I received an email from a first year year law student at a law school downriver on the Mississippi from my home town of La Crosse.
She explained she’s an avid enthusiast for social media and her legal education. She had just read by post about a social media internship being a path to a job as a lawyer or social media director
She’s just beginning to branch out and figure out what it is she wants to do with her legal education. The idea of being able to study and deal with the two things she loves the most, social media and the law, sounded thrilling.
She wondered if I had any tips of where she should begin her search. Knowing I have lot of law students following me, I thought it worthwhile to share my thoughts with all of you.
Law grads don’t need to go into the practice of law to make meaningful use of a law degree. US News just published the top five career paths for law grads other than the law. Number one was journalism and four was entrepreneurship.
If it’s social media you’re after, I’d be looking at the cross roads of journalism and the law. It’s going to be filled with opportunities for people who understand how to use social media as part of reporting, publishing, disseminating, and consuming information today and in the future.
If you can get your arms around the journalism side, you can at least two ways. You’ll be able to get over into the communications and public relations’ side with law firms and the like as journalism is a typical path to that area already. Or you can be a journalist reporting on legal matters. The later may be the preferable route to go first, no matter if it’s PR and communications you’re after.
Either way, also be prepared to be a bit of a maverick and entrepreneur. There’s no ‘safe’ career path today. Be prepared to work at small start-up companies. Be prepared to start out in part with your own reporting and publishing, while working another job to pay the bills.
To learn about this area and gain exposure/build relationships, start blogging now. Blogging is simply the best way to learn anything. Plus you need to learn to write as a reporter and columnist in oder to get to first base. Blogging will get you there.
Do not look at blogging as publishing articles. Look at blogging as sharing what you are reading and what you perceive as a result. Imagine you were teaching it to another person in your shoes.
The best way to do this is to begin to read blogs in the publishing arena in a news reader. If you have an iPad (you should), use the Mr Reader app and synch it with Google Reader. Follow Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Paid Content, Poynter, Romenesko, GigaOm, TechDirt, and ReadWriteWeb. Follow the people and sources they cite.
Follow the columnists you like in the NY Times and regional newspapers. Share in your blog what they are writing on at the cross section of journalism/publishing/media. Do some research on journalism and the law and see who you run across and see if they blog or use Twitter.
A great place to find reporters and publishers on Twitter is Muck Rack.
Law School is hard and time consuming, but blogging can be a heck of a lot of fun. And if you start to engage people in your blog (cite them and what they are writing) they will know you are doing so. You should connect with those people on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter and use them as quasi-mentors whether virtual or in person.
There is a ton of opportunity out there for those who are idealistic, ambitious, and persistent.