BY MARK WEBER
Without becoming too philosophical, as law students, you must regularly examine your motives for joining and staying in the profession. Your reasons for practicing 15 years after graduation are likely to be far different from those when you submitted your law school applications. I can assure you that you will fare well in the job market. I say that with confidence and scores of statistics to support it. Despite this knowledge that you will have ultimate success in the job market, the job search can be a stressful experience.
For the first time in your life, there is no prescribed path to follow on the short-term horizon. The segments of education from kindergarten through the end of law school are discrete, predictable and in some sense easily understood. Now the great adventure begins. You don’t know how long a career may last, what changes it will take, what will be achieved and what will be sacrificed. Simply stated, you don’t have all the answers. The responsibility is yours to evaluate the options and reach an informed decision. Although this is new territory, it need not be alien. If you listen to your heart and mind, if you engage in a process of self-evaluation, and if you are willing to concede freely of your mistakes and imperfections, professional success will be considerably easier to achieve.
When you graduated from college, it was relatively easy to pick the top 10 or 15 law schools in the country. There is no such list of employers for practicing lawyers. The good news is that there are many extraordinary employers in cities large and small throughout the country. It would be the height of arrogance to concoct a list of the “best,” although some legal journals purport to do that. No one can decide for you what is the best route. You have to make that decision, be secure with it when it is made, but not reluctant to reappraise it from time to time. There are no grades in life and no Law Review to which to aspire. Instead, you make the assessment of what is important and you must also assess how well you are meeting your own standards.
You, not someone else, will have to decide many of the following tough issues:
– Where do I want to live?
– How hard do I want to work?
– Which comes first – job or family?
– Does my ambition or my ego require a certain level of prominence or prestige?
– Will I feel happier in a small firm, a large one, or does it matter at all?
– What is more important prestige and income or family and time?
– How important is community service and serving the less fortunate?
On issues of city, firm size, practice orientation and economics, determine what is important to you and why. Acknowledge that your interests will evolve, conflict and confuse you from time to time – and that they may be entirely different from those of your best friends or from what is “hot” this year. But don’t be passive and allow a firm to dictate what should be of interest to you.
This is a very complex time emotionally and psychologically and you should not be concerned if all of this seems both confusing and a bit overwhelming. The good news is that when all is said and done it is difficult to make a mistake.
Welcome back. We are delighted to be here, and on behalf of the Career Services Staff, we look forward to working with you and helping you achieve your field of dreams.
[Mark Weber is the Director of the Office of Career Services.]