Being Okay with Your Choices – Law School Edition

Choices

Please welcome back Gabriella Martin, 2L guest writer, who offers some great insight on how to make sure your law school choices are right for you, even if they don’t follow a traditional path. 

A new Spring semester brings with it the stress of finding an internship for the summer. It has to be an internship that looks good on your resume, that will give you a good experience and most importantly, that will make you happy. When you start thinking of internships, you’ll have the obvious concerns—what field of law should it be in, how should you draft a resume and what is the best way to interview.

But there’s one concern that lurks out of sight—just the slightest of nags on your brain—until it sneaks up on you and throws you into an existential tail spin. It’s that fear that you’re not doing things right (read: “like everyone else”) or that you’re not pushing yourself far or hard enough.

These sorts of fears have plagued me since I started law school, especially when there seems to be a set path that one is supposed to take in order to be a “successful” law student. It starts with a good law firm internship during your 1L summer, on-campus interviewing and a journal position in 2L year, and ends with getting a summer associate position to launch you into 3L year and, if you’re lucky, a post-graduation job.

Yet none of that appealed to me. Call it wanderlust or hipster tendencies, but I rejected that “cookie-cutter” path. All was well and good until I was struck by the crippling fears of being different—of jumping off into the unknown—and the concern that somehow by being different I wasn’t going to be as successful a law student as my colleagues. So what’s a girl to do?

Trust Your Gut, But Don’t Go It Alone

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but I’ll say it once more for good measure. There is no one more capable of determining what works best for you than you yourself. Advice from professors, career counselors, and classmates is always helpful, but it’s not the be all, end all. You know what your strengths are and what raises your stress level and what lowers it.

Personally, I could never see myself spending all my spare time in the journal offices, slaving away over one particular note that may or may not be published. Sure it would look good on my resume, but I know I wouldn’t be happy and with all the other things I wanted to do; I would have most certainly been overwhelmed. Instead, I sought out publication and writing opportunities elsewhere—opportunities that would work with my schedule.

Of course, knowing yourself also means that its up to you to do a cost/benefit analysis for both the short term and long term. And that, my friend, is where the fears of failure arise because following the established path, where the analysis has already been done for you, is so much easier than taking the road less traveled.

But you don’t have to make that analysis alone. Instead of asking everyone and their mother for advice, reach out to attorneys in the field you’re looking to go into. Ask them if your choice will affect your success in that particular field. Talk to both junior and senior attorneys to get a more complete picture.

Comfort Zones Aren’t Always a Bad Thing

I’ve always been the type of person who wants to stay close to home—stay close to family. And for years I felt as if I was somehow less because I didn’t want to travel more. This anxiety only escalated when I got to law school.

So many of my colleagues, or what seemed like many of them, took internships far and wide. All across the country. Some even traveled abroad. But I could never bring myself to do the same. I wondered whether somehow, I was limiting myself by not pushing myself out of my comfort zone. But eventually I learned that that wasn’t the case. Once again, the cost/benefit analysis came into play as I tried to understand if I was really limiting myself.

What it eventually boiled down to was that not having the ability to jump in my car and drive back home if I wanted to (even if I never did) would distract me from truly enjoying the experience of being far from home. Besides, what was the point in stressing myself out for an entire summer if I could find comparable programs near by—programs that would allow me to develop long term connections in the region I want to practice in?

Some may call this justifying or making excuses, but it’s not. I’m not saying its never a good thing to break outside of your comfort zone, rather if you’re making decisions that make you feel comfortable and will allow you to enjoy your law school experience to its fullest—make them. Don’t let others judgment and comments influence you to make a decision that will ultimately make you unhappy.

Compromise Isn’t Just For ADR

Part of learning to be okay with your choices is learning to mold and shape that “cookie cutter” path to fit your life, not the other way around. Say you want to go abroad, but you can’t fathom the idea of leaving your home, family, etc. for an entire semester. Instead of the traditional study abroad program through your school, go for a week or so instead through other educational programs like EF College Break. This will give you the exploration abroad experience without needing to stay for several months.

Maybe you want to publish a legal essay, but you don’t want to add a journal position to your already growing list of commitments. Your law school’s journal isn’t the only place you can be published. Look for journals and magazines, especially through the ABA, in your field and contact the editorial staff.

The one thing you must remember is that all your choices are valid and not meritless. Do not let anyone define what success means for you. Law school is about creating a path that you feel comfortable with—a path that will lead you to where your supposed to be. Not where anyone thinks you “should” be.


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About Gabriella Martin

Gabriella Martin is a law student at Quinnipiac University School of Law in the Intellectual Property concentration. Gabriella graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in English Literature which furthered a passion for creative writing and analysis. Gabriella is involved in several ABA committees and numerous student organizations--including a 1L mentoring program. When she is not writing for Law School Toolbox or The Girl's Guide to Law School, Gabriella can be found catching up on TV shows, discovering new music, and going on adventures, both big and small.

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