[This is a cross post of a submission I recently did for Santa Clara Law’s “Remote News” series. For this issue, 2Ls and 3Ls were asked to answer a few questions for incoming 1Ls. The article was titled “Dear First Years.”]
The one thing I wish someone would have told me on the first day of school is:
I wish someone had told me that I was about to be incredibly overwhelmed with a lot of information and opportunities all at once and that it’s not crucial that I do everything. You have likely received a ton of emails from the many awesome student organizations we have on campus. You may have also already seen some emails regarding the different clinics and professional organizations you might join such as NCIP or law review or the high tech law journal. You might also be wondering just how many networking events you must attend in order to find a job.
I’m going to ask that you take a minute to slow down. Step away from your inundated inbox and think about your original intent to go to law school. Why are you here? What, in your eyes, will allow you to look back three years from now and declare that this was a successful journey? As you paint that picture and develop your three-year plan, it should become clear what opportunities are worth your effort and time, and what opportunities you can easily let go.
All of this is to say do not allow yourself to get overwhelmed right now. For the next month or so, your only job is to settle in. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to join student organizations and to explore your interests these next three years. There’s no need to have it all figured out right now and there’s especially no need to feel like you must do it all.
As my career plan developed, I started using what I call the “three-bucket method” to evaluate school and professional opportunities that came my way. The first bucket is for opportunities that definitely further your career goals. These are opportunities obviously worth exploring because they are guaranteed to help you advance. For example, as someone dedicated to the field of Internet law, I always accept opportunities to speak or publish about content moderation or Section 230 (this of course includes saying yes to any opportunities to edit/collaborate with mentors in the field – especially w/my advisor).
The second bucket is for opportunities that may or may not necessarily advance your career, but are “nice to have” for your resume. For me, this would be volunteering to help host events for the Internet Law and Policy Foundry. Hosting events is a lot of work and that work may not necessarily advance my career – but it does open up some great networking opportunities and lets me put my name next to something relevant to my career goals.
The third bucket is for opportunities that do absolutely nothing for your career or worse, potentially set you back. For me, this would be joining random student organizations that are not relevant to the work I hope to be doing later. It might also be accepting a bunch of random unpaid opportunities that are barely/loosely tangential to my career goals. Just because it’s an “internship” doesn’t mean it’s automatically worth your time and energy. Worse, the time and energy you choose to invest into bucket three opportunities is time and energy not spent on bucket one opportunities.
For now, you’re in the exploring phase. Take everything in first and revisit the three-bucket system when you’re ready.
Don’t sweat it – you’ll be great.
The one thing that people did tell me that I wish I would have paid attention to was:
The quote “it’s a marathon not a sprint” has haunted me since 0L. Every single person who has uttered it to me has been right. Just like with a marathon, surviving law school is all about endurance. You cannot and will not do it all. It’s best to accept that now rather than later when you’ve managed to burn yourself out before final exams. You have three years to build your career and your network and to be the successful student that you’re hoping to be. Aim high. It’s even okay to be an overachiever. Just make sure to space out those achievements.
I didn’t pay attention to this message. In fact, I still have trouble paying attention to this message. The result: burnout. Every. Single. Time. This is something you’ll struggle with not just in law school but likely for the rest of your career as an attorney. The legal field can be brutally demanding and stressful. It’s important to build good work/life balance habits now rather than later. Burnout isn’t something to mess around with. It can lead to serious health issues – both physical and mental – and it can take quite a long time to fully recover. Your goal is to avoid burnout entirely by being mindful of how hard you’re pushing yourself. It really is a marathon, not a sprint.
The thing that surprised me the most in first year was:
The thing that surprised me the most in my first year was how much I changed. By the end of 1L year, I was a different person than I was when I started. Law school will change the way you think, problem-solve, and even empathize. In my opinion, change and growth can be very good (and even necessary), so embrace it. Always stay true to yourself, but recognize that you’ve invested in professional school, so you’re about to transform into a professional!
Additionally, I was surprised to see how many times I changed career paths. I always kept to the same field of interest (Internet law) but my “dream” Internet law job changed almost on a weekly basis. That’s completely okay. The real “dream job” may not become clear until after your first internship.
I am here to help you with:
I am here to help you with literally anything. If you need a safe space to vent, you can reach me via any channel (social media or email@example.com). Throw an invite on my calendar ([Google email redacted for this post]) ANY TIME. My virtual door is always open.
More specifically, I am incredibly passionate about career mentorship. If you need advice about networking, career building, brand building, or if you want someone to just take a look at your resume, I’m here for it all. We can set up mock interviews, or even just chat about good questions to ask when you’re meeting someone new in your field. I focused my entire three years of law school on building my professional brand and executing my career plan which helped me successfully land my full-time career at Google. I’m an open book and I’m always happy to share insights about how I got to where I am now.
Additionally, I have an extensive technology policy and Internet law network. If you’re applying to any of the major tech companies for an internship, please contact me. I likely know someone (or know someone that knows someone) and can put you in touch. My network spans from government to academia to a wide array of in-house legal (and non-legal) professionals. The Internet Law Student Organization (ILSO), an org I founded in 2019 dedicated to Internet and technology law & policy students, has recently put together a huge list of folks in the industry that are excited to speak with students. We currently have a list of 50+ industry professionals and we will be sharing that list with our ILSO student members this fall. If you’d like to be an ILSO student member, email firstname.lastname@example.org (being a member is free + no commitments!).
I’m also super excited to speak with anyone that is interested in pursuing a “JD Advantage” type career. ILSO will be hosting an event dedicated to these types of careers. In the meantime, I’m happy to speak about my own JD Advantage career as a legal policy specialist. JD Advantage offers an awesome opportunity to explore non-traditional legal careers (like in-house or firm). Ping me to chat more about it.
When it comes to law school, I was never really that invested in my studies. However, there are a few things I am super passionate about that which I would be happy to offer guidance. For example, I founded my own student organization (ILSO). If you’re interested in doing the same, I’m happy to walk your through all of the logistics to do so. I’m also a part of the Internet Advisory board over at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics – happy to chat about that. Additionally, I had an amazing opportunity to be a research assistant to Prof. Eric Goldman. Being an RA is hands-down the most rewarding thing I’ve done in law school so I would be more than excited to chat more about that too. I didn’t do any of the journals and I didn’t have the best grades, however, two of my colleagues (and best friends) have/do and would be willing to chat with you about those aspects of law school as well. Ping me and I’ll bridge the connection.
The best thing about first year was:
The best thing about my first year was the relationships I built with my friends (who have become my family), mentors in my field, and my Tech Edge advisor. These are some of the most important, cherished, and life-long friendships that made my first year truly wonderful. What you’ll soon find out is that you joined a very special community here at Santa Clara Law. You joined a community of people that are here to help you succeed in any way possible. This community will stand behind you every single step of your journey. They will advocate for you. They will promote you. They will do anything and everything to build you into the valuable professional you came here to be. We aren’t kidding when we refer to ourselves as an SCU family. Build as many bridges as possible your first year because they will be crucial – not just for 2L and 3L – but likely for the rest of your legal career here in Silicon Valley.
Welcome to SCU!