Transitioning From Student To Legal Professional


We’ve reached the season in the year when thousands of new JDs are embarking on careers as legal professionals.  There is a transition period between law school and legal practice.   No more exams or papers for grades.  Now, the papers are submitted to courts for paying clients.  No more student organizations.  Now, support can be sought from professional associations and organizations dedicated to specific areas of interest.   Nevertheless, there are several social skills acquired while in law school that will prove particularly beneficial during this time period. 

Dedication to learning

Learning new things doesn’t end with the completion of law school.  No matter the field of employment, there will be new things that learned along the way.  The daily routines of a new office must be understood.  Procedures for proper filings, court processes, and client dealings must be managed. Changes in the law and the work of legal scholars must be followed.   The same dedication that was shown to learning during law school must be maintained- not only during the transition into practice but throughout.

Time management

It is very important to sharpen the time management skills that helped in balancing classes, exams, and searching for a job.   Procrastination and cramming may have proven successful during law school; however, these characteristics are highly undesirable to clients and employers.  Managing deadlines and prioritizing responsibilities is essential.   It is also important to try to maintain a work/life balance.  Make time for family, friends, and some sort of regular exercise routine.  Managing your time by creating schedules and plans in advance will prevent things from falling through the cracks thus reducing unnecessary stress and frustration.

Networking and building relationships

During the transition from law school to legal practice professional relationships provide a huge source of support.  It is important to build relationships with others in your practice area, areas that may be of interest to you, and colleagues working in environments different from that of your own (large firm/solo practitioner, private/government).  No one can be successful while working in a bubble with a complete lack of awareness about how things work from the other side.  Networking and building relationships with a cross-section of legal professionals helps to develop a well- rounded view of the profession.  It also creates a community to reach out to when seeking advice or new employment opportunities.

Continue to utilize the career services office

Career Services Offices (CSO) are a continuing resource for grads whether employed or not.  They provide support for current students and alums.  For those who are still seeking employment after graduation, continue to utilize the resources available during your job search.  Maintain relationships with staff so that they will have you in mind as opportunities become available.  Search your CSO job postings and utilize their fax machines, telephones, and video conferencing services, if available.  For those who are employed, maintaining relationships with your CSO can also prove to be beneficial.  They can assist you as you network and help to build relationships by connecting you with alumni in your practice area or geographical region.  They can also introduce you to exciting new employee prospects if you are recruiting for your firm/organization.

Transitioning from law student to legal professional requires some adjustments.  Nevertheless, as a future legal professional, you are already equipped with some basic skills, learned in law school, which will help you successfully navigate through this transition period.