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Job Search

Job Search Do’s and Don’ts: Q&A

By Kathy Morris


During the Career Development Series webinar “Job Search Do’s and Don’ts,” moderator and ABA Career Center Board member Liz Stone received over 60 questions in 60 minutes from participants, and responded to many.  Here are four of the audience questions answered by the ABA Career Center Founding Chair Kathy Morris.

How do you search for a job when you don’t want people to know you are looking?

Most job searches are confidential–whether you are a solo practitioner who doesn’t want your clients or referral sources to know you’re in the job market or you are currently employed and fear losing your job if your employer finds out you’ve applied elsewhere. Do include in your cover letter that you are in a confidential search and let people with whom you are networking know. Don’t stamp your Resume CONFIDENTIAL or hold yourself back from searching. Lawyers understand confidentiality and won’t insist on references that would compromise your search, as long as you offer alternatives such as a trusted colleague, a law professor, or a former supervisor.

How soon is too soon to follow up after you apply for a job or when you have contacted someone to network…and can it be done by email? To me, an email is easier than answering or returning a phone call, because the person can respond on their own time.

This is a question of judgment and tactics. Do heed your internal “pest meter.” Don’t, however, shy away entirely, even if you feel awkward about following up. People want to see that you are focused, and they may even have had good intentions about getting back to you when the press of business intervened. Generally, a few days is too soon to follow up unless, for example, you have another offer pending and really need to speak with them (in which case you should call and, if you don’t reach them, say so in a voicemail or to their assistant, without sounding demanding or desperate). Otherwise, a week or so is generally fine as a follow up timeframe. And you can send a well-written, totally typo-free email, but calling or sending a (legible) hand-written note is also fine. Do what you are comfortable and think will be effective, but don’t hide behind an email (which they may not get or open) based on hesitation about following up. The ultimate goal in a job search is to talk with people and present yourself well.

Do you have advice for a lawyer who wants to change geographic locations? I am finding it hard to network in a location in which I have no contacts yet and am not physically present.

Do reach out to the leaders of Bar Association committees that match your practice area(s) and law school alumni in your desired locale. Read local lawyer publications online for ads and to learn of people giving relevant CLEs or writing articles…and contact them as a way to start immersing yourself in the new legal and business communities. Don’t say you like the climate there or have just always wanted to work there; have a theory of your search that is more compelling, such as that you have researched the Bar and are drawn to its collegiality, or look forward to the opportunities for representing emerging industry in the area…or even, on a personal note for example, that you have an ailing brother who relocated there and you have decided to move in order to give back to your family while continuing a meaningful career in the new locale. Do be genuine, again present yourself well, and don’t assume that the new legal community won’t help. We’re a national and global profession and you’ll have the chance to give back, as well, once you have moved and can extend a hand to others.

Interviewers often ask: “Do you have any questions?” at the end of an interview. Would it be preferable to ask a question? If so, what types of questions would be best or appropriate to ask?

Yes, you do want to have a question or two ready because to the interviewer it shows interest. Don’t ask anything you could find out on their website or elsewhere and avoid questions not suitable until after you get an offer, such as whether their recent attrition was unwanted and what they think might account for it. Do show your determination to excel, such as with a question like: What are some of the traits of the lawyers who succeed here? but don’t seem to be looking past the job by asking about opportunities for advancement without also saying something along these lines: Of course I am focused on the job at hand yet also like to look ahead for ways I might be able to serve in the longer term.