Christine Schleppegrell

Leverage Your Judicial Clerkship for a Successful Private Sector Career: Book Review

You might find yourself with a little more time than you would otherwise have in private practice. I say “might” because every clerkship is different since every Judge has a unique way of managing his or her case load. Some clerks will work longer hours than private practice attorneys; however, most will not. If you are a term clerk and just started in the fall, the job search is not immediately pressing. Should you find yourself with some down time there are two good books I recommend picking up: one to help you with long-term financial planning and a second to help with your job search.

Real Life Financial Planning For Young Lawyers: A Young Lawyer’s Guide to Building the Financial House of their Dreams, by Thomas A. Haunty and Todd D. Bramson. This short read provides a solid conceptual framework for making good financial decisions as an attorney. The authors include worksheets to assess net worth and budget expenses. It is also a useful read during tax season and summarizes a couple investment strategies that can be quickly implemented before upcoming IRS deadlines in April. Longer-term investment decisions will certainly require consulting a professional, but it is important to start somewhere. Keep in mind that the book was published in 2006 and a newer edition is not available so take the advice with a grain of salt and be sure to do your own research. The following chapters and sections are especially instructive:

               1.     Chapter 4, pages 42-45 on the topic of life insurance; and

               2.    Chapter 7, pages 82-87 on retirement planning.

Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of your Dreams, by Kimm Alayne Walton, J.D. Your career services office may have suggested you read this prior to law school. However, this 1,300+ page tome contains advice for many stages in one’s career, including a post-clerkship job search. The following chapters are particularly helpful when transitioning from a clerkship to a firm position:  

               1.      Chapter 6 details how to research employers and stay current  on legal issues important to prospective employers;

               2.     Chapter 7 provides tips for emailing prospective employers and drafting cover letters;

               3.     Chapter 8 details resume drafting; and

               4.      Chapter 10 discusses the importance of networking.

Update your LinkedIn profile and resume materials. This is also a good time to update any online profiles or your LinkedIn account if you have one. Even though you may not embark on your job quest just yet it never hurts to be prepared with updated materials. Take this opportunity to look at the profiles of seasoned attorneys and ask yourself how you can (1) make stylistic changes to your profile and (2) make long-term plans to gain similar experience so that one day your profile will resemble that of an experience practitioner. The job search in itself is challenging enough and the task will seem more manageable if you are only adding three to six months’ of updates, rather than an entire year. Plus, you are likely to forget some of the activities you have participated in and issues you have researched so there is no time like the present to jot it all down.

Assess your resume to see what is missing. Be proactive, you still have time to fill in the gaps before you start looking for work. For example, if your resume lacks a community service element think about joining a local legal organization that does volunteer work. If your resume lacks leadership or public speaking experience think about how you can take on a leadership role or participate in a presentation. Your local bar association may be the best starting place to ensure that any groups you participate in will help you form relationships and gain experience that will aid your job hunt. It may take time to get the ball rolling in order to run across leadership/public speaking opportunities, so think about who you need to meet to make it happen!

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