Want to make a difference in the fight for liberty? Consider law school. Here is my second set of tips for maximizing your chances for a law career that will position you to change the world:
• Develop practical skills. Most law students graduate law school having absolutely no idea how to file a lawsuit. Law schools are not trade schools—unless you go out of your way to acquire the skills that will enable you to hit the ground running. In addition to clerkships, seek out clinical programs and skills-oriented classes such as trial practice. Law review looks good on a resume, but moot court develops real-world skills.
• Consider public-interest training. Some top-notch public-interest law firms like the Institute for Justice (which I co-founded) and Alliance Defense Fund offer nifty training programs. Look into them, especially if you don’t clerk at a public-interest law firm.
• Find a good mentor. Identifying top-notch role models and finding a way to have them take you under their wings is golden. Remember, if you can’t get a paying position, volunteer or do it for credit. The experience and references are worth more than a paycheck.
• Sue ‘em early and often. You won’t get this advice from the placement office: there’s no need to wait until graduating to file your first lawsuit. I filed my first lawsuits as a law student, against the president of the University of California and the City of Davis. Both were disasters—that’s when I discovered how little law schools teach by way of practical skills—but were great learning experiences and lots of fun. And I got some of my mistakes out of the way before it really counted.
• Work for the enemy. Government experience is enormously valuable—especially when the good guys are in charge. Often you can parlay campaign work into a political position that will give you experience beyond your peers.
• Be well-rounded. The competition and gamesmanship of law school and legal practice can make you neurotic. Develop healthy outlets and reward yourself by indulging in them regularly.
• Read these books. Two of my books were written with aspiring public-interest lawyers in mind: Voucher Wars: Waging the Legal Battle Over School Choice and David’s Hammer: The Case for an Activist Judiciary.
Did I follow my own advice en route to a career as a public-interest lawyer? Half and half. I didn’t choose the best law school (selecting U.C.-Davis over Duke—ack!) and my grades were dreadful. But I got away from law school as much as I could, ran for public office, volunteered for a terrific judge, developed an interesting resume, and found some fantastic mentors. Happily, I managed through luck and perspicacity to build the career in constitutional law that motivated me to go to law school. I wouldn’t trade the work I get to do for any other career in law.
I hope this advice is helpful and that it will lead some bright young college and law students to work at the Goldwater Institute—if you can handle the Arizona summer heat, you can handle anything.
I saved the most important advice for last. They’ll try to teach you lots of Latin in law school. But there are only two Latin words that matter: carpe diem. Welcome to the world of freedom advocacy!
Clint Bolick is vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute and an AFF Advisory Board member.
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