October 04, 2016

I GOT INTO LAW SCHOOL! WHAT’S NEXT?

I GOT INTO LAW SCHOOL! WHAT’S NEXT?

The 1L Year

Four years of college with a good GPA and a degree in a discipline that challenged you? Check. Took the LSAT and scored well? Check. Got into law school and about to start your 1L year? Check. What should you do now to secure employment in the law after graduation?

Study hard and do well in your classes.
Future employers consider law school performance when making hiring decisions, so your GPA in law school and any honors that you earn will be a critical. The better you do, the more attractive a job candidate you will be. Further, while you will be very limited in the courses you can choose as a 1L (the first year curriculum is pretty much the same at every law school: contracts, torts, real property, federal civil procedure, criminal law, constitutional law and a research and writing seminar), if you have an option to take an elective, choose something that is practical and also of interest to you.

If you are having trouble with your studies, reach out to your professors and other resources at your law school; that is what they are there for. Law school is very different from college or any other course of study that you have undertaken before. Above all, you are being taught to think differently. You are learning how to how to analyze problems and come up with solutions using the subject matter you have learned. Many law schools give each new student a faculty advisor whose purpose is to help you succeed during your time in law school; take advantage of this valuable resource.  Also, join a study group with your classmates; working as a group allows you to share the experience of learning and support each other through the tough times that every law student faces.

Finally, try to find a mentor or two. It can be a lawyer you know or a professor you are taking a course from.  Ask them questions about what you are facing and seek their advice on how to continue to succeed. Use all the tools at your disposal to do the best that you can in your classes.

Start networking. 
Networking is the process of building a group of who you know. Try to meet representatives of as many possible employers as you can using all tools at your disposal. There are many ways to network! Follow up with family and friends to find out which lawyers or employers in the field of law they know and who they can introduce you to. These are people who want to help you succeed.

Get involved with local, state, and federal bar associations, Inns of Court, and trade groups involving the law both directly and through your law school (many of these organizations have law student groups). These types of organizations have websites from which you can learn what they are about and what resources they offer. If one of these groups is holding a meeting near you, attend it. Many of these events will have deeply discounted registration fees for law students.  Attending a meeting or event is a great way to meet large numbers of lawyers at one time and get involved in the law through volunteering to help with projects that these organizations undertake. Make sure you have business cards made with all of your contact information on them, and hand them out to individuals you meet. After attending a meeting or event, follow up with the people you made contact with. A personal e-mail or letter works best unless the individual says it is okay to follow-up with a call.

Also, use social media to network. LinkedIn, Avvo, and other business related social media networks are a great way to reach out. Alumni associations are helpful as well. Whatever networking tool you choose, stay consistent with it.

Use the network you have developed, and other tools like blogs and websites, to look for a job in the law for the summer after your 1L year. 
Finding employment upon graduation builds on employment you undertake while attending school. Different experiences are fine (including unpaid positions if that is all that is available). The more you learn, and the more people you meet and work with, the easier it will be to find future positions.

To do this, you will need an updated résumé, a good cover letter, and a good writing sample. Your cover letter and résumé are usually your first (and sometimes only) interaction with a prospective employer. You have to highlight your skills and experience and also make yourself unique. Possible employers review literally thousands of résumés and cover letters and yours has to stand out so you make the initial cut. Work with the career planning and placement office at your law school for tips and advice and run your drafts past your 1L writing instructors and others.

As for your writing sample, choose something that you worked on in your 1L writing seminar. Make sure you polish it, taking into account any comments you received from your professor or instructor and proofread it closely. You want a final product you are proud of. Be prepared to distribute it before any interviews or at the interview itself and be very familiar with it as you may be required.

These are just some tips and are not exclusive. Find a methodology that works for you.

Author: Merrick L. “Rick” GrossShareholder
Carlton Fields
Miami Tower, Suite 4200
100 S.E. 2nd Street
Miami, FL 33131

ABA Section of Litigation Leadership – Member of Council
Co-Chair, Membership & Marketing Committee