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More than a "Simple" Checklist: What Should I Do After Law School?

By Associate Professor Michael P. Schutt
Regent University School of Law
Director, Institute for Christian Legal Studies

One of the great law school challenges is figuring out why you went to law school in the first place. And although the question pops into the law student's mind every day from the first day of class until the end of the first semester, the question becomes most urgent sometime during the fall or spring of the third year, when you begin to ask: Where will I begin my legal career?

The question about why you went to law school is not the same question as "what job should I take?" But it is related. God has a purpose for you, and, apparently, it included sending you to law school. Now what does He want with you? This is one of the tough life questions that Christians face almost daily, and it is central to the walk of faith: seeking God in every decision, every moment, every opportunity. "It is the glory of God to reveal a matter; it is the glory of Kings to search out a matter." (Prov. 25.2).

The purpose of this little "checklist" is to remind you of the simple pleasures of seeking God's face as you try to discern His hand. That is, I want you to remember that the longing of our hearts is God Himself, not just His plan or provision for our future. I also want to encourage you in the basics of sound decision-making. There is nothing new or startling here, just some reminders of what you should do as you ask God for answers about what to do when the Bar Exam is over.

General Principles

First, don't forget the general principles (about decision-making and life) that we see in God's Word:
Prayer. Pray. Pray for wisdom (James 1:5-8). Pray that God will reveal what you need to know, but especially pray for His wisdom (see I Cor. 2:6-16). Have others pray for you. Consider Proverbs 25:2: Why doesn't God direct us by billboards and personal letters in all situations? Why would he have you "seek" His plan, rather than just telling you what the plan is?

Counsel. Seek the wisdom of others, especially those who know you well. (Proverbs 12:15- "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice; " Proverbs 15:22- "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed."). Those who know your strengths and weaknesses, talents and struggles, will be the best advisors.

Gifts. Evaluate your gifts. How has God created you? What are your aptitudes, interests, talents, and desires? To motivate yourself, read the story of the stewards in Matthew 25:14-30. God created you with desires and giftings. Pay attention to those.

Priorities. Remember your priorities. What does God want you to value? How do God's priorities rank in your plans and options? Consider Matthew 6:19-34.

Looking at Specific Options

Second, if you have specific options, be wise in checking them out. Don't miss an opportunity to use information at your disposal.
Experience. Seek out those who are like-minded and have experience in the same business, firm, specialty, or job. Ask candid questions. Talk to lawyers that practice in the areas that you are considering. Know that each firm or office has its own culture, so not all law firms, large or small, are alike. By the same token, big-firm practice, government agencies, small firms, and public interest organizations do all have their own flavor. Talk to someone who knows about the type of organization you are looking into-and, if possible, the particular place you are considering working. It is ideal to be able to do a clerkship to get a feel for the culture and atmosphere.

Analysis. List the "pros" and "cons" of each option, giving greater weight to higher priorities. Don't neglect the little things-sometimes they make more difference than you think. For example, how will you be able to have a ministry in the community? What are the churches like? Are there other believers in the firm? Consider, too, whether you will be able to pursue outside hobbies and interests. Talk these issues through with your spouse, parents, or someone who knows you well. In talking through pros and cons, you will discover that you are not always honest with yourself about your priorities and desires. Remember, too, that those who are working through the issues with you will have an opinion and an agenda, too.

Observation. Observe the careers and lives of lawyers in their "prime" in the firm or position you are considering. Are they happy? Still married? Content? Is this where you want to be in ten to twenty years? I have found this to be an important way to gain insight.

Bottom Line

Proverbs 3:5-6- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

No matter how crooked your "path" seems to have been, God in his sovereignty has brought you "straight" to where you are according to his purposes. Trust him to continue to do that as you continue to trust him.