During the first few weeks and months of law school, 1Ls are blissfully unaware of the realities of the legal world. All that matters at that point is getting to class and being prepared. There are no worries about improving grades or maintaining grades, because there are no grades to improve upon or maintain. The ugliness that some students can exhibit hasn’t shown itself fully. Jobs are not a concern, because many law schools prohibit full time students from working, and legal employers are not allowed to talk to 1Ls until November of their first year. Except for a select few who have seen through the looking glass, many believe that whatever job they want will be theirs for the taking, and that employers will fight over who gets to hand them $2000 per week in the coming summer.
In light of this naivety, it is no surprise that when the Career Services office hauled my class into school on a Saturday in early November of our first year, attendance was robust. Sure, we were giving up half of a Saturday, but this was the vaunted Career Services office. They were all knowing, all powerful. With just a simple phone call, they could have potential employers in a bidding war over your services. Or so the story went. By sitting through this meeting, we would know just how much we could expect to be earning come May, and just how easy it would be to get those jobs.
Naturally, when so little is known about an entity, stories about it are invented to make up for the lack of real information. How were we supposed to know that Career Services is typically worthless? That we could get better advice from the homeless guy who hangs out around campus? That the only people it can actually help find a job are those people who don’t need help finding jobs in the first place? That spending your Saturday morning counting the number of tiles in your kitchen would be infinitely more productive?
After listening to the Dean of the school and the Dean of Career Services each deliver the exact same fifteen minute long speech, our guest speakers arrived. They included someone from the Prosecutor’s office, a couple of attorneys from small and mid-sized firms around town, and the hiring partner from a large and prestigious firm in a nearby city. The big firm hiring partner stuck out. He wore a $2000 suit, $500 shoes, a $200 tie, and a $100 haircut, while the other collectively looked like the bargain rack at Sears. As the other people took turns speaking, he looked bored, aggravated, annoyed, and eventually, homicidal. I could tell he didn’t belong, and my mind raced as to why he was there. Finally, it was his turn to speak. Most of the students in the room perked up. After all, the big firms, that’s where the money is. This guy is sure to give some insights, right?
I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was brief, harsh, and completely deflated the hopes and dreams of many in that room. His message boiled down to this: “We don’t hire 1Ls, and even if we did, we wouldn’t hire any of you.”
Many people were shocked and appalled by his candor, while I was refreshed. For the first time, I could see law school for what it was. Of all people, a big firm hiring partner gave me a better perspective on life.