Sunday, November 18, 2007

don't jump the gun...or, the beginning of the 1L job hunt.

i'm sure all you 1Ls have been inundated with material from career services lately: flyers, seminars, and mandatory meetings. they weren't allowed to talk to you before november 1st, and now they are acting as if they need to make up for the last few months that they lost with you, thanks to NALP regulations.

i wish i had known to tell them to stuff it, at least until after finals.

they were convinced that the first month they could talk to you, 1L november, was the crucial be-all and end-all of 1L job-hunting time. they were so intent on telling 1Ls everything they ever needed to know about career services during that month.

i shouldn't have put up with it. you shouldn't put up with it.

think about job hunting after finals. get your finals done, and then talk to career services about how to fix your resume, how to interview, and how to target your job search. the job hunting process is long, involved, and stressful--and is nothing you have to worry about until after your finals are done. good grades on your finals will get you further in any legal field than a couple of extra weeks of visits to the career services office ever will.

have that "mandatory" meeting with the career services office...eventually. it may be helpful.1 but, if at all possible, do it after finals. you have enough to worry about before then.

that leads to another thing: do not send the december 1st Santa-Sack of resumes out to law firms. yes, december 1 is the first day you can send applications to law firms. but, the time you spend preparing the mass mailing is time that you can spend either studying for finals, or at least getting some much-needed relaxation in--which will allow you to face finals with a calmer and fresher attitude.

the resume mass-mail on december 1 almost never works. i know a lot of people who did it--and only one ended up with a job. the vast majority of firms either ignore the mad december 1 resume drop, or they send you back letters telling you to apply again after you actually have some grades to show them.

if you have a firm or two that you're truly interested in, it may not hurt to send the resume out on december 1 and see what happens if you have your resume ready. but, don't fret about it too much. don't worry if you don't have your resumes ready on december 1. concentrate on finals--if you want a firm job, you're going to be far less likely to get one if your grades on your finals aren't good. there is no use sacrificing a great resume for a minuscule chance at a summer position. it's better to apply after finals, when your grades are out or just about to come out. then, they'll finally have the information they want for evaluation--and your grades will be better because you spent your time in the finals mindset and not the job hunting mindset.

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1 i'm trying not to rule out the idea of some career counselors at some schools being helpful. but, from most of what i've heard, they're not all that helpful. mine never were. they seem very focused on getting students into big-firm jobs, and even then they don't provide any creative tips. it's all along the lines of "have high grades and send out your resume a lot." yes, those are all good things to do, but it's not the be-all and end-all of the job searching process. if there is anyone who contributes here, or reads this blog, who did have a good and helpful experience with the career services office, i'd love to hear it. me? i got my job searching advice from the excellent book, guerrilla tactics for getting the legal job of your dreams by kimm alayne walton. that book is more helpful than any ten career counselors i've ever met. it's clear, it's interesting to read, and it provides more diverse advice than the career services office ever will.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Job Searching

One thing I Wish I Would Have Known before starting law school: Finding a Job After Law School is Harder Than You Think.

I am finishing up my first semester of my second year, so while I have had to do a summer job search and I am now starting to try to figure out if I can get an internship and job for next semester and the upcoming summer, I have not yet had to go through the nightmare of finding employment after graduation. Before I came to law school I had this naive impression that you go to law school for 3 years, you pass the bar, and then *Poof* you become an attorney with a $90,000+ paycheck.

Oh how wrong I was. It's great if you are in the top 10% and can get an OCI job that turns into a job offer for after graduation before you even start your last year of law school (not to mention the paycheck that goes with these jobs is pretty hefty). But what if you aren't in the top 10%? I know I have said it before and I will say it again: 90% of your class will NOT be in the top 10%. It seems simple enough, but it is oh so easy to forget.

So if you are going to law school thinking that you will put in your 3 years and come out with a fantastic job, think again. It is totally possible to find a great job, but the jobs are not just going to land in your lap. In addition to surviving 3 years of law school you will also have to be ready to embark upon some serious networking and job hunting while you are in school. Trying to balance everything can be a challenge. Those who work hard tend to find jobs either before or right after graduating and passing the bar, but those who think that because they have a law degree they should be able to just have a job handed to them are usually in for a rude awakening, and it really sucks if your first student loan bill comes while you are still unemployed.

So how do I know all of this if I'm just a 2L? Well, I have friends who are 3Ls and I have never seen them so stressed out before. November 1 really seemed to be the signal to all of the 3Ls without job offers to kick the stress into high gear. I hope that I won't be in their position next year, but I likely will be. I really don't think anyone can emphasize enough the importance of making connections with practicing attorneys and getting practical experience while you are in law school (internships, clinics, law clerking, etc). It is a lot easier to find a job if you know people in the field and you have some legal experience on your resume. Career services tells students this kind of stuff all of the time and yet a lot of people don't seem to listen. There is always a handful of people who make it to their 3rd year having never really worked in a law related job and who know nobody in the profession.

If you are really sure that you want to go to law school don't let the horror stories of unemployed recent graduates scare you away, just be prepared going in to work hard in school and to be diligent about taking the necessary steps to get a job well before graduation day finally arrives.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Looming Finals

It's the most horrible time of the year.

The ghosts and goblins have gone away for another year, the stores around town are kicking themselves into Christmas Cheer overdrive, and panic is beginning to descend upon law students across the nation.

In case you haven't been paying attention or counting down FINALS are now right around the corner, some maybe even less than a month away. If any of you were like me last year, it is likely that this has caught you off guard and that you too are now starting to panic. Despite the dread you are now feeling, you just have to know that you need to keep going and that eventually all bad things really do come to an end. It may not seem possible right now, but I really can promise that there is a light at the end of the first semester law school tunnel.

I think one of the reasons I panicked the most was because everyone was talking about this mysterious thing called "Outlining" but I had no idea what the heck an "Outline" for a first year law course was supposed to look like by the time I was finished. This paralyzed me somewhat and I ended up with 10 Days until my first exam and I still had NOTHING done, not even 1 outline was started!

While I certainly don't recommend this approach to anyone, I can say that I survived my first semester and I came out ready to face second semester with a different approach to studying that ended up resulting in higher grades in my second semester.

What you should be doing at this point of the semester is either continue staying on top of your studying/outlining/flash cards/ or you should spend this weekend drafting a "study plan" that you are comfortable with so that you can get started on preparing and still leave yourself some free relaxation time to recover a bit over Thanksgiving weekend. I have been procrastinating as usual, but I do have my "study plan" for this semester ready to go, I'm posting my schedule for my Evidence material since that is my first exam of the exam period:

Nov 5- Nov 7: Outline Relevance (Rules 401-404)
Nov 8 and 9: Outline Character Evidence (Rules 406-412)
Nov 12-15: Outline Hearsay and Exceptions (Rules in the 600's)
Nov 19 and 20: Outline Expert Witnesses and Testimony (Rules 701-704)
Nov 27-19: Review outline, make changes, and add material from class lectures on Nov 20 and Nov 27.

You'll notice that I have scheduled nothing on the weekends (this is to preserve my sanity) and that I have taken a break for the entire thanksgiving period.

Good luck to everyone as you start getting ready for finals!!!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

choosing classes

november has rolled around. that means it's almost time to pick classes for next semester.

these musings pertain a little less to the 1Ls now than it does to the 2Ls and 3Ls, but it's good for you 1Ls to have this in your mind when spring comes and you get to sign up for your 2L classes. my advice boils down to one simple principle:

don't take bar classes for the sake of taking bar classes.

there's a reason that almost everyone takes a bar prep course: specifically, to become familiar with the topics and questions on the bar in a way that will prepare you to pass the bar. even if a law school class covers a topic that is on your state bar, the professor probably does not teach it in a way that is useful for the test, and the class is not going to focus on the specific law in your jurisdiction, the law that you're going to have to know for your state bar. in fact, a recent study has shown that there's no statistically significant correlation for most students between how many "bar classes" they take and if they pass.1 leave your bar exam worries until after graduation, while you are actually taking your bar course--the only thing you'll ever take that's targeted at passing that test.

there's an even more important reason not to take bar classes for the sake of bar classes--your sanity. remember: if you sign up for a class, you are stuck with it for an entire semester. do you want to be stuck taking corporations for an entire semester if you don't plan on taking corporate law, just for the sake of a test a year and a half in the future, for which you're going to have to learn the topic all over again right before the test? probably not. you'll be much happier taking classes because the subject matter looks interesting, or because they are being taught by professors you enjoy working with.

law school is frustrating enough sometimes, whether you are taking classes you like or classes you don't like. any class you take will demand a significant amount of your time. make all that time you spend doing schoolwork as pleasant as possible: let your interests and passions guide your course selection instead of letting a cut-and-dried list of bar topics guide it.

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1 according to the study, there was a weak but statistically significant correlation between taking bar classes and passing the bar for students in the third quartile of their classes. there was not a statistically significant correlation for students in the first, second, or fourth quartiles of their classes.