The good news for 1Ls is that we have quite a bit of time, during which the tide will hopefully continue to turn for the better. In the meantime, there are some steps that I think 1Ls can incorporate into their career game plans, in hopes of increasing the chances of gainful and fulfilling work after graduation. It goes almost without saying, but I assume here that the goal is not just having work, but having one that taps into one’s interests and unique abilities, provides fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment, and fits into one’s lifestyle (and not the other way around). In pursuit of this ideal, I think it is important not only to see long-term, but also to try and avoid tunnel vision. It is not sufficient to think strictly monetarily; instead, one should consider the broader costs and benefits of various possible options.
At this stage, if you have not already, it’s important to think, in non-legal terms, of what you want your work-life to be like: the environment, nature of work, sorts of clients and colleagues you want to cross-paths with, the subject matter you may find interesting or have otherwise special knowledge in, as well as the kind of demands and expectations that will be placed on you . . . among other things. The individual conclusions you come to will be highly unique to your specific skills, interests, and motivations. For example, some may find it extremely fulfilling to be surrounded by creatively talented clients, which may make up for the long hours you may have to put in. Others still may enjoy the intrinsic benefits of public interest endeavors. Whatever the case, taking those things into consideration will provide a general framework that will allow you to seek out meaningful early experiences that strategically get you to your end goal.
It’s easy to lose sight of the details when there don’t seem to be many choices, but you have to realize that when you focus on the details, you create choices for yourself by considering possibilities that you otherwise would not have considered. I believe that thinking in the way I’ve suggested can at least help increase your choices for meaningful work come graduation time.