There is no shortage of recommended reading lists for incoming 1Ls, but they tend to focus more on preparing you for the law school experience and not so much on professional development and career exploration. This is understandable, given that many of you may be feeling anxious about the first days and weeks of law school and want to know what to expect. However, law school doesn’t leave much time for recreational reading, and the books I’ve recommended below cover some equally important topics and offer a lot of really great information and advice. So read some books from those other lists, but read some of these too.
Exploring Career Options
This guide provides an inside look at 30 major specialty areas, from entertainment to immigration, from tax to telecommunications to tort law. For each area of the law, the authors provide a general overview, the settings in which this type of attorney works, a glimpse into a typical day, descriptions of what makes the work rewarding, and beneficial skills, classes and training for those who wish to practice in this area.
Some students enter law school with no intention of practicing law, and others will discover over the next three years that it’s not the right path for them either. There are a lot of great opportunities for law graduates outside the traditional practice of law. This book examines some of the options found in corporations, accounting firms, health care, nonprofits, tech companies, government agencies, politics, higher education, and a variety of other areas. It also explores how those with a JD can effectively market themselves for this type of career.
Author Richard L. Hermann has spent his career researching, evaluating, and accurately predicting where career opportunities are and will be for law graduates. In his 21st Century Legal Career Series, he identifies and analyzes the hottest fields for attorneys and JD Advantage opportunities. To date there are 18 volumes on topics that include data protection, energy law, compliance, health law, “soft” intellectual property law for non-STEM attorneys, elder law, and JD advantage jobs in corporations. The books are short – almost all of them are less then 100 pages – so they make for a quick read. I also appreciate that for each area of the law, Hermann explores both “mainstream” and JD advantage jobs.
1. Roadmap: The Law Student’s Guide to Preparing and Implementing a Successful Plan for Meaningful Employment
This is the book for law students who want to take control of their legal education and ensure a positive outcome upon graduation. Professor Neal Hamilton, former dean of St. Thomas University School of Law, examines the core competencies desired by legal employers and sets forth a template for you to use throughout all three years of law school in order to better position yourself to find employment.
2. Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dream…Regardless of Your Grades, Your School, or Your Work Experience, 2nd Edition
Author Kimm Alayne Walton spent ten years talking to law school career counselors, law students, and lawyers to learn which job search strategies really work and which really don’t. At 1300+ pages, the book is massive, but I don’t expect you to read it all (nor does Walton, who includes a section on “How to Use This Book”), and the injection of humor and anecdotes throughout keeps things light and engaging. Many of the chapters cover specific situations that may not apply to you – “either you go to a distinguished school, or you go to ‘Not-Harvard,’” for example – so you can focus only on those sections that are applicable to your situation.
Networking (Social and Otherwise)
This is a wonderful, short legal networking guide written by Donna Gerson, the Associate Dean for Career Strategies at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law. It tackles common networking excuses (e.g. “I’m shy.”), provides how-to advice and examples of the always-challenging conversation starters and enders, as well as tips on nurturing networking connections and arranging and conducting informational interviews.
Author Mary Crane, who has worked as a lawyer and lobbyist, developed a list of the 100 most important things you need to know as you are beginning to build your legal network. Presented in “easy to absorb, almost tweetable” chunks, it’s a book you can easily zip through this summer and revisit for some quick advice prior to networking events.
Amanda Ellis, an accomplished legal recruiter, demonstrates how law students and lawyers can use the “6Ps” – professionalism, profile, privacy, performance, practice, and protocol – in their job search; outlines more than 60 ways to use the “Big 3 sites” – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – to get hired; and provides examples of legal professionals who successfully did just that.
Achieving Happiness During and After Law School
Lawyer Heather S. Orr, who has worked in BigLaw, a small firm, and as a solo practitioner, discusses her experiences and how to find success and happiness in each setting. The book offers an excellent, first-hand look at both the pros and cons you are likely to encounter with each of these career paths.
All of the above are valuable resources, but if I had to recommend just one book, this would be it. The Happy Lawyer examines the causes of dissatisfaction among lawyers, and then explores paths to a happier and more fulfilling career in the law. I know that reading about the extent to which lawyers are unhappy may seem like kind of a downer as you’re about to begin law school, but (1) I think it’s important to embark on this journey with eyes wide open, and (2) the chapter dedicated to “The Law School Years” is full of wisdom on laying a foundation for future career satisfaction as a student and not letting extrinsic markers of achievement define you. As one of the reviewers noted, “This book should be a required text for every law student […] who wants to find greater fulfillment in a legal career.”
For more helpful advice, check out these additional resources:
- Podcast Episode 82: The Happy Lawyer Project (With Okeoma Moronu)
- Networking Strategies for a New World
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