When first starting out on my job search my 1L year, I had no idea where to start. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to do it. In some ways, not really having a plan was helpful because my options were nearly limitless. On the other hand, it isn’t realistic to apply to every single job out there. I met with the Office of Career Planning (OCP) before I even started looking to discuss what I thought I might be interested in and where I could look at various types of job postings. Based on my interests and undergraduate studies, my advisor suggested a few different areas of the law in which I might be interested.
My job search didn’t really start until I started getting emails from OCP about On Campus Interviews (OCI). Although I wasn’t sure what kind of law I wanted to practice or where, I figured a law firm could expose me to variety of types of law and hopefully, I could narrow my scope a little bit. I started applying to most of the law firms that were coming to OCI. Although I had never been to Alabama, quite a few of these firms were in Alabama, and I figured I might as well give them a try. I interviewed at a few firms during OCI and ended up committing to a larger firm in Birmingham for half of the summer as a summer associate.
I was excited to try something new in Birmingham for a portion of the summer, but I wasn’t I was ready to abandon my roots in northeast Tennessee yet. Since Tennessee wasn’t largely represented at OCI, I did some research on my own for this area. OCP helped me find a few W&L alums in the region to get in touch with. I called some alums, along with a few family friends, to hear about their work and their firms. Being able to talk with alumni was great, because they were really willing to bend over backward to help you out. A few of the alums I spoke with passed along my resume to their hiring committees, and one alumnus even helped edit my resume for me. In addition to getting in touch with people, I found various firms in the region whose websites indicated they had a summer associate program. I sent emails to the contacts listed with my resume and cover letter, and I heard back from a few for interviews. All of the firms were really flexible and said I could just do a Skype or phone interview if I couldn’t come to the office. Fortunately I was headed home for spring break, so I interviewed at the firms in the person. I ended up choosing to spend the other half of my summer at a smaller firm in Knoxville, TN. It was really nice being able to split my summer because I could compare firm cultures and work atmospheres and decide which place was a better fit for me.
After splitting my summer, I was fortunate enough to find a firm I really liked . Lucky for me, they liked me too. I’ll be returning to one of the firms to be a summer associate. I was really lucky to be able to work at the firm my 1L summer because a fair portion of their 2L summer associate class is filled by people who worked there for their 1L summer. Although many markets aren’t like this, those that have large 1L summer associate classes seem to have a lot less room for new people in their 2L summer associate class because they invite some of the 1Ls back.
On their face, many law firms seem incredibly similar. This is far from the truth though. For me, finding a law firm that was a good fit for me was more important than finding a law firm in a specific location or of a specific size. Keeping my options open helped me find a place that I could see myself working for many years to come.