It has been weeks since I took my final 1L exam. This summer, as I converse with judges, travel with district attorneys, and prepare for trial, it has finally sunk in – I am one-third of the way to becoming an attorney. Over the past year, from doing callback interviews in Washington, D.C., to completing hundreds of hours of pro bono work, I have learned much about law school. So, here are the five things I wish someone would have told me on day one.
Tip 5: Get Involved
In law school, your social life is also your professional life. Your student colleagues today will be your professional colleagues tomorrow. So, get involved in clubs, sports, pro bono work – and get to know others. The 3L you grab drinks with one afternoon might be interviewing you in two years.
Tip 4: Find Mentors
Career counselors can help you prepare your resume over Christmas. Professors can explain how the curve works. 2Ls and 3Ls can send you outlines at 1:00 am. Find mentors and ask questions.
Tip 3: Don’t Forget About Home
During your job search, look close to home. Your neighbors are judges and attorneys. Legal employers consider geography in hiring: Do you have ties to the community, or are you just passing through until another job opens up elsewhere? When looking for jobs, those who shop at the same Wal-Mart as you are more likely to hire you over others whose first time in your town is the day of their interview.
Tip 2: Binge on Netflix
There is life outside of law school. Go out on a Thursday, binge on Netflix, watch a game at your favorite bar. Work/life balance is crucial. Your health shouldn’t suffer because of Marbury v. Madison. Take law school seriously – but don’t forget about yourself in the process.
Tip 1: Know Thyself
Know what you want out of life and how you work best. If you dream of opening up your own practice, then do that, even if everyone else is heading to a big New York firm. Achieve your goals, not others’ goals. Also, know what works for you. If you study best in your apartment, then do that, even if everyone else studies in the library. We all work differently and want different things. Don’t just mimic others. Law school is a vehicle, but you are the driver. You decide the route and the destination.
Conclusion: Have a Notecard
Ultimately, you will question yourself many times your 1L year – what type of law to practice, where to practice, what classes to take. You can lose yourself in it. As our dean instructed us during orientation, before starting class, write down why you are going to law school on a notecard. Let this be your anchor. When you start doubting coming to law school, considering dropping out, or feeling overwhelmed, read your notecard. It sounds silly – but it worked for me.