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Law School: If I could do it again . . .

Today is my graduation day from law school.  I’ve been reflecting all week about my law school experience . . . when I haven’t been running around like a crazy person taking care of everything that I’ve put off during the semester but have to get done before BarBri starts next week.  It’s been fun to remember the person I was when I started this adventure three years ago compared to who I am today.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Green

So the big question is, if I had to do it all again, knowing what I know now, would I have gone to law school?  Absolutely!  I went to law school because I was told it was the best education a person can get, regardless of whether they become a lawyer.  That statement is still true.  If I could do it all over again, I’d still go to law school, but I’d do it a little differently . . .

I would have skipped more classes. The American Bar Association permits students to miss up to 10% of every course.  I should have taken full advantage of that.  There were so many opportunities for law students to attend workshops and conferences; however I felt that I couldn’t attend them because it was drilled into my head that missing class would result in me not learning the material.  While I believe that going to class is important, some things are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that are worth occasionally missing class.

I would have published more papers. I’m graduating from law school as a co-author of a book chapter about government regulation of emerging technologies; however I have close to final drafts of papers on the legalities of organizing flash mobs, the legal side of blogging, and the legalities of GPS technology.  They are all on my back burner of projects that I’ll get to when I have time.  It would have been nice to have submitted at least one of them for publication in a legal journal.

I would have networked more. I have tried to seek out my fellow geeks in the legal community and people who have been successful following their passions.  I am glad to have been bold enough to reach out to some wonderful people during my law school career and develop some great relationships.  I wish I had had the time and energy to do more of it.

I would have started Sponsor A Law Kid sooner. I wish I had thought of Sponsor A Law Kid when I first started this blog.  This campaign has paid for approximately 1/3 of my tuition during my final semester of law school and it has provided the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and businesses.  It would have been amazing if I had been able to use this to fund my entire education.

I never would have looked at my grades. I went into law school like everyone else, thinking that you have to be in the top 25% to be successful.  It made me focus too much on grades and not enough of learning the materials.  Once I figured out that grades are meaningless, I stopped looking at them.  I switched my focus to learning the law, and I became so much happier and learned so much more.  I was more creative, efficient, and relaxed.  I have not seen my grades since my first semester of law school, and I’ve been told that my GPA has gone up every semester since.  Being in the top 25% is a requirement for some people’s professional dreams, just not mine.

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Walking on Tables: Reflections on Katy Goshtasbi

Last week the law school invited Katy Goshtasbi of Puris Image to speak about personal branding.  My friend said she had good information about how you should dress and act.  I was a little afraid that she was going to prescribe a cookie-cutter uniform that all lawyers need to adopt in order to be successful.  I was so glad I was wrong.

Katy Goshtasbi, Photo from Puris Image

My friends will vouch for me that I am not a typical girl, woman, chick, what’s the female equivalent of “guy?”  I’m a pretty rough-and-tumble person.  I prefer to be comfortable than to be pretty.  I will rarely torture myself with clothing that restricts my movement or shoes that pinch my toes.  At most, I do 5-minute make-up before walking out the door on a typical day.  I have been mistaken for a man.  For my 18th birthday, my sister bought me Victoria Secret lotion and said, “If you’re not going to dress like a girl, you can at least smell like one.”

Now it may seem like I don’t care about how I look, but that’s not true.  I am very particular about the clothes I buy.  When I’m in cute mode, I’m determined to be very cute.  However, you’ll never catch me dressing like a girly girl.  Even when I’m in a dress, it’s obvious that I’m not a girly girl.  Even when I’ve tried to be a girly girly, it doesn’t work.

I was overjoyed when one of Goshtasbi’s take away messages was “Be Yourself.”  Thank you!  I was so happy to hear that someone might get me and promote the fact that there’s more than one way to be portrayed as a successful professional.

I want to be the lawyer to the geeks and I’m glad that my potential clients are typically found in jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies.  Goshtasbi’s talk brought to my attention the fact that I had adopted my future client’s preferred wardrobe as my everyday uniform.  This may not be portraying my desired image of “sassy, smart, and strong.”  Goshtasbi inspired me to become reacquainted with my closet.

Goshtasbi said that she would give a free 40-minute phone consultation to the first 3 people who approached her at the end of her talk.  I wanted one of those slots, but I was sitting 3 rows back and 4 seats in from the aisle in a room with stadium seating with long tables instead of individual desks.  There was no way I could get to her if I went the traditional route.  Drastic measures were required to achieve my goal.  The second Goshtasbi was done talking, I climbed up on top of my table, and walked down the tables as if they were stepping stones to Goshtasbi podium. It was unconventional but it worked.  I can’t wait to talk with her next month during our session.

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Geek Quest

I want to find my people in the legal world, and by “my people” I mean my fellow geeks.  As it’s been told to me, getting a job after law school isn’t about what you know, but who you know.  This isn’t new information.  One of my mentors said at the beginning of my professional career that 85% of getting a job is networking.

I am a geek
Image by Julia Roy via Flickr

The second year of law school is the time to make contact with the firm you want to work for after graduation.  Ideally, you work for the firm during your 2L summer and get an offer at the end of the summer for a job after graduation.  I want to work for a firm that does intellectual property (IP) work.  My goal is to meet lawyers who are geeks like me.  I want to meet other geeky IP lawyers who can’t change the fact that they’re geeks and make it work for them as lawyers.  I want to work for a firm where geeks are accepted and applauded.  I sent an email to an IP lawyer in Phoenix asking for his recommendations about who I should meet.

My IP lawyer friend said he doesn’t know any geeky IP lawyers and that all the geeks he knows are scientists and engineers.  His only advice was most firms give their lawyers “great latitude to do whatever you want outside the office, as long as you do excellent work.”  I was a little sad to hear that an IP lawyer, of all people, didn’t know any geek lawyers.  I refuse to believe that there aren’t any geeks out there…it will just take some effort to find them.

On a happy note, I was so relieved to meet a lawyer who truly had passion for practicing law, and it wasn’t about getting rich.  He spent over an hour with my fellow interns and me talking about how important it is to not sacrifice your soul, personality, or hobbies for the sake of your career.

So my quest continues to find my fellow geeks.  I want to meet lawyers who understand the joy of celebrating science holidays, who understand the importance of making the pilgrimage to the future birthplace of Captain Kirk, and who understand why I want to have a koosh ball on my desk instead of a paperweight.

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