Question & Answer
August 28, 2012
I am in my last year of law school. I have a solid resume of work experience in corporate human resources, I want to enter the field of labor and employment law. I am not on law review or any journals and was not able to secure a summer associate position in a major firm. I have average grades now with a 3.0 gpa, but my grades were terrible during my first year of law school, due to the deaths of two close family members and overall stress and confusion in my life. Is it still possible for me to obtain a first year associate position in a large new york city firm or should I just give up on that dream?
Never give up on your dreams. However, sometimes you need to work on other things while at the same time keeping your dreams alive but simply on the back-burner for some time in the future.
We don't know certain things about you but based on what you have told us it does seem that you do not have a job secured for yourself upon graduation. We also do not know where you went to law school.
We do know that you had a really rough and sad time during your first year of law school. I am surprised that you decided to stay in school during this period instead of withdrawing and trying to work something out with the school where you might be able to start over again the following year. Although this is hindsight now, this is something that others in a similar position have done in the past or might consider in the future.
Losingfor examplea mother and a father at the same time is a horrible and very traumatic situation, one that could easily and understandably cause stress and confusion to one's life. Added on to the stress and confusion of the first year of law school, this is a formula for disastrous grades and ultimately no offer for a 2L summer job and lastly, a less than attractive final transcript. Aside from all of that, it is also a time for grieving and being with other family members and taking care of one's self.
Here is the saddest part of all...you really can't discuss this on interviews because the partners, while sympathetic to your plight, really don't care. They don't want to hear about your personal problems. In fact, it is doubtful that you will even get to an interview stage at any of the large New York City law firms where you dream to go because they are going to view your transcript prior to anything else and see your "terrible" first year grades and not even consider your candidacy.
This may sound so cruel and unfeeling, especially considering your situation, but in the real world of work, this is what happens. It is necessary that the moment you walk out your door in the morning, your personal life should stay home and only your professional life goes with you into the office. Everyone has problemssome big, some smallbut no one really wants to hear about them or to hear them as an excuse as to why work wasn't done or grades weren't good, etc.
So, how do you keep your dream alive? I suggest you send out your resume with the best cover letter possible indicating your extensive pre-law school human resources experience. I would not discuss your personal problems that happened while you were in law school in the cover letter. You will have a chance to briefly cover this in an interview when you inevitably will be asked why your first year grades were so low.
At this point in time you should be focused at getting experience in labor law at any firm that makes an offer to you. Down the roadand I am talking in terms of at least several yearswhen you have some experience in this practice area and perhaps have written or co-authored some published articles, you will have some practical experience to your name to add on to your resume and will be an expert in your field and then you will be able to pursue your dream of practicing with the BigLaw firms.
The job market is so difficult right now for recent grads that basically it is all about the transcript. I am sorry that you had such personal tragedy during your first year of law school but now you need to move on and find a way to make your dreams eventually come true. There is a way to do it...it just may take some time. Best wishes!
I hope everyone has a happy Labor Day weekend. I can't believe the summer is just about over!
Ann M. Israel