By Laura Bladow • June 07, 2014•Law School, Pre-Law
I had the privilege of sitting down with Julie Silverbrook, a Ms. JD Board Member and the Executive Director of The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) to talk with her about law school. If you're pre-law or in law school and are curious about a certain career path or have questions about law school, I'd encourage you to set up some informational interviews. Nothing beats getting your most pressing questions answered by an expert! Julie shared such a fantastic wealth of information with me that I broke her interview into two blog posts. If you missed Part I you can catch up here!
LB: What advice do you have for building relationships with law school professors?
JS: First and foremost, law students need to remember that there is one professor to a significantly larger pool of students, so if you want your professor to get to know you personally, you need to take the initiative to make that happen. Most law professors, even those who are less engaged with students generally, offer office hours. Go to office hours! If your professor doesn’t know you, how can he or she possibly write a recommendation letter or serve as a reference for you? When I’m hiring and looking at letters of recommendation, I want to see more than “Jimmy received an A in my Torts class.” If the prospect of a strong recommendation letter doesn’t incentivize you to go to office hours, then let me offer this – speaking to your professor throughout the semester and before the exam allows you to learn a bit more about how that professor thinks. If you listen carefully, you’ll notice certain themes and issues that are clearly important to that professor. It’s probably safe to assume that you may see one or more of those on your end-of-semester exam.
LB: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received about law school or your career?
JS: Law school is a professional school – you are there to get a job after you graduate. If you understand this when you begin law school, then you can approach the experience strategically – thinking about how to best position yourself for meaningful post-graduation employment. Keep in mind – when you’re a lawyer, people pay you to think strategically, so start honing those skills now!
During law school, you will have the opportunity to network with a range of legal professionals – from high-powered law firm partners to judges and politicians. Take advantage of these opportunities! Let me repeat – take advantage of these networking opportunities!
Also, as a law student, you have a unique opportunity to invite just about anyone to come and speak at your law school. Student organizations like the Federalist Society and American Constitution Society can also facilitate this process. If there’s someone you want to meet, and you think they might be willing to come and speak at your school, then you should ask! It’s a smart use of your time as a law student to network with as many legal professionals as possible.
Another piece of invaluable advice I received and that I now give to others – work your alumni connections, and get involved! Become involved with a student organization – it will facilitate the speaker invitation process I discussed before. Most schools have alumni directories – go through them with a fine-tooth comb and look for someone who may be able to help you in your career. Many organizations like the National Association of Women Lawyers, Ms. JD, and the National Association of Women Judges offer student membership – use these opportunities to cultivate relationships.
After you graduate, and even if you’re happy with the job you have, you should still go out and network, even if informally. Networking doesn’t have to be scary. I recommend preparing some general talking points beforehand. It reduces some of the pressure we all feel when we go to these kinds of events. Once you go to one networking event and break the ice, it becomes more natural. It’s like a sport – the more you practice, the better you get at it.
Don't discount informal networking opportunities. I met a potential supporter of my non-profit standing in line for a Supreme Court event. You can meet someone in line at an event, or even on the metro. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation! Sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results!
I loved law school, and if it made financial sense I would do it again. I learned so much about the law and about myself. If in your heart you want to go to law school and become a lawyer, then you should absolutely go. If you make smart choices and are tenacious, you’ll do well in law school and in your career!
About the Author: Laura Bladow is Ms. JD's Programs Manager in addition to being a passionate pre-law woman. Have questions about law school or pursuing a career with a JD? Leave a comment below or tweet @msjdtweets & @laurabladow with the hashtag #msjdprelaw and engage with our community! Looking for more pre-law resources? Check out Ms. JD's Pre-Law Prep Guide as well as the pre-law section of our blog!