Here’s what you don’t want to happen: you devote three years of your life to attending law school, you spend countless hours studying, you sacrifice time with your family and friends, you take on tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, and then, you finally graduate! But, after all that time, effort, and money, you don’t have a legal job or even any good leads on a legal job. You have a J.D. and a student loan payment coming up, but no legal work. Or, perhaps the more common scenario, you have a post-graduation job lined up, but it’s just something you took to pay the bills and isn’t a job that has set you down your preferred career path.
So how do you avoid this scenario? Recognize that law school is, in some respects, a means to an end. Yes, it’s a chance to challenge yourself intellectually and explore new concepts, but law school is about preparing you for a legal career. Most people go to law school because they believe it will allow them to attain a more rewarding job. But to land that rewarding job you need to make a focused, concerted effort during law school to set yourself up for it. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone! The career services office at your law school exists to help you achieve your professional goals and building a relationship with that office can have huge benefits.
How Can Career Services Help?
Most career services offices are staffed by licensed attorneys who have developed some expertise or insight into helping law students find opportunities in the competitive legal market. Career services professionals can help you update your resume, write a compelling cover letter, improve your elevator pitch, grow your network, and identify internship opportunities. They can answer questions about the application process for certain jobs and help you identify potential mentors. If you know exactly what you want to do after law school (such as work in BigLaw, clerk for a judge, go JAG, etc.), career services can help you craft a plan to achieve that objective. If you don’t know exactly what you want to do after law school, career services can help you explore your options and eventually identify your goals. Perhaps most importantly, career services can alert you to job opportunities that are a good fit for you and help you make connections with practicing attorneys. Career services professionals tend to be a pretty helpful bunch, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to build a relationship with them.
Building a Relationship with Career Services
The best way to build a strong relationship with your career services office is to meet with them early and often. Set up an individual appointment your 1L year and try to meet with them at least one time each semester. (Note that if your school is a member of NALP, career services may not be able to meet with you individually until a few months into your 1L year). These individual meetings will ensure that career services knows you on a personal level and is familiar with your career goals throughout law school. The better they know you and the more effort they see you putting in, the more likely they are to recommend you if they hear of new job opportunities. To get the most out of the individual advising experience, come prepared to each meeting with specific topics you want to discuss and genuinely listen to their advice.
Another way to build a relationship with career services is to participate in the events sponsored by their office. Participating in these events is advantageous in two ways: showing up generates goodwill with career services staff and gives you the opportunity to benefit from whatever service the event is offering. As a law student, you probably already have a packed schedule, but it’s worth it to make time to attend career services events, whether it’s a mock interview, a resume workshop, or a networking event. Sometimes these events – and particularly networking events that require you to socialize with a bunch of strangers – can be awkward, to say the least. But making professional connections is absolutely critical to achieving your career goals, so make yourself attend these events even if you’re slightly uncomfortable (and try to recruit a friend to go with you for moral support!)
Going Beyond Career Services
If, for whatever reason, you’re not connecting with career services or you feel like you’re not getting the support you need, don’t give up and simply hope the ideal job will land in your lap. Instead, make use of other resources that can help you achieve your career aspirations. For example, you could reach out to a faculty member who teaches in the area of law you’re interested in to see if they know of any job opportunities or you might touch base with your alumni office to see if they can connect you with a practicing attorney. If you’re looking for more comprehensive guidance, you should consider whether hiring a career counselor is the right option for you.
Law school is not just about being a student that goes to class and takes exams, it’s also about developing the skills, experience, and contacts you need to work as an attorney. Make use of your career services office throughout law school and you will improve your chances of landing a rewarding job after graduation.
For more helpful advice, check out these posts:
- Podcast Episode 168: How the Handle Rejection Professionally
- Professionalism in the Legal Workplace
- Using ABA Employment Stats to Help You Choose a Law School
- What’s Your Elevator Pitch?
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