By sintecho • September 19, 2008•Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
Here are the top three things I think you can do to maximize law school:
1. Invest time in making friends
Business school students know that networking is just as important a part of their business school experience as their classes. Though calling it “networking” makes you sound a little too premeditated about the whole process, the idea behind it is a good one that I don’t think law students give enough credit. Your peers in law school are going to be your future colleagues and connections. They’re going to be the people who can get you an interview for that great job 10 years down the road, the partners at the law firm who can hire your solo practice, or the general counsels at the company who hires your firm. In the short-term, they’re going to be the ones who lend you notes when you miss class, study with you, and talk you off the ledge when 1L grades come out. Put less time into solo study at the library and more time into bar reviews and other social activities. Maximize your time in an environment with other smart and interesting people by making lasting friendships and connections.
2. Figure out what you want to do with your legal education
Most people, in my opinion, don’t spend enough time thinking through their careers at law school. The interview process is geared to place people into firms, and less information is provided about public interest or government jobs. If you’re the kind of person who will be miserable at a firm, you’re going to have to do a lot of the legwork yourself to figure out the perfect after-graduation job for yourself. Since a lot of non-firm jobs are very competitive to get, you can do things during law school to maximize your chances like internships, clinics, and summer job choices that build skills your dream job values. If you don’t think about your dream job until 3L year, though, then you’re going to be at a real disadvantage when applying. A lot of my friends who didn’t spend enough time thinking through where they wanted to go are now at firms jobs and completely miserable with no clear exit strategy.
3. Get to know your professors
Though I was one of those people who rolled my eyes at the students who would flock around the professor after class and attend office hours, those students (the office hours ones anyway, I still don’t know about the after-class flockers) gained valuable mentorship that I now wish I had solicited. Your professors are a wealth of information about the law, legal jobs, and how to progress toward the career of your dreams. They’re also, often, great people who will be lifelong mentors and advocates for you if you take the time to get to know them. In the short-term, your grades will likely improve when you take time to talk through confusing legal doctrines, you’ll have references for clerkships and jobs, and you’ll be able to sign up for independent study projects that improve your writing and provide a publishable paper or clerkship writing sample. In the long-term, you leave law school with yet another type of connection to whom you can turn at various crossroads in your career for advice and support.
Most importantly, have fun! Don't let the stress of law school turn you to the dark side. Do the things you need to do to stay happy and healthy, even if your studying habits suffer a bit.