Coming of Age In A New Economy
The Sprint To The Finish
by Jack Whittington, JD Candidate 2011
Every world class sprinter will tell you that the race is won the moment the sprinter comes out of the block. Getting off to solid start is crucial in winning the race. Most liken law school to a marathon, which is true, but once you hit the last semester of your law school career it becomes a sprint to the finish. With graduation around the corner we have to make the most of the remaining time to position ourselves for success upon graduation. My graduation is right around the corner and I’m sprinting!
As I noted in my December post, ‘Getting Your Networking Game On’, it’s important to know what type of law you want to practice and where you want to practice. This will help focus your career search with much more precision than a scattershot approach. Plan for what you want to get what you want. Now that you have an idea of what you want to do and where you want to go now is the time to put that plan in motion, not May. For example, if you know you want to be a civil litigator you should try earnestly to land an internship/externship early in the semester with a civil litigator. It may be difficult to find a position at this stage, but it’s important to try, offer to volunteer, or work with clinics, or offer to do research for a particular professor you like in your subject area. Any experience you can gain during this stage is crucial. This will give you hands on experience in the field you want to practice in. This will be a great selling point in job interviews. The ability to demonstrate technical knowledge about your chosen field could be the difference between landing THE job and being turned away.
At this point it is equally important to start putting together a list of firms that interest you. Sending out a few emails with a cover letter and resume is not enough. Odds are you will need to send out a large amount of emails (especially if you are looking to gain employment in a city other than where you attend law school). Once you compile a list make sure you take the time to individualize your cover letters to the specific firm you are targeting. Show them that you took the time to learn about their firm and understand what that firm has to offer. This adds to your chances of a return email or a callback. The more interest you show, the more interest is reciprocated in those instances where you are contacted. The career search in this economy is unkind to say the least. So do not lose heart if you receive no return contact from the many emails you send out to would be employers. The important thing is to get your name out there and you never know when an opportunity could arise months down the road.
As always it is important to keep networking. By now you should have contacts that you feel reasonably comfortable with seeking out to ask advice or for leads in the job market. Reach out to those contacts and make good use of them. Many positions get filled through word-of-mouth recommendations. Offer to meet with your contacts for lunch or coffee to consult with them on ways you can enhance your career search. Do not be afraid to reach out to those around you, most of them are more than willing to help you succeed at your goals, but first you must be clear about what your goals are. Give your contacts very specific information so they can be more targeted in their help.
On a final note, keep your grades in mind. Many students mentally check out during the last semester of school. If your rank or g.p.a. is not as high as you would like it to be – now is the time to make up a lot of ground. While grades are not the end-all be-all they once were they are still relevant to employers. Many employers in bigger law firms limit their job pool to students who are in the top ten percent of their class. I have also noticed that some medium sized law firms have limited their job search to those in the top half of their class. No matter how impressive your accomplishments are outside of the classroom it is very difficult to explain away a poor g.p.a to a potential employer. Do not neglect your grades your last semester. This is a great opportunity to move up in your class and position yourself better in the career search process.
Graduation may seem like a lifetime away but it will be here before we know it. Get a good start in January so you don’t have to worry in May about putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Whether it’s a sprint or the career search process, those most prepared are the ones who wind up with the most satisfactory results.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.