The New Lawyer Chronicles: an out-of-state attorney’s advice on how to find your niche in Massachusetts

By Sara Horatius posted Thu January 09,2014 03:38 PM


Blog # 1: “If I knew before the obstacles that I would have to endure in becoming an attorney I probably would…”

Dear Jeni,

You are probably wondering why I am addressing this blog to a person named Jeni, short for Jennifer. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first let me introduce myself. My name is Sara Horatius. I recently passed the Massachusetts bar exam in July 2013 and I was admitted as a licensed Massachusetts attorney in November 2013. I like to describe myself as an “out-of-state” attorney because I did not start my legal path in Massachusetts, but in Delaware.

I was born and raised in Boston, more specifically in the town of Mattapan. I attended Boston Latin Academy high school and during my sophomore year I had made up my mind that I would go out of the state for college and I already knew which college I would attend; Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. So that is exactly what I did. I went to Temple University and I majored in Philosophy with a concentration in Pre-law. After college, I had determined to go off to law school, but I didn’t want to return back to MA as of yet so I decided to jump start my legal career in Delaware at the Widener University School of Law.

Attending Widener Law School was such an amazing experience that I would never change for any other, but after those three long, grueling years in law school and in Delaware I told myself that I needed to go back home. So here I am home again in the wonderful and extremely cold city of Boston, but I found myself back home as an attorney not knowing anything about the legal community in Massachusetts.

Fast track to Jeni; Jennifer is my best friend.  She grew up in Cambridge, MA, she attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school and she went off to Boston College. She too had dreams of going to law school and after graduating from BC she worked for a Bankruptcy Law Firm for about two years. During my first year at Widener I had somehow convinced Jen to apply to Widener and she did and luckily she got in. So here we were, after being separated from each other for about 5 years, the two best friends were together again fulfilling our dreams of becoming attorneys. Even though I was a year ahead in law school I told Jen that when I graduate I would go back to our state and learn the "ins and outs" of being a Massachusetts attorney so that when she graduates and returns to MA that I would let her know everything there is to know about being a Massachusetts attorney.

So here I am and I have to tell you this Jen, it is tough. Let me summarize what I have experienced thus far:

First, the Mass Bar Exam: Hmmm, how can I describe the bar exam…I would like to describe the bar exam as law school on steroids. Here is another way to imagine what the bar exam will be like. Imagine doing 3 years of law school in only 3 months. How stressful is the bar exam you ask, I would say that you would be as stress out as people get when the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory System moves the terrorist threat level to severe red! Alright, I am exaggerating, but I would say that the bar exam is no joke and you must be prepared for stressful nights and probably having frequent episodes of insomnia.

Second, The Job search: unless you find a job before you graduate from law school, looking for work in MA will be another obstacle that you will face. I know this because I came back to MA without any job prospects. What I am noticing is that there are more unemployed attorneys now than before we went to law school. More and more attorneys are graduating from law school and not finding work. Moreover, there are many attorneys who have been practicing for years who are now out of work. Yes, this will be a tough journey for you when you graduate especially when Sallie Mae start knocking on your door; however, believe it or not apart from low levels of attorney jobs in MA and all across the US, I still have hope in finding my dream job.

Third, Networking: I know for a fact that we are both introverts, and the idea of having to meet new people always causes our stomachs to churn. But let me tell you this, if you want to jump start your career as an attorney in Massachusetts you are going to have to “shake hands with your fellow colleagues.” Even though I hate to network, I’m learning more and more that networking is one of the keys to unlock the door to the lawyer world. Networking can lead to volunteer opportunities, finding a lawyer who can mentor you, and even employment. Believe me you will hate it at first, but after a few tries you will actually love it.

So here are a few "ins and outs" about being a Massachusetts attorney. Now, I cannot tell you all the "ins and outs" in this one blog entry, so that is why I have decided to document my experiences for you in this blog series so that when you get here you will have all the information that you will need to jump start your legal career. And for any other “Jennifers” out there whether you too are an out of state attorney admitted to the MA bar and wanting to practice here or a recent graduate who too is trying to find your niche in this legal world, I hope that you find these blogs informative, but most importantly encouraging.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. In the beginning of this blog I had asked the question, “If I knew before the obstacles that I would have to endure in becoming an attorney I probably would STILL HAVE GONE DOWN THIS ROUTE. Becoming a lawyer has always been a dream of mine and here I am, Sara Horatius, Esq. And despite all these obstacles that I’ve been through and am currently going through it is all worth it because it has shown me the reality of my favorite quote

It has to get pretty dark before you can see the stars.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)