December 10, 2018

Preparing for Law School While in High School

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Lately I've been getting emails from high school juniors/seniors who are already setting up their 5 year plans which includes law school as the end goal. Good for you! I really can't stand the people who tell teenagers "oh you'll probably change you mind about being a lawyer.'' Sure, there's a chance that you might end up realizing that law school is for you, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared in case *gasp* you actually do end up applying to law school. So pause the How to Get Away With Murder or the Law & Order because I'm going to show you things you can do that will actually help you, right now, as a high schooler to prepare for law school.

Take AP (or any advanced) research/writing classes

A very, very important part of law school (and being a lawyer) is researching and writing. If you want to be successful in law school and eventually get a high paying lawyer job, you're going to need to be excellent in research and writing. By starting in high school, you'll be ready to take on researching or formal/business writing classes each semester in college. Then by the time you get to law school you'll have a really strong foundation to build upon. Look for classes that have you learning how to use a research database and have a persuasive writing aspect listed in the syllabus. Your 1L self will be so grateful if you show up on day 1 already knowing the basic components of how to write a memo.

Related: College majors that are helpful for law school


Get help with test taking skills

The great thing about high school is that a lot have a testing counselor available for you for free. Even if you have a 4.0 GPA, it's still worth it to go here. College is harder than high school so if you are already improving how this skill now, you'll be setting yourself up to get great grades in college (which are necessary to get into law school). Always strive to be improving yourself academically.

While we're on the subject, get really really good at standardized tests. I thought the ACT and SAT weren't fun, but they also didn't seem like this huge challenge to me. The LSAT is much harder than the ACT/SAT, costs way more, and LSAT prep takes a lot of money and time. Take advantage of any free standardized testing help that your school offers. Even if it's not free, it's still probably a lot cheaper than standardized testing help you can find after high school. Oh and remember that you'll have one last standardized test- the Bar. And if you don't pass this one, you don't become a lawyer. 


Be involved

Not only will this help your college applications go smoother, it will prepare you for law school. You need to learn prioritizing and time management skills now so that you'll already know how to get good grades while having a busy schedule before you get to college and then eventually law school. Your 1L year will have you so busy at times you don't seem to have a moment to yourself. This can be very overwhelming if you're not used to it and has been the downfall for more than one 1L. 

A lot of people try to join debate teams or mock trial teams at their high school because they think it's necessary to be a law school contender, but it just isn't. If you're interested in that then definitely go for it, but don't waste your time doing something you're not interested in just because you think it'll help. It's better to do something you're passionate about and form hobbies than to sign up for something just because you think you should.


Shadow as many lawyers as possible 

Judges, practicing attorneys, non-practicing attorneys, criminal, civil, private, government. There's so many different areas of the law and the best thing you do is exposure yourself to as many legal fields as possible before law school, starting now. Hopefully you have a family friend or distant relative or even just that one person who graduated in the same grade with your older sister years ago who you don't really know but somehow are Facebook friends, reach out to these people and I'm pretty sure they'd be flattered to let you shadow them for a day. If you don't know anyone, just Google for lawyers in your city and start cold emailing them explaining that you're in high school interested in becoming a lawyer and want to learn more about it. 

Pay attention to questions you've started getting ever since you started talking about going to law school: what made you want to be a lawyer? what kind of law are you interested in? why law school? Ask these questions to those you shadow! This will help you realize your own answers to these questions you'll be getting a lot and will give you sample answers of how to explain yourself and your goals. Other questions to ask them: what they do/don't like about being a lawyer, why they got in to their particular area of the law, how law school/being a lawyer is different than what they expected, what do they wish they would've known before law school, etc. Knowing this can maybe help you decide what kind of law you're interested in and can help you make sure that you're making an informed decision regarding your future career.

Take notes about what kind of law you're shadowing and things that stand out to you. This will help you later on when you try to talk about your legal interests and goals in your personal statement. And learn the magic word of the legal profession— networking. Meeting tons of lawyers will help you when you want to try to find a summer job while in high school and college, a clerking job while in law school, and a post-graduation job. Speaking of...

Get a job

If you can, try to find a legal job. This can be legal assistant, legal secretary, or even a receptionist at a law firm. This exposure and experience will help you so much during the next 7 years when you need a legal job. However, I know a paid legal job can be hard to find if you only have a high school diploma (or not even that yet). Now is a great time to suck it up and take an unpaid internship (or offer to help out in an office for free) because you still live at home with your parents so concerns like rent or groceries aren't really on your radar yet. Taking these unpaid internships now might help you out later when you do have bills and need a paid internship.


Alternatively, just take any old high school job. Getting a paycheck is really nice so you can go to the movies or mall with your friends, but it's better to be boring responsible and save up as much as you can. Having a few thousand dollars saved up from years of working while in high school will really help out future you. This can mean you'll end up taking out less student loans for college (or if you get help with college, less student loans for law school). Remember tuition for law school is about double that of college, and all together someone's going to have to pay for 7 years of schooling. This is how many law school grads end up with $100-200k in student loan debt.


Volunteer

This is another thing that will look good on your college applications and also will really help you out. When people come to lawyers, usually they're at the lowest point in their lives— whether it be because they've been arrested, their house is getting foreclosed on, the need a divorce, their personal company is going bankrupt, they've been severally injured... the list goes on and on. You have to be compassionate to be a lawyer (despite what TV might tell you) but you also have to be strong for those who come to you at their worst. Almost anywhere you volunteer, you're going to build these skills.

Want a good place to start volunteering? Google [your city] legal aid center or [your city] free legal help. Then call those places, let them know you're in high school and interested in the law, and ask how you can help. It might just be handing out intake forms to a crowded waiting room, but this kind of volunteering will expose you to the real challenges that lawyers face every day. Then when it's your turn to be a lawyer, you'll be ready to spring in to action helping people in ways that you've been watching other lawyers do for years.


Make college choices wisely

Remember how I was talking about the crazy amount of debt that most law grads are in? I could have a lambo for the amount I've paid for schools! The best way to minimize your post-law school debt is to have little to no college debt. How do you do that? Work really, really hard on getting scholarships for college. Do this by having the highest grades possible, being close to your teachers for scholarship recommendation letters, and applying for every scholarship you can find. Even if your parents are going to pay for all of your college, the more you save them in college tuition the more they'll have still in that college fund leftover to pay for your law school. 


Also, put some thought into the colleges you'll be applying for. Don't go to a college that you don't think you can succeed at. Remember, the closer to a 4.0 college GPA you have, the easier literally everything about the law school application process will be for you. Law schools don't really care where you went to college so they'd be much more likely to admit someone who got a 4.0 from a Division II state school than a 2.9 from a prestigious private school. And if your parents can't pay for your college, consider going to a cheaper college so you'll have less debt. Because remember, law schools don't care where you got your college degree from so it's a smarter move financially to go to a cheaper state school and also load up on summer classes from a community college.


I guess to sum up this post, the way to prepare for law school while still in high school is to just start being intentional about the choices you're making. Yeah you have 8 years from freshman year of high school until your first year of law school and this may sound a long ways off, but by planning ahead you can make things a little easier down the road. Once you're a senior and you're getting ready to go to college, come back to this blog and I'll help you with Phase 2 of Operation Go To Law School. Lastly, enjoy high school and don't try to grow up too fast because you have your whole life to be an adult!



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November 26, 2018

How to Make a Resumé That Will Land a Law Job

Tips for your legal resumé. What to put on a resumé for a summer associate, law clerk, or first-year associate position. Law clerk resumé tips. Summer associate resumé example. First year associate resumé sample. Working for law resumé. Skills and verbs for legal resumé. Law school resume advice and samples. 1L resume. 2L resume. 3L resume. Law grad resume. law school advice. law school blog. law student blogger | brazenandbrunette.com

This is the story of a girl, who had finals coming up but also was stressing about her summer clerking applications. Haha sorry I had to, but really I fell y'all that this time of the year is stressful AF. But that's why I'm here :) So before my externship my 3L year ended, I met with our company's corporate recruiter and learned a lot, which I'm here to share with you! Today I'm passing on what I learned about resumé tips that you can use whether you're applying for a pre-law legal job, a 1L/2L summer clerking position, or a post-grad real-girl job. So let's talk about resumés!

Related: Law school application/transfer resumé advice 

On the left is my resumé before I worked with our recruiter. It's not bad because I'd worked with career services to get it to this point, but if you look at the one of the right which the recruiter helped me do, you'll notice it's a lot better. (side note, if you're wondering why my ODR job isn't on my old resumé, it accidentally got deleted a long time ago and this is an old resumé so I didn't bother to fix it lol)
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Bullet points

Both resumés have bullet points, but my "after" resumé utilizes them much more! The first bullet point describes the area in which I have experience, and the lower bullet point describes more in detail what experience I have in that area. This helps whoever is reviewing your resumé because they get a lot of relevant information quickly. The recruiter was very honest with me and explained that he does not read every detail in a resumé. In fact, he doesn't even finish the bullet points often. So a practically full sentence won't give them as much info as a quick take-away. For example, if you had 30 seconds to look over my resumé, you'd know I have experience in contract, real estate, employment, insurance, litigation, research, and drafting. Whereas before, in 30 seconds all you'd know is that I have experience in the verbs I used. 

Verbs are still good so your career services isn't wrong! It's just that everyone has similar experience so that shouldn't be what you lead with. Save the verbs for the second half of the bullet point and use the first to grab their attention and show them how you are a perfect fit for the job because your first set of bullet points describe exactly the type of law they want to hire you for. 

As personal proof, I am now a workers' comp lawyer. It's easy to see that my boss scanned over the contract/real estate/employment bullets and that the insurance bullet caught his eye and made him pause because workers' comp is a niche of insurance. And boom what do you know just so happened to be listed under that bullet. I realize most of y'all won't have such a variety of experience because in-house really is unique, but you can see in my previous jobs I was still able to break down the type of work I did. 

Experience

Wording can be a hardest thing to come up with because you can remember that you had a job, but can't remember what all you did for that job. Here's a pro tip: steal working for job postings that you're applying (or applied) for! That's literally where I got all of the wording for my Interstate internship is that I just stole what they had listed as the duties of the job in the posting for their summer internship position. Just get on LinkedIn or LawCrossing and search for [X law] associate position and steal their wording. This is extra helpful for you because again, you want your resumé to mirror their job posting so that you look like their ideal candidate. 

In the future, it helps to keep a running list of the work you're doing. I did this for my last two jobs in two ways— 1) about every week or so I would just add a bullet point to my resumé, and 2) I kept a conflicts log. For the bullet points, I would just write down stuff like worked on X project, did Y to help Z and eventually had like 50 bullet points for my job that I could group together and condense. If want to keep your resumé pretty, you can either do this in a separate word document or even do it on your LinkedIn section and just not include names. As for a conflicts log, you really should have one. Here is the template that I use, and I keep mine on Google Drive so that I can update it on my work computer but still access it from my personal computer after I leave my job or just if I'm working on my resumé on a weekend. After my internship, I was able to go back and be like oh yeah I forgot I worked on X project involving Y person/company. Just trust me, you will forget most of what you do right after you do it since you're doing so much, so just keep track of it, k?

Education

You'll notice that my education section went from top of the page to almost last of the page. Why? Because if you're applying to a summer internship position, people are going to assume you're in school and if you're applying to a post-Bar job, they'll assume you've graduated. So in the balancing test between experience and education, your job is going to prefer experience first (because remember they don't read the whole thing on the first take). I also didn't list the years I graduated because I found out that most people who have been out of law school for a while drop the year and I didn't want this to age me and scream that I just graduated and am totally inexperienced in life.

If this is your first legal job and you don't have any relevant experience, then yeah definitely put your education first. How you can fill this up is by putting your GPA, rank (only if it's top 50% or better), scholarships you've earned, relevant classes you've taken, your involvement, etc. I'd go to career services to help you fill this up the best way possible. But really you do a lot in law school so it's easy to find things to add to this. For example, at my school all 1L's had to participate in a moot court. It was mandatory and I didn't make it past the first round but you bet I threw it in there when I was looking for jobs because at least it's something relevant. 


Achievements

For this section, I combined my "activities and interests" section with my "involvement" section because I was running out of room. If you don't have a ton of experience or education bragging points to talk about, this is a trick to take up more space so you don't have a half-empty page (although 3/4 full is still okay so don't feel like you need to add too much fluff). Here's the trick here— put something relatable and interesting! 

At first I was nervous to sound like a millennial by saying that I have a blog, but at each interview I've had since putting it there it has been brought up! It's great because they just ask in general what I blog about and I get to talk about how I started the blog (shows personal growth), how I help y'all (shows I'm caring), and how I managed it while in law school (shows time-management skills). But the best part is that it breaks up the interview from the standard what law school did you go to and what did you do and makes you stick out in your mind so that later they can be like yeah I liked that girl who had the blog thing. Remember that you're going up against a group of people whose resumés look identical to yours, so you have to find a way for them to remember you. 

Here's the thing... if you say you love to cook but actually don't and they ask you about it, you'll won't have that much to say. If you don't currently have any hobbies, it's fine to say "teaching myself to cook" and then make a commitment to try out a new recipe each week or say "training for a 5K" and then sign up for a 5K and start running. If you don't have a hobby by now, I really can't encourage you enough to try to find one because it is so helpful to have a distraction from law school sometimes. But a word of caution: don't lie here! I put watching football not because I thought oh a guy will probably be interviewing me and guys like football so I'll throw this in here. I actually do love watching my college play football and when one of my interviewers told me she went to OU (which is in the Big 12), we were able to talk about times when our schools have played each other. If I had lied, that would've been super obvious when she brought it up!

Lastly, this is a selfish reason of why you should be doing pro bono! I actually got my job at the ODR office because the work I had been doing for my pro bono was exactly in line with the work I ended up doing! During the interview, I was able to chat with my boss about stories of things I've done and then he started to be like oh well I've actually been thinking about doing X project for a few years now and since you've done this before maybe now is the perfect time to start on it. That is the exactly what you want in an interview— for the employer to be thinking of how they can use you and how you already fit the position they're looking to fill!


Last tips

Use tables to make everything even and symmetrical on your resumé. Just remove the gridlines when you're done and everything is all nice and neat. This is actually a lot easier than trying to always tab something out when instead you can just put it in a little table box and adjust it to be either left-aligned or right-aligned.

Long lines break up information better. You'll notice that my after resumé looks a lot easier on the eyes because the lines under each of my headings goes all the way across. Remember, you want to make it ridiculously easy for your employer to find information. So if they're just concerned about my grades, they can quickly find it because I've made the headings pop out even more for their convenience. Again, you can easily do this by using the tables to your advantage and leaving a gridline on top of your next section. 

If you're running out of room, try to make your contact information all fit on one line; if you need to fill up space, break up contact information. And again, remember you can add your involvement in a separate section to add information. Oh and after you graduate, change your email to your personal email because you never know how long you'll have access to your school email after graduation and also a school email address screams that you just graduated.

Save your resumé as a PDF. This helps you so that when your interviewer opens up your resumé they don't see the little boxes denoting the edge of your resumé. In my case it helped because my information just kept always being two lines over a page-long, I didn't want a 2-page resumé with just two lines on the second page, I didn't have two lines that I was willing to cut, and I couldn't make the font size smaller while keeping it readable. So I had to use the narrow margins setting. In a PDF, the margins were saved so whoever opened it always saw it how I wanted it to, but in a word document, my resumé would open to their last-used margins which would be normal and make the spacing totally off. Plus, it just looks more professional as a PDF. I always have two copies saved, a word document that I can keep editing as I go and a PDF that is the actual resumé I send off.

Okay that's about all the typing my fingers can handle, and probably all the reading that your eyes can handle! So the end :) If you've received a helpful resumé tip from career services, a co-worker, mentor, or anyone else, I'd love to hear about it! 


let's be friends!