April 11, 2014
This post speaks to law students who may not be in the top of their class and are not quite sure what they will do when they graduate law school. For these folks, it may be helpful to have a practical plan with specific, mechanical steps. One such plan with the following three parts is summarized below: (i) pick a law “major,” (ii) network (with people for whom you can provide worthwhile ideas), and (iii) practice persistence. The second two parts are practiced twice — first to pick a law “major” and next to obtain a legal job.
Pick a law “major”
Law schools are not yet requiring you to officially declare a major but the sooner you make this informed decision which matches your preferences to existing demand and take classes in your major and gain experience in your major, the sooner more opportunities will open up for you.
To help with your informed decision, think about setting — Here are three examples. You could be a: (1) firm (of varying size) civil practice lawyer or criminal defense lawyer; (2) prosecutor or public defender; and (3) noncriminal government agency lawyer. Then, for each practice area in which you are interested, gather this information: (1) a general description; (2) salary averages; (3) average weekly work hours; (4) common credentials/qualifications hirers in the area expect; (5) accounts of what job holders do in a typical day; and (6) job satisfaction levels.
Take advantage of resources that provide an overview of the various legal settings for the top practice areas and ones that explain the skills and training required and narratives from practitioners about their daily work life. The Career Services Office (CSO) at your law school can provide these resources at no cost.
If you do not know where to start, analyze practice areas that are regulatory with high demand and multiple paths for obtaining a legal job. Take tax, for example. Legal jobs in tax are available at multiple[le places — corporations, non-profit organizations, accounting firms, law firms of all sizes, in the Federal and state legislative (Congress member or tax writing committee), judicial (court clerks), and executive branches (Treasury). If possible, match your major to your background and have more than a passing interest in the subject.
In the second half of this post we will examine networking and the value of persistence.