My name is Cindy Park and I attend Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law. I am a rising 2L.
When Rachel Gezerseh came to my law school with her presentation, “Break Into BigLaw,” I connected with her immediately. When she told us her story I felt as though she was “singing my life with her song.” She was coming from a lower-ranked law school, she had worked before and was trying to break into big law. I, by the very nature of being at her presentation, was trying to make myself as marketable as possible to increase my chances of landing a BigLaw job. I knew all about BigLaw; I had worked as a legal secretary in a bigger law firm and saw the process, the politics, and knew the gossip. I saw the resumes of those students who were recruited and it gave me a lot of self-doubt even before I enrolled in law school.
I was scared my whole first year of law school. Scared I would fail, literally, because I found out that one exam determined my whole grade for a course I had been studying for over many months. I was lucky that I came into law school with a hefty scholarship, but I was scared I would lose it by not keeping up with the curve. I was mostly scared that my choice to attend a lower-tier law school would haunt me when I tried to secure a job. I still have some of these doubts. But I’ve learned to use this fear and anxiety to help push me forward and remind me that I need to work extremely hard to make myself competitive in this saturated and incredibly competitive legal market.
My 1L year was a blur. I attended every seminar that had anything to do with law school. Yes, I wanted free pizza, but I also took this as an opportunity to meet attorneys, professors, and other students. I got involved in my community by being a student volunteer at bar events and also joined numerous groups on campus. I had the luxury of being able to attend every academic tutoring session as well as many social events. My classmates were not only a source of relief and friendship, but also helped me professionally. I know that these classmates will also be my potential referrals and experts I turn to in the near future.
At the tail end of my 1L year, I was stressed. I had no real offers for 1L summer and I was running out of time. I had applied to multiple external opportunities and received mostly rejections or no response at all. I was used to this as my first job came after I had submitted over 100 applications. From that experience four years ago, I remembered to be patient, think before acting, and not settle.
I always keep an open mind. However, during my 1L year, I developed a narrower focus on what I wanted to do and what type of experience I wanted. I applied for one opportunity that was focused on diverse law students in the Orange County area who were interested in BigLaw. I had just received multiple rejection letters and had an offer in hand that was great, but I had a nagging feeling about this opportunity. It felt like “the one”. I waited for weeks and I was finally given an interview. Then after almost a month, two weeks before final exams, I found out I got the job. You can imagine my happiness and excitement. I would be a summer associate splitting my summer between a large law firm and a healthcare company.
My experience working at the firm has been eye opening and positive. Besides the normal summer associate activities of conducting legal research and writing memos, I was able to attend numerous training sessions on oral advocacy and trial preparation. These are invaluable to a rising 2L and a future new lawyer. Further, I felt immediately welcome at a firm that values people as individuals, celebrates and recognizes differences and focuses on inclusion. I was also able to work on a pro bono case by providing research and analysis regarding a situation dealing with police dashboard camera footage. This was especially interesting because of the controversy that surrounds police and civilian footage these days, and it allowed me to learn about evidence rules before I actually took the class at law school. I was also able to participate in a simulated oral argument and take a mock deposition.
I have now completed my five weeks at the firm. I’ve met so many amazing people, ate a lot of delicious and expensive meals, and worked very hard on challenging, substantive assignments. I ventured outside of my comfort zone, gained skills and experiences and had a blast. The fact that a 1L could experience this type of opportunity is rare and I do not take anything for granted. I will miss my time at the firm and the people I’ve met. My goal is to keep in touch with everyone I connected with and I consider them all part of my growing professional network.
Keeping an open mind and not giving up was the key to getting my amazing summer experience so far. Always being grateful for every single opportunity will also take you a long way. Feeling entitled to things will usually lead to disappointment. As I venture off to the healthcare company, I look forward to a new experience where I will likely meet more amazing people and continue learning. This is just the beginning.