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Self-Assessment

Self assessment is a useful first step of the career planning process. During a self assessment you will gather information about yourself, including an analysis of your values, interests, and abilities that will enable you to make more informed career choices. This process will be valuable when considering both your short-term and long-term career goals. In addition self assessments can help you to identify what is most important to you in an employer and in a job, thereby increasing your chances of long-term employment satisfaction.

The legal profession offers a wide range of opportunities from policy development, to large-scale impact litigations, to working one-on-one with clients. Taking time now to evaluate your values, interests, and abilities and working with CDO to craft a career search with those factors in mind will enable you to avoid many potential career frustrations.

CDO offers students the opportunity to take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and attend related programming to learn more about their personality types to maximize their career satisfaction. As a first step, the following tool will help students begin to think about the factors involved in this decision-making process. This is by no means a complete list of questions, but can help you think about the different factors and qualities that are important to you in a workplace setting.

Step 1: Location
(Note statements that are true for you) 
  • I prefer to live in close proximity to family.
  • I prefer to live in an area with an ethnically/politically/economically diverse population.
  • I prefer to live in an area with many cultural/social opportunities.
  • I prefer to live in a city/suburban/rural community.

Things to consider:

  • Many employers prefer candidates with geographic ties to their city.
  • The legal work in some cities lends itself to certain practice areas.

Step 2: Practice Areas
(Note statements that are true for you)

  • I am sure I want to practice (to name a few):
    • antitrust
    • banking
    • children/juvenile defense
    • civil rights
    • commercial litigation
    • constitutional law
    • corporate transactions
    • criminal law defense or prosecution
    • employment/labor
    • entertainment law
    • environmental law
    • health care
    • housing
    • immigration/immigrants’ rights
    • international law
    • product liability
    • real estate
    • securities
    • tax
    • trusts & estates
    • Other

          -OR -

  • I do not know what area of law I wish to practice.

    -OR -
  • I am not sure I want to practice law at all.

Things to consider:

  • Some employers that will allow you to specialize early in your career while others have rotation systems for summer associates, interns and new associates.
  • If you are focused on a particular practice area, determine the likelihood that a potential summer employer will give offers to that practice group or department.
  • Be sure to meet attorneys from those practice groups when you interview. Are they impressive? Could you imagine one or more as a good mentor?
  • If you may relocate at some point in your career, try to select practice areas that are available in other cities.
  • Enroll in a law school clinic, assist a professor with research, select particular courses to gain some experience in different types of legal practice.
  • If you are not sure whether you want to practice law, consider exploring classes elsewhere in the University
  • Consider spending all or part of a summer with a non-legal employer.
  • Reach out to YLS alumni in non-legal fields to seek their advice.

Step 3: Lifestyle
(Note statements that are true for you and add your own list of factors not shown here)

  • I do not mind working a lot of hours. Think about how much you are willing to work. When a large firm indicates that you will be expected to bill 2,000 hours year, do you know what that really means? Refer to the Truth About the Billable Hour handout to understand the idea of billing your time.
  • I am concerned about finances. Think about how much money you really need to make. Are you concerned about living on a public interest salary? Learn about how COAP can work for you. Find alumni in Career Connections who are in the public sector and talk with them about your salary concerns. Understand the cost of living in cities of interest to you. 
  •  I would enjoy having numerous social opportunities at my place of employment. Larger employers, such as large law firms, the U.S. Department of Justice, and larger district attorneys’ offices have large summer and incoming classes. The summer programs typically involve numerous social events. Determine whether there are attorneys who have similar interests to you and are at similar stages of life.
  • I would like an employer that enables attorneys to pursue other interests. Does the employer allow attorneys to work part-time or other flexible work arrangements? Are there attorneys at the organization who are very involved in outside pursuits?

Step 4: Work Environment
(Note statements that are true for you and add your own list of factors not shown here)

  • I enjoy having a lot of autonomy in the workplace.
  • I want an employer that has a mentor system.
  • I want an employer that will provide me with productive, frequent feedback.
  • I believe in “work hard/play hard.”
  • I work best in a supportive, collegial environment.
  • It is important that I have a nice office.
  • I need an employer that has plenty of support staff and other resources.
  • I enjoy receiving a lot of responsibility quickly (“jumping in with both feet”).
  • I want an employer that has a formal training program for attorneys.
  • I would like to have a reasonable chance of making partner.
  • I want the option of working at an international office.
  • It is important that the employer has a commitment to supporting diversity in the workplace.
  • I must feel that I am working in an ethical environment.

Step 5: Clients
(Note statements that are true for you)

  • It is important that I work for high profile clients. The largest law firms typically represent the largest international companies, while national public interest organizations take on issues of national and international importance. Moreover, many boutique litigation firms work on high profile matters in a variety of specialties, from criminal defense to employment discrimination to intellectual property.
  • I want to be able to work on pro bono matters. Consult CDO’s handout Choosing a Law Firm: Critically Evaluating Pro Bono Policies and Programs  to learn about how to select firms committed to pro bono work.
  • I would like my clients to trust me as a counselor/advisor. This is possible in any employment setting, but more likely with employers who provide earlier client contact and more opportunities to be involved in all aspects of the client’s legal matters.
  • It is important that I believe in the causes/issues of my clients. This can also be possible in any employment setting, but more likely with issue- or client-focused organizations such as public interest organizations or government positions.
  • I would prefer to serve individuals instead of corporations. Think about working for public service employers, smaller law firms, or in practice areas more involved in assisting individuals such as estate planning, family law, or plaintiffs’ work.
  • I do not want to represent clients but instead wish to be involved in legal issues on a broader scope. Consider politics, government work, policy organizations, think tanks, and certain nonprofit organizations espousing particular legal matters.

    Selected Resources (Visit Resources for a complete list of CDO Resources):
    Career Anchors: Self Assessment, Schein, Edgar / 2006
    Career Match: Connecting Who You Are with What You'll Love to Do, Zichy, Shoya | Bidou, Ann / 2007
    Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career For You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, Tieger, Paul | Barron-Tieger, Barbara / 2007
    How to Find the Work You Love, Boldt, Laurence / 2004
    Lawyer's Career Change Handbook: More Than 300 Things You Can Do With a Law Degree,
    Greenberg, Hindi / 2002
    Should You Really Be a Lawyer? The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During & After Law School, Schneider, Deborah | Belsky, Gary / 2005
    Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life, Keeva, Steven / 2009
    Type Talk at Work: How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job, Kroeger, Otto | Thuesen, Janet | Rutledge, Hile / 2002
    What Can You Do With a Law Degree? A Lawyer's Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law, Arron, Deborah / 2004
    What Color is Your Parachute?, Bolles, Richard / 2010
    What Color is Your Parachute? (link) Supplement to the book, What Color is Your Parachute?