3 Tips to Give Your 3Ls and Summer Associates

Hellooo Happier & Better Lawyers, Intrapreneurs, and those of you who think LeBron James is the best player you've ever seen…

 “ Made Curry miss the shot, boy ” - Drake (and LeBron). 

Made Curry miss the shot, boy” - Drake (and LeBron). 

Executive Summary for my busy HBL’ers:  The third year of law school is a precious resource that is often wasted by 3Ls on frivolous classes and easy course loads.  There's no strategic plan to their 3rd-year choices.  They're coasting through their 3rd-year and no one's driving.

That's right, many 3Ls have a "Ghost Ride the Whip" approach to their 3rd year of law school. 

  Notice no one's driving?!

Notice no one's driving?!

This "look no hands" approach might be OK for these fools from Oakland, but it's not the way to go during the last year of law school.  Instead, law students need to maximize the ROI of their third year. 

Law firm and law school professional staff, you should encourage your rising 3Ls to do three things during their third year:

1.       Take classes that cover practice areas which seemed interesting during their summer internships;

2.       Learn about business and entrepreneurship through classes and reading;

3.       Do pro bono work to give back and to learn how to work with clients.

I made those choices myself and they literally changed my legal career. (See the full blog post below if you want to know the choices I made and how they changed my legal career).  This more focused approach to third year will help your rising 3Ls be more confident as new lawyers, better serve their clients, and be more ready to practice.  (According to Sam Glover, the founder and Editor in Chief of Lawyerist, most 3Ls overestimate their readiness to practice.)

Whether you're a staff professional at a law firm, or an administrator at a law school, please remind your 3Ls that their third year of law school is a precious resource.  Stop letting 3Ls waste their third year! Instead, what if your 3Ls maximized their third-year, and started off their careers more prepared, more focused and happier?

What if your 3Ls started off their careers more prepared, more focused and happier?

Sounds like a championship approach to me! ;-)

***

Full blog post:

I was having a cup of coffee at Bourbon Coffee in DC with my buddy and Akin Gump partner Steve Schulman when the idea for this post came to me.  I hadn't sat down with Steve in years, and I was bringing him up-to-speed on my journey from Brooklyn public housing to Latham & Watkins attorney to now real estate investor, urban consultant and Georgetown Entrepreneurship professor. 

 Where I grew up. " Started from the Bottom Now We're Here "-Drake.  (OK, last Drake reference!)

Where I grew up. "Started from the Bottom Now We're Here"-Drake.  (OK, last Drake reference!)

So...Steve and I were talking about new lawyers, and how the third year of law school is a precious resource that is often wasted by 3Ls on frivolous classes and easy course loads.  There's no strategic plan to their choices.  They're coasting through their 3rd-year and no one's driving.

That's right, many 3Ls have a "Ghost Ride the Whip" approach to their 3rd year of law school.

 Ghost Ridin' the Whip.  Oh wait, that's not right...

Ghost Ridin' the Whip.  Oh wait, that's not right...

 Now THAT's ghost ridin' the whip.   Notice no one's driving?! 

Now THAT's ghost ridin' the whip.  Notice no one's driving?! 

Whether you're a staff professional at a law firm, or an administrator at a law school, please remind your 3Ls that their third year of law school is a precious resource.  Stop letting 3Ls waste their third year! Instead, what if your 3Ls maximized their third-year, and started off their careers more prepared, more focused and happier?

What if your 3Ls started off their careers more prepared, more focused and happier?

Law firm and law school professional staff, you should encourage your rising 3Ls to do three things during their third year: 

1.       Take classes that cover practice areas which seemed interesting during their summer internships;

2.       Learn about business and entrepreneurship through classes & reading;

3.       Do pro bono work both to give back and to learn how to work with clients.

These three steps literally changed my legal career.  This approach to third year will help your rising 3Ls be more confident as new lawyers, better serve their clients, and be more ready to practice.  (According to Sam Glover, the founder and Editor in Chief of Lawyerist, most 3Ls overestimate their readiness to practice.) 

In addition, 3Ls who better understand their interests will be happier during their first years as lawyers because they won't be disproportionately motivated by 180K/year salaries (those big salaries won't make them happier anyway, according to my social media buddy Jeena Cho).

I make these recommendations based on my own experiences.  I made focused choices during my third-year and those choices changed my legal career!

Here are the strategic choices I made in my third year:

  1. Took a real estate class at the law school.  After doing a few real estate assignments during my 2L summer, I took a law school course called Real Estate Transactions. The class was taught by the General Counsel of a real estate firm. I loved the course and it made me more sure that I wanted to explore being a real estate transactional lawyer once I started practicing; 
  2. Took business-related law school classes.  I took Accounting for Lawyers, and I took Taxation, both of which opened my eyes to fundamental business concepts and how they intersect with the law;
  3. Took a business class outside of the law school.  I took Real Estate Finance and Development in the Master's program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I learned from a strictly business perspective how to evaluate real estate opportunities, run the numbers, and structure the business-side of deals.  In a class of around 30, I was one of only two lawyers in the class.
  4. I gave back.  I did pro bono work, and gained some good insights on what it meant to be in charge of a case and to work with clients.  Since I was taking a full course load my third year, I also learned how to juggle pro bono work with other responsibilities, a skill that would help me as a new law firm associate.

My 3rd-year choices affected me so much I changed my legal career path.

My third-year experiences made me change my career trajectory in three ways:

  • First Career Change:  I interviewed at Additional Firms.  I decided to interview at some additional firms during my third year instead of automatically accepting my 2L summer offer.  I ultimately chose to go to Latham & Watkins instead of the firm where I summered because I liked Latham's overall real estate transactional practice better.  I also believed they'd let me do pro bono work if I worked hard.  My newfound focus on real estate and pro bono opportunities both stemmed from my third-year choices and experiences.  Latham ended up being a perfect fit for me. 
  • Second Career Change:  I focused on learning how to be a great lawyer and business person at the same time.  My exposure to the world of business, both in my law school and non-law school classes, made me want to be more entrepreneurial at the firm.  According to some experts, almost all lawyers will need to be entrepreneurial anyway.  I also wanted to immediately learn how to bring in business, which experts Susan Smith Blakely and Grover Cleveland say is also a critical skill needed to advance in a law firm career. All, in all my experiences during my third year drove me to try to be a great lawyer and a great business person. 
My third-year of law school experiences drove me to try to be a great lawyer AND a great business person.
  • Third Career Change:  I did more pro bono work as a junior attorney.  Doing pro bono work during my third year of law school helped me learn how to juggle multiple obligations and made me seek out a law firm where doing pro bono work seemed possible and acceptable.  Accordingly, I sought out "transactional" pro bono work while at Latham.  Latham allowed me to represent a community non-profit at a zoning hearing for the development of their new office building, and my life's plans were changed for good.  I learned then I could do good and do well at the same time while leveraging my law degree.  And the rest is history, as they say.

My legal career and life trajectory were dramatically changed by my strategic third-year choices.  The potential upside for 3Ls who take a focused approach to their third year of law school is immeasurable.   

The potential upside for 3Ls who take a focused approach to their third year is immeasurable.

CONCLUSION:  Whether you're a professional at a law firm advising 2Ls and 3Ls you've given an offer, or an administrator at a law school mentoring 2Ls and 3Ls, please remind them that their third year of law school is a precious resource. 

Stop letting 3Ls waste their third year! 

3Ls who maximize their third year of law school will find that they will start their legal career in a more focused and confident place--which ultimately will make them happier and better lawyers.  Encourage your 3Ls to take the wheel and drive their third-year of law school...so they can be the Controlla of their legal destiny! ;-)

- Calvin