Topic: Career Services
Winter break has allowed me to self reflect. Some lessons:
1. Humility: Prior to law school, I viewed myself as a whiz kid. I would always do just enough. I somehow managed to have numerous job opportunities throughout high school and college. I ignorantly believed that those who were unemployed lacked resourcefulness or drive. During 1L, I worked hard and fared decently. Despite my own resourcefulness and drive, I struggled to find a paid legal intern position. Sure, there were numerous volunteer and externship opportunities available – but, frankly, I couldn’t afford that for the summer. I started by applying to jobs that interested me and was picky. Most of the time, I would never hear back from employers. Occasionally, I would receive a rejection email or letter a few weeks or months after applying to a job. It was tough. I started to get worried. And, I realized how wrong I was before. It is tough to find a paid legal internship as a 1L. I also recognized that failing to obtain a paid position does not reflect on who you are or your ability to be a good lawyer.
2. Creative Solutions: If you are creative, you can thrive. I ended up taking a position for the Lewis & Clark Sustainability Council. It was a paid part-time position and it allowed me to network with a variety of law alumni. However, it didn’t provide me with the legal experience I desired. But, the creativity clock struck 12. I decided to volunteer for a few county judges by researching and writing legal memos. I watched trials. I spent free time trying to learn on my own. It was by far the best thing I could have ever done for myself. If money is an issue and you can’t afford to volunteer or pay for an externship, remember: you can work any type of job for money, and volunteer your extra time to obtain your desired legal experience. So, why am I so happy I chose this route? Because, during my job search this fall, every single interviewer I met with wanted to know more about my volunteer experience. Most didn’t even care whether the position was paid. Many were intrigued by the fact that a 1L was able to work with three judges on a variety of projects. They liked that I thought outside the box and was persistent in my efforts to learn more about the law.
3. Apply to things that interest you even if you think you aren’t qualified: Without a blink of an eye, 2L and OCI started. I applied to every position that interested me. I applied to positions where I didn’t even meet the GPA requirement. I networked. And, guess what? I got interviews (and more than one)! Don’t beat yourself up. Apply, apply, apply. Sure, grades matter. Actually, they matter A LOT. But, if you don’t apply, know that you aren’t allowed to complain that no one wants you. An employer might just make an exception for you (because most lawyers will realize that grades aren’t always everything).
4. Fit Matters. Don’t beat yourself up when you are rejected: I somehow managed to get a couple of callback interviews. There was one firm in particular that I fell in love with. The people there were absolutely awe-inspiring. I went through the initial interview and sweaty palmed my way through a 12 part callback interview. I was sold. I wanted the job so badly. And, then, I got the rejection phone call. It hurt. And, I beat myself up about it. I was disappointed. I started to doubt myself and think that I would never find a job. I was frustrated that I allowed myself to desire a job so badly. After a week of feeling defeated, I realized my silliness. A 3L mentor of mine told me something that stuck with me: fit matters. I was rejected: I simply wasn’t the right fit for that firm. Big whoop. Get over it. A job will come along where I will be the right fit.
5. Don’t give up and don’t lower your standards. And, I was right. I would be the right fit somewhere else. I didn’t lower my standards and only applied to jobs that interested me. And, I’m happy to report that I found a job that I’m absolutely excited to start this Friday.
It’s a struggle to find that first job. It’s a struggle to find a job you really like. But, if you keep applying and do your best to better yourself as a person and job candidate, you will find the right fit. Always: Keep moving forward (I love this song).
Wow. Summer is here. After having a week to relax, my schedule is now packed.
On Monday, I began my work for the Lewis & Clark Sustainability Council as a Law Clerk. My main tasks are to research sustainability-related programs and create networks for all three of our campuses and the Portland-metro area. I’m excited to see what I can get done. This summer, expect to hear updates about my work in this position. Also, feel free to email me if you are interested in volunteering or doing research for the Sustainability Council at firstname.lastname@example.org (Did you know that you can count volunteer hours from the summer before 1L as hours for the Community Service Award? Pretty cool, right?)
Today, I started my other summer opportunity. I met with a local trial judge and received my first real-world legal research assignment on a confidentiality issue. Thank goodness for L.A.W. and Legal Research! I am devoting this weekend to perfecting a legal memo!
Overall, life is great. I am enjoying the sun and finally have time to get back in touch with friends and colleagues.
Ask any law student to share their thoughts about winter break, and the answer is likely to be the same: it was too short. Dreams of playtime and travel easily give way to sleeping in and vegetating in front of the television, allowing overworked brains to rest and recuperate. Once classes resume, the challenge is to get back into gear for the term, and ramp up the hours and efforts devoted to study. This means getting up early in the morning, instead of sleeping until noon, and hitting the books daily, instead of the snooze button. It can be a rough adjustment.
As a 2L, the world beyond law school is also starting to come into hazy view in the distance. Even though 2L winter break marks only the halfway point of the law school experience, each term seems to fly by at an accelerating pace, and the job hunt is already starting to creep into daily consciousness. Although it is easy to pretend that law school is a purely intellectual exercise, the more salient reality is that law is a profession. The career fair in early February brings this reality to the fore for many students. Sitting down with sweaty palms for a job interview helps one recognize that law school is just a brief respite from the rat race.
The path to employment is highly dependent on what one does while still in school, but the time is short, and the task at hand is complex and daunting, especially for students that don’t have relatives in the profession or a specific career path planned out. The summer after one’s 2L year becomes all-important as a platform for building a professional reputation and beginning a career, but the challenge of juggling job applications, interviews, classes and volunteering can bring on a lot of stress.
The good news is that the career services staff at Lewis and Clark are eager and able to help. Their guidance, along with a generous selection of programs to help with interview, resume, and writing skills, makes the job hunt less frightening and much more enjoyable. Lewis and Clark students worried about the challenges of the current job market have great resources right at their fingertips. Plus, they serve snacks on Wednesday, so even if you’ve got this whole job thing wrapped up, there’s still good reason to drop in and say hello. Getting to know your fellow students and professors is bound to help in law school and beyond, but make some friends in career services, too. Don’t forget that there is more to school than classes!