Posted: June 23rd, 2014
Students sometimes assume that, by accepting a summer clerkship/internship in a specific practice or for a certain type of employer, they are committing themselves to developing a career in that area. This can be a big cause for concern because early in the process (and sometimes even later on in the process), many students and new lawyers are uncertain about their interests and do not yet know what types of practice they would like to develop. This assumption of being stuck in a certain area of law can be an even bigger stressor if you accept a job or internship, and then realize that you may have made a poor choice.
Imagine, for example, that you enjoyed your Criminal Law or Criminal Procedure class so much that you have accepted a summer position in the felony division of the prosecuting attorney’s office. It would seem that you’ve landed the ideal job. Your supervising attorney is attentive; your assignments are challenging; and the attorneys take you to meetings and court as much as possible. On the other hand, you’ve learned that there is a big difference between analyzing fact patterns in a case book and working with real victims and serious crimes. Real-world practice is very different from academic study, and it may be that criminal law is not right for you. But all is not lost!
If you find yourself in an area of law that is unappealing, just remember that your employment setting is temporary and that you can still gain important experience at that job or internship. Professionalism, social skills, and various law-related skills such as writing briefs and working with clients will all prove beneficial later on, once mastered. Dedicate the time at that position and use it as a learning tool and eventual springboard from which to jump from and land into a better position later down the road. In addition, keep in mind the valuable connections you’re making with coworkers and your supervising attorney. They may be able to introduce you to someone practicing in a field that’s a better fit for you.
Plenty of lawyers change jobs after learning more about themselves and their responses to difference practice areas and environments. You will consistently evolve as a law student and practicing lawyer, so your practice area preferences may also change. You certainly do not have to change the world after law school if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to practice a certain kind of law. Simply take an opportunity to observe what works for you and what doesn’t and you will soon find what appeals to you. Following your passions and strengths as a lawyer will ultimately have you on the road to a satisfying career.
If you have any questions or concerns about your desired career path or need help finding where to start, be sure to book an appointment with your career advisor. They are there to help guide you along your path and answer any questions that should arise on your journey through law school and beyond.