In classes, in restaurants, in all nighters/ in cups of coffee / in journals, in mixers, in laughter, in OCIs. Here is how my 2L year measured up.
I became more comfortable with uncertainty.
I admit it. I can be a control geek sometimes. I like to make plans down to the minute, and when things don’t go my way, sometimes I get anxious. Because I chalked up most of 1L year anxiety to being unfamiliar with the new Law School Lifestyle, I expected that 2L year would be a breeze. I could not be more wrong, but looking back now, I’m glad that challenges came my way.
I dealt with the uncertainty of starting my first full-time office internship in several years. I dealt with the uncertainty of Early Interview Week and the stress of running around in my business suit to convince sometimes skeptical, sometimes friendly attorneys that I could hack it at their firm. I dealt with the uncertainty of some unexpected health problems that threatened, but luckily did not ultimately affect my academic performance. Each time I was faced with knowing absolutely nothing or very little of what was to come my way, I became more adept at adapting to the situation, instead of trying to avoid it by planning for every single tiny contingency. That is not to say that I went in absolutely blind with no preparation for the challenge ahead–be it a job interview, a class, or a networking opportunity. I only mean to say that being comfortable meant that I was relaxed, and I freed up my mental faculties to actually focus on the task at hand.
I had a better attitude towards learning, even though some connections were not immediately obvious.
In 1L year, I sometimes fell into the trap of thinking that I should be paying attention in class because that was the only way that I could get a good exam grade. If the policy discussion did not seem to have any particular relevance to the exam, I found myself not caring as much for the long term, though of course the discussions were interesting for the span of class time. That all changed when I found myself face-to-face with a memo assignment involving conspiracy issues at my 1L summer internship. Suddenly, legal writing took on a huge significance as the research I was doing was not just for pass-fail but an important part of establishing our case for summary judgment. Criminal law was not just about hypotheticals–this was a case involving real people who had (allegedly) suffered some sort of harm. I suddenly regretted all the times that I was not paying full attention in class or when I was studying or even just hanging around people who were discussing complex matters. Steve Jobs has a famous line in the 2005 Stanford commencement address: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Being at my summer associate position now, more and more dots are connecting. Practicing how to digest a complex and unfamiliar industry area into comprehensible, bite-sized pieces in my Antitrust and Regulatory Alternatives course is serving me well for a humongous merger matter. What I learned in Complex Litigation about analyzing class actions and settlements is helping me understand why a certain client is so concerned. The issues about litigation strategy in my Law, Economics, and Psychology class are playing out in the calls with opposing counsel. The federal rules I memorized as part of Evidence were suddenly not only useful for answering multiple-choice questions but for understanding how attorneys were going to make compelling data admissible at trial.
I finally understood what attorneys meant when they say that luck is an important part of your professional success.
I’ll give you a vivid example of luck. During 1L summer, while I was an intern at the Federal Trade Commission (NE Division), the time came to submit firm bid lists for Early Interview Week. I knew that I wanted to do antitrust for the summer, but I had no idea how to start. After spinning my wheels for a bit, I decided to ask the attorneys for some recommendations of firms that focused on antitrust. Most of them were located in D.C., but one firm stuck out because it was one of the few that did superb work in antitrust right in New York City. In a completely separate context, the New York State Bar was holding an event called “Why Antitrust?”
I figured I would go, maybe get a good networking contact or two. I got much more than that.
It turned out that the firm (which at this point had become my top choice for EIW) had a panelist at the event. I could not be more excited. Afterward I went straight up to one of the attorneys and told her that I was extremely interested in their work and especially their firm. At EIW, I received a callback from there, and I am happy to report that I am working for them this summer.
A lot of things had to go right for this to happen. The FTC attorney had to mention the firm off the top of her head. (It wasn’t originally on my bid list because I didn’t know they did antitrust! Silly me.) The certain panelists actually being at the event. The fact that I wasn’t swamped with work that day. Yes, you need to have the grades. Yes, you need to have the interview skills. Yes, you need to demonstrate some interest in antitrust. Yes, hard work matters. But I now understand that hard work can truly pay great dividends when combined with luck, which allowed me to capitalize fully on the opportunity in front of me.
I stopped asking only what New York University School of Law could do for me and began thinking more about how I could give back to the school.
Being able to co-write the problem for the Orison S. Marden Moot Court Board Competition was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had during my time here so far. I enjoyed it because I was able to be creative with an evolving area of the law, and it was great knowing that I did my part for a very dedicated team of organizers who wanted to provide NYU Law students with an opportunity to whet their oral advocacy skills. I also continued my mentoring relationships, not only with people inside the Law School who had questions about job interviews, but also with people outside the Law School who wanted advice on putting their best foot forward in applications. I hope that I don’t come across as bragging–mentoring is very much a two-way street, and it humbles me that people would actually care to take the time to listen to me ramble. Finally, as an Admissions Ambassador, I was able to help people make a choice about where they wanted to be for the next three years (if you’ve read this far and you’re matriculating in the fall, definitely contact me!).
Ultimately, it is my view not to lose sight of the fact that being an attorney means being part of a service industry. Thinking about how to add value to the school serves practical and personal ends. Practically speaking, I believe that it has made me more able to think about how I can contribute to the vitality of any firm or organization where I may end up in the future. Personally speaking, I would like to hope that I am and will be learning from each person that I meet in my endeavors with the Law School community and beyond.
P.S. For you math people out there, here was my calculation. Yes, I shaved off 40 minutes for the sake of lyrical beauty.