Law student in search of advice

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  1. #1 Feb 20, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2010
    Dear TPFers,

    I don't know what to do! I am a first year in law school who in first semester made the terrible mistake of not being completely paranoid about the economy and poor job prospects and is fully making up for it now. I have to raise my grades dramatically in order to contemplate having job offers at OCI, and I just don't know what happens to second years and third years who do not have job offers.

    I can't expect to get an position through OCI because of grades, and I don't know how smaller firm hiring works. Could any attorneys and second and third years please advise?

    Another thing is, I would love to work for the government after graduation, either in a regulatory agency or as a prosecutor, but I also want to experience firm work. I heard that the private to public transition works tends to a lot more successful than public to private. Is that true from your experiences? The impression I get is that firm work after graduation provides a great training place for new attorneys, many of whom after two to four years move on to other work.

    My school is ranked in the top ten in the nation, but even here rumor has it only 60 to 70% of second years have managed to obtain summer internships (and I don't know if that's just in firms or including public interest and government work).

    I would so greatly appreciate any advice and mentorship, thanks!
  2. #2 Feb 20, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2010
    Hey! First, congrats on surviving the first semester and all the stress that comes with it. :smile:

    Couple of ideas:
    1. Check with your school's career placement office for two reasons:
    (a) In some schools in the T14, grades don't necessarily bar you from OCI. So still get your resume in shape and talk to the counselors about what other students in your position have and can do. A counselor who is somewhat competent will be able to steer you toward firms / government agencies that will interview a person without perfect grades.

    (b) Sometimes, the office will have listings for smaller firms that don't do OCI. Also, get involved in organizations within your school that are 2L and 3L heavy - it doesn't matter what they're for, anything from environmental law to law student running groups - the goal is to meet people that you can get to know and exchange info with. These are the also the people you'll be leveraging for job opening info 5 years from now. They can tell you who to hit up for jobs.

    2. Small/Medium firms: usually have listings when they want to hire, rather than on a yearly cycle. Check listings with your school office, local bar journal, online job board (usually through your school and any other local/geographically desireable law school job postings board) starting now and continuously throughout the year and send your resume in. If you know of a particular firm or two that you really want to work for, do some research on them, send a letter or call and let them know that you're very interested in them, you read about their work on ____/talked to so-and-so who worked there (only if you really did!) / and so on, and ask if they're hiring. If they're not, ask if you can forward your resume or, if its your speed, if you could take them to lunch and pick their brain. Be somewhat aggressive, esp if you are looking at anything involving litigation, but always be polite and friendly and "sharp" with your presentation.

    3. Government: Can you look into internships for this summer that are, say, in smaller towns around your area (local D.A.) that there won't be as much competition for? Most aren't full time, so you'll be able to get another job (legal or non - if it's non-legal, leave it off your resume) to pay the bills if you need to. And it will be invaluable for (a) getting your foot in the door, and (b) meeting the people you need to help you get your foot in the door elsewhere. I'd start asking at the career services office, then ask professors who teach something along those lines (administrative law) if they have any recommendations, etc.

    Definitely work on getting your grades up. There is still time. The big firms won't look at your 2nd year grades, and the medium firms won't look at your third year grades. It sounds like the small firms will ask for your final GPA primarily. Small litigation and some medium firms will look for moot court experience. You can NEVER go wrong with law review experience, so if you have to give up showering and eating to grade on or write on to a legitigate law review journal, it will really help your job search and feel so worth it. (Oddly, after you've practiced a year or so, no one cares at all anymore, LOL!) Big firms will look for editorial experience with your law review, so once you're on, give it priority and try to get to know your editors.

    I'd also try to narrow down the area of government you're looking at... if it's DOJ, what I would do personally is find a professor who has work history with that agency or something close in his credentials and either talk to her/him directly or, if that's now how things are done at that school, find a student group he/she oversees and join it, or get to know one of his S.A.'s and have them introduce me - not only can that person give you the inside scoop on how to get in and what its like, but they can put you in touch with the right person and save you a lot of time. This method worked for me a couple of times. Make it your goal to know everyone and be on good-and-respectful terms with everyone by the time you graduate - the worse your grades are, the more you need this. And if a professor has a career that you really want, take their classes and apply for any S.A. openings they have. Give that situation priority while using it to get to know as many other faculty (on good terms - no Animal House, LOL!) as possible. Treat law school like the first year of your new legal career - because it is!! It's not college, its job screening.

    Finally, law school really can feel like a three-year panic attack sometimes. Just remember, it WILL all work out okay. You'll survive and, once that confusing first year of post-graduation is over, you'll thrive. It will sharpen your mind and make you appreciate real life outside of law school even more. (I'd just try to keep any student loans down and its all completely salvageable!). And hey, if you can survive law school, you can survive anything! Feel free to PM me if you have any questions, need to vent, or want a pep talk, LOL! Good luck!!! :smile:
  3. IMHO, if I were you, I would log off tPF and head straight to the University's career office. Set up informational interviews with alumni.

    They will know best, what are the conditions of the economy in your city and for people from your law school.
  4. Wow...this makes me super depressed...

    I'm currently in the middle of getting my acceptance and rejection letters from the law schools I applied to. If students in the top ten schools are having trouble, I can't imagine how hard it is for everyone else...
  5. In my experience, smaller firms will look at grades too, although they're not the only thing they look at. Larger firms are very grade/journal focused.

    Most private criminal defense attorneys start off as either ADA/ASA or public defenders. To do litgation work, you need litgation experience. In this economy, a lot of firms aren't going to spend money training you, they're going to hire someone who has already been trained - an ASA or a PD. If you want to be a prosecutor, you can probably be one out of law school. Do a CLI. If you can't find a job, do it over the summer, otherwise, do it during the school year.
  6. Thanks everyone for your advice! I feel better having shared and knowing not all hope is lost. I had been putting off meeting with my career counselor to talk about future jobs because the last thing I want to hear is "graduating with a job offer will be highly unlikely for you" or something similar a friend at another school supposedly heard from her career counselor. I'll risk it and hopefully she'll be a lot more helpful and competent, though the most straightforward advice would be to get much better grades this semester!

    I'll definitely work on the networking. For some reason, though my career office has hosted a couple panels on interviews and given us packets with sample resumes and coverletters, they have been absolutely silent about Bar Association networking events. I didn't even know such things existed until a friend from another school told me about them. I'll definitely check those out.

    DiorDeVille: were you looking for - working at - the DOJ? The DOJ sounds absolutely amazing, and incredibly hard to get a job in post-graduation, especially in the two districts of/near where I'm from. I currently have offers from county district attorney offices, and I have a strong interest in becoming a prosecutor. I want to make the DOJ my goal - unfortunately, the rumor is that they do not like to hire ADAs and most AUSAs have clerking and biglaw experience, or were on law review at HYS and entered right after graduation (my school's law review requires top-something grades, so secondary journal is it for me).

    At this point, every 2L or 3L i know is either headed for a great biglaw firm or jobless. There is no one I can consult, among my peers, about landing a job with a smaller firm. My goal right now is to improve my grades this semester, so that I can make a semi-respectable candidate at OCI and vastly improve my interviewing skills. The law school does not have a GPA cut-off for OCI and in fact does not allow firms to ask for certain GPA ranges. I will bid very conservatively :P

    Xlana: which law schools are you thinking of? Don't be so worried though...I have friends who are much better off than me at schools with worse placement rates because they knew the importance of first year grades and did very well (currently 2Ls). It is all about grades!
  7. I think this might just be because big firms are the only employers who tell you that you have a job with them 1+ year before you actually start. Don't get me wrong, it's a scary year. I'm a 2L now and a lot of my friends didn't have jobs until the past week or two, but quite a few got offers (for the summer, anyway, but that's all you can ask for in non-profit/government) from DOJ and other federal agencies. Small firm hiring doesn't start until later in the year anyway, so you can try your luck with OCI and see how that goes first.

    I was also going to suggest what you sound like you're actually already doing: stop freaking out (I know, easier said than done) about next August and start focusing on what you can do now. Try to get your grades up and try to pick a job this summer that will give you something interesting to talk about during interviews. Also, don't give up trying to get on law review. It's not do-or-die, but it will help a lot. As far as I know, no t14 school has a grade-on only policy--every school has at least a write-on or composite category, so if you really try your hardest during your school's writing competition you might still be able to get in. I know at least one person whose GPA is in the bottom 50% of the class who got on law review, came off as intelligent/informed about a specific area of law they wanted to do during OCI, and still managed to get one offer (which is really all you need).

    Good luck!
  8. I have a question...well several actually...

    What exactly are the terms you guys are talking about? I figured 2L and 3L meant 2nd and 3rd years, but what is OCI? I'm a soon to be law school student this coming fall, and I would just like to be somewhat informed of these terms. They seem very important. Also, are your first year grades the most important out the 3 years? Does it basically make or break you? Is it really true that getting stellar grades at a lower ranked school is just as good as doing average at a higher ranked school? Do law firms not put as must emphasis on the title of the school?

    Sorry for all these questions, but they'll be very important when making my decision on which school I will attend. Thanks in advance.
  9. #9 Feb 22, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2010
    ^ The name and ranking of the school you attend can be extremely important if, say, you're deciding between a tier 1 school and a tier 3 school. Tier 1 all the way. Once you get below tier 1, your school name will likely be effective in landing the first job regionally only (unless you're top 5 in your class or so), so if both of your schools are, say, tier 2's, then pick based on the location where you'd like to work post-graduation.

    Also look at price unless your tuition is paid for. If the school is $25K a semester, and another school (maybe a little less desireable) is $10K a semester, and they're both the same tier and you don't really have a location preference, I'd ALWAYS go with the school that is lower-priced. It DOES make a huge difference in your post-graduation life and choices.

    OCI = on-campus interviews.

    First year grades are most important at most schools. However, in the past, if you attended a top 14 school (T14), grades paled in importance and you were practically guaranteed a good job and good summer placements through OCI. That was a huge help when I was in school, but I'm hearing bad news these days so I wouldn't count on that if I were you. The lower your school is ranked, the more important your grades are. If you are going to a Tier 3 or 4 school, you will need to be top 10% or higher to have a lot of options job-wise.
  10. #10 Feb 22, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2010
    OP, I actually did a brief stint with IRS and got that through intentional networking and taking classes from the three professors who were best situated to help with the areas of law that I was most interested in: tax, corporate and litigation. They set me up with people they had worked with, did a letter of recommendation, got me in for an interview and I had something great for the ol' resume. So I highly recommend that. It's all who you know, even in law school (but grades are extremely important as well).

    I don't know your specifics or those of your area/school, so I'd highly recommend figuring out which prof has a similar background career to what you'd like to have (their online bios at the school site are great for this), read a few of their publications, and take a class that they're teaching. ONce you're in the class, network and ace the material, and get to know the professor, let them know what you want (its great that your future goals are well-defined at this point!!!) and see if they can give you advice. Many will offer to put you in touch with others that they know in the area. I think its the best and easiest method if you're not one of the top-3 graders in your section/class.
  11. I agree with all this, but just wanted to add from the perspective of someone who just went through recruiting at a t14: I imagine that nowadays, if you are at a Tier 3 or 4 school, your grades probably need to be a LOT higher than the top 10% of your class to have options.
  12. #12 Feb 22, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2010
    ^^^Probably true. :yes: Disclaimer: all of my advice is based on a recruiting experience that occurred prior to the economic downturn, so ...

    Yes, yes, yes. And if they say something and you're left wondering how to go about it exactly, ask! For example if this happens:
    Counselor: check our alumni directory and give them a call about an information interview.
    OP (thinking): (What in the world do I say?)
    OP: Do you have any suggestions for the best way to go about that? How would you word the phone call? Any recommendations on the time of day or any particular person that you think would be best to start with off the top of your head? (Run any potential wording you can think of by them here, if they don't jump in and suggest something).

    Being a litigator is about learning how and when to be pushy. No better time for that than now! Go for what you want - be aggressive, but polite - other attorneys can respect someone with drive and ambition. Also, remember, any informational interview is a time that the attorney isn't billing for (in some cases), so pay for their lunch or send them a thank you note.
  13. Oh! those mythical days when admissions into my law school guaranteed successful summer placements. Thanks everyone for your suggestions - I'll definitely contact the private sector career services office and ask about what to do. And "What in the world do I say/do" is exactly what I wonder when career services informational sessions tell us to be aggressive and network.

    Xlana: Lilian and DiorDeVille have a lot more experience with law schools and job offers than I do. My impression is that the tip-top students of lower ranked law schools who transferred here did well during OCI because they have great grades and now have a better school name attached to their resume. As Lilian and DiorDeVille wrote, it depends on the difference in caliber between schools. Also, I can't rmr if anyone talked about this at length - if you want to practice in a non-major metropolitan region - and by that i just mean, not New York, DC, Los Angeles, maybe San Francisco and Chicago - you might want to consider the best regional school rather than a better school out of state (that's not in the top 14). A few of my friends who are from the Midwest or the South who wanted to find a position in a small or mid-sized firm in their home state/town were rejected because the regional firms wanted to see a continued connection to the area. Seriously, people who've grown up in the same town were rejected because they moved out for law school. It's understandable the firms did not want to make an offer to someone who would just turn them down for a major city, but still...

    The silly thing is, I've loved my interactions with the public sector office (about summer internships) and I don't even aspire to work in the private sector forever, but it seems that law schools have given the job of practical training of future lawyers to firms and that's where one must start out in order to have flexibility in future career pursuits.
  14. #14 Feb 23, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
    Maybe. In FL, with job experience, you could probably get a government job. As for firms... if you're in a state with no highly ranked law schools, it doesn't matter that much - provided you don't want to leave the state and work for a large to mid-sized firm.

    I graduated a non- T14 law school about 2 years ago. Everyone I know in my class found jobs, but most of us (although certainly not all) stayed in state we graduated in. I was lucky enough to have 2 offers waiting for me when I took the bar, but a lot of my classmates had to search for a few months. Many became APDs or ASAs, others work for small to mid-sized firms. I have a few friends in "BigLaw" from law school(which wasn't an option for me - I did get a few interviews, but I always lost out to someone w/better grades or someone from a better school) - two already quit.
  15. Thanks for all the great info guys!

    Other than taking ranking into consideration, I am also taking the school's bar passage rate into consideration too. Of course this may be skewed because of course the top schools will have better bar passage rates because all the people who go there are just really smart to begin with. But I have seen schools lower in rank (especially New York, one of the hardest bars) with higher bar passage rates than higher ranked schools (in other states). I can definitely get into a tier 1 school, I've already gotten into a T100 school, and I haven't even heard from most of my schools that I applied to yet.

    How easy is it to transfer from a lower ranked school to a higher ranked school? I'm talking grade wise, do you have to be a straight A student? I am thinking about going to a lower tier school (because I can't get into T14 as of right now) and then transferring into one of my dream schools. How plausible is this? Have you known many people who've done this? Do you pretty much have to decide your first semester whether or not you want to do it? I would assume this is the case. And if you've been rejected from this school before that you're transferring to, does that have a negative impact on your transfer? Oh gosh, sorry for the million and a half questions guys...