“I want to keep my options open.” “I don’t want to pigeon hole myself.” How often do you hear those phrases around the law school? How often do you hear those phrases in life? I sympathize with those sentiments and know that they come from a place of genuine curiosity and desire to explore but the truth is that closing off options is what leads to the best opportunities in life and in your career search.
All of the best moments in life are ultimate options closers. I got married in 2017, which is the ultimate in pigeon holing oneself, and I couldn’t be happier. At the beginning of this year, I had a baby, which closed off tons of options, including regular sleep at night and the ability to just decide to go out to dinner whenever I feel like it yet it is the best thing I have ever done.
By leaving litigation to take a job as a career counselor at Notre Dame, I closed off the option to practice law anymore and I am happier in my job than almost anyone I know.
By choosing to come to law school, you have already closed off many options. Law school will not prepare you to become a doctor, to conduct scientific research in a laboratory, or to work as a sales representative. And that is a very good thing. You can only do one career at a given time so you must start down a chosen path toward a specific career or you will just end up doing whatever those around you are doing. No decision ends up being the decision.
So it is time to celebrate that you are closing off options.
Closing off options means that you are taking definitive steps in your life and in your career and choosing the kind of life you want to live rather than letting life happen to you.
If you think about it, closing off options is not really closing off options at all. It is making active choices that will benefit you in the long term.
Think about what brought you to law school. Go back to before you started at Notre Dame. Why did you decide to come to law school? Has that changed in your two and a half months here? Why? If the answer is that you don’t want to close off options, it is possible that you are not following your own heart.
If you came to law school passionate about pursuing a career in immigration law, pursue immigration law. It doesn’t matter that those around you are talking about securities law or enamored with big firms. You are the one who has to go to work everyday so you better enjoy it.
If immigration law is what you really want to do, work for an organization that practices immigration law this summer, take all of the immigration law classes that you can, do an externship in immigration law, write a journal note on an immigration law issue, and when deciding whether to do something in law school, ask yourself if it is related to immigration law. If not, don’t do it, even if everyone you know is.
If you really have no idea what kind of law you want to practice, that is fine too. But commit to figuring it out.
Meet with as many attorneys as you can, practicing in different areas, and ask them what their day to day life is like. How much of their job is writing? How much is interviewing clients and going to court? When do they get there? When do they leave? Do they eat lunch at their desk? Would you like the job they described?
Meet with the CDO to talk over various career paths, talk to your alumni mentor, talk to 2Ls and 3Ls, and get as many different lawyer career stories in your brain as you possibly can.
At the end of the day, you will only be able to pursue one career in one geographic area and you will have the best chance of landing a great job if your resume tells a consistent story.
Close off options! Nothing could be better for your career.
I am thrilled that I closed off my options by having this little girl in January: