Very happily I report that I have found a job, and have indeed been working there for the past 3 weeks or so. The job I found started me off as a law clerk and will move me up to an attorney position soon. In three weeks, I am happy to say I have learned a tremendous amount, but first things first.
Well, what went differently in this interview was that I was totally comfortable in my own skin. I knew exactly what I wanted, what my strengths were, what my weaknesses were, and why I wanted to work at the firm where I was interviewing. Most importantly, I was in some ways passionate about the type of work the firm does (yes immigration law, but also a few other types of law). And my passion must have shown because when I was hired, I was told that the main partner was impressed with the "fire" in me. I was in no ways desperately looking for "any" job. In fact, I went there with the attitude that I love the work the firm does, and I am excited to learn whatever I can. This shift in attitude is what is extremely hard when you spend over a year without a paycheck, but it is probably the main reason I found a job.
So, quite honestly, the position is not a high paying position, and at the same time, it is a LOT of work. In fact, they started me off as a law clerk making *less* than what I was making as a law clerk while I was in law school. To top it off, responsibility keeps piling on as one of the attorneys has recently quit. But at this stage, I do not let the money aspect of it interfere with the quality of my work or my attention to the job. I consider myself indeed fortunate to have a boss that values my learning and consistently gives me opportunities to learn. I like that this is a job that challenges me every day. There is less learning in an "easy" job. I am always awake and ready to go as I enter the office.
Here are a few things I have learned:
1) "America's Greatest Places to Work with a Law Degree" by Kimm Alayne Walton has some GREAT tips in the back of the book on what a new associate should do and avoid. Read it over and over and over.
2) Do not underestimate the administrative stuff. It can make life hell or make it smooth as pie, so be very precise with that.
3) ALWAYS prepare before court hearings. Err on the side of more preparation.
4) Do not mistakenly think that a low paying job is a 9-5 job. You may work late and even weekends.
5) Don't be sour. A smaller starting salary does not mean you will never make it big. But being a bad lawyer will severely limit your growth. Sour people are universally disliked.
6) Welcome criticism and take responsibility for the mistake when you can. You will probably get a lot in the beginning. Don't think of it as criticism, but think of it as a friend giving you some honest advice. Thank that person for being honest and make every effort not to repeat the same mistake. Don't make it a big deal either and don't beat yourself up over making mistakes.If you are at a firm where people are hush hush, make an effort to invite criticism/feedback.
7) Communicate! Your boss won't know you have a 2 hour commute each way if you don't tell him/her. Just don't complain about it, but mention things in conversation when you can. Your boss won't know a project is taking longer than anticipate if you don't keep him/her updated.
8) Please, for decency's sake, do NOT get drunk in front of your boss. Not even at a Christmas party. Please, just DON'T. Not even if your boss is drunk. On the same note, DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE! You are a LAWYER, for goshsake. How smart will you look with a DUI? (that last part was a bit of venting).