So here’s a suggestion for beating the competition among your law student peers: become a geek. A computer geek, that is. From the least-geeky (being a MS Word appellate-brief-formatting master) to the über-geek (programming custom visualizations for non-regression data analysis), picking up or polishing your computer-based skills cannot hurt in this industry.
Lawyers and law schools are notoriously behind in adopting and using new technologies. Here are some concrete suggestions for technical skills that may give you an edge:
- Familiarize yourself with all the options for and learn how to use free and low-cost online legal research tools (in addition to the Westlaw/Lexis reseach skills you should pick up first year).
- Dig into electronic data discovery, even if your school isn’t teaching it to you.
- Learn HTML and CSS. Or at least enough of these to customize a nice WordPress template.
- Get comfortable with online database tools, like how PHP plays with MySQL. From building websites to managing data for the simplest queries, databases are your friends.
- Figure out the basics of network and wireless security (especially if you may be working at a small firm or are considering going solo or telecommuting)
- Master social media as a positive force to drive your professional identity.
Once you have the skills, be sure to leverage them: offer to assist a professor or student organization in building a website or compiling and analyzing useful data. Tell your online friends and followers about your special skills and interests. Chances are someone will notice and reward you for your efforts (this is how I got my summer job).
Let me know what else you think you need to know and what’s helped you get an edge in law school.