Law Students Speak: The Best Advice I Never Got…

Ms. JD sponsors an annual Public Interest Scholarship for female law students. Scholarship applicants were asked to answer the following question: What’s the best advice you never got? Choose a situation and three tips that would have made the biggest difference there.

Law School Podcaster will be spotlighting some of the winning essays, beginning with the essay by Kara Franker, MS. JD’s 2010′s Public Interest Scholarship Winner!

Kara Franker is a 3L at University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. This summer, Kara worked at Shared Hope International.

“Always carry a hammer in your purse, in case you need to shatter that glass ceiling” –Joan Rivers

As I approach graduation, I find myself reflecting on my internship experiences in law school. Some of those experiences include interning for a prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney, a non-profit organization and clerking for a civil circuit court judge. I’m clerking for the US Attorney’s Office in Miami in my last semester of school. But before crowning me the internship queen, I must admit to you that I’m not an ivy league law student, I’m not first in my class, and I’m really no different than the typical law student. My philosophy (thanks to Cher) is simple: “I’ve always taken risks, and never worried about what the world might really think of me.”

I recommend the following advice to the rising group of ambitious interns:

1. “You can do whatever it is you put your mind to and you can do it in stilettos” -Kimora Lee Simons

I love fashion. However, as a law student starting a new internship, it is usually better to start on the right foot – a professional one. Save the mini skirts and cleavage for your night out with friends. People do judge us by the way we look and it is important to lay the foundation of our careers by building a professional reputation. Yes, I adore your $2500 Christian Louboutin pleated tassel tote, but do you really want all the women in the office to hate you from the get go? Get a feel for the office couture culture first, and then ease into your designers as you see fit.

2. Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice is a Good Thing

Be nice. Don’t be fake nice – be genuinely friendly and polite to every single person you meet in your internship. There are a few special individuals that you should be extra nice to including: the judge’s judicial assistant, the bailiff, the paralegal, the court clerk, the secretary and the court reporter. Gossip about the judge in front of the judicial assistant and she will rat you out. Leave the loose lips to Perez Hilton, and concentrate on only speaking positively in public about your job, supervisors and staff. Go a step beyond the cordiality and become BFFs with the paralegal. Just when you think your life is crumbling, she will explain to you how to write that motion for summary judgment.

3. “To be the most effective, successful leader you can be, you have two related tasks: (1) find a mentor and (2) be a mentor” -Marsha Blackburn

Find an attorney in the office that you admire and go to her with your questions. She may take you under her wing and she could even become a career advocate for you in the future. You don’t want her to dodge into her friend’s office every time she spots you coming down the hall because she’s afraid you are going to pellet her with a tirade of random questions. So, be respectful of her time and when you have the opportunity, try and get to know her on a personal level. You have to be the one to take the first step. You must be willing to put yourself out there and take the risk.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are so many young women who could benefit from your guidance as a mentor. This will likely happen outside of your internship, but it is a valuable opportunity to build into the next generation of young women leaders. Whether she is an underclassman, a high school student, or a family friend – practice encouraging and mentoring others. We need to take the time to generously motivate our younger sisters to aim high.

4. Know Where You’re Going and Why the Trip is Worthwhile

Remember your goals. Otherwise, it’s easy to get bogged down by some of the mundane tasks we interns sometimes find ourselves doing. I have to admit, I’m sick of being an intern. All I want to do now is slap that J.D. behind my name and call myself a lawyer. Enjoy where you are currently in your journey because your lust for life will spread to those around you. Do you want to be remembered as the girl who only showed up to put the law firm on her résumé? Or do you want to be remembered as the law student who demonstrated poise, professionalism and class? Leave a lasting impression by being present in every moment, taking challenges with stride, and taking the time to share your talents and gifts with others.

This guest post appears courtesy of Ms. JD, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by law students to reinforce and expand the representation of women in law school and the legal profession. Ms. JD offers a wide range of content — through it’s website, ms-jd.org, blog, a student organization at 70 law schools around the country called the NWLSO (National Women’s Law Student Organization), a national conference, scholarships, fellowships and lots more.

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