Surviving the 1L Job Search

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

It isn’t even the end of January and I already feel like I am so behind on everything in my life. Classes are grueling enough, but now we have job search and job fairs and interviews and cover letters and callbacks. Each task that I accomplish spawns two or three more tasks. Law school is like a hydra – you cut off one head and three more grow back. That look on Hercules’ face – yeah that’s me right now. So, as per my usual, I reached out to those who came before me on this epic law school journey for advice on how to make it through the perplexing job search process.

Disney's Hercules

Be yourself:

I asked a few 2Ls and 3Ls who got their dream jobs 1L summer for their best job search survival tips. The number one piece of advice I got was to be yourself. One of my 2L friends who has a strong public interest background and hopes to work in public interest in the future applied and interviewed for an in-house position at a large corporation (in case you didn’t know, Atlanta is home to a plethora of corporate headquarters). During his interview, it became clear that one of the reasons he got the interview was because of his public interest leanings, but when the interviewer asked if he hoped to continue working in public interest, thinking he should demonstrate commitment to the type of organization he was interviewing with, he said no.

Reach out to Friends:

I know that in some places it is taboo to have your peers read over your materials but having a variety of people who are in the field look over my cover letter has helped me to hone my story and has boosted my confidence considerably. I tend to undersell myself, but my friends are good at pointing out where I am omitting things because I am downplaying them. Reading through friends’ cover letters has given me a cool opportunity to get to know more people’s backgrounds and interests. Also, aggressive affirmation is my worldview, so I jump at any chance to apply it. If you have friends inside the law school who would be willing to sit and listen while you do practice interviews, do it! Eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds (i.e. take the feedback that is useful and leave the rest). If you can’t practice for other people, record yourself answering interview questions and play it back. I did this with my master’s thesis defense, and it helped so much when I got in front of my committee and my mind went blank. Check out other tips for interview season here!

If you know where you want to apply, see if other people from your law school have worked there in the past and reach out. I have asked probably a hundred 2Ls and 3Ls about how they got their previous jobs and for all the dish on what it was like to work where they worked. I have even asked a couple of them for specific language that might be helpful to include in my cover letter or interview. Everyone I have asked has been so helpful and supportive and I feel so much more confident now that I understand a little better what organizations are looking for.

Keep Practicing Self Care:

I have to be really honest. I hate the phrase “self-care.” It feels a little too gushy for me. The idea behind it though is crucial. We all know by this point that law school can be a constant barrage of blows to your self-esteem, and with the competitiveness of the job market, and the short winter days, the 1L summer internship search can be rough. Keep utilizing your mental health resources. Make time to connect with people outside of law school. Make a gratitude or accomplishments journal. Find a hobby that makes you happy and relaxed. Volunteer in a non-legal capacity in your community. If you need more ideas for self-care, the 3L Life has some brilliant ones, broken down by how much time you have.

Think Outside the Box:

The scarcity mindset is rife in the legal profession, and perhaps for good reason. Big Law and Big Public Interest jobs are few and competitive, but there is a whole world of interesting legal jobs out there if you look for it. Rural counties are notoriously short on qualified attorneys and often provide broad, hands-on experience. Non-profits, universities, and municipal governments may not advertise legal internships but often have legal departments that would be thrilled to have an intern. Google is your friend here!

Most of all, remind yourself as frequently as possible that you have made it this far and you are capable of success.

via GIPHY