I recently had a conversation with fellow 3L Tony Iliakostas in our conversation we talked about life in law school, the value of networking and setting yourself apart, as well as the state of the current legal job market.
Tony is a 3L at New York Law School where he studies Sports Law and Intellectual Property. Tony is the creator of the very successful video blog Law and Batting Order. Through Law and Batting Order Tony has received an enormous amount of positive attention from both the sports and legal communities. Tony agreed to let me ask him a few questions about how he achieved success while still in law school.
Below are some excerpts from our conversation. A link to an audio recording of our full conversation is below as well.
I asked Tony to share with me how you started Law and Batting Order, and how that idea came about?
“At a panel discussion I attended Darren Heitner said to the law students ‘If you build your brand now that’s going to be the best way for you to get in the door in a very competitive, niche area of law, like sports law, and that will get you the credibility you need and potentially long term, most importantly, a job.’ I took that to heart.”
When I asked Tony about the importance of setting himself apart he stated that:
“There are thousands of law school students in this country and so I’m competing against thousands …your dealing with a big class of people. My focus from the get-go was how am I going to be different from the guy sitting in my contracts class, how am I going to be different from this guy sitting across from me at this networking table…how am I going to set myself apart. It was pursuing something that was different from what others are potentially pursuing, and doing something with my particular interests.”
…[the idea of a video blog was ] “Something that could set me apart from law school students in terms of selling myself and selling my brand, but also even competing with some of the biggest and brightest minds in the area of sports law. Now I’m far from Mike McCann or any sort of other big sports law commentator because I just don’t have the credentials like they do, but I can legitimately consider myself as one of the people who can provide a resource to people in terms of providing sports law content.”
…“Building the brand is a piecemeal process…it (success) will not happen overnight it is very gradual. And if you are saying to yourself “oh I’m a 3L and I haven’t done didly squat all 3 years of my law school career” don’t fret you have an opportunity to do that, you can start now and build up enough hype to start something.”
…”I have had experiences with internships, my current internship experience and my previous internship experiences, have been such that I just did not think it would be possible because I figured who would, I mean what sets me apart from the others. It was a combination of faith, and focus that led me to where I am now internship-wise and hopefully work-wise. Again you can’t doubt yourself, because if you doubt yourself you are going to have this defeatist attitude and anything you think of will not come to fruition….If you are saying I can’t do XYand Z, stop it, like I said if it is realistic and you think there is a possibility there is no reason why you can’t think optimistically.”
In our conversation Tony explained how networking and breaking into an industry that you are interested in working in is essential as a law student.
“You have to know people, a lot of people, in the industry, and at that stage that’s what’s going to get you at least some consideration some type of recognition in the industry.”
The most encouraging part of talking with Tony about his success was the balance of optimism with realism. Like so many of us Tony realizes what challenges face us after law school, but he also knows that he has the potential and opportunity to achieve his goals if he applies himself to them in a creative and consistent way. With all the discussion of lagging job markets and uncertainty in the legal field, it is refreshing to see that success is still earned the same way that it has been earned for generations…good old hard work, ingenuity, and a novel idea.