Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A few more law student e-mails, reacting to the previous ones I posted:

Post #12

I'm a 3L, at a top tier law school in California. But I did not do the Big Firm Job last summer, instead I did public interest work. So now, I have to find an actual job, that pays, for after graduation. And this isn't fun. I think I've got a few things working against me: I'm not top 10% or anything special. I'm just top half. Because first year and I did not get along. Second, my school is not especially well known. ...

Back to my job search:
I've sent out 116 clerkship applications. So far, a couple of polite rejections, and a few "thanks for your application, we'll be in touch." Now I'm no idiot, I didn't expect the phone to be ringing off the hook, but I thought maybe one or two would get me a call. I applied to the middle of effing nowhere. Who else wants to be a clerk in those places?

I also am applying for multiple fellowships. The pay is jack but at least I'd be doing something interesting and relevant and hopefully, for the common good. It will be months before I hear anything.

I am currently working on the law firm application process. I had one interview last week and it went pretty well. Smallish firm, so I don't know how soon to expect a callback or letter of rejection. I'm now trying to decide where else to focus my energies. The big name firms pay a lot but require too many hours. Plus most of them do absolutely nothing which interests me. Not even stuff I could fake an interest in. And small firms aren't even thinking about hiring yet, if at all. And I wonder, not only which firms should I be applying to, but should I apply to other states? ... Do I want to sit for multiple bar exams?

The whole thing is incredibly frustrating. I came to law school thinking that even if I decided I did not want to be a lawyer, that other doors would be open to me. I just wish I could figure out what those other doors are, and when they might be open.

On a lighter note, I also find the pay at law firms to be truly hilarious. $100K? To me? I'm 24! I am not worth $100K. I am sorry, but I'm not. The very numbers which law firms toss around are so ludicrous as to be hysterical. In what other profession would we pay entry-level positions $100K or more? Lawyers do not come out of law school with all that much professional training. We sat in a classroom for three years. Sure we did some clinics or we externed or we took trial practice, but nothing really prepares us for what working is like, and then they pay us like we're actually capable of doing stuff? So funny. I hope I get a law firm job just so I can laugh at my paycheck every month (and then cry at the size of my loan payments every month).

Post #13

I'd like to respond to the comments made by the Australian law students and offer my 2 cents on the issues they raised.

As a preface, I did the much hyped "summer clerkship" at a BigLaw firm last year, and I'm now in my final year at law school. So I have "been there, done that" so to speak. I raise this because some of the following comments will be made with the comfort that I have secured some kind of graduate employment, and therefore some of the following comments may biased and more downplayed than if I had not completed a summer clerkship and was desperately searching for a job right now.

In any case:

I understand that people act competitive but really the competitiveness is ridiculous. This is the case because the summer clerk programme is GROSSLY over exaggerated as the be all and end all of your legal career. To put it in perspective, treat the summer clerk programme like the HSC (high school exit exam). It's all a means to an end. The HSC gives you a Universities Admission Index (UAI), which gets you into a degree. It doesn't paint the whole of your future career. I didn't get the requisite UAI to get into the "prestigious" law school in the beginning, I transferred in. Similarly, if you don't initially get into a BigLaw firm through the summer clerkship process, there are other avenues of entry. Just like how today no one cares about what UAI you got and it's all about what you have achieved since you got into university, likewise in a few years time no one will care whether you got into the firm through the summer clerkship or graduate recruitment or lateral transfer - it will be about what you have contributed to the firm up to that point.

Yes most large firms in Sydney receive 1000+ applications for a maximum of 30-45 positions. But understand that those 1000 people are the same people applying to all of the law firms. So really there are around 200+ spots open for around 1000+ applicants. Not 40 for 1000. Just try to relax.

Forget about the HR person making mental notes thing. By and large, the only bad impression you can make is if you act like a snobby wanker and disregard everyone else to suck up to the nearest partner. People can smell it a mile away and nobody likes it. Just be natural and friendly - there is no reason to snub a friend in order to try to articulate some discreet aspect of stamp duty law with a partner. In fact the more you talk about law (which you don't know much about compared to the partner) the more you expose your lack of knowledge. Your point that if you spend the night talking to friends "then you will be seen as socially maladjusted and not sufficiently interested in long-term career prospects at Firm" is highly fanciful - you are over analysing the crap out of the situation! Unless you are turning up to a small firm cocktail party where there are less than 50 people, chances are you will just be another pretty face.

You say that "this is IT; this is crunch-time". Whilst that may be true to some extent, my advice is to not believe all the hype. This is IT for you? Maybe if you want to spend the rest of your life using every waking moment working in a top tier law firm then this MAY be IT. It's great that you are so motivated and you sound like the type of person who will be the model summer clerk candidate, but for your own sake try to adopt a broader life view, otherwise you will end up as Anonymous Lawyer.

"If I don't get a job at one of the large firms I don't know what I'll do when I graduate." That is exactly what the big firms con you into thinking. They call it "churn and burn". Be proud of yourself and what you are as a person, and remember that they want and need good people like you as much as you want and need big firms like them. It's really a two-way street.

Well that's my advice for now. Good luck guys and I hope to see you around the traps this summer!