It’s that time of year where law school graduates have now taken their bar exam and are anxiously awaiting the November results. I can’t believe that it’s been 14 years since I went through this very same anxiety. I remember feeling faintly confident as I walked out of that building where I took my bar exam in 2002, vowing to never ever take another test again. By the time November 2002 rolled around my faint sense of confidence had been replaced by a stark sense of reality as I pondered the implications of failing the exam. Luckily, I received confirmation of my passage of the bar exam on November 5, 2002. To date I have stood by my vow to never take another test....unless you count those silly tests on Facebook.
As an older law school graduate (33 years old) I was certain of the direction I wanted my career to take. Perhaps it was because I had worked for five years as a paralegal before entering law school. I knew that I wanted to have my own solo practice and work exclusively in the field of family law. It was very simple and clear. But life is never simple and clear no matter how hard you try to clarify it. I also knew that I ultimately wanted to get board certified in family law. So naturally, my first legal job was working for a civil insurance defense firm where I was able to take zero family law cases and had to work for someone else. But such is life. I worked there for six months before I got the nerve to leave and hang up my shingle. Over the next 13 years I drifted in and out of private practice as I experimented with work as in-house counsel and as an assistant attorney general in the child support division. When I finally returned to private practice again in 2012 I expanded on my criminal law practice and started to minimize and eventually cut out several other areas. My practice is now 80% criminal law and 20% family law. And I’ve finally reached my full satisfaction private practice balance ratio. Who would have guessed. Certainly not my 33 year old self.
So as I watch the new crop of law school graduates ready to start their careers I’ll pass on bits of wisdom that I’ve acquired over my 14 years of experience. Maybe the most important piece of advice is: be open to change. Don’t get tied up in trying to get tied down. I have no doubt that you probably have an idea of where you’d like to start but I’m here to tell you that it’s most likely not where you will end up. The worst thing you can do to yourself is commit yourself to staying in one area despite losing your passion for the job. Seek out mentors. There are so many experienced attorneys willing and ready to help you along the way. Build a reputation based on ethical and professional demeanor. Not only will it make life with other attorneys easier but it will save you state bar grievances in the long run. And finally, get involved in your bar associations. There are so many great things that bar associations expose you to. Leadership opportunities, networking opportunities, mentorship, community involvement and much more. I wish each of you the best as you wait for November and the Coastal Bend Women Lawyers Association looks forward to meeting you as you enter the legal field and become a part of this great world of advocacy that we all worked so hard to become a part of.