I recently worked with a career counseling client who was offered a position with a public defender office. In our conversations, it was clear that, ultimately, he probably does not intend to practice criminal law long-term. However, as a relatively new law graduate, he had spent quite a number of months on his job search without a lot of success.
The big question: should he take the position (and paycheck), despite his ambivalence, or hold out for an opportunity closer to his interests that might, at some unknown point, pan out?
Some people might say this question is a no-brainer. How could anyone turn down a real job offer in this economy? That said, many new lawyers worry that job choices early in their careers will prevent them from doing work that would be much closer to their interests later on. In responding to these concerns, I encourage counseling clients to take the long view.
When you apply for a position, make sure it is one that sincerely interests you. That does not mean it is your dream. It does mean you could envision yourself getting up every morning and going to work with the knowledge that you are advancing the ball in your career in some manner. What skills could you develop? What substantive experience could you gain? Could you develop positive connections that might help you down the road? Beyond the obvious salary, what other benefits would there be to taking the position?
There is no harm in keeping options open in your mind. However, at some point, every new lawyer needs to start somewhere. Most of the time, your future positions will depend on a combination of how you do your job and timing. If you take the opportunity to learn, provide solid legal work, develop meaningful professional relationships and remember that a career is a long thing, you face a greater likelihood of being well-positioned when something better comes along.
(photo: Gord McKenna)