Going to work: make a plan and work it

In this market, you have two career exploration options:

  1. Repeat “there are no jobs” 100 times each morning and fret yourself into a frenzy, or
  2. Make a plan and work your plan.

With all of the blogification about employment statistics and the shrunken job market, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that many, many law students get jobs. Driving yourself into the crossroads of Anxiety Alley and Despair Drive will take all of the energy that might have created a reality-based job and successful search.

Make a plan. Work the Plan.

If you know what you want to do, read everything about the subject or career path and begin to talk (yes, talk on the telephone or face-to-face) to the people who do the work. You should be reading current cases, blogs (both law professors’ and practitioners’ blogs), course syllabi from the best professors in the country, the latest news in the industries that are affected by this topic, and everything else that you can get your hands on. You should participate (not just join) professional organizations and the relevant sections or groups.

Take as your Role Model a patent lawyer of my acquaintance who has briefed every patent court case that has come down since he was a law student. He shares this information with his colleagues and is respected for his dedication, breadth of knowledge, and commitment to his work.

If you don’t know what you want to do, pick three topics or career paths and systematically do the tasks listed above. If you find something you hate, ditch it. When you find something that you like, ditch the other two.

What will happen if you don’t make a plan?

  • You may fall into employment. You will be relying on luck and gravity.
  • Because you cannot outsource gathering this knowledge, you may graduate with no job.
  • Should you be lucky enough to get an interview, your reply to “Why do you want to do this work?” will be shallow and lacking in substance. The difference between a candidate with a substantive body of knowledge that he has taken time and trouble to acquire and the person who replies "I liked the class," is a paycheck.
  • Should you graduate with no job, you will then have to begin the tasks outlined above. Instead of operating from the safe space of law school as an engaged and therefore interesting law student who is curious about practice, you will be an unemployed grad scrambling for a foothold in a difficult market.

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