Christine Schleppegrell

Leverage Your Judicial Clerkship for a Successful Private Sector Career: Reconnecting, Giving Back, and Developing Business

Now that you’ve successfully completed your first month or so of firm life it’s time to reconnect with people you may have met while clerking or as a student. In addition, now that you’re in a position to do so, it’s time to give back to those organizations and individuals who helped you obtain your dream job. Maintaining professional relationships throughout your career is very important, as is finding a mentor early on.

Reconnecting

Surely you remember the days of informational interviews over lunch or coffee with those busy attorneys you wanted to be. Well now is the time to (i) take on the role of the attorney sitting on the other side of the table and take law students and clerks out for a good lunch; and (ii) treat those senior attorneys who once imparted their wisdom while you were job hunting.

While reconnecting is great, staying in touch is even better. Renew your memberships with professional associations you belong to during law school and while clerking. Continuity is key to keeping up appearances in a small (and still challenging) legal market and now you might even be able to have your firm cover membership dues. I recommend scheduling at least one professional networking event and one firm get together a week to ensure that you balance your time between advancing in your local legal network and improving your stature within the firm.

Giving Back

In addition to giving back on a personal and individual level, it is important to contribute to organizations. Even though you have less free time now that you’re on the billable hour, you will likely have your firm supporting you. Volunteer to host an event at your firm’s offices. Most firms are very supportive of hosting and sponsoring events, especially for female and minority groups designed to increase diversity in the legal profession. Also, you should consider taking on a leadership role in one or two organizations. Your participation will raise the firm’s profile in the local legal community and help you practice managing and organizing projects as well as garnering consent among a group of high-powered and opinionated individuals.

Shifting into Client Development Mode

Now that you have the secure job you want it’s time to shift gears from networking with other attorneys to bringing in business. It’s never too early to learn the ropes, and depending on your practice area, you might be expected to bring in clients. Nevertheless, it’s a good skill to have and can’t hurt your standing in the firm. If you’re fortunate enough to work under a partner willing to take you along to professional networking events and conferences, view this as a tremendous opportunity to watch and learn how to bring in clients. Most firms are happy to pay for associates to attend conferences, especially if a partner is speaking or the firm is sponsoring. Take advantage of these opportunities, even if it means sacrificing two to three days of billable hours. 

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