It’s been two and a half weeks since I sat for the New York bar exam. Everyone says that the bar exam is the most terrifying moment of a young lawyer-to-be’s life, and I have to agree. The bar exam took over my life. For two and a half months, I couldn’t help but constantly repeat black letter law in my head over and over again.
For some recent law graduates in my position—that is, recent graduates without a job—the bar exam was not only terrifying because it could make or break our career, but also because it was the end of certainty. For the past three years, law school pampered us: we knew exactly what our next step was going to be, whether it was a new semester of classes or some form of summer internship. Even after graduation, the bar exam was an excuse to postpone determining the next step in our lives.
But now that the bar exam is over, it was time to face reality. In this economy, many recent law graduates, and even current law students, feel the pressure of taking any job that they can get. Instead of focusing on their lifetime goals, the economy pressures them to take the first job offer that comes their way.
I felt that same pressure. During my second-year of law school, I was fortunate enough to get a summer associate position at a reputable law firm in Virginia. The firm was great, the attorneys served as wonderful mentors, and the experience was amazing. At the end of my internship, the firm had offered me a full-time position—something that I was extremely fortunate to get.
But whether to accept the offer was probably one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. I felt a lot of pressure from my colleagues and my school’s career services to take the offer. While, on the one hand, I recognized that taking the firm job in Virginia would probably be a good decision in the short-term, on the other hand, I knew that I wouldn’t be happy in the long-run. I always knew that I wanted to end up in NYC, especially after having interned there during the summer of my first-year of law school. After thinking long and hard about what I wanted in my legal career and where I wanted to practice, I turned down the offer.
Admittedly, it has not been easy to look for a job in this economy, but I don’t regret my decision. I have seen so many of my classmates get lost in what they are “supposed” to do that they often forget what they want to do. I think, if some of them were to pause and take a step back, they would realize that this is just one bump in the road. After all, many of us will be practicing law for at least thirty years, and this economic downturn will prove to be just a small blip in our long career.