Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Get Ready, Set, Outline!

Finals are coming up soon. Are you ready?  I suggest that you start outlining if you haven't already and begin preparations for studying for your final exams.  Say goodbye to your nights and weekends, buckle down, and study.  Your only job as a law student is to get the best grades that you can so you can actually get a job once your graduate (and even high grades is not a guarantee of a job in this economy!) 

Outlining doesn't work for everyone, so I also suggest making flashcards and commit as much as you can to memory.   Good luck! 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

No Regrets

I do not regret going to law school. I would not be the woman I am today if it weren't for what I learned and experienced during those three arduous and memorable years. There were many invaluable things that I learned in law school, but I just wanted to discuss three things I learned during my tenure as a law student. You might also check out my post describing ten things I learned in law school.

1. I learned to think and read critically

Law school taught me how to dissect what I read and think critically about the why something was written the way it was. I learned the significance of understanding the intent or reasons why something is written. This critical eye has served me well after law school. As a side note, sometimes I think lawyers write in "legalese" just so that we are the only ones that can interpret it! Even if you work in a non-legal position, the ability to clarify legal language is an important skill. I have used my legal skills to read and interpret statutes and write policy documents to make the law more understandable to a layperson.

2. I learned how to network and market myself.

Law school taught more about the importance of networking and provided me with several opportunities to network and learn how to "sell" myself. Studying is important, but many students fail to learn how to network and market themselves. Once you leave law school, your intelligence might get you the interview, but your personality and networking skills will get you the job. The ability to market yourself is a skill that must be practiced. Think of yourself as a walking advertisement for yourself... The way your present yourself to your classmates, professors, and potential employers shows them what they will expect from you. Also keep in mind what you put on your facebook or twitter account. How you display yourself online also advertises to others what kind of employee you might be. It might paint an inaccurate picture, but you might not even get a chance to prove someone wrong.

3. I learned to live a life with no (or few) regrets

So maybe I learned this lesson once I graduated, however I believe any experience you go through teaches you something and therefore is a valuable experience in itself.  I think it is unproductive to have regrets, unless they motivate you to make positive changes in your life. For instance, although I wish I had not listened to the financial aid office when they advised me to borrow the maximum amount I could, it taught the importance of making a reasonable budget and living within my means. Some lessons you learn the hard way, but those are the lessons that you tend not to forget.  I do not regret the three years I spent learning a new way of thinking, challenging myself academically, and being part of a profession that holds itself to a high standard.

I don't see how anyone who successfully graduates from law school would regret it. If you use time in law school well, you should have all the necessary skills to utilize your education, intelligence, and experiences to obtain a job. You might have to be creative, flexible, and persistent, but I believe you will ultimately be successful once you realize how you can make a positive and valuable contribution to a potential employer.

The 90%

You have heard of the 99% Occupy Wall Street Movement.  Similarly, in law school there should be a 90% movement. Ninety percent of you will not be in the top 10% of you class!   It is important to focus on studying and learning, especially during 1L year.   However, you also need to work on your job seeking skills or else you will find yourself in the last year of law school with only a few months to get a job and no ability to know how to do so. 
You also must be active participants in the process, be aware of your resources, and start your search early.  Many students do not access their career services office.  It is a myth that career services offices only help the top 10%. Career services offer valuable skills in how to write a law resume, network, and prepare for an interview.  These services are probably underutilized in most law schools.  They cannot help you if they do not see you and aren’t aware of your needs.   Your career services office can also set you up with alumni who are practice in your area of interest.
The other issue is that no matter how prepared you are, there are more graduates than there are openings.   Additionally with lay-offs and reorganizations, young attorneys are competing with more experienced ones.  With this in mind, as law students, you should be more aware of your options and take time to learn what you need to do to get a job.   I would also recommend that you take advantage of opportunities to get more hands-on experiences in law school.  You can work for a local legal services organization, do an externship during the second or third year of law school, or participate in a clinic if your law school offers that option.   These types of experiences will provide you will valuable practical experience, while not only building your skills, but your confidence as your approach the job market. You will be able to tell potential employers of all the skills that you can add to their organization.
If you are in the 90%, you need to start your own occupy movement.  But instead of occupying wall street, you need occupy career services, occupy the offices of your alumni networks, and occupy local legal services organizations.  Do anything you can to get a leg up on the competition, so that you don’t find yourself occupying your parent’s basement!