By Jannet Matthew • August 27, 2018•Ms. JD, Careers, Other Career Issues, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job, Other Law School Issues
Moving Forward While Looking Back
**This post is looooong overdue but in my effort to staying committed to improving my writing and self-expression, here it is...
I recently met with a legal recruiter to help me navigate the legal job market. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed after unsuccessfully trying for a couple of months. I tell her a bit about myself and what I’m looking for and the conversation proceeds a little something like this…
Recruiter: Great! So, what legal software are you familiar with?
...me looking dumbfounded...
Me: Do Lexis and Westlaw count?
Recruiter: Yeah that’s perfect but… have you ever done e-filing?
Me: No, I haven’t.
Recruiter: Okay. No worries. This time is a really tricky place to be, waiting for bar results.
Me: (in my head) Yeah, no sh*t.
That was the moment I realized I wasted precious time in law school.
I took the July California Bar Exam a few weeks ago for the second time and I have to say I feel great. Not because I have this unequivocal feeling in my bones telling me I passed - not at all - but because I recognize that I’m working hard and not giving up. My first unwind was consumed with anxiety from having to wait for my results so I never really acknowledged the accomplishment of just pushing through and taking the exam. This time though, I am soaking it all in; I’m soaking in all the good energy. Less stress brought me the clarity I needed to assess where I want to go (figuratively) and what actions I took (or didn’t take) in the last three years that brought me closer or further away from my career goals.
The last few months have been challenging my will, perseverance, and purpose. I wasn’t sure why I was putting myself through all the torture and couldn't even remember what I was going to do with my legal education. Nothing was making sense and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be a lawyer. While some of that is still true, after taking time to think through some of my suppressed anger and confusion, I feel ready to take accountability for my education and career.
I’ve mostly been reconciling my understanding of a legal education and my expectation of a legal career. They are not at all the same. I absolutely loved my law school experience and looking back I should have done more and been more involved. I didn’t understand how competition and career are intertwined, and how that competition starts from the moment you step into the classroom and it never stops just because you step out of it. You see, while I was studying for take-two, I was also looking for work and I came to realize that a legal career requires proactivity from the moment you are a 1L. I didn’t understand that then, so now, I’m stuck in a place where I don’t really have any practical skills to do the legal work I actually see myself doing.
My mistake: I approached law school like my liberal arts undergrad education. I thought it was a place where I could continue exploring my interests in sociology and history but through a legal lens. I thought it was okay to take classes like Race and the Law and Law and Rhetoric as “electives” because I wanted to explore my interests, instead of taking practical classes like Introduction to Arbitration or Contract Drafting and Negotiation. I separated school too much from the profession.
I always admired my friends who were in Trial Advocacy or other experiential learning programs for being so aware of their (career) wants. I was always kind of floating through trying to see what I liked and looking back, I should have tried those things, rather than watch from the sidelines, to see whether I actually liked them or not. This way, I could have acquired practical skills while being proactive about my legal-interest search. All I have to show is an immigration clinic and externship, which I am profoundly proud of, but I definitely sold myself a little short in terms of pushing myself to my greatest academic potential.
I think that was a mistake but I don’t regret it. It’s actually quite in-line with who I am at my core; my senior-year yearbook quote reads “not all who wander are lost.” I kept wandering throughout law school, and after the Bar, I felt like I needed to quickly make up for lost time but deep down I know I’ll get what I need in accordance to the divine timing of my life. I just need to focus on staying true to my passions and trust that the universe will respond to my discipline and determination. Though my meeting with the recruiter was a bit of a rude awakening, I finally feel good being honest with myself about what I want out of my legal career and what I need to get there. I don’t know how to e-file nor am I familiar with legal software but I’m moving in acceptance of my journey and staying open to the possibilities that come my way.