Networking and Nincompoopery

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September 17, 2012 by williamsjustliving

I read a recent post on a blog that shall remain nameless. The post claimed to give advice to 1Ls on how to have a successful first year. Unfortunately, the post did nothing of the sort. It was the sort of post written by someone who stressed out over law school and believes/wants every law student to do the same.

I’m a person who stressed out over law school, spun my wheels, and got stuck in the mud. I’ve had wonderfully triumphant moments and terribly discouraging moments. I do not, however, believe that every law student has to be stressed to the bone in order to do law school successfully. Without further ado, here are some thoughts about a successful law school year.

1. It’s a weed out system. I know that’s messed up, but it’s true. Law school prides itself on being a sifter that separates the potential lawyers from everyone else. It’s a weed out system. Know that, embrace it, but refuse to be ruled by it. If it wasn’t a weed out system, explain why you are assigned 50 to 100 pages of reading a night. Bad advice will tell you that you have to be the highest in your class that you can possibly be. I do think grades are important, but there are other equally important parts of a lawyer’s skill box: writing, speaking, practical experience.

2. You know that random lawyer you met who is a partner at Big Firm, LLP? Let’s be honest. She may not remember you. Even though you gave her your card. Even though you took her card and sent her an e-mail. Networking is not a magical skill that will unlock the doors to jobs and riches. Bad advice will tell you that you should be at some random meet-n-greet every week. Good luck with that. I’m going to go on a bit about this one, because networking is the one that sticks in my craw.

Networking is not the most important thing you can do to secure yourself a job. If you are just going out to meet people in the hopes of landing a job, I honestly believe that you have missed the point. Human beings crave connection and relationships. Believe it or not, lawyers are human, too šŸ™‚ Personally, I don’t look for opportunities. I look for relationships,Ā camaraderieĀ and collegiality. I look for ways that I can truly connect to a person.

3. Professionalism does not mean you have to be stiff. Professionalism is more about your character than your clothing. Your law school colleagues may not remember that Oscar de la Renta suit you own, but they will remember if you cheated, if you were rude, if you tore pages out of library books, if you gossiped too much, or if you didn’t do good work.

4. You need to find a balance between preparation and sanity. Good luck with trying to read every case every night. You’ll be tired, crazy, annoyed, and annoying. Sometimes you need to close the book, cut your losses, and go to bed. If you get embarrassed in class for not being prepared….well, I’ve beenĀ embarrassedĀ in class on occasions when I WAS prepared AND when I WASN’T. Get yourself some case summary supplements and black letter law outlines.

5. You should not be constantly worried about finding a job. What will worry get you? Nothing. Yes, the economy is bad. Yes, Big Firm, LLP has cut back (severely) on the number of new attorney hires every year. You get the once in a lifetime opportunity of cutting your own path. The sky is literally the limit right now. JDs are branching out into human resources, mediation, politics, insurance, and numerous other positions. The box is no longer there, so you might as well think outside of it.

What other kinds of bad law school advice have you been given?

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