When I applied to law school, I was an Arts student looking to continue my education and find an alternative to pursuing graduate studies in Psychology. I was interested in policy and justice issues and thought a law degree would lead me to either a distinguished law career fighting injustice, or be a strong precursor for an alternative career in a related field. As a typical high achiever, I also wanted to choose a career that would make my family and community proud. This self-imposed pressure to succeed led me to law school.
What’s wrong with this approach, you ask? While I was interested in the study of law, and thought I would enjoy law school, I did not research what type of legal career would best fit with my personality, passions, and lifestyle. I am not advocating figuring out your life plan before applying to law school; however, it is a good idea to do some research about the type of careers available with a law degree and how your passions, skills and lifestyle needs match up with those careers. Of course your needs and career direction will change over time, but having a better idea of the path you are on, will only lead to more directive learning in law school, and a less frustrating job search following.
My suggestions are as follows:
- Network, network, network. Speak to different types of lawyers who practice in diverse areas and in diverse companies. There are lawyers in private practice (sole practitioners, small, medium and large size firms), in house counsel, government, and academia to name a few.
- If you are thinking of alternative careers in law, research what possibilities exist and what education and experience you need to break into those areas.
- Make a list of your passions and be honest with yourself about what type of work you are good at and enjoy doing. For example, do you enjoy engaging in conflict and being an advocate? Do you prefer reading documents, research and advising clients?
- Match up your interests with the information you learn from networking. This should be a written exercise, as putting it down on paper will help you with focus and follow through.
Following the above steps may seem obvious, but engaging in this exercise may be the best way to help direct your studies in law school, volunteer work, and finally your legal career. Once you know what you want, you need to do everything in your power to get there. All your hard work will also help you with the application process, as you prepare personal statements for law school admission. There are so many paths that the study of law can take you on, maneuvering these diverse areas can assist you in your legal journey.