Exploring Uncharted Territory: The “Self-Directed Job Search”
One of the current buzz phrases for career development is “self-directed job search.” I asked two 2Ls about how they found their 1L summer jobs and what a self-directed job search process could be like.
James Clinton: I knew that the area of law I wanted to work in [corporate law] only had a few jobs available for first years. Asia has had a lot of growth recently in the legal field so I thought that I might have some opportunity there. I started out on a few of the legal ranking websites and found the biggest firms in Asia. Then I looked for Canadian lawyers or, if I was lucky, a lawyer who graduated from Queen’s. I would send them an email explaining who I was and a few questions I had about their practices and how they got to where they were today. After going back and forth or having a Skype conversation I would ask whether they could give me any information on getting an internship or a job in their area. The worst-case scenario was that I learned about how a few successful Canadian lawyers developed both in Canada and abroad. Without exception they were all very helpful and happy to chat with me.
Billie Leung: The process was daunting, because I had little exposure to different practice areas in 1L and no idea in which area of law I wanted to build my career. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to do something law-related in order to better develop my legal research and writing skills and learn to become a more effective advocate, which is extremely broad. It seemed as if there weren’t too many job postings for 1L students, so I took the initiative to cold-email lawyers and organizations in Toronto to ask if they were hiring. I also reached out to lawyers through LinkedIn and used the alumni network from my undergraduate degree to organize informational interviews.
JC: I read through a few of the Queen’s Law Alumni magazines that I found in the library and saw that there were two Queen’s lawyers working at Soewito Suhardiman Eddymurthy Kardono (SSEK) in Jakarta. I knew of the firm but hadn’t yet contacted anyone in that region. I sent a quick email and got into contact with Richard Emmerson (Law ’83) who has been in Indonesia for 18 years. After talking to him about his practice and how he ended up in Indonesia, he asked me about my goals in law and my experience. After speaking with his colleagues, he then offered to give me this great opportunity.
BL: I got my position at Pro Bono Lawyers Ontario (PBLO) through a cold-email to which the lawyer at Sick Kids Hospital responded. It turned out they were hiring a student for the summer at both of the Family Legal Health Clinics at Sick Kids and Holland Bloorview Kids’ Rehab Hospital. Each clinic gives brief legal advice and information on anything that might affect a family’s ability to provide care for their child, which means they frequently deal with cases from a variety of practice areas. I thought it was perfect in terms of my summer goals and would allow me to learn more about the practice of law in general.
JC: I had two roles in Indonesia. The first was assisting the law firm on anything that a typical associate or summer student would do there. I conducted due diligence, document review, and legal research. The experience was very similar to working at a big law firm in Canada. I also worked with the Indonesia-Canada Chamber of Commerce and the various member corporations like Manulife, Sun Life, Talisman, and others to lobby for economic reform through policy research.
BL: The position involved mostly legal research and writing. For the first two months, I worked on a major research project for the Advocacy Committee. PBLO advocates for patients on a larger scale to address systemic issues in addition to day-to-day work with clients. I looked into the significant funding and coordination gap for technology-dependent, medically fragile patients when they turn 18.
JC: Just being in a foreign country was fun and having the opportunity to learn a foreign language, meet interesting people, and study a unique area of the law was great. In a developing country like Indonesia, it seems like there’s more opportunity to operate at a level above that which your experience would get you in Canada. I was meeting with CEOs of multi-million dollar companies. I felt like that was something you wouldn’t get in the Western world.
BL: The highlight was presenting my research from the Sick Kids project to the PBLO lawyers who worked at the different children’s hospitals in Ontario and a major law firm who had met to discuss whether they should prepare a Constitutional challenge on this issue. It was a neat experience to be the “expert” in the room about something. The last two months were spent doing work for the lawyer at Holland Bloorview, where I attended intake meetings, conducted research, and drafted legal memos and advocacy documents.
JC: It was great to have had an opportunity to actually work in the area of law I hoped to practice. It showed me that a position in corporate law was what I wanted and that I should target my 2L job search in that area. The experience of speaking with accomplished lawyers also gave me ideas on what questions I should ask, how I should respond to certain questions, and generally how to carry myself when speaking with them. This is invaluable, especially if you plan to do the OCI process and only have 17 minutes to prove yourself.
JC: I would say that you can never reach out to too many people. The legal community, even globally, is very small and Queen’s lawyers especially are always happy to share their experiences and in many cases put you in touch with their friends at some of the firms you may wish to apply to. It is always better to get a head start to learn how to carry yourself in a professional manner in informational interviews.
BL: Use your network and make opportunities for yourself! Looking for a job is rarely an easy thing to do and it can be a time-consuming process, so be proactive and persistent.
Julia Zisser (2L) is co-Features editor for Juris-Diction.