I am the only person in my family who has graduated from college. Before law school I didn’t know a single lawyer. To say that I came to law school with a romantic vision of what it meant to be a lawyer and nothing else would be an understatement. With that context in mind, as a first year student I was like a sponge. I listened to everyone’s suggestions and tried to absorb as much as I could. I took note of the professors to take and the ones to avoid. I listened to advice on which hornbooks were the best, which offers from firms were the most validating, basically all of the do’s and don’t of law school. Looking back, I am grateful for all of the advice, but most importantly, I now realize that the best decision I made was ultimately ignoring about 95% of it.
Here is why – everyone is different and public service is especially different. So as I embark on my last week of classes as a 3L I thought I would share some of the advice I was repeatedly given that I feel was wrong for me.
- OGI: “Everyone does OGI. You should just do it.” Wrong. Everyone does not do OGI. Most people do OGI. As I spent my days laying by the pool while many of my peers rushed around in suits, interviewing for jobs that some of them didn’t even want, I realized that this was one piece of advice that I felt extra great about ignoring. As a person who came to law school for one reason, to do public service, there really was no point in me personally participating in OGI. That does not mean that making the decision to defy the norm, to miss out on a right of passage, was easy but it was the right decision for me.
- The Public Service Center: “The PSC will not be helpful…” I will admit that hearing this deterred me at first. At some point my second year I finally decided this whole “doing it on my own” thing wasn’t working and so I began to meet with staff in the PSC. I think by the end of 2L I had actually met with each person in the office to review a resume or do a mock interview. I think the key thing to remember is that, like I said everyone is different, including each staff member who works in the Public Service Center. I didn’t mesh well with everyone but meeting with everyone showed me that I did mesh really well with one staff member and that relationship kept me sane during the fellowship process my third year. She was my shoulder to cry on when I needed to just cry, she read every draft I sent her, she helped me craft a project that allowed me to pursue my passions. For me working with the PSC turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made during law school.
- Third Year: “Just wait…your third year will be easy.” Lies. I don’t write this to scare anyone, I write this to be real. As a public service person 3L for many people is the time where you finally get to shine, when it is your turn to do your interviews, to track down your dream job. The public service timeline is longer than the firm timeline and in many cases the public service job search doesn’t even begin to gear up until 3L. I honestly don’t know all of the timelines, but I do know that I spent my entire fall of 3L crafting my fellowship project, applying for fellowships, interviewing and still doing all of the regular law school stuff. When I got the call that I would be doing my dream job it was all worth it but along the way I did keep thinking, “but I’m a 3L…Isn’t this supposed to be my easy year?” So in this case, I don’t know that I ignored any words of advice per se, or maybe more accurately I didn’t have a choice in ignoring the words of advice because 3L was my time to get it done.
In the end, I think the best advice is to march to the beat of your own drum. Know that your road might be less traveled and that’s okay. Know that what is best for everyone else may or may not be what is best for you.
Megan Lisa Watkins is a third year law student from Baltimore, MD. She graduated from Davidson College in 2010. After Davidson, Megan taught High School Spanish for three years as a Teach For America Corps Member in Charlotte, NC. After graduation, Megan will be working at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond as Powell Fellow. She will provide direct representation, outreach and community education to enforce the educational rights of youth in the Greater Richmond area who have experienced trauma and are at risk of entering the juvenile justice system. Megan enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with her two adorable pups.