The “3L Summer”: What Do I Do Now That Law School Is Over?
By Professor Emeritus Laurence M. Rose
Director of the Litigation Skills Program
University of Miami School of Law
Graduation has passed, and the “3L Summer” has begun. That time of your legal career that you have looked forward to for so long has arrived, but with it comes a dread of the bar exam and the realization that there is no spring break in the real world that will soon begin. But you have to have a plan. Here are a few thoughts on how to develop that plan.
First things first: Study for the bar exam. This means that the next step in your legal career must be to pass the bar exam. But don’t just study; treat your studying as if you were working at your new position. Devote your full time to the study. Schedule your day as if you were going to work, and study in a location that is not your residence. If you were at work, you would devote your efforts to the assigned tasks, so do the same for your studying. At work, you might ask a question of a more experienced lawyer, so do the same with your studies; ask questions of a person who passed the bar (or your law school’s bar exam guru), get their advice on the studying, subjects, tricks, etc. Study in a group, just as if you were working and asking questions at your job; for some areas you will be the teacher, for others the student, but both experiences will enhance your abilities. Also make sure that the logistics of taking the bar are planned. Review and review again the bar prep materials. Cram the information into study guides and pages that are continually refined and edited until you get to the one or two pages you might read just before you walk into the test location. For the four to six weeks before the exam, you will devote 60 hours per week to studying, but you must also decompress each day with a distracting event: a run, a movie, music, or meditation. Visualize the feeling you will have when the exam is over.
And when the exam is over, take a few days off. Enjoy the time to relax and renew the acquaintances you neglected while you were studying. Stifle the urge to think about negative results, for if you did your work right, they will not occur.
When your two-day vacation is over, begin with earnest the next phase of your legal education, for now you are in control of that process. No longer will you be fed a daily diet of legal information and techniques by a person whose job it was to “educate” you. Now the education you will get will be “self-directed,” supplemented by others who might be telling you the ins and outs of how you must/should do it at the workplace. But substantive legal education and skill development is what you will control. The best way to begin that lifelong process, and to assist in developing a long-term approach to career enjoyment and identity is to identify three to five goals you wish to reach in the first one to two years of your legal career, and determine the three to four steps necessary to reach each of these goals. As you begin this process, discuss with your mentor the feasibility and realistic chances of success of these goals and steps, and refine them when necessary. When you report to work, discuss these goals and steps with you supervisor to make sure that the foundation of the attorney-supervisor-firm mentor process is clear and agreed to. In other words, now is the time for you to begin learning how to “supervise upward” and insure that you will give your supervisor a clear expectation of what will make you a happy lawyer.
But for some of you, the end of the bar exam means the return to the job search process. Start with the recognition that most lawyers are inefficient planners and really don’t know what they need until they need it. This means that once they are back from summer vacations, and the Labor Day weekend, they will return to a desk piled high with work that needs to be done “yesterday” and no time to do it. In anticipation of that possibility, use your network to advise the small firm and solos in your area that you can be available on a moment’s notice and that you are “ready, willing, able, and excited” about diving into any work that they might have for you. This will put your name on their desk, that same desk that has all the work on it that had to be done “yesterday”.
The “3L Summer” is an important bridge between the days of being a law school student and a continuing studier of the law. But it can also be an important time to continue your professional identity development. In this regard, I also urge you to use the resources that your ABA Section of Litigation student membership provides as you can continue that membership after your “recent grad” period ends. It will be a great resource for you as you follow through on your legal career and we, at the Section, look forward to assisting you in that goal.