Advice For a Recent Law School Graduate

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A friend recently asked for advice for a young person graduating from law school. I did my best to provide these thoughts:

This is just the start of your career. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t begin exactly like you thought that it would. When I was a young associate in NY City, I would think to myself, “I took out all of these student loans just to become a lawyer, and now I spend my life working as a lawyer just to pay off my student loans.” However, as time passed, and my career blossomed, I became very thankful that I took out (and have now paid off) those student loans.

True, I still spend most of my days in an office or in court (while a few lucky people are enjoying the sun). And admittedly, my dream job was not to be a lawyer (but who really has their dream job). I mean the Los Angeles Dodgers already have a coach, and I don’t think that the Dodgers would be considering me even if they needed a new one. I was born to a middle class family and was destined to work my entire life.

So, if I was to live a happy, fulfilling life as a lawyer, I knew that I was the only one who could make that happen for me. In 1997, I started my own law practice and have been in business ever since. I run the office the way that I believe a law office should be run. I make sure that my staff is happy. I am proud of my work. And I couldn’t have owned my own office right out of law school. Especially, doing the variety of cases that we handle. All of the work that I did for those large law firms, prepared me for the work that I do in my office in Hawaii.

The moral is that this is just the start of your journey. The job you currently have is not necessarily where you will end up. My journey began in giant law firms in NY and Virginia and, in 22 years, took me to my own office in Hawaii. Attorneys have to find the practice in which they feel most comfortable. Some attorneys like big firms, other like small firms. Some people thrive doing criminal law, while others would be miserable. Each new lawyer must look within herself and decide what she needs in life to be fulfilled, and then go for it.

Above all, strive to be happy. And when you find happy, don’t try too hard to improve on happy. In fact, don’t mess with happy.