After three years of law school, what do you get for someone who’s finally graduated and is, for the moment, done with education? I was the first one in my family to go to law school, so my family really didn’t know what a recent law graduate might want/need. Although they did pretty well—my wife conspired with my brothers to get me a (ceremonial) sword to commemorate an upcoming Navy promotion—the best gift of all was the look on my mom’s face when we told her we were expecting our first child. Each family is different, but if Google brought you here with questions, here’s my top 10 list of best gifts to get your law school grad:
1. A professional bag or briefcase
Now that law school is over, it’s unlikely that a recent law school grad will have to lug around 40 pounds of books, so a new bag is in order. I love the practicality of a good backpack, but nothing says “I’m a serious professional” like a well-crafted leather briefcase.
2. A nice bottle of whiskey (ok, whatever liquor)
Graduating law school is a serious accomplishment. It takes three years of hard work, not to mention the extreme stress that is the bar exam and subsequent breath-holding while awaiting results. A nice bottle of liquor can commemorate the achievement. To make it extra special, look for special edition bottles that are only released in the year of graduation: even if the booze isn’t that great, your grad will have a special bottle with her year of graduation.
3. A fancy pen
I know I’m a little old school, but having a statement pen to sign documents is another way to signify that your law school grad has joined a community of professionals. Make it even more special by getting it engraved with your grad’s name. In fact, just about anything personalized is a sure way to show someone you care, especially for people with uncommon names who never find anything off-the-rack with their name on it.
4. The Simple Path to Wealth by J.L. Collins
Books are excellent gifts. Even with the bar exam looming in the not so distant future, it’s nice to read something other than cases, outlines, or essay prompts. As your newly minted JD embarks on her legal career, arm her with the knowledge to build wealth and find success along the way. It is, after all, why she went to law school in the first place.
5. A new suit (or a gift card for one)
The image that pops into most people’s minds when they think about lawyers is a professional dressed in a suit (or, perhaps one of those cheesy local personal injury lawyer advertisements). Although many law firms these days are business casual environments, the need to wear business professional attire still arises, especially for the young attorney who wants to spend time in the courtroom.
6. An iPad (or other tablet)
Hear me out on this. I NEVER thought I’d want an iPad. By pure luck I managed to get one right around graduation and it turned out to be the most useful bar exam prep tool in the entire arsenal. I’m serious. That thing is how I got through the countless hours of prep course lectures and multiple-choice questions. Plus, now I use it as an in-flight entertainment system and a way to read the news in the morning (that is, when my wife hasn’t hijacked it to watch Netflix on the treadmill…which is also a great use for it).
7. An LED ring light
I don’t think the “virtual office” is going away anytime soon. My sense is that many law firms will adopt more flexible working situations once the dust settles from pandemic-era remote work. I predict that in my career, we’ll see a truly viable rise of the virtual law firm. With that said, it’s important to present a professional, poised appearance, even during virtual meetings. Most laptops have a built-in webcam that is more than adequate, but the biggest variable is often the room’s lighting. An LED ring light can help by controlling the lighting to show the subject in her best light (so to speak).
8. Good noise-canceling headphones
Now that the studying is done (or is it…there’s that pesky bar exam again), now begins the life of the commuting professional. Most first-year Biglaw associates will find themselves in one major metropolitan area or another, joining the throngs of professionals dutifully adhering to the daily ritual of mass transit. It’s a great time to zone out, listen to music, or grow personally and professionally by listening to podcasts or audiobooks. I met a DOJ attorney in DC who spent the entirety of his hour-long train commute listening to every Federal Circuit argument. To get the most of the listening time, it’s best to have a good pair of headphones that can block out some of the din of the surrounding commuters.
9. A food subscription delivery service
Your new grad needs to eat. And they need to eat as healthy as possible, whether it’s during long hours of bar exam study or long hours of document review. There are numerous options for services that deliver food straight to the consumer. Some are frozen, some chilled, some are just a box of prepared ingredients ready to cook. Any one of them will save time and energy for your favorite young attorney.
10. Open a Roth IRA in their name
Assuming your graduate has (or will have) some amount of earned income in the tax year in question, a great way to set them up for financial success is to open a Roth IRA with a minimal initial funding (say $100). Sometimes making the first move is hard, and by taking that first step of opening the account, you’ll have removed a small barrier to lifelong saving.
Joshua Carrigan is a 3L at George Washington University Law School. Joshua spent eight years as a Nuclear Submarine Officer for the US Navy and is also a licensed skydiver. Four years ago Joshua and his wife embarked on a journey to become debt free, paying off $170,000 in student and car loans along the way.