October 7, 2004

Musings for those that follow

In the last few crazy weeks, I've been collecting useful tidbits to hand out to 1Ls and future law school students who will find themselves in the madness that is law school, and in particular, 2L fall OCI.

OCI isn't complete, the jury is still out on whether I will quit my journal, and really, I don't have enough information on how this will all turn out to actually be qualified to give advice. But that does not stop me.

So, if you'd like my perspective from the middle of the fall of 2L storm, here goes:

1. Moot court is an amazing experience. I've committed more time and effort to my moot court competition than any other experience in law school thus far, including any single final exam during 1L. From this effort, I've gained amazing insight into effective legal writing (multiple employers have commented that moot court briefs translate very easily into motion writing), oral advocacy, the value and difficulty of team work, and lawyering in general. To date, moot court has been the most instructive and rewarding law school experience I've had. I'm also not convinced I'll do it again. At my school, this is blasphemy. To be awarded a spot on a team is a sought-after privilege. The true honor comes with the additional responsibility that the veterans are offered in their 3L year. That I'm not dying for the opportunity makes me an oddity. Of course, I haven't gone on the trip, which apparently is the holy grail. Perhaps after competing I'll be addicted just like the other members of the cult. Only time will tell, but from here, it seems that the amazing rewards of this experience will be diminished because I'll have reaped the majority of the benefits the first time around.

2. Don't go straight through from undergrad to law school. Take time off from school. Get a job. Learn a bit about the real world. Enjoy being young, with an income, and able to have fun with other young professionals. Figure out your interests and do something in that area. Then, and only then, go to law school. I can't tell you how much more pleasant my job search has been because I know what I want to do and how much I'm willing to take from an employer. I don't envy the people who have no idea of their interests, their limits, and their value. Not to mention the fact that a background in the field where you wish to practice goes quite a long way in the interview process. No way would I be experiencing the diversity of options that I've got at the moment if I hadn't put in time in the real world that is valuable and useful to law firms who need lawyers that understand where their clients are coming from. My grades matter less because my resume speaks for my ability. Given the competitive and random nature of law school grades, there's no reason not to earn some credibility in the real world which is much more of a meritocracy than law school finals.

3. The corollary to #2 is: journals aren't as useful to people who have a career before law school. The amount of time they require, when compared to the line on the resume, is completely and totally out of whack. Not a single OCI interviewer or call back interviewer has asked me about my journal. My only concern with quitting is clerkships. I fear that if I want to clerk, I have to tough it out. But maybe I don't want to clerk. Or maybe I only want to clerk for a judge that will take me despite my lack of a journal. Or maybe I'm just tired...

4. If you have a technical degree and think you may want to practice somewhere in the field of IP, take the patent bar before OCI, if at all possible. You'll be thrilled that you did. Furthermore, fitting in time to study and take the exam while working as an attorney is next to impossible. I've worked with mid-level patent attorneys who don't have a USPTO registration number because they don't have the time to attain one. They regret their lack of foresight.

5. Interviewing is all about how much they like you. Be confident and friendly. Don't let your concerns about your credentials, grades, or anything else affect the way you interact with these people--it's too late at this point, so let it go. Again and again, I've heard, "Honestly, the work is the same between all firms in the same region and echelon. If you got the screening interview, you're smart enough to handle the work. And everyone in our bracket does work for the same companies. What differentiates us from them is our people." Yup. That's it. It's all the same type and quality of work. The big deal is, you're going to have to spend tons of time with the same people day-in and day-out. Are you going to like them? Are they going to like you? So be yourself, be nice, and relax.

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