I know I’ll regret saying this later, but I’m pretty excited summer’s just about over. August means cooler weather, the beautiful New England foliage is just weeks away and college football season is about to kick-off (Go Big Red!). More importantly, I’m so excited to start my last year of law school. It’ll be great to go back to a routine, visit again with school friends who have been busy researching, writing, wining and dining at their summer jobs, and begin planning the rest of my life as a (hopefully) budding lawyer.
As I begin my 3rd year of this incredible journey, many new law students will just be getting started. Unfortunately, the law student experience is not as comforting or exciting as it used to be. With the high (and growing) unemployment rate, job prospects for law students are not the greatest. But that doesn’t mean going to law school is a bad idea. We’re a smart, problem-solving, critical-thinking bunch. For those willing to go beyond the everyday law student experience and take a bold and innovative approach, the opportunities are out there.
Shifting the Way We Approach Our Legal Education
For the fresh bunch of hopeful lawyers entering this three-year journey (or labyrinth, depending on your view), I thought I’d share my first-hand perspective on starting out in law school.
I will say this now but won’t dwell on it: grades are really important. Your first priority is your coursework and the grades that go with it. In this difficult legal market, employers of all shapes and sizes are looking for quick ways to sort through piles of applicants. For better or worse, GPA and class rank are the first things they all look at.
But Don’t Forget Everything Else
You can’t stop with grades. Far too many 1Ls seem to make that mistake. I’ve learned that legal education does not stop on the last page of Calamari and Perillo on Contracts. Reading a case and communicating the facts, holding and reasoning to someone a million times smarter than you is great, but it has little application in legal practice.
Involvement and Initiative: Thriving in Today’s Legal Market
My humble advice? This resonated with me in undergrad when I first heard it, and still rings true today: Engage. Connect. Balance.
Get involved with your school and community through extracurricular activities, internships and practical opportunities. Network with your law school’s alumni and area attorneys to develop mentors and future colleagues.Balance your time and priorities. Spend time not only hitting the books, but also developing the practical legal skills that will make you a more effective advocate right away. If you really want to stand out, work to demonstrate that you have the practical experience to dive right in once you land a job.
Develop and demonstrate your leadership, teamwork and time-management skills by becoming a leader in student and community organizations. Hone your skills by joining a moot court team or participating in other competitions, like mock trial practice, where you regularly have to stand up in front of peers, professors, law practitioners or judges. Continually work on your legal research and writing skills by joining a journal or law review, or finding legal internships or clerkships during the academic year to supplement your coursework.
The best way to show employers you’re ready to be a lawyer is to start doing the things that lawyers do every day: lead, collaborate, advocate, research, write, multi-task and budget your time.
You Only Law Once
So for all the incoming ILs planning to bury your face in the books for the next three years of your life, think bigger and better. In closing, I’ll leave you with my own spin on a phrase all of us have heard too many times: YOLO. You Only Law Once.
(images CC via Flickr courtesy of : Nietnagel and Fahim Fadzlishah)
Author Bio: Sammy Nabulsi is a third-year law student at Suffolk University Law School and is currently a Legal Marketing and Interaction Intern for Mootus.com, a forum that helps law students and lawyers at all levels build reputation and knowledge through competitive, collaborative legal argument.