Yes, good grades are important but bad grades can be overcome. If for some reason, you don’t end up in the top of the class, accept the grades you have and move on. Don’t make excuses for them. Instead, balance your grades out with practical work experience, volunteer work, and journal/leadership positions. Don’t let your grades define you – become a well-rounded person.
The best thing I did in law school was take a legal position off-campus. I learned more during my one semester as a judicial extern for a federal district court judge than I did my entire three years at law school. Not only was it fun and challenging but I improved my writing and got to see live courtroom drama. By seeing the writing and motions of other attorneys, yours will improve. And finally, I understood why 1L’s have to sit through a very boring class regarding the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Those rules make the legal world go round.
Talk to as many lawyers as you can. The more you know about the actual practice of law and the different practice areas, the better you are during interviews and in career planning. Building relationships now with attorneys and fellow law students can only help you in the future.
It’s a small legal community with a long memory. Good manners, strong ethics and common sense go a long way. There are law firms who will not interview attorneys whom they once interviewed as a law student because that person never sent a thank you note or was rude to the recruiting coordinator.
Use the Office of Career Planning early and often. I wish I had. Students that do have better resumes, interviewing skills and job search techniques. Once you graduate, there is no “On-Campus Interview” season where employers come to you. You’ll have to do your own search and it is better you learn job search skills earlier rather than later.
Marina Sarmiento Feehan, JD, who practiced litigation and transactional IP law, is the Assistant Director of Employer Relations at the Office of Career Planning at USF Law. If you'd like more information on career planning, Ms. Feehan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (415) 422-6757.