From now to finals: strategies for Smart 1Ls

Before November 15

  1. Introduce yourself to your career services professional. Understand that this is not the meeting in which you will be handed a job. This meeting is like a first, tentative blind date, except you will need to tell the truth about your goals and ambitions, and be forthright about how much effort you are willing to put into a job search.
  2. Write a resume and have it reviewed. A resume is retrospective and you will have multiple versions.
    • "The Everything Resume" which includes every job you have ever held. You will need the information on this resume to complete your bar application. 
    • One or more additional well-edited resumes that you tailor for every job application or every category of employer.
  3. Don't write a complete cover letter until you are applying for a specific job.
  4. Commit to a Winter Break Networking Project. (See below) 

Between November 16 and the end of finals: 

Study. Get your outlines into tip-top shape. Get yourself into tip-top shape. Exercise. Eat from the four real food groups, not “sugar, fat, salt, and caffeine.”

Thanksgiving Dinner Project

Your loved ones are worried about you, your schedule, your job search, and your new-found ability to turn every conversation into a law school exam question.

Although you will have to explain over and over, and again and again, reassure them that you are doing all of the studying that you need to do, and that you cannot engage in a full-tilt job search until after finals. You should also add that historically, lots of jobs are posted in April and – believe it or not – the employers will want to interview during spring finals. Why? Because they have work that needs to be done, and they are no longer on school schedules and don't keep track of exam schedules.

That said, if you are applying to employers with December 1 deadlines, print the letters, resumes, and address labels, and enlist your loved ones in stuffing them (before the dinner begins and everyone has sticky fingers.) If you are lucky, your loved ones will spring for the postage.

Friends, Family, and Connections Strategy

Although NALP and ABA rules preclude you from applying for jobs before December 1, you may have a cadre of friends and family who are eager to help you. You are allowed to talk to people who are already known to you. Some may be lawyers, others may not, but they all either like you or your parents and want to help. Some will be deeply hurt if you don't ask for help. Be prepared to provide a resume and an elevator speech with meaningful specifics about your interests and goals. Do not say “I want a job, any job,” because it is unhelpful to the person who would otherwise be delighted to assist you. Never make it hard for someone to help you.

After finals.

Take a real break for a few days. You will need to decompress, and your loved ones will not appreciate hearing about the Case of the Thorns all the time.

Winter Break Networking Project

After a few months of law school, it’s time to talk to lawyers in their natural habitats. Seek out alumni, friends, family, friends of friends, and make appointments. Some lawyers are crazy busy at the end of the year; others will have plenty of time to talk to you. 

You will ask for a short meeting, saying that after a semester of law school you would like a debriefing, and you have some questions about what they do based on what you are beginning to learn.

Be prepared to ask meaningful specific questions about what these lawyers do every day, where their clients come from, what their challenges are, and what they wish they had learned in law school. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about what lawyers do every day.

Wear a suit.

Related posts:
Interview Practice & Protocol (checklist)
Talking to Lawyers (includes questions to ask in a networking interview)
1L Job Search: Manage the Marathon, Not the Sprint
4 Rules to Manage the First Year
4x4: 4 Exam Tips and 4 Winter Break Guidelines 
4-Part Year-Round Interview Prep Plan


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