As law school graduation creeps closer and closer, you may be starting to stress over not having a job lined up. It can be particularly stressful to hear your classmates’ career plans while you are unsure of your own next steps. If you are feeling stuck or do not know where to begin, consider the below tips to help jumpstart your legal career post law school.
Connect with your law school’s Career Services Office.
If you you still haven’t secured a post-law-school job, your first stop should be your school’s Career Services Office. The staff in Career Services Office provide students and alumni with job opening announcements and can connect you with alumni who practice in your target field or work at your dream employer. Career counselors may be aware of job openings that are not posted online—including from alumni’s firms. Plus, the staff will be able to review your resume and provide any edits that will help you secure a job, as well as conduct mock interviews to help you prepare. If you’re not sure what path to follow, the career counselors can also help you assess your interests and goals so you can narrow your focus. They are experts in legal careers, so take advantage of their experience and connections.
One of the most valuable ways to build your legal career is through networking. First, dig into the network you already have to see who is connected to a practice or employer of interest. Ask relevant connections to meet for coffee or a Zoom chat so you can learn more about their career paths and any advice they may have. Who knows—they may be able to give you information on job openings they are aware of or help you secure a job at their law firm. (Though, don't go into the meeting expecting a job offer.)
The next networking step is to expand to connections you don’t know. Search on platforms like LinkedIn for alumni of your law school or undergrad who work in your target area, ask Career Services to connect you with alumni, and ask your own connections if they know of anyone who may be a useful contact. (Pro Tip: See if any valuable connections are linked to your own contacts on LinkedIn and ask for an introduction.) Once you connect with a new contact, request an informational interview, and use that time to learn about the person’s career/work and develop a relationship. Over time, if you nurture these relationships, they may open doors.
You may also want to consider attending networking events. Do not limit yourself to events focused solely on networking. Also consider legal industry events like CLEs and bar association meetings where there will be a number of attorneys in attendance. Don’t forget to bring business cards with you so that you can easily stay in touch with new contacts—and be sure to request a card from people you speak with as well.
Work with a recruiter.
While many legal recruiters focus on lateral and partner placements, legal jobs come in all shapes and sizes. Keep an eye out for recruiters that are placing entry-level or non-attorney legal industry jobs (if that is a potential path for you). You can search for companies that recruit professionals for legal companies and contact them to see if there are any openings, or you can often find recruiter postings on job boards. Recruiters will be able to help you secure either a contractual or permanent position. Positions can range from e-Discovery specialist to law clerk to attorney.
Be open to alternatives.
Career paths in the legal industry are nearly boundless, with lawyers pursuing myriad paths—from private practice and federal practice to nonprofit and policy work to in-house practice and public defender work—and more. While you may have seen yourself on one path, it may be time to get creative and consider alternatives. Take time to meet with your Career Services Office and plot out alternatives that can still ultimately lead you to your dream role. Or discuss other options that you are open to exploring. If your goal is to get your feet wet and gain some real legal experience, consider searching for contract attorney opportunities, clerkships with local judges, part-time roles, or fellowships. Another option is to search for opportunities in other geographical areas—including at smaller and midsize firms with alumni links. If possible, be open minded and widen your scope.
If you can’t secure a legal position despite your best efforts, you may consider volunteering with a legal clinic so that you can develop your professional skills and prevent any gaps in your resume. There are legal clinics that will gladly accept volunteer interns or attorneys to assist them on cases. While it isn’t ideal not to be paid, volunteering can be an excellent way to hone your legal skills and to have something legal-based on your resume—if you can afford to do it. You will most likely be able to choose your own schedule, which will allow you the time to search for a job. And if you do a stellar job, you may walk away with a valuable reference to help you land your dream job.
You’ve worked incredibly hard to make it to this point. Celebrate your success as a law school graduate and then take control of your job search by making a plan and taking action. Good luck!
As if being a law student or attorney isn't stressful enough, the global COVID-19 pandemic has ratcheted up anxieties (both large and small) ten-fold. We are all adjusting to new norms on a daily basis and, from double-layered masks to meditation, workout routines to television binging, we all have coping mechanisms that give us a sense of control.
There is one question you can always expect during your legal job interview: Do you have any questions for us? Preparing thoughtful, well-researched questions for this part of your interview is a great way to show your interest in the legal employer and that you have done your homework.