8. Having experienced the first hiring cycle, do you have any advice for incoming 1Ls?
Be patient. I was sending out a lot of resumes and hearing nothing. And then the perfect job just came out of nowhere and landed in my lap. If you don’t land something big or glamorous your first year, don’t worry about it – most people don’t. Georgetown gives you a pretty generous stipend if you take a public interest job, so it’s a good opportunity to check out an area that you’re interested in that wouldn’t pay. Lastly, if you don’t land anything for a long time, don’t panic. You’ll end up with something. I know people who didn’t get jobs until finals. In fact, chances are it’ll be paid because you’ll probably get a job for a professor as a research assistant, which is a good opportunity unto itself.
9. How did you go about narrowing your field of study (i.e. choosing a 1L elective, choosing your 2L courses)?
I took international law, mostly because it sounded the most interesting. It turns out it was a good choice because it’s a prerequisite to a ton of other classes I’m interested in. I also took it because some 2L’s I know suggested it.
Speaking of which, I should have mentioned that earlier somewhere. Get to know some 2L’s and 3L’s. Ask them questions and hang out with them. Their perspective was always refreshing. There is no one better qualified to speak on the subject of surviving your 1L year. I’m sure you will be fine in this department since you’ve already taken the initiative to ask all these questions! And wait! I just realized that I’m a 2L now! So I would be happy to answer any more of your questions that you have next year.
You’re going to be asked a billion times what you want to do after law school. It’s totally OK to say you have no idea. That’s what I’ve been saying (in addition to saying that I want to pay off my debt). Personally, I think I’ve had a little bit of clarity during spring semester in that I’ve realized I’d like to go back home and have my own practice eventually. So I think I’m going to take all the general courses my second year (tax, corporations, evidence, estates, etc. etc. etc.) and then find other stuff I’m interested in for my third year.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not knowing what area you’re going into, even up to graduation and beyond. Your JD is going to be quite versatile and there are very few, if any, areas that would be closed off to you because you failed to take some class while you were in school. You don’t even really learn that much about the law in law school – just general legal principles. You figure out all the specifics afterwards. So my approach to selecting classes (something I’m working through right now) is basically to make a list of the ones I’m interested in and then not to stress at all about them because I’ll probably enjoy all of them and none of them are “essential” or will significantly alter my career or life.
10. How did you go about deciding whether to pursue law review, journals, mooting, and so on? What were the determining factors for you?
I’m doing the write on right now for the journals. Almost everyone tries out for everything. I figure with all these things that it doesn’t hurt to try out for them and see what happens. If I get on then I’ll made decisions about them. Because I’m going to be working during the year, I don’t know how reasonable it would be for me to do all these things in addition to classes. But we’ll see. I really can’t give much advice in this area because it’s more upcoming for me. But my approach is definitely to not stress out about it. It’s not going to make or break anyone.
Matt’s Closing Thoughts
My general advice is to know what you’re getting yourself into and then enjoy it. Being in DC and learning these things is pretty incredible. I feel like I have learned and grown a ton. I don’t have a single regret. I know I may have made all this sound rosy, but I really have enjoyed every minute of it. And I think everyone is capable of enjoying it. It’s just a matter of working hard, perspective, and staying grounded.
I’ll stand by that general advice, but obviously there are more specific pieces of advice that I gave above (highlighting, outlining timeline, etc.) that may not be good advice for all people. You’ve just got to experiment a bit and figure out what works for you. I’ve adjusted my system a bit along the way and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so. Work hard and you’ll figure out what works for you.