If you have decided you may want to work for a large law firm after completing your J.D., then make sure you carefully consider the following steps. A little leg work now, can save you considerable time and effort later and keep your career path on track!

Do as much research as possible before committing to law school

Talk to associates at the types of law firms you want to target. Ask them about the firms’ cultures and work hours. We understand you may not know if you would be happy working there until you get an internship, but the more background research you can do now before selecting your target law schools, the better.

Select your target law schools carefully

Although the top national firms have been casting their nets wider as hiring competition increases, they regularly recruit from the very top schools, and having a degree from one of these will give you a leg up in the recruiting process. Mid-sized firms are reported to be shifting their recruiting to lower-profile national schools and regional schools because they can’t compete with big firms’ demand for J.D.s from the very top schools. Regional firms may have their own recruiting preferences. Try to make sure that the type of employer you have in mind recruits through the school you plan to attend.

Work smart at your studies

You know there is a learning curve ahead of you for law school academic success. That’s why you probably spent a lot of time on your LSAT preparation and applications. So doesn’t it make sense to utilize available resources in this very important endeavor too? We have law school success book recommendations to help you in this often overlooked area.

Work hard at your studies

Your law school GPA will make a big difference in your post-graduation career options. Slacking off once you get to a top law school will greatly diminish the effort you put into gaining admission to that top law school.

Take your interviews very seriously

Get a “leg up” on your fellow students by preparing beyond what is offered to you by your career services. You should seriously consider getting outside help and an early start with your legal job interview preparations. (Again, see our law school success book recommendations for additional guidance in this area.)

Utilize your summer internship

Use summer internships to gain the practical skills that firms demand of associates and to prove your interest and mettle to your prospective employers.

Know what you’re about to get into

But also use summer internships to make sure that an associate’s life is what you want. The top firms pay associates handsomely – but they also expect a lot in return for their money. If long hours and limited vacations aren’t what you want in a job, re-think your interest in this career track. And if you like the work but don’t like the vibe at the office you’re clerking at, expand your job search to other firms. You’ll be spending most of your waking hours at work for the next few years; you’ll want to do that someplace where you’ll be happy.

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