With classes starting soon and interviewing looming for summer associate positions and clerkships, I figured this would be a good time to bring up a sensitive topic: the elevator pitch.
Somehow, law students (and lawyers) have gotten the idea that it's unseemly to have a straightforward answer to a simple question: What kind of work are you interested in doing?
This attitude is crazy! If you don't know what you want (or you're reluctant to discuss it), how can anyone help you? People need to know what you're looking for, and you need to be prepared to tell them.
"I Don't Know" is NOT a Good Answer
Look, I understand you might not know exactly what kind of job you want on the first day of law school. But, by the time you're interviewing for jobs, you need some reasonable answer, even if it's not your "forever" answer.
Surely you have some preferences, right? Are you really totally indifferent between litigation and corporate practice, for example? Would you be equally happy working in a small law firm and a government agency? I find that hard to believe. Law jobs aren't fungible! And neither are you. You have preferences - so start paying attention to them!
How to Finesse Uncertainty
Say you really, truly have no idea what you want to do when you graduate. Fine. Pick a couple of areas that seem interesting, and start exploring them.
Then the next time someone ask what type of law you're interested in, instead of saying, "I don't know," tell them that you're exploring a few different options and are currently interested in X, Y, and Z.
You know what's likely to happen? The person you're talking with is going to say:
Oh, you know who you should talk to? My law school friend, Becky, who does X. I'm sure she'd be happy to grab coffee and talk about her work.
It's like magic! Insta-networking.
But you've got to give people something to work with.
So take a few minutes right now and formulate your answer. What ARE you interested in?
Alison Monahan is the founder of The Girl's Guide to Law School and a co-founder of the Law School Toolbox. A 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School, she was a member of the Columbia Law Review, a Civ Pro Teaching Assistant, a Kent Scholar, and a Stone Scholar. After law school, she clerked in the District of Massachusetts and was a BigLaw patent litigator for two years. Now she helps other aspiring lawyers get into law school, get through, and stay true to themselves in the process.
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