Law is an extremely broad field. If you say that you want to go to law school because you “like law”, what does that mean exactly? Do you like the idea of helping people navigate a complex and adversarial legal system? Do you like the more high level thinking of law helping to bring order to an otherwise anarchic society? Do you think law can help rectify the uneven playing field that exists in our society? Do you just want to make a lot of money but don’t want to work in finance? There can be a multitude of reasons.
The real question is if/when to decide what to focus on while learning about the many applications of the law. While law may inherently sound like a generalist field, it’s not. If you train to become a public defender in law school, those skills don’t necessarily translate to doing mergers and acquisitions later in life. Also, there are social factors to consider – if you focus your internships, clinics, and courses on corporate law, public interest organizations may question your motives. Additionally, public interest organizations may more highly value students who have shown dedication to public interest issues throughout their law school career. So what are you supposed to do?
Moral of the story: Figure out what you want as early as possible.
1L year is blessedly simple because you can’t choose your classes. Take that opportunity to attend career panels, talk to alumni, join clubs, and explore the legal fields that might interest you. Your 1L summer is also a great opportunity to try something you think you might like. If you liked working in that field, then great – it will give you some extra work experience to cite when you interview for your 2L summer. If you didn’t like it, then also great – now you know to avoid that type of work in your 2L classes and summer.
Believe it or not, law school is a professional school. When you graduate, you will enter the job market with a particular set of skills. It’s your job during the 3 years to make yourself into the most ideal candidate for employment. So it’s not rocket science – the sooner you figure it out, the most experience you can amass to make you the best candidate for the job.
So you aren’t really sure what you want? You have a few interests, but aren’t sure which field will be the best fit for you? That’s okay too. Think about what skills can be transferrable and what experiences are spinable. By “spin” I mean, can you spin your experience at a law firm to show that you developed transferrable skills for this non-profit job? Also, be strategic about classes, clinics, extracurriculars, etc. So, let’s say your experience at the law firm isn’t really transferrable, BUT you took a class on that topic or you volunteered with a student club on a similar topic.
BU Law has a lot of great resources, but if you aren’t sure what you want to get from school, it will be difficult to decide what to capitalize on. For example, if you’re resume looks pretty thin, consider doing a Semester in Practice or one of the many externship programs. Pick a clinic that sounds interesting (although note that at BU you’ll have to pick judiciously, some of the clinics are year-long and you may need to plan ahead, e.g., the criminal clinic). (See my previous post about clinics.)
So before you set foot in the door at BU or some other less cool school, remember: (1) Specialization is unavoidable, so get a head start. (2) Be strategic.