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magicmtn

No EC / Demonstrating Interest?

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Hello all,

During 1L I had no EC or volunteer experience. I don’t really have an excuse - I didn’t know what I was interested in, didn’t realize the importance of getting involved, wanted to focus on my grades, etc, but truthfully I just wanted to take it easy transitioning into a new environment. How much of a problem would this be in securing a 2L job/articles? Is this something I would need to prepare to talk about in interviews? How important is it that I start getting involved? Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but I can’t seem to find any clinic to volunteer at, and joining clubs seems to be difficult at the moment with the fall semester being online at my school.

This brings me to a bigger and related issue: having finished 1L, I still can’t find an area of law that interests me. Among the courses I took, I was neither particularly drawn to nor repelled by any of them. I suppose being involved in clubs or volunteering would have helped me in that regard, but that just didn’t occur to me. I’ve read on numerous occasions on this forum about the importance of demonstrating one’s interest, which resonates with me, but I just don’t see how that would be possible for me at this point. I don't know what to do. 

The only thing I probably have going for me is my 1L grades, which is decent at B+ average, but not enough to compensate for lack of experience/demonstrated interest (if grades alone ever can). I do have quite a bit of work experience before law school, but nothing remotely law-related. For reference, I go to UVic and would like to practice in BC. 

This post ended up being longer than I had anticipated. Thanks for reading! I’d appreciate any input from the community.

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B+ average is decent enough...i didn't have any EC nor volunteer experience during  1L, 2L and 3L

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2 minutes ago, Luckycharm said:

B+ average is decent enough...i didn't have any EC nor volunteer experience during  1L, 2L and 3L

How come?

Did that cause any problem for finding the job you desired?

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I can only speak for the formal recruit, but I wasn't asked about my law school ECs at all. The focus was all on my experience before law school and my personal interests. You should be okay if you can sell yourself using those.

As for deciding on a practice area, I'm finishing up 2L and almost nobody seems to know what they want to do yet. Taking some 2L courses that interest you might help narrow it down. 

 

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1 hour ago, NeverGiveUp said:

How come?

Did that cause any problem for finding the job you desired?

no

Edited by Luckycharm
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Whether having no ECs will matter, and to what degree, will vary hugely by practice area. Since you say you aren't interested in any particular area of law, this shouldn't close any doors you'll care a lot about.

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I graduated recently having done a TON of ECs in law school. Clubs, sports, society of law students, faculty council, you name it, I was involved.

I was almost never asked about my ECs. I noticed that there were only two things employers consistently asked me about from my resume: my work experience from before law school, and the things I put under my "personal interests" section.

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This was always a strange question. You phrase the question in terms where you are worried your other activities can't demonstrate your area(s) of interest, but then as an aside throw in the fact that you have no areas of interest? Isn't that the more fundamental issue? People who are actually interested in things aren't confused about how to, you know, pursue their interests. They may have very specific questions that sometimes need answers, but nothing this basic. Your issue is that you need to figure out why you're even in law school.

Let me correct and/or disagree with one point that's been made here. This is a problem, and will be a problem in interviews and in even deciding which interviews you want to be in, except for "big law" (tm). The reason "big law" can obscure any demonstrated interest in any kind of legal practice is because the process is so generalized it's built on the assumption that come on, doesn't everyone want to work for big corporations? Isn't it every law student's dream in life to learn how to merge corporation A with corporation B in a way that minimizes the tax they must pay to the government and therefore puts more money in the pockets of shareholders? Who wouldn't want to do that?

There are two related problems with this. First, it isn't really true to begin with, or even realistic. I'm not here to mock people who do tax, or M&A, or "big law" in any other form. But some people enjoy doing this, while others don't. Skipping over the question with some blithe assumption that it's what everyone wants and should want leads quite a lot of otherwise bright and capable students into jobs they hate and are badly suited for. I'm personally convinced this is where a lot of the big law burn out comes from. Second, I can promise you that big law is the only sort of job you'll ever apply to where no one asks about your interests. You are never going to be in an interview for a job with a family law practice, of a criminal defence lawyer, or probably even personal injury, where all you say is "look, I have pretty decent grades and so you want to hire me for whatever the hell it is you do, even though I have no background in it at all, but since I'm pretty smart I'm sure I can be good at it." No one else adopts this approach. Which is exactly why students such as yourself who wash out of the OCI recruit (which may or may not happen in your case) end up completely screwed. Because they keep expecting their not-quite-strong-enough grades are going to entitle them to a job in the next rung down the ladder. They don't realize that my practice isn't somehow inferior to big law and it's what you do when you can't merge corporation A with corporation B. It's fundamentally different.

This is a real problem. It isn't something you should laugh off or dismiss with some wave saying "whatever, no one else really knows why they're in law school either - someone will come along later and pay us all a lot of money to do...something...and then it'll make sense." Motivations and interests do matter. And it's not remotely true that everyone else in law school is also waiting for a future employer to inform them of what they'll be paid to do for the rest of their working careers. Many people do have it figured out already, and more will figure it out soon.

Look, rather than continue with this lecture, let's make it this simple. You asked Luckycharm if a lack of ECs etc. caused any problems with securing the job he (she?) desired, and you seemed relieved when the answer was no. Here's the more fundamental question. Do you know what sort of job you desire? And if yes, what's that based on? Why don't we start there.

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I do a lot of mentorship and coffee chats with students, and the students I see that are struggling to find articling positions fall into two categories: a) the corporate law gunners that didn't land a job through OCIs (and a few other corporate job postings that come up throughout law school) and b) students that have no demonstrated interest in anything. Believe it or not, it is not necessarily students with bad grades that are struggling to find jobs. I've met many students with mediocre grades who did land somewhere, but they specialized quickly in an area of law.

If you are applying to OCIs, demonstrated interest for Biglaw firms won't matter - though you will have to fake it like many other students do. But if you don't land a job through this recruit, you had better find an area or two to focus your course selection, application materials, and extracurriculars around if you want to land somewhere. 

Your 2L course selection and extracurriculars will matter if/when you apply for articling postitions post-OCIs. Figure out quickly what you want to do. 

Keep in mind that most of the posters here who are telling you demonstrated interest, course selection, and ECs do not matter, are the ones who work in Biglaw and landed a job through OCIs. This may not be the case for you. 

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If you do decide that you want to try and do some ECs this summer, you could always try and connect with some organizations that do pro bono work in BC like Access Pro Bono? They have volunteer positions in a variety of areas of law, some of which you can do online or over the phone. If you aren't sure what type of law you're interested in, it might be a good way to explore.  

I did a lot of ECs from 1L-3L, and while I was asked about a few of them during the interview that ultimately landed me my articling job, it wasn't their main focus when asking me questions. I don't think it'll be too much of a struggle if you don't have any, and there's no shame in not partaking in ECs in 1L since grades should definitely be your main focus (which it sounds like they were). I know a lot of people that didn't do any in 1L. That said, I did enjoy learning about various types of law through those volunteer experiences, so it isn't something I regret.

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Yeah, I agree with Diplock that this could be a very fundamental issue for you. 

Like you I did very little in terms of ECs in 1L (and my pre law school experience was not super interesting.) I had no real idea what I wanted to do in law during most of law school. I did the OCI application in Toronto and had a number of interviews but in hindsight the interviewers probably saw right through me and could tell that I didn't give much of a shit about working with them. I ended up doing some EC and curricular intensive stuff in 2L and 3L that at least have me some direction and my articling job ended up being directly related to those experiences. Same with my 2L job, which I didn't secure until the end of exams in second term 2L.

I also know a couple of people who had a very rough time landing articling gigs and I think it's no coincidence that they frankly did not do much in law school other than plug away at their course work. 

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12 hours ago, canuckfanatic said:

I graduated recently having done a TON of ECs in law school. Clubs, sports, society of law students, faculty council, you name it, I was involved.

I was almost never asked about my ECs. I noticed that there were only two things employers consistently asked me about from my resume: my work experience from before law school, and the things I put under my "personal interests" section.

I wanted to follow this up by saying that I don't regret being so involved and doing so many EC's. There are more reasons to get involved with your school/community than "resume padding."

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I don't recall knowing anyone when I was in 1L who didn't participate in at least 2 ECs. There are so many options, I'm not sure why there wouldn't be at least a couple that would interest anyone. As someone who has, in the years since, interviewed hundreds of law students, it is very rare that a student has absolutely no ECs. Now, that isn't going to be a definite negative but it certainly will be unusual, regardless of what type of job interests you.

The bigger issue, as Diplock mentioned, is that you still don't have any idea of what interests you. And this is the other benefit of exploring ECs. They are not only to be looked at as something to put on your CV, but more importantly, they often can expose you to different areas of the law.  They will enable you to get to know students who you may not cross paths with otherwise. Similarly, you will often be involved in some way with a prof, and in some, with a lawyer or two. These will all be of benefit to you. 

Our firm does L&E, and human rights law. The primary factor in determining who we will interview is grades. A close second is demonstrated interest. 

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Thank you everyone for your valuable input. Though I was relieved to hear that ECs may not be as important as I thought, it was only to the extent that they are not a must in finding a job. Your posts gave me a lot to think about, especially since I’ve always had a feeling I won’t fit into the big law setting. Really appreciate all your advice.

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2 hours ago, magicmtn said:

Thank you everyone for your valuable input. Though I was relieved to hear that ECs may not be as important as I thought, it was only to the extent that they are not a must in finding a job. Your posts gave me a lot to think about, especially since I’ve always had a feeling I won’t fit into the big law setting. Really appreciate all your advice.

Since you've added the concern about not fitting into big law, let me give you the best generic advice I know about how to find an area of interest if you're otherwise struggling with it. For me, it isn't the law itself that's interesting at all. It's the outcomes. I'm interested in the clients I'm working for and how I can help them sort out their problems. So if you can't focus at all on the kind of law you're interested in, think about the kinds of clients you'd like to work for. If you can answer that question, you're 75% of the way towards answering the rest.

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If you strike out at the organized 2L recruit, and end up looking for articles after 2L and/or during 3L then your EC's do matter.  

Smaller shops or soles will not take you seriously unless you can show some demonstrated interest in what they do.

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7 hours ago, PropJoe said:

If you strike out at the organized 2L recruit, and end up looking for articles after 2L and/or during 3L then your EC's do matter.  

Smaller shops or soles will not take you seriously unless you can show some demonstrated interest in what they do.

And some employers in that scenario won't even care about grades. 

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