Every student wants to make career decisions that “fit” him/her best. In order to make those individualized plans, each student must identify his/her interests, goals, skills and values through a process called self-assessment. Coupled with that self-evaluation, a law student must examine the breadth of practice opportunities in the legal field through a process called career exploration. Too often, students skip both of these steps and try to jump immediately into the job search. This lack of self-assessment and exploration colors a student’s entire approach to the job search process. An old adage says “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Many students apply the “any road” approach. Instead of conducting a targeted job search, “any-roaders” will apply to any job opening, whether they are interested in that practice or not. “Any-roaders” do not have answers to the frequently asked interview questions like, “Why did you come to law school?” or “Where do you see your legal career heading five to ten years from now?” The Career Services staff would like to help you join another category, the “Planners”. “Planners”, by contrast, pinpoint the types of practice they are attracted to and search for related information, externship, internship and clinical experiences during law school to further their career goals. Expect the planning process to continue throughout law school and beyond.
The Career Services Office is here to empower you and give you the resources to develop your unique career in the law, as well as to broaden your job opportunities. As a means of beginning this process we encourage you to complete the Individualized Development Plan (IDP) worksheets. These worksheets will help you identify:
- Your workplace values,
- Practice area and setting preferences
- Your level of lawyering skills
- Your career goals.
Why are these tools important? That question calls for a brief explanation. First, your workplace values are important because one’s work environment has a large influence on career satisfaction. Most people are happiest when they work in places in-line with their values and by contrast, experience stress and dissatisfaction when the demands of their jobs conflict with things that are important to them. In order for you to identify what is most important to you, please complete the “Two-Step Workplace Values Exercise”. Next, the “Practice Area and Setting Preferences Worksheet” is designed get a preliminary idea about what areas of legal practice interest you and what settings you might enjoy working. Every law student is different and seeks different career results after attending law school. Some students are drawn to criminal law while others would rather help families navigate domestic issues. Still others come to law school so that they can have their own practice one day while many of their colleagues thrive on the 80-hour weeks in some major law firm. This worksheet is not an exhaustive list, but it provides the Career Services staff member with some broad areas of interest when meeting with you for the first time so that the appointment can be more productive. The third part of the self-assessment package, “Your Level of Lawyering Skills”, helps each individual evaluate themselves on the progress of their development of 26 key legal skills. This inventory should be viewed, as a snapshot of your skills at a given point in time; NOT as yet another indicator of inadequacy. So a student who uses this tool during his/her first year should expect a different and improved skills picture upon a third year re-evaluation; as he/she progresses through law school, the breadth of legal skills will grow. You can and should look for ways to gain these skills throughout your law school career.
After compiling all of this data from your individual self-assessment, Career Services staff members will help you set goals and generate action steps relevant to your career aspirations, whether you have a specific idea of what to do or you are simply in the information-gathering stage. Taking a proactive approach to your career early in your law school education allows you to be directed in the types of opportunities to seek.