It is never too early to start your job search. As soon as you finish your last 2L class, you should be thinking about finding a job. Assuming you took the time in your first and second years of law school to polish your resume, writing sample(s), and cover letter, here is my advice for 3Ls.
There are five (5) basic things 3Ls should be considering and doing to get a job and start work as soon after the bar exam as possible. They are: (1) deciding on the type of job they want, (2) keeping in mind graduation requirements, (3) applying for the bar exam, (4) participating in career development and job-related programs, and (5) maintaining your professional networks and continuing you job search. Let’s look at these individually:
- Type of Job. Decide what type of job interests you and know the deadlines. Are you interested in federal or state judicial clerkships or post graduate fellowship opportunities? Government Honors Programs? Getting a job at a big law firm? Getting a job at a small or mid-size law firm? Application timelines can vary widely. For example, applications for federal judicial clerkships are due early September while state level judicial clerkships typically recruit in the spring. Big law firms recruit in the fall through a formal Fall Recruitment process, and deadlines to register for Fall Recruitment are usually in early August. Smaller law firms, on the other hand, may not be able to determine their need for additional hires until the last minute.
- Graduation Requirements. Ensure that you have satisfied your law school’s graduation requirements, and get it in writing. (Remember that you are aspiring lawyers, so start practicing what you will be preaching!) You do not want to have to worry about whether you will be graduating just weeks before the ceremony.
- Bar Exam Application. Start preparing your bar exam application, and know both the requirements and deadlines. You will most likely take the bar exam in July, two months after you graduate. The application asks for a lot of information, some of which you must retrieve from other individuals/parties (e.g. recommendations and driving information from your state’s Department of Transportation), and it takes some time for the State Board of Law Examiners to process your application.
- Job-Related Programs. Attend job-related programs sponsored by your law school’s career development office and career fairs in your region. Many fairs have representatives from state and federal government and non-profit and public interest organizations. These programs are opportunities to gather information, ask questions and network. Bar association meetings can also be great resources.
- Job Search Maintenance. Continue your job search and relationship development. While it would be nice to think that family and/or friends will help you find a job, you should not rely on them completely. Remember that you are your best advocate. Relationship development includes both creating and maintaining your relationships. One way to create relationships is by going on informational interviews. Informational interviews not only give you a chance to meet people but they also help you practice your interview skills for future interviews. In addition, they give you a chance to learn more about employment opportunities that you may not have considered.
To have the opportunity to get a job as an attorney, besides the essentials of graduating from law school and passing the bar, you must start thinking early about the type of job that interests you and make the effort to cultivate your skills and resources. So pull up your sleeves and get to work NOW!