We welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about goals for 2L year and how to get there.
There’s an old saying about law school that you’ve probably heard already. The saying goes, “The first year they scare you to death. The second year they work you to death. The third year they bore you to death.” That held true for me. I can absolutely say I worked harder the second year than I did either of the other two years. But, being successful isn’t just about working harder. It’s about working smarter. Here are a few tips on getting the most out of your busy 2L year.
Narrow Down Your Career Focus
When I went to law school, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my degree. I expected to do something altruistic like work for a small nonprofit advocating for animals or people in poverty. You may have applied to law school sure that no matter what you were going to practice criminal law. Or, maybe you figured you could make a difference in the world with a law degree, but you’re still not really sure how, like I was.
The fact is, you don’t need to necessarily know the end-goal of where you expect to practice for the rest of your life. And, you can rest assured you can always change your mind either in law school or after you’ve been out of school for a number of years. There’s nothing that says once you start practicing one type of law, you can never do anything different. You just need to have an idea of the first step you want to take.
Narrow down some ideas of not only what you want to practice but where you want to practice. If you know for sure you want to practice criminal law, think about on which side. Defender or prosecutor? Think about where you might want to practice. Big city or small town? Each of these factors can have an impact on your lifestyle, work-life balance, and overall satisfaction with your job.
Once you’ve narrowed down your focus, develop a strategy for taking the first step and getting your first job.
Get Real-World Experience
Most lawyers aren’t hired for their first legal job after graduation. They get legal experience while still in law school. Once you’ve focused your career goals, your next important 2L achievement is to gain work experience in that field.
How do you get substantive experience? Contact professors at your school who have experience in that area of law. Talk to your career services office. Talk to 3L students who have worked where you want to work. Make connections within the field of law you want to pursue. Networking in your chosen field will lead to opportunities you may not have even anticipated.
And, don’t forget that real-world experience can be more than a traditional paid internship. Getting paid is obviously the most ideal situation, but if that doesn’t come to fruition, there are other avenues you can pursue to enhance your resume and work experience. You could spend a few hours a week volunteering in your optimal field. In my experience, legal aid societies or other nonprofits are almost always happy to have help. You could become a research fellow for a professor. Researching and writing about a particular area of law can give you a level of expertise that your classmates may not have. And, if you can get published in that area, you command a certain kind of credibility.
There are many opportunities to gain substantive experience in the field you want to pursue. Network, think creatively, and make your 2L year the year you lay the foundation for your career.
Take Care Of Yourself
I distinctly remember laughing with law school classmates when I told them a potential employer asked me in an interview what I do for fun. As if any law student has the time to do anything for the pure joy of it. If it can’t be briefed or outlined, what’s even the point of doing it?
I’m older and wiser now and here to tell you that yes, you should make time to do something for fun. Especially in your 2L year. You will have a lot on your plate this year. Self-care is a bit of a buzzword these days, but that shouldn’t diminish the fact that taking care of yourself is a critical part of your 2L strategy. Getting sick or burning out will not help you achieve any of your goals.
Figure out what really fulfills your spirit and make a point of engaging in those activities at least on a monthly basis if not more frequently.
This Is A Great Opportunity
You will never get another 2L year. Now is the perfect time to really hone in on what it is you want to start off doing in your career and to set yourself up for success in that field. Yes, this year will be busy. There’s no way to sugar coat that. But, no matter what, make sure you take care of yourself. You can’t be at your best if you don’t feel your best. With a solid 2L year behind you, you’ll look back and know without a doubt that you are just getting started!