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If you entered law school with the goal of "doing something that matters,'' choosing a career serving the legal needs of individuals will provide you with opportunities to do that. By taking steps now, you can begin mapping out your career and heading off the dissatisfaction that many lawyers face.
Many of your classmates will face the job hunting process with resignation trying desperately to find a job, any job, even if it's one they don't want. They may tell themselves it's just for a few years until school loans are paid off, ignoring the disquieting feeling that in reality it may be for keeps.
In contrast, you will be buoyed by the excitement and enthusiasm that accompanies the quest for a valuable prize. If you believe in yourself and take control of your life, you may very well be the happiest person at your tenth year law school reunion.
But keep in mind that career planning takes time and effort. As busy as you are now, if you are still a law student, you may never again have the luxury of time as you have during the remainder of your last year in law school to accomplish so much of this process. You will possibly regret it if you don't spend at least as much time as you might devote to one course.
Think of where you want to be five years from now. Imagine yourself invited by your law school to be on a panel with other attorneys discussing their work. Imagine yourself talking about what you are doing, the excitement, satisfaction, and happiness you derive from your work; how important it is to you to be contributing to the common good; your feelings of self-respect and self confidence; how much your efforts are needed; the positive aspects of your workplace and the respect you have for colleagues there; and how compatible your work is with your personal values and professional goals.
Your professional degree provides you with a unique opportunity and a privilege few have - the ability to secure a position in a place where you are comfortable, where you serve those you want to serve, and where you will have control over your career and your life. It is the key to having the flexibility to redefine your career to suit your personal needs and those of your family. Being a professional offers opportunities to continually learn and improve your skills, to develop as a professional, and to grow as an individual as you become more aware of those who need your help. Your professional life holds the possibility of autonomy, satisfaction, integrity, self-respect, and, most meaningful of all, the prospect of sleeping well after a long day on the job and waking up looking forward to going to work.
And all you have to do is take control.
Taking Control of Your Fate is the final installment in our ongoing Career Planning Series with Ronald W. Fox, Esq.
Previous installments include:
Understanding Career Planning
Evaluating Experience and Skills
Narrowing Your Options
Finding Your Area of Practice Preference
Is Solo Practice Right for You?
How to Search for a Satisfying Position
The "Six Bullet" Resume
Researching Potential Employers
Building Your Professional Network
Getting Involved and Selling Yourself
Making Choices & Reassessing Your Career
Ronald W. Fox is the principal of Career Planning for Lawyers. Since 1990, he has provided individual guidance to law students and lawyers in transition helping them search for and locate positions consistent with their personal values and their professional goals.