General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine
VOLUME 19, NUMBER 2 MARCH 2002
Welcome to GP Mentor, GPSolo's new column expressly for law students-but some of you seasoned lawyers may find some helpful information as well. We want to help you find your way as you go on job interviews, study for the bar exam, cope with law school stress, work at summer jobs and internships, and learn to write like a lawyer. We want to explain what it's like to be a solo or small firm lawyer and what to expect in your first year as a general practitioner. Look for our column in every issue of GPSolo. Want to see a topic covered in GP Mentor? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources for Spring Job Hunting
By David C. James
By this time of the year, law students should know how they're going to spend the summer. Students who are graduating and don't have a job lined up shouldn't wait to get their bar results before launching a job search because available jobs diminish as employers make offers to more aggressive competitors. You may suspend your job search while you're studying for and taking the bar exam, but after, you need to get your job search back in gear.
If you finished the fall semester without a job offer, don't despair-you now have different prospects. The biggest 250 law firms in the country do most of their recruiting in the fall. Because they are not hiring in April, your best bet is targeting the small- and medium-sized firm market.
Being without a job sometimes leads to backlash against the law school's career services office-"They only care about students in the top 10 percent." But the staff there can help in a lot of ways. They may know which employers are still hiring; ask them whom to contact. Look at the posted job notices. And use their reference materials. Look through the Martindale-Hubbell directory, which lists employers by locale and provides a biographical sketch of partners and associates, a description of the practice, and even a rating of the firm. You also can research employers in the National Association for Law Placement's Directory of Legal Employers.
Both directories also are available online, as are those of various bar associations. But most small- and medium-sized firms do not have websites, and that means contacting them with cover letters and resumes. Ask someone in career services to review yours and help tailor it to individual employers. Each time you use such a contact, you are developing a personal relationship with someone who has a personal relationship with employers.
When I'm deciding whom to interview, call back, or hire, I often talk to career services people. Although they are scrupulously fair and impartial, career services people help me most when I ask about students whom they know. I'm always favorably impressed when career services people tell me, "Oh, I know her well. She spends a lot of time in the office researching employers." I can use associates with that kind of gumption and work ethic.
One downside to looking for a job in April is that you may need to expand the geographic boundaries you're willing to consider. Distinguish where you would "like to" live from where you "need to" live. If your preference is simply a desire and not a need, it may be time to think about expanding your target area.
Many openings in small- and medium-sized firms are in the hidden job market. They simply are not advertised. Others materialize only when the employer has a candidate. It helps to have a personal connection vouch for you in such a case. But just knowing a lawyer or clerk at a law office where you want to work is not going to help you. Make sure you have a good idea what people will say about you before pressing them to talk to employers or dropping their names.
And be sure to follow up with the employer yourself. Unless employers know you are interested, what does it matter that someone else thinks you are good? If you want to be considered for jobs, don't wait for employers to contact you at the initiative of someone else.
Spring job hunting requires a double-barreled approach: Tap both the public marketplace and the hidden job market.
Contributing Editor David C. James is the hiring lawyer in the office of the San Diego City Attorney. This article is adapted from one previously printed in Student Lawyer.