Law school is filled with important decisions. You choose which elective courses to take, clubs and associations to join, journals to write for, seminars to attend, and relationships to develop. These decisions, along with academic performance, will ultimately define your experience and set the stage for your professional career. But the most important decision you’ll make is where you will intern.
Before making this decision, it is imperative that you take time to really discover who you are. This means uncovering your passions, interests and goals to determine where you truly want to work. Below are 4 ways to help you do this.
Reflect on Your Values
Everyone has values that should be understood and appreciated when selecting a career. Misalignment of these values with a legal career can cause discomfort on a daily basis, conflict in the workplace and overall dissatisfaction. While a job that furthers your values can bring tranquility, pride and gratification to your career. For lawyers/law students, values can be broken into two categories: what you want to achieve and whom you want to serve.
- What you want to achieve: is it wealth, notoriety, directly helping people, gaining power and authority or making the world a better place?
- Who you want to serve: there are individuals, companies and communities that will need your services. You should decide which group will best align with your values and goals.
Try to achieve clarity on what is most important to you as a person, and as a professional. Then march forward down your career path with those values in mind.
Identify Your Interests
In law school it is natural to assume that you are interested in logical analysis, intellectual challenge and the rule of law. But this is merely a starting point. There are so many other interests that you may be able to incorporate into your career. Whether it’s politics, visual arts, environmental or animal rights issues, or music—just try to figure out what fits with you. Working on issues that make you excited and engaged can bring great enjoyment in your career.
Assess Your Financial Needs
The common thread of the majority of law students is that they have spent or borrowed an enormous amount of money to pay for their legal education. It is not uncommon for law school graduates to carry a debt burden of between $150,000 to $200,000. Is this you? Do you know what your monthly payments will be after graduation? You should. This will help you steer yourself in the right direction. It may be uncomfortable or stressful to think about. But it is reality. And you must embrace it.
Pinpoint Your Personality
The degree to which your personality matches your selected legal career is a big factor in whether you will actually enjoy your work. Thus, you should know your personality before selecting your career path. There are many ways to measure and assesses one’s personality, consider taking a personality test such as: http://www.meyersbriggs.org, http://www.discprofile.com or http://www.kolbe.com.
Maxwell D. Rosenthal is in-house counsel at a large media and entertainment company in New York City. He is also the author of The Bridge: How to Launch Your Career through a Legal Internship (Lexis Nexis 2015), which can be found on his website www.bridgethebook.com. Max also frequently speaks at law schools and bar associations on topics related to career development and legal experiential learning. He can be reached at Max@bridgethebook.com or on twitter at @MaxDRosenthal.
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