If you’ve decided to pursue the noble profession of law, here are a few things WMU-Cooley graduate David Neef thinks you should know:
1. There is no “magic button” for success in life or the law, but being open to whatever comes your way will help.
Some people start out knowing exactly what they want to do; other people have no idea. At the end of the day, keep an open mind, be creative, and roll with the punches. Opportunities come up all the time in life, so when one presents itself – you should exercise wisdom to decide whether it’s the right one for you. A person, an opening, an idea, a collaboration: the great thing about a J.D. is there is a lot you can do with it. So surround yourself with people, ideas, and places that will nurture whatever your goal is—but don’t be afraid to take a chance and explore something different when it comes along.
2. A good friend and mentor once told me that I would always make more money the year after than I did the year before.
Now, I’m sure there are exceptions to this—but for the most part it’s held true for me. Focus on providing value to the people you are working for (bosses or clients); and take pride in what you do. Failure happens to everyone: but those failures teach us how to be successful and help us to learn important lessons. The law holds a similar analogy: most of the things you learn and the cases you have will not be black or white, wrong or right. You’ll discover that the law is a sea of grey—and you’ll spend quite a bit of time researching and discovering just how many nuances there are to every issue you look at. This may not go over well with all of the friends and family calling to ask you questions who expect you to be an expert on every aspect of every law, but it’s the truth so practice learning how to explain that.
3. Become a note taker.
Most successful people in the legal profession take notes on just about everything—they have a calendar filled with notes, a work journal with to-do lists, and spreadsheets for everything! If you become an attorney, many of your friends will be lawyers and you will spend a lot of time engaged in solving other people’s problems. Essentially, that is the person you become. Your neighbors will ask for your help on the condo board. Your friends will ask you what to do when their relatives pass away. Your opinion will carry weight on whatever subject you choose to opine on: politics, religion, or Alton Brown’s recipes. You’ll be expected to be a leader, and to be competent—so do yourself a favor and start writing things down. It will help you better manage your time, keep track of deadlines, and follow up on things that need to get done. You’ll definitely have lots of opportunities – so remember: you represent a very old and a very noble profession of problem-solvers.
About David Neef
David Neef attended WMU-Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, serving on the Executive Board of the Student Bar Association and eventually receiving the Leadership Achievement Award. David enjoys traveling, having spent a year abroad in Melbourne, Australia during his undergraduate degree and six months in Toronto, Canada and Cape Town, South Africa in grad school
He grew up in Wichita, Kansas and graduated valedictorian from Trinity High School, afterwards attending Wichita State University where he graduated in three years with a degree in Political Science & History, magna cum laude.
David works to identify, recruit and place candidates for contract employment on managed services projects in Clutch Group's Chicago, New York, and London offices.