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Fellow, New York University's Office of the General Counsel
Where did you work/do prior to entering law school?
I worked all over the place. The cocktail party (and I suppose website) answer is that I held a variety of public policy jobs for my first two years after college, spent two and a half years in a graduate program in English literature, and then worked as a litigation paralegal in preparation for law school. That glosses over some odd jobs here and there, but it's more or less true.
Why did you decide to go to law school after being away from school for so many years?
I wanted to get back to doing the sort of public-minded work that I had done before graduate school, and wanted to do it with a better professional credential than a Master's in English literature.
What skills that you developed throughout your pre-law career do you think were helpful and most transferrable to your summer law jobs?
I think that the biggest thing was just learning how to be a working professional. I think that I was able to accomplish more over the course of my summers because I was already comfortable in an office environment.
How did you handle discussing your pre-law school career experience during a summer job interview? If you had a real change in direction, how did you handle it?
I spent my first summer at the District of Columbia Public Schools; I talked about the time that I had spent working for a municipal agency and a nonprofit group committed to urban redevelopment. My second summer I spent mostly at the Department of Justice. At one point, my interviewer said "You look like someone who doesn't really know what he wants to do." I laughed, collected myself and said "Well, I think that's a plausible but ungenerous reading of my resume..." and then gave him whatever my "life in 18 seconds" speech was at that point. It went fine.
Did you include or exclude anything on your resume or elaborate on areas of past work experience so potential employers would pay attention about your past experience or avoid questions regarding it?
I completely finessed the time that I had spent doing piecework freelance writing and tried to highlight my pre-grad school experience in public policy.
What suggestions do you have for other non-traditional students that might help them throughout the course of their time at HLS?
Remember why you're there. One of the great advantages that non-traditional (by which I suppose we mean "old") students have is the life experience that they've acquired. They should have a better sense of themselves and what matters to them than they did at 22... and perhaps than their 22-year-old classmates do now. Having struggled at something helps.
Do you have any suggestions on how they might get involved at HLS? Were there any resources that are/were particularly helpful for you during your time at HLS?
I found OPIA to be a huge source of advice and moral support (and I promise they didn't ask me to say that).
Remember why you're there. One of the great advantages that non-traditional (by which I suppose we mean "old") students have is the life experience that they've acquired.
James Bickford '10
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