Law Students – Do You Have a Plan for Your Legal Career?

Law Students - Do You Have a Plan for Your Legal Career?

This week we welcome back guest writer and attorney Marissa Geannette to discuss how to plan for your future legal career as a law student.

Planning your legal career can be an overwhelming thought for law students. How are you supposed to know what type of lawyer you want to be or what kind of law you want to practice after just a few years of school? On top of that, most law school classes cover subjects that lawyers never use again once they graduate!

If you are feeling unsure of what to do, don’t despair. There are some steps you can take while you’re still in law school to develop a plan for your legal career. You can make the process more manageable by breaking things down into specific areas of consideration.

While you don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your legal career, it is helpful to have a general plan for where you want to take your career once you graduate. That’s what we’re to help you with. Read on for key areas to focus on when developing a career plan.

1. Self-Reflection: Discover Your Passion(s)

The first step in planning your legal career is figuring out what area (or areas) of law you’re passionate about. Consider your personal interests and values, as well as your academic strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What issues do I care about?
  • What kind of work do I enjoy?
  • What type of clients do I want to represent?

Once you have a general idea of what area of law you want to pursue, start researching the different career paths within that field. Consider the job outlook, salary ranges, and necessary skills and qualifications. Remember, your interests may change over time, so stay open-minded and adaptable as you navigate this.

A note about pursuing your passion: law school debt is real, and your passions might not lead you to a job that will help you pay off your student loans (or, at least, not in the time frame you were hoping). It’s ok to put your passions on hold for a little bit and pursue something else that interests you but that might pay better. Just remember where your passions truly lie and try to find your way back to them when you can.

2. Network Across Many Industries

Networking is crucial for career planning. Building a solid professional network can lead to job opportunities, mentorship, and valuable advice from those who have navigated the legal profession before you.

Attend networking events hosted by your law school or local legal organizations. Join legal associations and participate in their events and activities. Reach out to alumni from your law school who work in your desired field. LinkedIn can also be a great tool for building professional connections.

Keep your networking activities broad at this point – you want to gain a wide range of perspectives as you develop your own career plan.

3. Think Long-Term

Once you’ve identified your interests, perhaps gained some internship experience, and do some networking in your desired field – it’s important to start to map out your long-term career path. When you have a goal in mind, you can start taking steps to get there.

Some things to consider when planning for five, ten, or even more years into the future:

  • What skills will I need to develop to succeed on this career path?
  • What types of jobs exist in that field for someone who is ten years out of law school?
  • Who can I contact in that field to start building my network?
  • What do I want my day-to-day to look like? What steps can I take to get there?
  • Whose career do I admire and how did they get to where they are?

Things change a lot in a year (not to mention five or ten years), so it’s unlikely your current plan will come to fruition exactly as you imagine it today. However, it doesn’t hurt to start to think long-term, because no matter what, the skills you develop along the way will help you succeed.

4. Be Flexible and Open to New Opportunities

Thinking long-term does not lock you into a specific path. While it’s important to have a plan for your legal career, it’s equally important to be flexible and open to new opportunities. Be open to trying new things and taking on projects that may be outside of your comfort zone. If you can prevent it, don’t pigeonhole yourself into one practice area too soon. There’s no reason you need to declare that you will be an M&A lawyer forever when you’re still a law student!

Networking can also be a great way to discover new opportunities and paths within the legal profession. So can pro bono. Consider taking on pro bono work or volunteering (either during law school or immediately after) to gain experience in a totally new area.

It’s Never Too Early to Start Planning for Your Legal Future

Ultimately, planning your legal career involves setting specific goals and being open to new opportunities and paths. Try to always remain open-minded and adaptable as you navigate your legal career. By focusing on key areas such as self-reflection, gaining experience, networking, mapping out a general path, and being open to new opportunities, you can develop a well-rounded career plan that aligns with your interests and goals. And, if you need someone to help guide you, you can always look at a career coach to help you navigate the process!


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About Marissa Geannette

Marissa graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in 2009 where she was a member of the Law Review. She began her career in the corporate department of White & Case LLP in NYC and spent 8 years as an associate there. Marissa is passionate about educating law students and recent law grads about Biglaw and career paths one can take after law school (both traditional and non-traditional). She wrote her book, “Behind the Biglaw Curtain” to help demystify Biglaw for those beginning their careers. Whether it’s in Biglaw or not, she believes that there is a satisfying career out there for everyone (even if it’s not the traditional one you thought you were “supposed” to have).

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