On Being a Young Professional During a Global Pandemic

Author: Margarite Sullivan

Guest Editor: Christopher Schon

May 11, 2020 9:00am

I do not know what the future holds.  COVID-19 has ousted us from our workplaces and may have caused a permanent disruption in “the office” as we know it.  If you are set to graduate from law school in May, the path to your first law job may look radically different from the graduating class of 2019.  The bar exam will be put on hold, leaving you in limbo.  All of this uncertainty for the class of 2020 and even new attorneys still trying to settle into the practice of law is understandably difficult.

After you take the necessary time to process the fact we are in the midst of a global pandemic, the following tips may help ease your residual worries and even place you in a position for success in our post-COVID world.

Identify Your Strengths

No one in the United States workforce today has ever experienced a global pandemic.  This fact allows you to creatively apply your strengths to help kick-start and advance your career.  Those who are technologically savvy may be favored by firms still primarily using a paper filing system, or other vestiges of law firms past.

Some people are remarkably good at accepting change.  If you are a law student, recent graduate, or new attorney this may be difficult to manifest.  Part of how you came to be a law student or lawyer in the first place is likely due to making and sticking to a plan for how your life will go.  You have probably changed very little about your plan – until now.  Regardless of how steadfast you were in sticking to your original plan, I think almost anyone can adopt “flexibility” when necessary.

You can still network!  Take time to reach out to the attorneys you clerked for, legal professionals you met, and even previous law school professors.  Your emails/phone calls/letters do not have to be complicated.  A simple “Just checking in”[1] can go a long way to opening up a dialogue and maybe even receiving invaluable career advice.

What qualities about yourself have gotten you to where you are today?  Think about this and find ways to use those qualities in quantifiable ways.

Apply What You Know

It may be the case your job search is paused, or the position you accepted during your summer clerkship has been eliminated.  You can still hit the ground running!  There are thousands of pro-bono organizations that can use your help.  Alternatively, I suggest contacting your local Office of the City Attorney, County Counsel, District Attorney, or Public Defender to inquire about taking on research projects as an intern.  Do not let COVID keep you from developing your legal mind.  Doing a good job on a simple research project can help build your confidence and remind you why you want a career in law.

Take Care of Yourself

What I call “failure spirals” will probably happen.  You may be sitting on the couch when all of a sudden you are hit with a chain of endless thoughts about how you should have gotten better grades in law school, been on law review, or participated in more activities.  All of these thoughts culminating in the conclusion if you had done those things, you would be in a better position to weather the COVID storm.  These thoughts are unproductive and likely untrue.  Acknowledge your thoughts, let them pass, and do what you can to improve your situation.

Do not lose sight of how far you have come.  Our world, right down to the way offices operate, may have changed overnight but your determination and hard work will be an integral part in our collective metamorphosis into a post-COVID workforce.


[1] For the literalists out there, I do not mean your email, etc., should say only “Just checking in”.

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