6 Tips for Career Development in Law School
As a law student there are a few phrases you get used to hearing: “The market is terrible right now.” “You can only break into the industry if you have family connections”; “You have to be in the top ten percent of your class to get a decent job.” Stop me if you’ve heard this all before. Anyone contemplating a legal career shouldn’t take all this doom and gloom literally. However, you should understand the reality of the situation – the traditional path to a legal career does not exist for the majority of modern students.
A law school student’s situation is really all about perspective. Either complain, or pave your own path to success. We won’t receive the handouts of the previous generation, but we will be all the stronger for it. This market is a sink or swim scenario and you don’t want to be drowning with the complainers. Here are a few tips to take charge of your career, and give yourself the greatest possible chance for success when you graduate.
1. Develop a Body of Experience That is Tailored Specifically to Your Field
Internship experience is one of the greatest assets you have. Use it wisely. First, reach out to alumni and professors to discover the precise skills necessary for the specific position your after. Then, tailor your internship search according to these defined criteria. Many students choose internships based on name recognition of the firm or business. Although a reputable internship is extremely helpful, make sure you base your internship decisions on the specific training you will receive rather than name recognition alone. When it comes time for interviews, you will be able to discuss how you have been trained to successfully complete every single specific task that will be asked of you.
2. Network, Network, Network
I know you’ve heard this one before, but a recommendation from someone in your network will at least get you an interview. This initial foot in the door is extremely valuable. When most people think of networking, an image of formal events with name-tags and awkward conversations comes to mind. Although formal networking events can be beneficial, meaningful networking can be achieved without all the formality. Successful networking can be accomplished simply through creating meaningful relationships with fellow students, professors, and alumni. Offer to take a professor or colleague out for a cup of coffee. Find a common interest and set up a time to participate in that interest (i.e. art galleries, sporting events, or movies). People are much more likely to help you out if they think of you as a friend, instead of a student looking for a handout.
3. Turn Your Distractions Into Resume Credentials
Our hobbies and interests often stand in the way of spending time on career development. However, these distractions can be utilized in a way that can set you apart from others in the field. First, become an expert in your hobby. For example, many students find themselves spending too much time on social media. If you’re unwilling to change this habit, spend that time developing a larger network and learning all you can about how the legal industry utilizes social networks. Your large network will be beneficial when it comes time to job hunt and many older employers value a candidate that is skilled in social media marketing and promotion. Secondly, find professionals that share your hobby and spend your distraction time with them. Many Bar Associations have sports leagues, movie meet-ups, and other similar events. Going back to my previous point; the time you would be spending anyways on a hobby can translate to a meaningful networking opportunity.
4. Flex Your Entrepreneurial Muscles
There is nothing more impressive to an employer than the ability to demonstrate that you are an innovative leader. An effective way to demonstrate this ability is to create a business or organization while you are in school. Research your school’s organizations and look for anything that is missing. Then, band together with a group of friends to start your organization or club. This not only demonstrates leadership, but will create a lasting legacy for yourself at your school. Further, you can look to professional organizations for other entrepreneurial opportunities. If your local Bar Association doesn’t have a club or organization dedicated to your hobby, start one!
5. Organize Your Time Wisely
All these tips are essentially meaningless without effective time management. law school is an enormous time commitment and you must dedicate time to career development in order to succeed.
The following is a method I have found to be effective: First, create a list of short and long term goals. Dedicate at least an hour to this assignment and write your goals out very specifically. Next, create a number of actions you can take to achieve these goals. Then, spend an hour every Sunday night scheduling out the following week. You will be surprised about how much free time you actually have. Fill in this extra time with your goal achievement actions. Finally, consider investing in self-improvement audio books. The time you spend in transit is unavoidable, but you can actually utilize this time by listening to how to improve yourself and develop your legal career.
6. Dedicate a Portion of Your Time to Helping Others
Dedicating time to others is an extremely effective way to demonstrate you are not only a qualified candidate, but also a good human being. Get involved with an organization that offers your legal services to people who can’t afford them. Find a younger student and dedicate time to mentor them and develop their career. The impressions you make through this type of service will last a lifetime.
The ingenuity that drove the creation of this website was born out of the aforementioned tips. We took the pessimistic outlook of many of our colleagues as inspiration to prove that we could find success outside of the traditional path. I challenge you to do the same. Let the doubts of others ignite a passion within yourself, and use your creative interests to invent, rather than distract.