Connecting law students to younger attorneys #reallawyerstories

Starting this week, we’ll have a new blog series #reallawyerstories. This will be a way to connect young(er) lawyers with students . . . to share the things we wish we had known when we had started law school. Lessons we should have learned by the time we or when graduated but maybe didn’t.

In the spirit of fairness, I’ll kick it off. I am so excited about this series because I feel like there was such a disconnect from real attorneys when I was in law school. I didn’t really have much of an idea of what the options were out there, so I felt obligated to work for a large firm for a summer. Speakers that came to the school often felt much older and like they didn’t understand what I was worried about, which was mostly how I was going to do my case digests that night with all the pretty color highlighters. Often, the speakers or panelists or mentors felt hopelessly out of touch.

I think that has a lot to do with the fact that by the time lawyers feel like giving back and reaching out to students, they’re much older. They’ve made it, made partner, made some progress paying off their loans, etc. By the time that happens, it can be a decade since you've graduated from law school -- and it happens in a blink of an eye!

 I’m hoping this series will make it easier for younger attorneys to share their hard-earned wisdom with law students before it gets musty. At the same time, I hope law students will benefit from seeing different kinds of lawyers, younger ones who don’t wear seersucker suits or dictate into their dictaphones, who are successful in their careers on their own terms. I have certainly enjoyed gathering the stories so far.

Here are the questions I will ask of our contributors:

I went to UCLA. I graduated in 2010, so I’m 7 years out. I'm currently a legal tech co-founder (obviously) and a Chief of Staff of an investment company. It’s a little surreal not being in the traditional practice of law anymore, and it feels like it took longer than 7 years to get here. I was one of those who went to law school (English degree), believing what they say, you can do anything with a law degree. But that didn’t feel like it was true once I was in school. First, I was a law clerk, and then a prosecutor, and then a civil defense litigator. I am so happy to have a job where I can smile again!

1.  What do you know now that you wish you had known as a 1L?

Oh man! That was 10 years ago now. I guess I wish I knew that getting a B is not the end of the world. Law school was the first place I had ever been where I was by far not the most aggressive or motivated person in the room #notagunner. It’s incredibly challenging getting the best grades in this environment. Even when I was transitioning from being a prosecutor to being a firm litigator, no one really talked about my grades (which were fine but just not as perfect as I wished). After a few years, all the grade hype and the clerkship hype dies down, and you’ll see your law school classmates are all out living a variety of lives, regardless of where they fell on the bell curve. 

2. Are you doing now what you thought you would be doing when you were a graduating 3L? If not, why not? Is this a good thing?

Not at all, and it's a very good thing. By the time I was a 3L, I liked criminal law so much I wanted to be a prosecutor. I had this idea that being a prosecutor would at least let me not be cooped up behind a computer all day. What I didn’t expect was the sheer volume of cases that didn’t let me concentrate on any one thing, and the fact that you never forget about victims. The little boy you put on the stand to testify about his uncle abusing him comes home with you (figuratively, of course) and keeps you up at night. It’s a very emotionally draining job, an important one that only some people are cut out for. So yes, I would say it’s a very good thing I am now doing something that is aligned with who I am, what my personality is, and what my strengths are.

3.  Who were you in law school?

Not as engaged as I should have been. I wish I had gone to bar reviews and social events. It took me really until 3L year to get involved in extracurriculars. If I had it to do over again, I would have made myself put down the highlighters and go have some fun.

4.  What class or concentration do you wish you had taken that you didn’t?

I totally wish I had concentrated in business law. It’s so useful once you get out into the world. 

5.  What tips do you have for the July bar exam takers?

See my prior blog post!

6. Anything else you would want to tell a current student?

This sounds absolutely impossible, but to the extent possible, don’t forget that law school is just one part of your life. It’s a full time job; treat it as such. Even people who have full-time jobs go to happy hour and go to yoga.