Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How Far I've Come: A Law School Journey In Self Confidence

I emailed my boss at the firm I worked for last summer asking him if he might need a legal intern for this summer. He talked it over with the other partners and then made me a job offer! I feel kind of bad landing this summer job when my friends who are graduating cannot find employment after law school. I feel really lucky that I have the opportunity to work at this firm again, that I can continue to build my relationship and rapport with the partners as well as continue to prove myself to them. The best part is that I genuinely like the firm. And the partners. And the associates. And the firm culture. And the cases they assign me.

But I don't feel like talking about the job because I don't want to make my graduating friends upset, even though I know they will be happy for me. How did I get so lucky? Really, why me? Why not my friend on law review? Or my friend on the Dean's List? Or my friend with experience working for a Big Firm? I think in law, a lot of opportunities do arise based upon your connections and who you know. Because I think you can be the smartest law student in the entire planet but if you don't have experience working on actual cases, if you don't have a pleasant or at least tolerable personality, or if you can't demonstrate your ability to work in a law firm atmosphere, then you are going to have a hard time.

I still can't decide if law firms like confidence that is borderline arrogance or if they prefer people willing to be trained. I am usually so timid and shy but I have to say that my legal work experience has boosted my cofidence in a way that law school never could. 1L year of lawschool made me feel like the tiniest organism to ever have lived. I felt so stupid and incompetent. My grades first semester reinforced those feelings. I went to law school with the goal of keeping my merit-based scholarship and making the Dean's List. After 1L year, my goal was to PASS.

Then I worked for a small law two-attorney law firm. I learned the ropes of carrying on a lawsuit and I perfected my legal research skills. I wrote memos and arguments and MY WORK was inserted into REAL motions. And motions were GRANTED based upon my research. I realized that "hey, I really CAN do this law stuff even though my grades are mediocre, at best." It's funny that my legal writing grade was just adequate and yet I went on to write arguments which eventually got my firm a win or two. It's true when they say law school is nothing like practice. You can suck at law school and still do great legal work.

I was surprised to learn that not only was I pretty OK at pretending to practice law, but I actually LIKED it! All this experience working for my hodunk, humble law firm gave me a huge confidence booster. This translated to a little more success in school (although grades are still mediocre). And my experience gave me the confidence to apply for a position in a law firm that is two steps up from hodunk. And with a paycheck that is three steps up from hodunk.

Now I am a 3L, and I feel pretty smart. I am miles away from the timid useless feeling 1L I used to be. I know what a Tort is. I know what a partner expects when he gives you a legal research assignment. I know how to write a motion. And a complaint. I know some very basic litigation strategy. I know how to write a law exam (it really IS a skill you have to learn). I know the importance of billing. And I feel that, armed with my trusty Westlaw account, there isn't a legal question that I cannot argue in my favor.


LEO said...

Congratulations! That is awesome to not only have found something you like but to also have a job there! It's hard to know what to say about having a job when your friends don't, especially in such a shitty economy... but you shouldn't feel bad about getting an offer. You clearly did something right to earn it and you should be proud of that. :)

CM said...

Congratulations on the summer job!!

LL said...

Congrats!! I think a feeling of competence is highly underrated in a job. There are days that I may not love everything I do, but I know that I Can do it and that goes a very long way in feeling satisfied throughout the day.

gudnuff said...

Way to go! That is fantastic, and I love that you sent the email and that you obviously left a very good impression so that they immediately thought "Yeah, let's see if we can make this happen" instead of "What is SHE smokin'? We'd never want her back here!"

(...btw, you're post about The Smell has a sister now at gudnuff. If I could edit posts from my phone I'd reference your post and call mine "When Bad Smells Attack!"...thanks for posting yours...makes my uh-oh slightly less horrible, but doesn't lessen my culpability. At least you have good reason for your smelly day...just a hazard of the mommy job.)

FSD said...

Congrats!!! Don't worry about the feelings of your classmates that don't have a job yet. Enjoy your good fortune. I had two offers from big law firms going into my third year, and I robbed myself of that excitement because I was so worried about what others would think/feel.

To comment on this: "I still can't decide if law firms like confidence that is borderline arrogance or if they prefer people willing to be trained."....I think this truly varies from one partner/senior associate to another. After working with someone a few times you'll get a feel for this.

Good luck!!!

Googie Baba said...

Congratulations Cee. I am really happy for you.

The grades thing is funny. I have a friend who I think is going to make a great attorney. He has made it to finals at our Moot Court Competition, and has won a bunch of other stuff. If I need an explanation of something, I go to him. He is really smart and skilled. But his grades aren't very good and he had a difficult time getting an internship. Which is really crazy, because I think he is going to kick ass as an attorney.

I guess it just goes to show that you have to look at the entire person, and not just the grades.