Starting law school is daunting. If you’re first generation, you may be unaware of some of the moves you need to make your 1L year to set you up for certain positions upon graduation. Not only was I the first person in my family to go to law school, but law school was my plan B, so to speak. All my life I prepared for a career in medicine so I was completely ignorant to certain legal careers and what it took to land them. In retrospect, there are some things I would have done differently.
- Start networking with your fellow students, specifically the 2Ls, 3Ls & 4L’s (part-time students). Start talking to them about which classes you should take, the professors they recommend and law school in general. Build genuine relationships with them. You would be amazed at how helpful they can be in helping you find employment throughout law school and after. They can also give you pointers on networking with the local legal community. Also, upperclassman (you know what I mean) will be able to tell you about helpful study aids. Your professor may not be very supportive of you using commercial aids, but they exist for a reason. I don’t know if I would have made it without a “Questions and Answers” or “Examples and Explanations“.
- Be strategic about how active you are in student organizations. Most student organizations in law school provide an opportunity for you to network with the legal community. If networking is hard for you consider taking a position where you have to reach out to lawyers and judges to be speakers for meetings or different events in the organization. This allows you a point of entry without having to cold call people you may be interested in building relationships.
- If you feel you are unaware of all of the career opportunities meet with the career services office and ask them “what are some legal careers I should be aware of that I may not and what do I need to do to be a competitve applicant.” This point is inspired by federal judicial clerkships. I did not find out about federal judicial clerkships until my fourth year of law school (yes, fourth year, I was a part-time student). I was still able to apply and I even interviewed for one, but I found out this is something you should start preparing for your 1L year.
- Be intentional about building relationships with your professors. The clerkship application requires letters of recommendation as do other opportunities. Meet with your professors and ask them about their legal career and life in general. Former professors can also be very helpful when it comes to helping you find employment and they can vouch for you.
- Strive to get to know your classmates. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do this. However, one of my best friends from law school made it a point to personally know the name of all of her hundred plus classmates. No, you did not go to law school to make friends, but your end game is probably employment, even if it’s self employment. Your classmates could potentially be your coworkers, opposing counsel, and study partners during bar prep. Despite the movies and TV shows, we really try to be cordial to opposing counsel. I remember receiving a call from opposing counsel and two minutes into the conversation we realized we went to law school together. Even if you’re in solo practice, your classmates who work government or private firms may have resources they can share with you. It pays to play nice and have a good reputation. You will regret your “hunger game” like antics and pray they don’t remember if you were ever rude.
- Practice for your exams. If you’re final exam will be multiple choice and essay, then while you are studying find some practice multiple choice and essay questions for the subject and answer them as if you were taking the test. You want to find sample problems with sample/model answers. Be careful, though. I’m sure your professors will tell you, as mine told me that the commercial answers are not always correct. If I came across an answer or explanation I thought was off, I would show my professor the answer to ensure the commercial source was correct. I would also do this if I didn’t understand why an answer was correct. It further facilitates learning.
- Take risk in law school. By this I mean apply for clerkships, externships or positions for which you don’t feel qualified. Study abroad. Participate in activities or contest that scare you or genuinely challenge you. You should not be comfortable throughout this process. My new favorite quote is, ” You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Shoot your shot.
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