More readers respond, about law firm job offers:
It's September and I'm about a month removed from the bar exam (I took New York) and I'm currently job hunting. Its been a disaster so far. Now a month of job hunting might seem like nothing, but its not really a month, its more like 3 years of continuous job searching. After the first semester of law school, your "job" at law school is really to find a job once you're out of law school. I think I did everything right. Although my school isn't great, its a respectable 2nd tier school, with (I think) great professors, mostly hailing from the Ivies. I was an editor on a journal, I published two notes, I did a total of 5 internships throughout law school, I joined student associations, I participated in events, got decent grades, and I'm jobless. What's incredibly frustrating is that the OCS at my school, and many other schools (from what I hear), all seems to focus their efforts at finding work for the top 10% of the class. Hello!! they don't need your help! I do. And stop telling me to go to Bar Association meetings. I've been and they're pointless.
Another thing, it absolutely kills me when I hear people complain about having an offer from a top firm but they're somehow struggling with it. What?! If you can't justify selling your soul to a law firm then don't, nobody is pointing a gun to your head and chances are if you got the offer, then you at least look good enough on paper to get a lower paying job, where your soul will remain intact. But please stop whining about it, at least you will be able to pay the bills next month.
As an Australian law student, my experiences are not directly transferable to a US context - for example, we don't have the same ranking of law schools (at least, certainly not in such a regimented and recognised manner, though of course some law schools are more prestigious than others). But there are some universal truths, I think.
If you are someone who is never satisfied with your achievements, getting a job at a Big Law firm will not help. I know, because I am one of those people. I have accepted an offer with the law firm that I wanted to go to, and I'm delighted that they wanted me - but the euphoria and feeling of invincibility lasts maybe two days. In the long term, it doesn't really help to validate me in my own eyes. If you accept an offer, do so because that's where you want to go - not because you think that it will suddenly make you feel that you're a smarter, more successful, better person than you were before. It won't.
Even though I went into the process with my eyes open and I made my choice happily and easily, that doesn't mean I'm not scared. Scared that I will change so much in the process and become a carbon copy of the Anonymous Lawyer, ending up divorced at the age of 45 because I never saw my family... scared that I will get on the treadmill and find that I can't get off... scared that I will not fit in with everyone else... scared that I will fit in and become the sort of person who cares about whether I'm wearing Armani and driving a BMW convertible... scared that I will not be able to handle it all and be sacked within the year. I did a clerkship at the firm that I am going to, and chose it in the end because I liked the people that I worked with, I liked the culture, and I liked the reputation that the firm had. But now that I've accepted, I read stories about it in the newspaper or hear stories about what it's really like from people at the firm, and I'm scared that I've made the wrong decision.
But you can't be paralysed by your fears, and ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that whatever choice you make, we do not live in a gulag. You have the ability to shift careers, to protect your integrity, to be the person you want to be. Sure, it may mean making sacrifices - if you decide to drop out and change careers, you may earn less; you may be unemployed for awhile; you may need to return to university. That's why I plan to live below my means and keep saving up - I hope I never reach a stage where I feel like I can't change jobs because I have to have designer clothing and a new car every year, and lots of meals out at expensive restaurants.
I am a law student [in Australia, and I'd like to respond to the post from yesterday.]
First of all, people are acting competitive because, like it or not, clerkships are a highly competitive process, Most of the large firms in Sydney receive about 1000 applications for a maximum of 40 or 45 positions. The fact that some of your friends would rather talk to partners than their friends at law firm functions doesn't mean that they have suddenly turned into evil and heartless clerkship monsters and are now "pushing good people away." It simply reflects the fact that the reason we are at these functions is to meet the people who work at the firm and to find out about the firm and what it might be like to work there. It also reflects the fact that there is probably an HR person busily walking round the room taking mental notes and if you spend the entire "cocktail party" (ie torturous contrived social event) taking to your friend in a corner -- while others talk to the partners that have made the effort to leave their desks for an hour and come down to grace us with their company -- then you will be seen as socially maladjusted and not sufficiently interested in long-term career prospects at Firm -- goodbye clerkship!
I know the type of stereotypical "Law Students" that you refer to who hide library books (they also like to rip articles out of law journals; an act of sabotage that is no longer as effective as it once was now that most law journals are available on the net!) But I don't think it's fair to put people who are taking this clerkship process seriously into the same category. We are not sabotaging anyone else's success, we aren't lying or cheating, we are just trying to make the most of an opportunity that most of us have worked hard for throughout year 12 (the last year of school in Australia) and 4 years of Uni. It's great that you are so blasé about clerkships and graduate jobs and all of that but you have to understand that for many of us (I'd say most of us actually) this is IT; this is crunch-time, this may be our only chance to go out and get what we have been striving for.
I don't think that caring about "money, jobs and exam results" makes you a bad or immoral person, or that caring about those things means you don't care about friendship or about other people; they are not mutually exclusive priorities. I'm sorry you feel you need to "insulate yourself" from the crazed savages you seem to think your fellow law students have become.
Speaking for myself, practicing law is the only career I ever wanted. I worked hard to get into a good law school, I worked hard to get good marks and to maintain the extracurricular activities and other "CV bling" that marks out the "all-rounder" firms look for. So now that clerkships have rolled round I do feel like it's make or break time. Unlike students whose other degree is a practical one like Commerce or Science, I as an Arts student (I don't know what the US equivalent for that is, but it's basically a humanities degree) don't feel I have many alternatives. If I don't get a job at one of the large firms I don't know what I'll do when I graduate.
Yes this whole process is competitive and torturous and fake ("what distinguishes Firm from all the other top tier firms?" all partners invariably say as they cue the power-point for their presentation "it's the CULTURE, the PEOPLE...) and perhaps even dehumanizing but that's the way it is and I don't think those who recognize it for what it is and try to make the most of it are thereby losing sight of the important things in life or becoming corrupted (that'll come later... once we're working... :-))