Define Personal Job Musts
At the outset of your career planning, think hard about some basic practical realities to come up with a “must” list for any job that you take. Consider these three factors now so that you can work them into your career planning:
Many students who come meet with us have never considered leaving the Chicago area for career opportunities – other students tell us that they are willing to go anywhere for a job. But as we talk, we often find that Chicago people would be willing to relocate for the perfect job – or that “anywhere” actually means a student is willing to work in any major metropolitan area in which they have friends or family. Take some time to think about how flexible you are in terms of location, both for summer jobs and for post-graduate positions.
Things to keep in mind about location:
1. Where you plan to spend your summers is important. If you want to work somewhere other than Chicago after graduation, you will want to consider working there during at least one of your law school summers. This will help you:
- Build a resume that reflects your interest in working in that location.
- Gain insight into the market for legal jobs in that location.
- Develop a network of lawyers in that market who can help you with your post-graduate job search.
This is especially important in markets that tend to be insular – markets like DC, California, Florida, Boston and the Pacific Northwest.
2. Smaller markets sometimes offer more opportunities than larger markets. Are there more legal jobs in New York City than in Cleveland, Ohio? Of course, but there are also a disproportionate number of law students competing for those jobs. Often, smaller markets in less sexy areas (think Akron, Grand Rapids, or Milwaukee) draw far less interest from law students than their legal communities warrant. Especially if you have a tie to the area (parent’s home, childhood home, location of your undergraduate institution, family in the area) so that you can articulate a clear interest in moving to the area after law school, you may find that you will be much more attractive to employers in a smaller market than you are to employers in major cities.
Take a hard look at your current budget, what your budget will look like after school, and what law jobs actually pay, so that you know how much financial flexibility you will have both during and after law school. Be sure you understand the payment options for your student loans so that you can project how loan repayment will impact your post-graduation budget. A loan repayment calculator is available at AccessGroup.org.
Note that most public interest, judicial and government internships available to law students during law school are unpaid. Many students find that they need to take an unpaid position during their 1L summer to gain legal experience. Students interested in government or public interest work may have to take unpaid positions throughout law school to build the experience they need to be competitive for post-graduate work. Please note that there are a number of funding sources for students interested in pursing careers in public interest both during and after law school. Researching funding options now, including Loyola's Loan Repayment Assistance Program, can help you create a plan for a professionally fulfilling, and financially sustaining, career in public interest law.
Keep in mind that your first job out of law school will likely not be the highest paying job – but as you build your practice, develop your legal skills, and secure your own clients, your earning potential will increase. Do not wait until you are graduating to take stock of your financial future – careful planning and budgeting during law school can help give you more flexibility after school to take a lower paying job that will give you better experience!
3. HOURS & FLEXIBILITY
Think carefully about what hours you are willing to work, and what level of flexibility you will need as you plan your career. Some practice areas (like litigation) have notoriously unpredictable schedules. Other specialties (like trusts & estates) have more predictable schedules, or heat up at more predictable times (corporate real estate work tends to get busy at the end of each financial quarter, for example). Hours expectations will vary quite a bit between employers. While there isn’t a direct correlation between the amount of money you earn and the hours you work – there are plenty of lawyers working crazy hours to bring in $50,000 a year – in general the types of large firms that pay the top salaries will expect you to work very the longest hours and be on call 24/7 for your clients. Government positions, on the other hand, are known for offering more reasonable hours. (But be mindful that no employer wants to hear that you want to work for them because you understand you won’t have to work long hours – while it may be true, it is never a good way to approach a potential employer!) As an attorney, no matter what you do, you will be a professional who has duties that may not fit into a 9-5 day. Finally, when considering the hours you can work and the flexibility you will need in a job, bear in mind that these factors will likely change throughout your career, depending on your life and family situation.