This quote is particularly relevant to 3L students who are currently searching for post-graduate legal employment, but may be unaware or forgetting how hard their back is currently against the wall in today’s New Normal. Very often it is the case that some law students close to graduation come to think that they still have the flexibility of trying to target a specific area of law so that they can practice something they will “enjoy” and will not cause them to whine every single day about their work situation. You see this trend most often in students at top schools with solid class ranks who were unable to snag something for 2L OCI yet still cling to the notion that the big law job is still at their fingertips. However, the phenomenon is certainly not limited to these particular 3Ls, but any 3L at any law school who is exclusively focused on targeting a specific area of law for post-graduation. This type of thinking is a grave mistake. There is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing your job applications on a specific area of law, however, this cannot come at the expense of casting as wide a net as possible heading into graduation. In other words, only if you are able to maintain a broad search should you additionally focus on target practice areas.
Generally speaking, the idea of 3Ls having favorite practice areas is inherently suspect unless the 3L has had exposure to the field in question outside of his or her law school experience. Law school courses, information online, and a law school internship in the practice area can give a student some idea about daily practice, but it is no substitute to real world experience. There is nothing wrong with believing you have a specific area of law that seems enjoyable, but unless you fit into the rare real world experience prior to law school bracket, keep in mind that this interest is more of an inkling rather than an outright confirmation that you will enjoy that particular field of law. With that out of the way, the real reason you cannot focus your job search efforts solely on particular areas of law is because this is outright insane in today’s legal market. It’s actually insane under any circumstances considering you can always cast a wide net and additionally tailor your efforts on a specific field of law. However, in this legal market, any 3L who devotes his or her job search effort specifically to certain fields has likely increased his or her chances of unemployment after graduation.
There are already only a limited amount of jobs available for law school grads in the legal field. There is no reason that you should be limiting your search for post-graduation employment to a subset of that limited amount of legal jobs. Unless you are independently wealthy and are looking to work as a lawyer because you are bored to tears of just spending money, you have to realize that after law school it does not get easier to find legal jobs. At that point, you’re already competing with the next crop of 3Ls who did not limit their job search, and the cycle continues. You do not want to graduate, pass the bar, and sit there with nothing knowing that perhaps if you had applied everywhere you would be in a different position. There are plenty of 3Ls who graduate and are jobless even after applying everywhere, but at least they don’t have the additional weight of knowing they did not do everything they could to secure a post-graduate position during law school.
You have to remember that even if a certain area of law is your calling, there is no reason that down the line you cannot progress towards that particular area of law. You may not be able to secure it immediately after graduation, but if you have a legal job after graduation you can at least develop legal experience that can translate to future career options that would be foreclosed if you land nothing. Do not be stubborn and keep looking for jobs in a specific field to the exclusion of all potential legal jobs. The hardest thing to do is to land that first legal job. After that, assuming you are receiving substantive experience, things get much better. That’s when the flexibility arrives and you can begin to branch out. Be smart about your potential legal career future, and do not be a picky 3L.