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Phew! Finals are done, and you’ve officially made it through your first semester of law school. Congratulations! Time to take a breath, realign, and set your goals for 2020 like finding the right firm for you.

So, how can you pave the way to a job that you enjoy and love after law school? As you’ve heard time and time again, your first year is crucial. Not only should a first-year law student aim to be successful academically, but you should also try to stay informed about the opportunities available (and we know, there are a lot of them!). Here are a few more tips. 

Be Proactive.

These days, there isn’t a universal restriction on when 1Ls and employers can interact with one another. Students are securing summer associate positions earlier than ever through a plethora of avenues, including law school receptions, employer “Home for the Holiday” receptions, and resume workshops and panels hosted by student groups on campus. Take every chance to learn about employers so that when it comes time to consider your options, you are able to make an informed and thoughtful decision.

Connect and Develop Your Network.

There are a number of summits, conferences, academies, and receptions available during the spring of your first year. These events will help you make connections with peers and potential employers. The attorneys you meet at these events often become mentors by supplying advice on how to navigate the legal market. You also could uncover a segment in the legal market you didn’t know existed.

Many employers host receptions in their offices during the holiday break or in the early spring. If you have trouble finding these events online, contact the recruiting manager in the office of a firm you’re interested in. They will be able to provide the information you’re looking for and may surprise you with additional career-related prospects. You also could ask your Career Services Office or student group leaders, as many of these opportunities are sent to them as well.

Research.

After making connections and learning a bit about the legal industry, you can start to determine the criteria for your ideal employer. Three key factors to consider are culture, practice, and geographic location. A number of publications research law firms by collecting information provided by firm executives and by surveying summer associates and associates currently working at the firm, among them the various Vault guides (including the Summer Associate guide, Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms, and Practice Perspectives), AmLaw Surveys (including the Diversity Scorecard, Midlevel Associates Survey, Summer Associates Survey, and the AmLaw 100 and AmLaw 200 Surveys,) the NALP Forms, and the Chambers-Associate guide.

  • Culture: Since a significant amount of time is spent in the workplace, you’ll want to make sure your life values align with those of your employer. Do they aim to provide the work/life balance you envision? Do they provide you with the tools and training to excel in your career? Can you picture yourself succeeding in this work environment and enjoying the people with whom you work? The American Lawyer’s annual Midlevel Associates Survey provides great insight into what it’s like to practice at law firms. The publication asks third- to fifth-year associates how satisfied they are with their firm in such areas as management, training, and benefits. Likewise, through Vault’s Annual Associate Survey, associates of all levels share their overall satisfaction and experiences with their firms’ culture.
  • Practice: Investigate what kind of practice you want to pursue and what type of law firm or organization is right for you. If you want to try out a certain practice area, InsideSherpa provides free, interactive simulations of the work done at leading companies, including law firms. Participants complete online assignments, receive feedback, and gain real-world experience. Chambers-Associate provides online guides that explain each practice area with attorney insight as to what the job actually entails. Vault also offers in-depth practice descriptions, as well as attorney Q&As on specific practice areas.
  • Geographic Location: Ensure you know what market you want to be in; this will help narrow down employers of choice. The online NALP employer directory allows you to easily search a city to uncover the law firms located there. You can even sign up for NALP notifications on a particular region. If an employer opens a new office in your city of choice, NALP will send you an email notification.

Finding the right employer doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, the opportunities to explore and learn about the legal industry are practically endless. At Latham & Watkins, we’re proud to offer an array of scholarships and opportunities that introduce students to our values and culture. For example, 1Ls can apply to our 1L Fellowship Program, which lets you spend half the summer working in a Latham office and half the summer working for one of our clients. Our practice-area scholarships come with an offer of summer employment for 2Ls, mentoring from a partner, an invitation to engage in an innovative virtual experience program before joining as a summer associate, and a scholarship upon starting as a full-time associate at Latham. We also invite law students who share our commitment to diversity and inclusion to participate in our award-winning Diversity Leadership Academy—a multi-day, in-person professional development program for law students and mid-level Latham associates featuring panels, events, and skill-building workshops. To learn more about our firm and innovative programs, click here.