Mar 29, 2013
The Bar Exam Is Just the First Step to Launching Your Legal Career
by Lee Burgess
Whether you are waiting for results or getting ready to take the July bar exam, passing the bar exam is just the first step to launching your legal career.
Gone are the days when law school graduates walked across the stage with a diploma in one hand and an offer letter in the other. Of course, this still happens to some law students, but as employment numbers dwindle, does that mean you won’t be able to launch your career and practice law?
I hope not, and I don’t think so. But this is a new world out there and you need to start thinking strategically about how you are going to launch your legal career. The bar exam is the first step (as often jobs won’t hire you until you have a license). But even after you have taken that bar exam (and are painfully waiting for results) you have the opportunity to move your career forward so you are ready when that bar card is in your hand.
While you are waiting for bar results, be actively working on your career. There are a number of things that you can do to further your career while you are waiting for bar results.
Get your learn on! I believe that the practice of law is a career where you are constantly learning. While you are waiting for your bar exam results, you should take that opportunity to keep learning. What do I mean? Here are a few ideas:
- Attend workshops or trainings at your local bar association. I just got a newsletter from my local bar association in San Francisco and it was full of learning opportunities. You can also meet people with similar interests, which may help you land a job in the future. It is a win-win situation.
- You can take the courses offered on Solo Practice University. One of the great things about SPU is that you can experiment and learn about lots of different things from the comfort of your own home! And if you decide you want to learn something else, you can just take another course. How easy is that!
Have lots of coffee dates. If you are looking to launch your legal career, you need to talk to people about it. You need to e-mail people you know (or ask for contacts in specific practice areas if you don’t know anyone) and start inviting people to coffee. If they can’t have coffee, perhaps you can chat on the phone. But you need to meet people and get your name out there. You need to ask questions so you can learn more about different career paths. And you need to ask for help! You may be surprised how willing someone is to help, if you just ask.
Attend helpful conferences. I attend quite a few conferences and I always end up meeting interesting people and making friends. Conferences give you the opportunity to hear speakers you may find inspiring, meet like-minded attorneys, and sometimes even have a bit of fun. (Warning, here comes a shameless plug.) We hope you will consider joining us on April 13, 2013, in San Francisco for Catapult 2013 – Tools for a 21st Century Legal Career. Susan Cartier Liebel of Solo Practice University will be speaking as well as many others and it is going to be a fantastic event.
Get involved in your community. In my “free” time, I am the president of the board of directors of a nonprofit called GirlVentures. GirlVentures has nothing to do with the law; however getting involved in a cause that I care about (leadership programs for young women in the Bay Area) has allowed me to meet wonderful people who have helped me further my career. I have learned so many things from volunteering with GirlVentures, things that make me a better businessperson and lawyer. Even if you want to volunteer with an organization completely unrelated to the law, you can still be helping yourself launch your career. (I have been writing a series for Ms. JD on how volunteering can be great for your career if you would like to learn more.)
Remember, you never know when you will make a connection that will launch your legal career. I don’t know about you, but my life would look very different if I didn’t embrace a variety of opportunities. You have to put yourself out there to make yourself available for good things to happen. And as the economy and job market continue to be rocky, relationships are more important than ever. So if your mentor at your job invites you to a lunch, you should go. If a friend asks you to go to a bar association event with her, you should go. You just never know when you will meet someone who may become an ally, a friend, or even a great business connection.
I know that waiting for bar results in a challenging time. But you have plenty of opportunities to continue moving forward in your career—even while you wait.