Building a legal career from scratch – “What Next?”

by Bhumika Billa
Principal Associate, The Negotiation Academy

Since the time I had to choose between science and arts in eleventh grade, until this point in my final year of law school, I have travelled a roller coaster full of career day-dreaming followed by hollow ecstasy, defeats and rejections followed by self-doubt, and sleepless nights of planning my career followed by thousands of goals falling short of direction.

Throughout this journey, there is one annoying friend I have always found by my side- the anxiety-provoking question of “what next”. As a recent law graduate, I am well aware of the pool of dilemmas students often find themselves drowning in: what do I do after I graduate?, how do I make it to an Ivy League School?, how do I bag that prestigious scholarship?, how do I start preparing?, when do I start preparing? and it only gets deeper.

While I was constantly battling with these challenging doubts on a daily basis in the past 5 years, I feel fortunate to have found some inspirational women I could look upto. Women who went on to become mentors in my professional and personal growth story and who contributed in making me who I am today. One of them has taught me to never stop believing in myself, another has pushed me to work harder than I ever thought I could, and yet another made me realize the value of giving back. I have come to appreciate the invaluable role meaningful mentorship can play in helping us reach beyond what we had planned for ourselves.

Through my work with the Negotiation Academy, I had a chance to meet Heather Wallick, former Assistant Director at the Admissions Office of Harvard Law School on a sunny December afternoon last year. While casually sipping my iced tea I realized how right Rhonda Byrne had been all this while. You can literally choose to manifest what you want and attract the right people who would help in taking you there- simply by believing in your dreams.

As the lunch was coming to an end, Heather had solved most of my philosophical career dilemmas. She had inspired me to start working right away for my goals, encouraged me to get rid of my self-doubts and made me realize the importance of choosing a “dream subject” over a “dream University”. A few weeks later, we hosted Heather for a talk for a small group of Master Negotiator Students from the Negotiation Academy, where she discussed a few critical steps to securing your dream career or degree:

  1. ALIGN YOUR PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE – It is extremely important to have a clear idea of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Consequently, know whether it aligns with what you want to do in your future.
  2. BE THE JACK OF ALL TRAITS – It is better to be 80% at all than 150% at one. This world needs more ‘multipotentials’ who can think out of the box and perform flexibly across fields.
  3. BUILD YOUR OWN STORY- This relates to point 1. You must carefully choose and pick the opportunities that will help build your story and make it more convincing. Your story is what makes you unique, and you need to have a mission, a track record, a list of next steps and an ultimate goal to get it all aligned.
  4. START NOW- The earlier you start preparing, the greater the edge you have. Every big goal is only achieved by careful planning, preparation and implementation.
  5. FIND A MENTOR – Having a mentor who has the expertise, experience and skillset to help you take an informed and proactive decision at every step is a blessing only a few get. Keep looking out for someone successful in your field and never stop trying to approach them and work for them. Ask what you can do for them so they will ask what they can do for you.

As many of you, I am struggling with aspirations and goals that seem bigger than my world at the moment, trying to find my place on the map and sowing the seeds to build my own story of change.

But if there is one thing I have learnt to excel in, then it is conquering my fear to dream big. Experiences such as the one above have taught me that in order to reach incredible goals, you must set seemingly impossible goals. In order to get different results, you must start doing things differently. And in order to reach your full potential, you must start by believing in yourself.

Get out there, set a big goal, believe that you can achieve it and build your own story of change!

You are not alone 🙂




PS: you can find the full talk and Q&A session with Heather online at