Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Survive the "What are you doing next?" Question

‘Tis the season! And by season I mean the time when 3Ls start the end of their law school career. The season when every relative and non-law school friend you have relentlessly asks you, “So, what will you be doing next!?” And well, let’s admit it, it’s not appropriate to answer “fuck if I know” at the dining room table.

Hopefully you’re one of those blessed (not to mention hard working) people who landed a job the via the traditional OCI-Summer Associate-First Year track. Or maybe you worked a really great public interest internship and your organization has already found the funding to hire you. Congratulations.

But, statistically speaking, most law grads are not in that boat.  Instead, you’re relentlessly sending out resumes while reading New York Times articles about what a sham law school is and looking into LLM programs. So what’s a law school student (or recent grad) to do with a family member who is unintentionally attacking what’s left of your self-esteem? You have to turn this potentially awkward moment into something positive. Because, let’s be honest, you don’t have lot of other options. Here are a few tips for making it through the next few months:

1. Remember, your mom/uncle/ex-girlfriend means well.
Ok, maybe not your ex-girlfriend. But everyone else…they mean well. Most of us spend at least a few weeks or months job hunting before we land the perfect gig. It’s not just you who is getting rejection letters. The rejection, and not the normalcy of it, is what comes to mind first when you have to tell Uncle Bob that you’re still on the job market. The thing to remember is that Uncle Bob is not trying to rub the rejection in your face. He’s just trying to find out more about you. So try not to get too frazzled.

2. Most people don’t know that it’s a tough job market for new lawyers.
What does every TV mom want their child to grow up to be? A doctor or a lawyer of course! What Mrs. Brady didn’t bother to explain to the American public, however, are the crippling debt ratios and limited positions for recent grads. It’s hard when your family and friends don’t understand the employment landscape. I took to forwarding some of those super depressing ABA Journal articles to my parents every few weeks. They got the picture.

3. Embrace the networking opportunities.
Once you realize that people aren’t trying to rub your nose in your own unemployment it’s easier to use these conversations as an opportunity to network. Rehearse your elevator speech. It may seem weird to need it at your cousin’s wedding or Easter dinner….but you will. You don’t need to talk about rejection. Instead, talk about the positive experiences you’ve had over the last few years and the way you’re hoping to use them in the future. You never know when and where your next opportunity will come from. 


  1. It’s challenging when your friends and near family members do not view the profession landscapes.Instead, talk about the valuable activities you have had over the last few years and the way you are anticipating to use them later on.

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