Four stages you’ll go through while waiting on a job offer

Collaborating online with classmates in law school

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 3L at the University of Arizona ]

We have all had a wild ride since COVID-19 impacted the world and, of course, the legal field, law schools and law students. 

I’m now back to school online. Likely for the whole semester. My school has opted to provide four different modes of learning this semester (which is fantastic). But for the first two weeks, at least, we are all online, and then the classes will be split into teams to limit class sizes. Other law students are still waiting to hear what their law schools are doing and others are eagerly awaiting to return to campus.

But that is not the waiting I have in mind for this blog post. Rather, it’s the type of wait that many 3Ls experience but few talk about: the wait to find out if you are receiving a job offer from your summer position. For my fellow 3Ls and future law students, here is a small look at the stages you will go through.

Waiting on a job offer as a 3L

Stage 1: I did enough …

Now it’s out of my hands. For my fellow law clerks and I, this is how we felt at the end of our shortened program. It was collaborative as opposed to competitive, so we were able to offer support rather than try to one-up each other. I felt fortunate that our program still ran. It was modified to be entirely online and reduced from 11 to just six weeks. But I was amazed at how much I accomplished in that short amount of time. I learned how to bill my hours and write motions and responses. I attended depositions and summarized them. I researched exciting topics. I reached out to partners and associates to have virtual coffee breaks in an attempt to normalize a fully online experience while also making connections and learning more about the various firm practice groups. We had organized virtual happy hours with trivia and more. I worked hard, made some mistakes, but overall felt good about what I accomplished. I did enough.

Stage 2: … but did I do enough?

About three weeks after our program ended, we received an email to let us know the next step of the process. It explained that recommendations had been submitted to the managing partners, and a vote would be taking place to determine if we would receive an offer. It was great to know the date of the vote, however, my confidence quickly turned from “I did enough,” to “did I do enough to get votes?” I hadn’t seen the email before the clerk chat was buzzing. We were all feeling the same way. Good. But we had all made some errors along the way. We all felt that was part of the learning process, but wondered: did we do enough? It was around this time that classmates, who were also waiting for job offers, began to question themselves as we reached out to offer support through texts, Linkedin and messenger.

Stage 3: Maybe I messed up too much?

This past weekend is when all of the clerks entered the dubious “I messed up too much” stage. We knew the vote was happening on Monday, and we suddenly became nervous. We messaged each other to check in and to talk about how we may have made too many mistakes. The conversations discussed issues with memos, pondering if too many wrong answers in trivia was a contributing factor, and shared concerns about taking an extra day on a soft deadline. As we tried to support one another, it seemed each of us would question and scrutinize something we had (or had not) done. I am glad we had each other because it was nice to know you weren’t alone in your thoughts. We were able to convince each other that we had done enough, but it was far too easy to wonder if we had messed up a little too much.

Stage 4: Yes, I did do enough

It all comes full circle. For me, I reached this stage the morning of the vote. I knew I had done what I could. I produced a lot of work. I was proud. If I had made a mistake, I fixed it. I took the feedback that was given to me and tried to use it to improve my future work. I did enough and I realized that even if I did not, it was too late. It was out of my hands. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t nervous. I still am. We thought calls might come today, but they will likely come tomorrow. So by the time you read this, I may have received an offer. If I do, I will be beyond thrilled and consider myself fortunate. If I do not, I will take everything I learned at the firm and use it wherever I land.

For my fellow 3Ls still waiting, I hope this helps you know that you’re not alone. And 2Ls, I hope this helps you get through the waiting season next year.

Let me know the stages you went through over @The3LLife on Instagram.

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