Congratulations 2012 law school graduates! Welcome to the war. Wear sunscreen.
Seriously, though, I have a piece of advice I wish I had known and followed almost 20 years ago. Make a list of every person with whom you attended law school (not just your graduating class, but all 3 or 4 years) that you know/knew even remotely. Don’t limit it to people you hung out with or even liked. Make it every single person who would recognize you or your name. For every person you list, do everything thing you can to gather that person’s contact information and put what you have (even if it’s only an email) in your Outlook or digital or old school address book. Then, as often as you feel comfortable, but at least every Christmas (or commonly recognized holiday in mid-December, Kwanzaa or whatever), reach out to that person with some kind of communication (written or phone) wishing them well. A holiday card on actual stationary will do the trick.
This process will be a lot easier if you start right away with an email or other note wishing the new graduates among them good luck on the bar exam. When bar results are announced, reach out and congratulate those on your list who passed. Suggest you’d like to keep in touch.
I cannot overemphasize how much of a career shaping or changing habit this can be. Many (ok, let’s face it, most) of you are going to struggle for the next 12-24 months trying to secure agreeable employment. But every graduate will eventually find something. This is just the beginning. The people on your list will move. Their career and life choices will take them in directions both vertical and lateral. Yours will, too. From my experience, the farther we get from college or law school, the more we wish we’d kept in touch.
If you adopt my suggestion, fast forward 20 years and picture that classmate you marginally knew in 2012, but with whom you made an effort to keep in touch, in the year 2032. He or she is no longer a fresh law school graduate. He or she is a senior partner at a firm, or active in business, or maybe at home raising a kid. Or maybe, he or she has just been hired as assistant general counsel of a potentially great client who, as it turns out, needs counsel in your practice area. Or he or she is a rising star at a prosecutor’s office or other government position and in a position to influence lateral hiring. The possibilities are endless. The point is that, with a minimal, but regular, expenditure of effort, you could be positioned to leverage relationships to help shape your career in ways you cannot presently imagine.
And I don’t mean to suggest that such relationships exist just to be leveraged. Who knows, with just an occasional email or note, that acquaintance from law school could grow to be your best new friend.