Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 42

THE LEARNING CURVE

What's Next
for Young Lawyers?
By Josephine Bahn

I

sat down to draft this column
on my 95th day in quarantine -
with no return to work in sight.
Folks are working, networking,
and starting their legal careers
remotely, and, very soon, also
taking the bar exam from home.
Due to the continued impact of the COVID-19
pandemic and citing "the public's need for
competent attorneys, the legal community's
need for newly licensed attorneys, and law
school graduates' need for employment," the
D.C. Court of Appeals ordered that the bar exam
be administered online in October.
As the legal profession adapts, the time is right
to explore some changes to legal education
that will positively impact the new crop of
young lawyers on the horizon. I graduated law
school in May 2016 at an arguably high point in
the legal market. At that time, it still felt like a
struggle to find employment. I thought I had
done all the right things: I graduated near the
top of my class, clerked in federal court, and
interned with multiple firms and government
agencies during law school. But I still found
myself getting rejection letter after rejection
letter during the first few months of my
clerkship. I turned my situation around by
implementing a new outlook, one I wished
my law school had emphasized: It is okay to
try new areas of law. It is okay to practice in
more than one area. It is okay to fail.
I went to law school not knowing which area
of law to pursue or even where I wanted to
practice. I did well in the first semester, so
I figured Big Law would be in my cards. But
it wasn't. At least not during law school. I was
at a crossroads - interested in math and
numbers, maybe finance, but not knowing

42 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

what exactly made me excited about becoming
a lawyer. Then I saw an ad for the summer
Student Honors Program at the U.S. Securities
and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington,
D.C. It took forever to hear back from the commission after my interview, but I was offered
the chance to work in one of two groups that
summer. I got to interview both groups to see
where I would fit in best. When I had my interview for the second group, the person assigned
to talk to me described the work like this: "I get
to play Batman every day - I get to catch bad
guys doing bad things." Sold.

You shouldn't be afraid
to try something other
than the traditional path
you thought you'd be on.
I took a chance that summer, and it has led me
to where I am now. Between my yearlong stint
at the SEC and my current job, I have tried
everything - from personal injury to commercial litigation to wills and trusts - and ruled
out what didn't excite me to get out of bed
each morning. This process-of-elimination
approach may not work for everyone, but you
shouldn't be afraid to try something other than
the traditional path you thought you'd be on.
The same goes for folks who are a few years
into practice and are thinking about taking the
leap - you may just find something you're
more passionate about.
In addition to not being afraid to try new
things, I also learned to keep pushing when
someone said no, or when I didn't get a
position I felt I deserved. Instead I say, what's

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

next? It's been my motto for a long time -
what is my next goal, what is the next thing
I can tackle, who is the next person I can help?
I have been rejected from over a hundred
jobs and have had hundreds of people not
answer my emails or even meet with me, and
I've missed out on opportunities I felt I was
perfect for.
I say all of this because recent law school
graduates are heading into a challenging
market, facing uncertainty about the bar exam,
and coping with life during the pandemic.
What's next, right? Well, if you continue to cold
email, network, and apply for jobs that may
not be in your chosen area of law, something
is going to work. You will be successful; just
keep plugging away and try and get to what's
next.
Law schools can also better prepare their
students for law practice by continuing to incorporate practical skills in their curriculums. There
is still no requirement - and in many schools,
no course - for law practice management or
the business side of law. Some folks who are
graduating law school now will practice under
diploma privilege or will open their own firm
once they get their bar passage results. If young
lawyers were better prepared to handle the
business side of law practice, they would have
the ability to better serve their clients.
So, while the landscape looks different than
it did a few months ago, the practices that
worked for me can likely work for you, too.
Think about what's next and work until you
get there.

Josephine (Jo) Bahn is an attorney in consumer
enforcement at the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation. Bahn also works with the greater
D.C. community on pro bono cases involving small
claims, landlord-tenant, consumer, and family
law-related issues.



Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
ABA Delegates Corner
Calendar of Events
Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
The New Normal in Legal Education feature
On Shaky Ground feature
How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Speaking of Ethics
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 9
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The New Normal in Legal Education feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Shaky Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover4
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