Perhaps the single most important thing I did as a first year law student was participate in the Public Interest Career Fair held in January of every year. In addition to studying for mid-terms, I prepared and submitted my resume to several employers who were offering summer placements. I was offered a housing intern position that summer at Neighborhood Legal Services in Lynn, MA, and I worked with a housing attorney defending low income families in danger of eviction. I worked the following summer for the same organization at their office in Lawrence but because I was 3:03 certified [certified under the MA Student Practice Rule], I could actually represent clients myself in court. I had my own caseload and was making arguments weekly before a judge in the Housing Court of Massachusetts.
The following semester, I continued my work, this time receiving credit through the Domestic Violence Clinic, due to the overlap between problems of domestic violence and problems of housing. I think 3:03 certification is one of the most underutilized benefits of being a law student. If you take a clinic, you will most likely become certified. But if you choose not to do a clinic and do not work for a public interest organization, you are missing out on significant opportunities to learn practical legal experience. To make a long story short, I was offered a permanent post-graduate position by the same organization. It is a sacrifice in terms of pay but a true windfall in terms of the benefits of doing meaningful work for people who genuinely need and appreciate you.