Three-point checklist for 3Ls

3ls framedThis three-point checklist for 3Ls is a working document for students who have yet to find their career paths. Its theme is Waste no time.

Between now and graduation, you have a huge block of time. Don’t waste it. You may have lost your zest for outlining, and your 1L study group pals are busy with journals, moot courts, clinics, job searches, and pre-graduation frolics. Don’t become a couch potato unless you expect employment from Couch Potatoes International. You have to get up and do what needs to be done.

1.  While applying for jobs, answer these questions out loud.

“Why do I want to be a lawyer?” and “Why do I want this job for which I have just sent an application?” Answer the questions out loud. Practice. Think. Practice. Think.

The clearer you are about the answers to these questions, the more comfortable you will be in formal and informal interviews. “Informal interviews” cover the conversations you have at bars, gyms, grocery stores, movie lines, and at your parents’ dinner table.

2. If you are still haven’t decided what you want to do, try these exercises:

a.      Go to or and use advanced-search mode with and without “JD/lawyer” as search terms. Carefully review the results. Let your imagination fuel your search terms. Find something that’s interesting to you and explore it. You cannot outsource this task.

b.     What would you be doing had you not come to law school? Are you still interested? Find out how you might use legal training to do that work. Explore adding law to the toolbox that runs that job.

c.      Have you taken traditional assessment tests? (Myers-Briggs, Strong-Campbell, etc.) Get some career assessment testing through your law career office or your undergraduate school. No test will reveal a concrete result (“You should be a firefighter”), but you may get important clues that will serve you well. The tests may give you some things to think about. Think. Explore.

d.     What was your favorite class in law school? Do you like it enough to try to forge a career from it? Talk to law career services professionals. Do not be discouraged when faculty and others say “There is no job for you in this town fighting human trafficking.”

Example: Human Trafficking

                                               i.     You can find human trafficking and and its Evil Twin, domestic violence, it in every city and county in America.

                                             ii.     You can hone your fighting human trafficking skills while using the tools that fight domestic violence, which, mercifully, remains illegal in this country.

                                            iii.     Take the Watergate-Era’s Deep Throat’s best advice to heart (“Follow the money”), and seek funding for work that looks like fighting human trafficking and domestic violence from a variety of public and private sources. Use your imagination. Brainstorm with others. Do not sit this one out.

e.      Why did you decide to come to law school? Review your reason (look at your personal statement ), and consider how (if at all) you have changed. You know much more about law and law as a tool for problem solving than you did when you took the LSAT. How much better prepared are you to pursue your original goals?

3.   Telepathy is not a job search tool.

You have to get out of your couch potato comfort zone and talk (yes, talk on the phone or in person) to people who have the jobs that you want. Ask smart questions.

  • Avoid the #1 Dumb Time-waster Slacker Question: “What is a typical day like?” Answer: “Every day is different. Why are you wasting my time? Get out of my office.”
  •  Ask questions that get to the heart of reasons for doing a job: the challenges (personnel, budget, time-management), the emotional toll (public defenders’ good result is less jail time; family lawyers’ milieu is constant conflict); the things that keep lawyers up at night; the things that keep them coming back to the work.
  • Read everything you can about the work that you want to do. Explore it. Examine it. Change your mind. Find a new goal and start again.

Get started. Waste no time.

About susangainen

Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian. Abstract Painter. Writer. Teacher. Explorer.
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