Law school is a great opportunity to figure out what you want to be when you grow up
Jenna graduated from California Western School of Law five and a half years ago. She is currently an Associate Attorney at Quitairos Prieto Wood and Boyer, defending medical malpractice and long-term care cases. Prior to going into defense litigation, Jenna was a prosecutor for 4 years, in the Gang Bureau, Sex Crimes Bureau and Vehicular Crimes Bureau.
1. What do you know now that you wish you had known as a 1L?
I wish I would have known that law school is a great opportunity to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. I focused on grades and building my resume and did not put much focus on figuring out what I wanted to do. A law degree opens up a lot of doors, but I wish I knew how important it is to figure out which of those doors is the best fit for me. It’s great to graduate with good grades and a solid resume, but it does not do much good if you don’t really know what you want to do with it. I wish I would have known figuring out what kind of law I wanted to practice, whether I wanted to practice law, etc. was as important if not more important than grades and internships.
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?
I’m not. At graduation, I thought I would be a career prosecutor. I did that for years, but now I’m in private practice. It is a good thing as I made a well thought-out decision to leave prosecution. While it’s an exciting and important job, I realized it’s not for me as a lifelong career, for a variety of reasons. I got invaluable trial experience from prosecution and had a great time doing it. I would not trade my years as a prosecutor for anything, but am happy to have moved on at this stage in my life.
3. Who were you in law school?
In law school I was incredibly focused and happy to be there. I was legitimately interested in learning everything I possible could and driven to excel. That being said, I still had a life. I definitely was not the person burning the midnight oil in the library. Nor was I the eager beaver in class. I worked hard but also had fun and made several lifelong friends. I genuinely had a good law school experience.
4. What class or concentration do you wish you had taken that you didn’t?
I would have done the dual JD/MBA program. It was only one extra year to open even more doors.
5. What tips do you have for the July bar exam takers?
The several months between taking the exam and getting your results/getting licensed is a great time to figure out what you want to do. Talk to attorneys in practice areas you’re interested in to find out what a career in that area is really like. Unfortunately law school bears little resemblance to work life. It’s easy to get wrapped into trying to get a good job, but make sure you put time into figuring out the job you want. The start of your career is when you can really do anything you want. After even just a few years of experience, you can already start to get pigeon-holed into a career path. It also becomes difficult to switch jobs and it’s not really feasible to just try something new. Do some deep soul-searching and figure out what you want in life, then find a career path that fits.
6. Anything else you would want to tell a current student?
Don’t get too caught up in grades. The reality is, they no longer matter after you land your first job. If you get a good internship that leads to a job, then grades don’t even matter after you get a good internship. I am not saying slack-off, but if you focus on learning then the grades part will fall into place. Direct your focus into actually learning and to figuring out what you want to do with your law degree.