Before attending law school I had very little contact with the legal community and had no idea what I was getting into. My first year of school was extremely stressful. I was not used to 100% exams and found a lot of the material challenging to wrap my head around.
During the summer after my first year, I followed the tide with my friends and applied for summer jobs at big corporate firms. I had no idea if this was what I wanted, but since everyone else was doing it I figured I would too. After weeks of perfecting cover letters and resumes, I submitted all of my applications. While I had a few interviews, I was so nervous that I really wasn’t myself. At the end of the process I didn’t get a job. Not being successful really hit me. I doubted my decision to go to law school and really didn’t know how to move forward.
When I went through the process to get a license to practice law, a student needed to pass the bar admissions exam and get an articling position (apprenticeship for 10 months). Now there is another option of completing the Law Practice Program but most students still take the articling route.
Students typically apply for articling positions in the summer before the third year of law school and go through a whole different process involving call days, multiple interviews, cocktail parties and running around the downtown core in high heels.
During the summer after my second year I found myself anxious again. I felt that I had to apply to all of the possible articling jobs available and if I didn’t get one I would be left behind. I don’t remember how many applications I sent out but I can tell you it was a lot – I spent the summer researching firms, trying to polish my resume and cover letters and speaking to various people.
I ended up landing a position at a small but well-known litigation firm. I went into my third year of law school with a smile on my face.
That smile changed drastically once I started work. Articling was even more stressful for me than law school. I never knew where I stood and if I was doing a decent job. I also found it challenging to work for 10 months without knowing if I would be hired on as an associate. At that time, fit wasn’t an issue for me. I just wanted a secure position with a paycheque.
After the 10 months of articling I was not hired back but the other articling student I worked with was asked back. I was crushed. Again, I second-guessed myself. I didn’t understand how my hard work didn’t pay off. I felt that all of those late hours were a waste and I had no idea how to find another job.
It took me several months to land on my feet but I eventually found a job as a litigation associate at a mid size firm in the downtown core. The people were great, the work was always changing and I learned so much by working there but I didn’t see myself at the firm for the rest of my career. I stayed there for 7 years – a long time for a job I wasn’t passionate about.
After having R, I decided that I wouldn’t go back to my old firm. The hours were just too long for me to be a good litigator and the mom I wanted to be. So, I embarked on another job search – this time for a less conventional law related position where I could use my degree in a different way.
Once again, I polished up my resume and cover letters (this time with a maternity leave to contend with), networked, set out on formal interviews, completed several job application assignments and dealt with the disappointment of many positions not working out.
Currently, I’m working at the largest law school in the country, using the skills I’ve gained throughout my career by helping undergraduate students decide if practicing law is right for them and helping law students gain skills to assist them in the workforce.
Through all of my job confusion, career uncertainty, cover letters, resumes and interviews I have learned a lot. My hope is that this blog can provide some easy and actionable advice to those looking for guidance and support.
What challenges have you faced on your career path?