you need a job. The people who get jobs soon after graduation, for the most part, started their job search the summer before.
Finish the summer on a good note
People tend to remember the beginning and ending of events. If you have been punching the clock at your law clerk job, step it up starting to make the clerkship a success. Take on a tough project, or find out if you can continue to clerk there after going back to school.
If you have not networked with anyone you work with, start going out to lunch with people. Your goal for the next month is to make yourself stand out, and in the event they are looking to hire someone, that person is you.
If you do not have a job lined up, third year is stressful. In some ways, it is the toughest year because you are balancing school with an intense job search. With that in mind, be sure to take some time off before school starts. If you decide to take on a tough project as a law clerk, this might not work. But if you can, even take a long weekend to relax your mind before the madness starts again (for the last time).