I finally fell off the fence between Florida State University College of Law and one other law school just after a phone conversation with Dean Catalano in the Placement Office, which started with me asking, “If I go here, am I stuck in Florida forever?” In her supportive and enthusiastic way, Dean Catalano assured me that I was not “stuck” anywhere, and all it would take was a little diligence to go anywhere I wanted to go.
While the local networking opportunities available during law school and the concentration of alumni practicing throughout Florida might make it easier for a College of Law student or graduate to find a job in Florida, I knew I had the drive to do anything I wanted to do. So, I took the leap of faith, paid my seat deposit, and made it my goal to eventually land in the Washington, D.C. area, or at least have the opportunity to explore this idea.
Fast forward to November of my 1L year and a conversation I had with my Uncle. He lives near Washington, D.C. and I told him that I was interested in finding a summer opportunity in the area. Instead, he told me about a firm in York, Pennsylvania, that might have a summer opportunity, sent me a link to their Website, and encouraged me to contact them. So, I sent them a copy of my resume and a newly drafted cover letter. As I would be visiting family in the area during the holidays, I was able to schedule an interview at that time. It was not until the week before finals of the spring semester that I was contacted with a summer job offer. So, in three weeks I completed my finals, packed my car to the brim with all of my stuff, and embarked on the 1,250-mile solo road trip to Pennsylvania.
I was the only Summer Associate (SA) in the office and the first SA to ever be hired from out-of-town, let alone out-of-state. In the beginning, everyone in the office was basically wondering, “Who is this girl from Florida, and why is she interested in this small town of York, Pennsylvania?” Eventually, my story circulated the office: That while I was born and raised in Florida, I was interested in moving north after law school and wanted to begin establishing relationships and connections while still in law school to facilitate my ability to make such a move.
My job as a SA was nothing that I expected, but, everything it should have been. My responsibilities were typical of what one might expect from a Summer Associate position: lots of legal research, writing inter-office Memos, office meetings, lunches with shareholders (a.k.a. partners), and attending hearings with attorneys. What I enjoyed most about this position was the exposure to so many diverse topics and legal issues due to the wide-range of areas practiced by the attorneys of the firm. I also discovered just how well my 1L year courses and other experiences at the College of Law had helped prepare me for this opportunity.
There was also an added allure to the practice of law in such a historic venue. York, Pennsylvania, the original capital of the colonies, was supposed to be the venue of the Battle of Gettysburg, and within a few blocks from my office was a symbolic replica of the Historic Courthouse where the first draft of the United States Constitution was written.
The moral of the story is that whether you are committed to practicing in Florida or not, Florida State University College of Law has a place for you. I still am considering Washington, D.C., but I am also now open to considering other areas as well. I also would like to point out that while I was able to find my SA position on my own the Placement Office has abundant resources for helping you find the right opportunities for you, inside and outside of Florida. Just remember that while it may take a little more diligence, the State of Florida does not have to be the be-all or end-all of your legal career.
Melanie Kalmanson, 2L