Career advice for 1Ls (part one)

LegalJob recently talked with several 1Ls concerning career advice.  This post is the first of two summarizing the advice:

Put yourself in a position to pick a specialty area (sooner rather than later).

  • Talk to as many people as possible practicing in different areas and learn how they spend their days.
    • Take advantage of programs offered by your law school or local bar group
      • Participate in legal clinics
      • Participate in career events/attend panel discussions
    • Law professors may provide helpful guidance or have suggestions on helpful people to consult
    • Seek out 2L/3L mentor
  • If possible, relate your pick to your undergraduate education or work experience.
    • It may be helpful to have this head start (as far as distinguishing yourself from the competition early on)
    • It is okay to chose something else but think about how your undergraduate or experience will help you contribute (even if not naturally connected)
    • Remember that employers appreciate focus and dedication to a particular path (so keep this in mind for your future elevator pitch)
  • You may change your mind (and that is okay)
  • You may change your mind multiple times (and that is okay)
  • You will likely change jobs multiple times (and that is okay)
  • The purpose of this initial decision is to help put you on a path to eventually attract multiple job opportunities

Maximize the information resources of the Career Development Center

  • Once you have one or two practice areas you are considering, ask for information about government and private job options in these areas
  • Ask for contact information for people that match at least three of your touch points
    • Same hometown (place of birth or where you were raised)
    • Same undergraduate degree
    • Same law school
    • Similar law school experience (i.e., moot court winners)
    • Similar work experience
    • Working in the practice area you are interested in

Contact people practicing in that area (with your touch points.)

  • Make clear up front that you are not looking for a job
    • If not, many folks may not be interested in talking with you
  • Ask for five minute meeting/call to discuss their background and opportunities in the practice area
    • Ask what qualities they have that makes them good at their particular practice area
      • Attention to detail and focus probably helps every lawyer, but what about other qualities (for example, tax planning which requires creativity and the ability to anticipate many different alternatives requires a different skill set then tax controversy which generally requires focus on a narrow legal issue and a contained set of facts)
  • Get specifics on what their day looks like and the kinds of matters they handle
    • Does that sound interesting to you?
  • Ask what experience would be most helpful to excel in this practice area
    • Certain classes at the law school (or outside the law school)
    • Certain work experience
    • Participation in certain law school activities

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