Starting to Plan for Success in Law School and Beyond
I am often asked by those starting out their law school careers as first years about the keys to succeeding. What activities should they do? What jobs should they apply for in the next summer? What advice would I give on studying for exams?
Boy, a book that gave the answers to those questions would be a great best seller (in the legal community). As young lawyers, we know that there is no single roadmap to success in law school and beyond. There are not specific classes you absolutely must take, specific activities you must do or a specific job that you need your first summer out.
Instead, what I tell law students is that the absolute key is just taking your studies seriously from the onset. Law school and, subsequently, your legal career, is really a series of steps. The early steps are crucial because, for better or worse, they often dictate what doors are open to you.
I was a mediocre undergraduate student so I was determined to give much more effort in law school. From doing the readings (with highlighting and margin notes) every day to reviewing my notes after classes to forming some outlines, I was pulling out all the stops. I was fortunately able to succeed in the initial step by receiving good first semester grades. Those grades helped enable me to obtain a good (paying) first summer job as a research assistant for a professor. Then, good overall first year grades along with the research assistant job and qualifying for a law journal helped land me numerous interviews during second year interviewing season and led to a summer associate position in a firm. The summer associate position then led to a permanent position, and here I am, ten years later, in the same office in the same firm. So essentially, what I did in the first two semesters and that first summer helped lead me to a long standing job in a firm.
Of course, by no means is the failure to be in the top of the class after you first two semesters fatal to your legal career. For those who want to work in big law firms, I certainly know my share of folks who had average law school grades, started off in smaller jobs, worked hard and then made their way to big firms. For those who have other aspirations, such as public interest jobs, you can find opportunities in spite of less than law review grades. So there are many ways of finding success.
But it certainly helps to start early with good grades . . .