Law Career Planning

I believe that like many professions, the practice of law is a calling, of sorts.  The last time I took the LSAT (yes, more than once) I understood immediately that it was not my calling; I won’t bore you with the details.  If it happens to be your calling, know that getting a job as a lawyer is very different from getting into law school.  You should begin the search for the right position on the day you get accepted into law school.

From that point on, your objective is the job in which you see yourself when you think to yourself, “I’m the attorney I always wanted to be.”

To establish my street cred on this matter, human resources professionals spend time with—and, from time to time, money on—attorneys; it comes with the HR territory.  Depending on how your company conducts its business, in HR you meet and work with a lot of lawyers, some on your side, some on the other.  Some work for regulatory agencies and some work for firms, some work for unions, and some for insurance companies.  Wherever there are people, there are legal conflicts to be resolved, and that is what lawyers do.  I hired them, retained them, called them at home in emergencies, and spent my share of time at negotiating tables and in caucus rooms.  So I have been a client of many firms and many lawyers, and . . .

Street cred continued: I am married to my own talented lawyer.  And here is what I know:

Understanding early in your education how the lawyer you become in your mind’s eye makes a living is key to realizing your vision of your future.  If you wait until you are applying for internships, reacting to suggestions by your career services team, or wishing you had studied harder or partied less, all the wrong things and all the wrong people will influence you. You will be swayed to view your calling as a job.

Besides the very real need to be educated in the law itself is the very real need to understand how you will serve clients, get paid, and get better at what you choose to do.  Your reputation in the profession is extraordinarily important in all three of these areas.  Your ability to blend your own priorities with those of your employer, partners, associates, and clients is crucial.  This is what will sustain you.

Most importantly, if you wish to be really good at what you do, you should like it a lot.  That is less a function of the practice of law itself (which takes a great many forms) than it is a function of being skilled at making the clients you want to serve happy with the service you provide.

So you have to get good at a.) choosing the client you want to serve, and b.) serving your chosen client as well as he or she expects, or better, and c.) effectively and with suitable integrity, promoting your ability to do both of the foregoing.

This is different from writing well, presenting a good argument, organizing your evidence, researching case law, and speaking clearly and with conviction, although without being able to do those things, you may not get far.  But you might, and that is the point.  Before you take too many steps, think about the way in which you plan to integrate content with commerce, because both are important.

Next time: Planning your law career

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