The following is an excerpt from the Career Development Handbook.
As a law student, there are many things you can be doing to explore career paths and move forward with possibilities you want to pursue further. The first step in this process will be collecting information. This can be accomplished via a variety of resources – books, journals, websites, the CDO’s weekly newsletter – as well as attending programs, getting involved in organizations on and off campus, interacting with people in areas of potential interest, and just listening and learning along the way. It is not important that you know exactly what you want to do with your law degree during your 1L year, or even after your 3L year. What you will want to focus time and energy on is knowing what opportunities are open to you, taking note of those that seem most promising or intriguing, testing out fields and roles of interest, and deciding what you would like to do next, instead of forever. Allow yourself the chance to discover and hone your passions, while staying open to opportunities that will help you grow as a legal professional.
The process of career exploration does not have a defined timeline or a finish line. It is a cycle that you have already started, will continue to move through, and will likely cycle back through many times throughout your life as you refine and better understand what you are interested in and how you want to use your skills and experience in the world of work.
What vs. Who
When you decided to enroll in law school, that choice was most likely tied to the goal of becoming a lawyer. Perhaps in years past – as a child, as a college student, or as you prepared for next steps in your career – when people asked what you wanted to be, you may have even responded with “a lawyer.” Now that you are here at UNC Law, you will no doubt learn more than you dreamed possible about the law, as well as the diverse array of practice areas and settings that could be a fit for you. Through academic and extracurricular pursuits, as well as observing and engaging with alumni and other legal professionals, you will ideally get a better sense of the many career possibilities that are open to you, and which you would like to pursue further. Whether you decide to practice law in the years ahead or not, earning your J.D. will give you the distinction of being a trained lawyer.
While attending UNC School of Law to become a lawyer, you are concurrently becoming much more than the recipient of a legal degree -- you are becoming the next version of yourself. In your time as a law student, there are pieces of your personality, skills, values, and interests that may remain the same as they were before you got here. Chances are good that you will also change in a number of ways. Whether that means developing deeper interests in a given subject, becoming more comfortable with a certain skill or aspect of your personality, experiencing something new that shifts your perspective on an issue or idea, or simply learning more about who you are and what you want moving forward. When you finish law school, you will not simply be a member of the legal profession, but also your own distinct person. Not merely a what, but a who.
The CDO respects and encourages the individuality of each of our students. We hope you will use your time as a law student to explore both the legal field and your unique passions and preferences. Whether via these online resources, program offerings throughout the year, or meeting with a career counselor one-on-one, we look forward to assisting you on your journey. Below are a few factors to reflect upon and keep in mind as you explore career paths, organizations, and positions that could be a good match for you:
We encourage you to meet with a Career Counselor at the CDO to discuss your career exploration process, including ideas, questions, goals, worries, victories, and more. We want to support you early and often during your time as a UNC Law student so that you can feel as prepared as possible moving toward graduation and career opportunities thereafter.