Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Crash on the 1L job hunt

We introduced our anonymous 1L, Crash McAvoy, here.  We've heard about Crash's first-week experience, his fear of a fundamental misunderstanding, and how Joseph Glannon is heroic.  This week Crash provides perspective on other aspects of the 1L experience:

Just when I thought I might be starting to get a handle on law school-- a much needed fall break had allowed me to strike a balance between preparing for class, participating in extra-curricular activities, and maintaining some semblance of a social life-- a couple new factors were added to the mix.  My professors have recently started making constant references to approaching exams, and the law school administration has been flooding me and my classmates with information about the summer job search.  So much for my attempt to “just focus on learning the law.”

I suppose that, because exams are only two months away, it makes sense that my professors have finally stopped acting like they are never going to happen. It is the point in the semester where it seems necessary to start looking back and seeing things as a developing whole.  Even thinking about exam preparation makes me a little nervous, but as I understand the material better on a day-to-day basis, I begin to think that maybe I am ready to start working on application and integration.  This same cautious optimism, however, does not extend to the other new item on the to-do list: the summer job search.  I do not feel at all ready to start planning, months before my first legal evaluation of any kind, for my debut into the legal profession.

The first time I truly felt the difference between getting a liberal arts education and attending professional school was the day I opened my email inbox and saw nearly the entire first page was full of messages from career services.  Initially, I could not believe they would send so many emails in such a short time, but now I can't help but think that it was appropriate. The flood of career information seemed overwhelming and poorly timed; after a week of attempting to navigate the process, I can say that is exactly how the one L job search feels. 

Part of the difficulty is that I, like most of my peers, feel stretched for time and pulled in too many different directions; the fact that my first practice exams were distributed the same week that job search panels began significantly compounded the difficulty of trying to figure out  what the best use of my time is.  I realize, ultimately, I am attending law school to get a job, so I definitely don't want to short-change the search. However, in the long run, my grades will presumably play a large role in determining what my job options are.  Without having recieved a single grade in law school so far, I have no sense of whether the amount and way I am studying is preparing me to succeed.  It seems nearly impossible to make any estimate about the marginal benefits of using my time in a particular way;  the lack of information I have this first semester has left me feeling completely unable to maximize the utility of my time. The more things I have to schedule in, the more frustrating that becomes.

The other difficulty I am experiencing is how disconnected my law school experience thus far seems from this upcoming job search.  I feel this disconnect on a number of different levels.  The first is that I am no closer than when I started to being able to answer the first question every non law student I meet asks:  "what kind of law do you want to practice?"  Other than the fact that on the worst days of Civ Pro I feel sure I want to do transactional law, it seems my first semester of professional school has done very little to prepare me to make an informed choice about taking the first step of my professional career. While I am sure I now probably have more knowledge about the philosophical underpinnings of procedural due process than the average American, I am not sure I understand much better what it means to be a lawyer.  Even Civil Procedure, which I expected to be the most practical part of my first semester education, has provided me with only a minimal sense of what a trial lawyer-- let alone a typical lawyer—does.

I'm certainly not criticizing the classes I’ve taken or the method of instruction; I have enjoyed them, learned a lot, and I am far from qualified to comment on how they will serve me in the future.  However, it does seems somehow ironic that I am being pulled away in the middle of a semester full of theorizing to attend to the supremely practical matter of ensuring employment. I think that holding off this flood of  information about the  job search process, at least until I have had an opportunity to apply the knowledge I've gained to an exam question, would make the apparent disconnect easier to deal with. Also helpful, and perhaps more realistic, would be hearing from a professor how what has interested us about a particular class might point in one career direction or another.

The ad-hoc strategy I have developed for now is to think of the career search as a factor completely unrelated to my classes; I’m just studying for my classes as I have been and looking for jobs that somehow seem interesting to me independent of anything I have learned in law school.  Still, I hope that, at some point, my professional education and my chosen profession won't seem like such distinct entities.   ~Crash

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