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Trusting your gut: Knowing when the ‘must-have’ path isn’t the right one


If your first year of law school was anything like mine, it went by in a flash. The memories of stress, new friends, and far too many rules to memorize have faded to feelings of accomplishment and still, despite it being over, a little fear.

Then comes your first summer clerkship, and it’s something like the first few weeks of law school all over again. You want to succeed. You want people to like you. To an extent, you feel like your life depends upon it.

In an attempt to ease these anxieties, I spent my 1L doing everything our dean of students, career services counselors and anyone employed by the law school said. So when I received an offer for a summer clerkship the career advisers called a “must have,” I thought there was no way I could be off track.

My law school was one of the top rated in Texas, and they praised the role as providing mentorship and a first hand look at all things civil litigation in a big city. Career Services liked the employer, and if I was successful, I’d have a top spot on the interview lists for a number of large corporate firms 2Ls sought after during OCI.

While all of this sounded great, I didn’t go to law school searching for an offer from a big firm. I went to law school to be a public servant.

My employer didn’t know this, as I spoke mostly of my interest in civil litigation during our interview. He liked me a lot, and though interns are encouraged to split their summers between different employers to maximize experiences, he hired me to work the entire summer as a lead intern. I’d never been so honored in my first year, and I was excited. I felt a huge responsibility to not let him or my law school down.

But in the weeks leading up to my start day, I sensed something was off. I decided to find a way to split my summer.

It was late in the spring semester, so I didn’t have a lot of options, and the Career Services email blasts reflected that truth. In addition, their emails mostly contained hiring notices from firms, and rarely highlighted the government and nonprofit positions I set my sights on. But one day I managed to scroll all the way past those postings to find, near the bottom, the chance of a lifetime – a fellowship with a significant agency on the grounds of the state Capitol.

I survived an interview testing my knowledge of law, policy, and political questions and made it to my first day at the Capitol, where I found an instant click. The work was challenging and plentiful. The agency employees’ energies matched mine. I learned lessons, found friendship, and gained networking opportunities with people I never thought I’d be in a position to meet. I knew within my first few weeks I didn’t want to leave for the second half of the summer.

So I didn’t. Though nervous of what my original employer and law school advisers would think, I had to go my own way. Trusting my gut, I resigned, and deviated from the path so many were told take but ended up on the one that was right for me. Since that summer, I learned where to find the public service roles that mattered to me as well as like-minded classmates and colleagues who continue to serve as friends and mentors.

If you “followed the rules” but feel like you don’t fit the role you found yourself in this summer, not all is lost. That feeling can serve as a tool to place you on the path meant for you, so don’t ignore it. Reconsider all your interests, regroup your post-graduate plans, and you’ll find yourself realigned with right role next go-round.

Jillian Bliss Jillian Bliss holds a bachelors of journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a juris doctor from SMU's Dedman School of Law. Her professional précis contains a plethora of public service positions, and her personal life encompasses a passion for equestrian activities and all things horses since a young age.