On occasion I meet a law student or recent law school graduate looking for work. He looks sharp and brags about his accomplishments in a competition, journal, or clinic. When I ask him what his career goals are, he gives me a vague, wordy answer which basically means, “anything that’s available.” After exchanging some pleasantries, we exchange contact information and he moves to the next
They all give me uplifting yet vague lines. Here are some examples:
- “Right now, I’m exploring my options. I’m going to a lot of bar functions and events where I am meeting many veteran attorneys. There are so many specialties to consider before I decide what I really want to do. But I’d like to learn more about what you do and if you’re interested, I would like to work under you to get more hands on experience.”
- “When I started law school, I wanted to do international diplomacy work. But I got an internship at a public service firm where I helped indigent people with their immigration issues. It was a great experience and I may continue doing immigration work some day. I understand you do litigation work. I am really interested in gaining court appearance experience. After all, litigation is what lawyers are known for, right?”
Others are a more pragmatic:
- “I was initially interested in doing M&A work but the current economy severely limited my options so I have decided to look into other specialties. Your line of work – creditors rights – is going to play an important role in this economy. Debts need to be paid, especially these days so I think there will be plentiful work in your line of work”
I rarely hear the pessimistic response. What I mean is a line resembling “I didn’t get any job offers so I’m here because my school’s Career Services Office is useless and there is nothing on Craigslist and Monster.” Why not? For starters, we were trained not to speak negatively as it generally tends to turn off recruiters and hiring managers. We are supposed to exude confidence and authority because apparently that is what employers like to see. We are selling ourselves to employers.
We are told to “fake it till you make it.” The problem is, if everyone is trained to act this way, then it will make it that much harder to differentiate between people. Also, once the candidate is hired, he most likely does not need to put on his “game face” and his real personality will eventually begin to show.
The other problem is that the “fake it till you make it” mentality encourages embellishment, exaggerations and in not so rare cases, outright lying. Of course, what these terms mean is amusingly debatable.
While I don’t advocate being a negative Nancy (although I can understand/tolerate them), I think there is a way to be confident while being honest. After all, that is what lawyers should be known for, right?