This time of year is always incredibly stressful to law students and law school applicants alike. Law school applicants are in the midst of finalizing applications, weighing offers and possibilities, and trying to figure out if their top choice schools will even be a good fit for them. Law students are in the midst of either finding summer internships or interviewing for post-grad employment. But before students apply for positions or schools, we all freshen up our legal resumes and work on our interviewing skills.
Unlike the vast majority of law students, I came into law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do after graduation. Don’t worry if you didn’t know or still don’t know what you want to do post-grad, that is perfectly fine too. Oddly enough, I have known for years that I wanted to be a labor attorney. However, when I was selecting a law school, I did not have a primary focus of finding a school that had a labor-specific program or emphasis. I had other ideas in mind when selecting which school that I wanted to attend. I selected the University of Kansas School of Law because I wanted to attend a school that had a good reputation, name recognition, and a welcoming environment of students and professors.
Halfway through my first year, when it came time to apply for summer employment, I had to shake the nagging thought that I would be competing for jobs with candidates that might have gone to schools that had labor-specific programs, clinics or journals. I wondered how my application would stack up against theirs. In the worst-case scenario, I wondered if I would ever be able to get experience in the field that I so clearly wanted to work in. Fortunately, I kept regular communication with the Career Services Office, and they helped guide me in ways to make my applications the most competitive – regardless of the potential downsides of coming from a school without a labor-specific program. The wonderful news was that I could control a few key things that I will share with you about my law school education that would ultimately help me find summer legal employment.
1. Target your curriculum
Following my first year of law school, I committed to taking as many courses related or adjacent to the labor field as possible. I did this knowing that I needed to show future employers that I truly was interested in a labor position. While selecting courses relevant to my desired future employment, I ensured that I would meet graduation requirements. By doing this, I stayed interested; up-to-date on current labor policies and operations; and kept on track for graduation. Having a targeted curriculum also helped harmonize my legal education with my future as a practicing labor attorney.
2. Cultivate your connections
Throughout my brief time at KU Law, I have told just about anybody who wanted to listen about my career goals. I continue to meet with various professors to stay the course I elected prior to attending law school. At networking events, I share my goals and utilize connections to fellow labor attorneys. I attend job fairs and conferences applicable to my future goal. And, most importantly, I always attempt to make a genuine, meaningful and lasting impression upon people.
3. Be intentional about extracurriculars
Being involved in extra-curricular activities is truly my favorite part of law school. I elect to involve myself in activities that I care about AND future employers will find valuable. By doing this, I find more enrichment in my education and my life in general. In fact, I have spent many job interviews being asked about my involvement. It is in these moments that I show employers my personality, they learn things that matter to me and we both find out if I would be a good fit in their culture.
As we all embark on the daunting task of finding employment or selecting law schools, I hope that these three tips help you just as much as they have helped me navigate my way through law school thus far. And don’t forget, Career Services’ virtual door is always open.
— By Heddy Pierce-Armstrong, a 2L from El Dorado and a KU Law Student Ambassador.