Thursday, January 15, 2009

From Student to Lawyer: The Transition to the Real World

I've been out of law school for about a year and half and I can honestly say that nothing in law school prepared me for life afterwards. Okay maybe not nothing (sorry for the use of a double negative), but few things prepared me for some of the things that I did face after I took the bar, packed up my apartment, and moved back to my home city into an affordable apartment with no job and anxiety about the future.

When you graduate you are studying for the bar exam, looking for a job or getting ready to start one, your loans are still in deferment and life is basically at that stage of transition.

I paid rent in law school out of the abundance of loans, I didn't really budget or anything like that. It wasn't until after law school when I was unemployed for a few months, that I knew what it was really like to struggle, to budget, and to cut corners to make ends meet. I sold books and cds to make money while waiting for job interviews.

With this economy I understand that many law students, recent graduates, and newly minted lawyers are worried about their job prospects. My advice: Be wise and creative and take any job that pays the bills. You can always transfer or move to a new position once better opportunities arise. I know I got desperate and started applying for internships and temp positions with temp agencies. You can even ask if any law professors need research done and see if the law school would be willing to pay.

Eventually times will get better and more jobs will be available for lawyers. In the meantime, you may have to take a non-legal position or a job that pays less than you want. Just make the best of whatever job you do get, shine in that job, and learn from every experience, because that's what will make you a better employee and a better job candidate in the future.

This post feels rather rambly! Let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Also now I do have a full-time job with benefits! Nope, it doesn't pay as well as I would like, but I am gaining valuable experience and learning a lot. I was unemployed several months after law school and that was not fun at all. I had to live a different lifestyle in order to survive. Now that all my loans are coming due, I also have to be careful and budget so that I can make my payments. This is the real world! I no longer live off borrowed money. Furthermore, God was in control of this situation the whole time. Even though I did have to cut back on spending, I always had enough to pay my rent and utilities, buy groceries, and get the necessities. He took care of me and continues to and I'll trust Him to do what's best.

If you are in law school, please be wise about how much you borrow. Just because you can borrow the maximum amount, don't unless you really need to, because you will end up paying that back three times over! Try not to live to frivolously in law school, because again you will end up paying for it for many years, maybe even 20-25 years! Do you really want to be paying off your 2008 Spring Break Trip in 2038!!

Anyway, this is just my unsolicited advice. Good luck for all you job hunters out there and for those of you who have a job, consider yourselves blessed!

Also check out some books that offer advice and tips for transitioning from law student to lawyer!

-The Legal Career Guide, Fifth Edition: From Student to Lawyer
-The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
-A Lawyer's Guide to Networking
-What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer's Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law

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