Successful Out-of-State Job Searches

Brian K. Sims, an attorney and writer in Philadelphia, is staff counsel for Policy & Planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Lawyers are not a migratory bunch. According to the National Association of Legal Career Professionals (NALP), roughly three of every four attorneys will practice law in the state where they attended law school. Your law school knew this, and, unless you attended one of the handful of law schools that sends its graduates nationwide, your law school’s career services department focused mostly, sometimes exclusively, on making statewide contacts. This leaves you primarily responsible for finding an out-of-state job, and that process is not easy.
The first step in your job search is to determine exactly where you want to practice. In some professions, this can be as simple as choosing a region of the country. But for young graduates or newly minted attorneys, the decision has to be state specific because of the bar exam. Many states begin to accept bar applications in March and April, and some will allow late applications (even as late as July 1).
Once you’ve decided in which state you want to practice, plan to take that state’s bar exam. Many employers are wary of considering any candidates except top laterals or graduates from out of state unless they have already passed the bar in the employer’s state. Also, consider the timing of your entrance into a new job market. Remember that from late April though early June roughly 40,000 new graduates emerge from law schools around the country, and many will compete with slightly more experienced attorneys for entry-level jobs. Although you may not have much choice, try to avoid the saturated summer and fall months.
If you are not a member of your chosen state’s local bar association or alum of a local law school, you will have limited access to many local job banks. Luckily, more and more legal employers are turning to national job banks and Web sites to post jobs. Monster.com, HotJobs.com, and CareerBuilder.com not only have job postings for every state but even break them down into major metropolitan areas. Others, such as Craigslist.com, start from a city-centric perspective and provide postings for all types of legal jobs from document review work and per diem assignments to associate-track positions. There also are Web sites, such as eAttorney.com and LawCrossing.com, that charge a monthly fee to access their databases for job postings, post résumés, and obtain contacts from employers.
In the public sector there are two primary Web sites for national job searches: www.statelocalgov.net, which provides links to state and local government Web sites across the country, and www.usajobs.com, which offers listings of all federal jobs. As with most other job banks, these Web sites allow you to focus your job search on a specific type of job or a specific region, state, or city.
After considering where and when to look for a job and identifying what types of employers you are interested in, it is time to take the plunge: Make contact with employers! Focus on convincing employers that you are exactly who they are looking for and that you are committed to practicing in their state.
These are just the basic tools to help you in your out-of-state job search. Keep in mind that finding the right out-of-state job may be one of the most difficult tasks you’ll face. But if you work hard enough, take advantage of the above strategies and tactics, and stick to a plan of attack, you will find it.

READY RESOURCES

  • The Legal Career Guide , Fifth Edition, 2008. PC # 5110667. Law Practice Management and Law Student Division.

  • Fifty Unique Legal Paths: How to Find the Right Job . 2008. ABA Book Publishing. PC # 1620386.

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