Now that You’re a 1L… 4 Tips for Engaging with Career Services in Law School

Congratulations; you made it to law school! Your hard work as an undergraduate, studying for the LSAT and preparing law school applications has paid off. As you embark upon what will hopefully be a fulfilling journey, consider that you have two jobs while in your first year of law school.

Your first responsibility this year, and one that is surely self-evident, is to do your best academically. You’ve achieved a certain level of success thus far, which is part of the reason you’ve been accepted to law school. But the reality is that ALL of your classmates are in the same position. You may have to modify your study habits to accommodate the rigors of the 1L academic curriculum.

Experiment with various strategies to ensure you are prepared for classwork and exams. Prospective employers care greatly about your 1L grades, so it is in your interest to do as well as you can.

Your second job as a 1L may be less intuitive but is equally important: Begin to craft and execute your career development strategy. Reflect on and research your interests, and network with upperclassmen, professors and practitioners who can inform and advise you.

Take advantage of the career services resources at your disposal. Here are four tips to get engaged with the career office at your school.

1. Explore Online Resources

Your career services office likely hosts a wealth of information on your law school’s website, including information about employment statistics, practice areas, programs and services and other helpful resources. Peruse the website to learn more about your interests and where to find information you may need down the road. In all likelihood, you will have access to password- protected sections of the website in which you can delve further. You will learn quickly how to navigate Symplicity- the number one online career services manager used by law schools- that, among other things, enables you to upload materials and view customized information relating to your individual career development path.

2. Attend Programs and Workshops

You will likely hear about many exciting programs and workshops as soon as school begins. The nature of the programs hosted by the career office varies from school to school, but you will undoubtedly be apprised of a variety of programs of interest, including introductions to practice areas, job fairs, targeted programming for government or public sector employment opportunities and workshops for self-assessments, mock interviews and written application material development. Attend as many of these programs and workshops as you can without compromising your attention to your studies. Active participation will strengthen your skills and help you to refine your career objectives.

3. Build a Relationship with a Career Counselor

According to guidelines adopted by the National Association of Legal Professionals (NALP), to which all ABA-accredited law schools subscribe, law schools cannot provide one-on-one career counseling or application document reviews to 1Ls prior to October 15. (See Part V; D). Sometime after October 15 (or later, if your particular school has set a later date), go to the career services office and meet the counselors on staff. As the semester progresses, you will hopefully develop a good rapport with at least one counselor. Build on that rapport and develop a relationship so that the counselor of your choice becomes a trusted advisor to you throughout your law school career.

4. Prepare or Update Application Materials

Once you feel comfortable with a career counselor, seek guidance about updating your resume and drafting a strong cover letter. The career services office may also have a standard review process for application materials, if you prefer that approach. Consult website resources for sample resumes and cover letters to review while you solidify your own materials. Note that NALP guidelines provide that 1Ls cannot send out resumes to prospective employers until December 1.

Study hard, and remember that career services resources and staff are there for you in abundance. To make the most of your law school experience, take advantage of all your school has to offer.

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