So, my personal job search was very long but also very successful. Here's the gist of it:
I started mid-November and made contacts I had prior to going to law school with some attorneys. They were all willing to provide a bit of advice, and some requested I apply come December 1st, but it didn't really net much.
On December 1st I spammed every firm to which I had a personal contact and also sent off packets to judges who worked in areas that I had ties.
Over break, I landed an internship with one of the judges I wanted to work for in early January. There was no direct connection between the judge and I, but I had a strong undergrad resume and went to a lower T14 which probably helped me land it before grades came out.
In the Spring semester, I pestered any firm that came to campus or posted a job listing, as well as some I had heard took students before. I also continued discussing my prospects with some firms I had connections at.
I got my grades, and they were stellar. Eventually I got a callback with a market paying firm I really wanted to work for, went on the callback, got the job, and arranged a split with my judge.
In the end, I had almost 0 success even getting an interview despite a strong pre-law school resume and stellar first semester grades at a T14. Of maybe a dozen firms I had strong personal connections to only one interviewed me, but it turned into an offer.
In the end, it all came down to luck. I amassed a mountain of rejections and spent the better part of 5 months straight constantly sending out applications, making contacts, filing rejection letters, and doing interviews. And if it weren't for connections, the firm job all but certainly wouldn't have materialized.
From others I know, basically the only paying 1L firm jobs came from extreme connections. Connections to a small market, connections to a firm, etc. Grades can help at that point, and maybe at some firms or in some markets grades alone can get you the job, but it wasn't my experience. I also know some who got firm jobs without top of the class grades... so don't count yourself out if you don't have a perfect GPA, but don't think you've locked it up if you do.
The best possible place to be in for landing a 1L firm job would be: Strong pre-law resume, strong connections to a specific firm in a smaller market, while attending a top school that you do well at first semester. Absent even one of those factors and it'll be a major crap shoot.
Also keep in mind there are firms and there are firms. I know some people who got $10/hour gigs at small firms... which is a good legal experience, but just because you hear 'firm' doesn't mean '$3,000 per week as a 1L'.