Volume 3, Number 2 • April 2005

22 Things You Can Do To Get a Legal Job

 By Joni Driskell

It is never too late or too early to employ some career planning and job-search activities to open or expand your job possibilities whether you are studying for the bar exam, or even if you already have a job. Why? Because there are many time intensive research and networking activities that can help you open up the vast unadvertised legal job market.

Through observation of students and alumni job searches in law career services, it is evident that a person’s success in finding work is in direct proportion to diligence and creativity in his or her job search. It’s hard to think creatively outside the box, however, when you are quite firmly stuck inside of it—i.e., jobless. To address this dilemma, here is the figurative kitchen sink of things to do to get a job in the field of law.

To make this list work for you, keep track of your efforts in each one. Write down your activities and don’t be afraid to try things that are out of your comfort zone.

Legal Job Search Checklist

1. Apply to jobs and apply well. It is surprising how many jobseekers never actually apply or apply to very few opportunities. You have no chance of getting a job you have not applied to. Make sure your application is perfect . Legal employers do not tolerate mistakes.

2. Assemble your Application Packet:

a. Résumé—reviewed by more than one person
b. Master cover letter—each cover letter should be customized
c. References—at least three. Get permission to use each reference, and send them each a copy of your résumé
d. Unofficial transcript with GPA, class rank if strong
e. Writing sample—best thing you’ve written, edited, and corrected by a writing professor, more than one if possible: long (15 pp.), short (5 – 8 pp.)
f. Undergrad transcript—required by some employers

3. Define your geographical preferences (3) and practice areas.
Choose one priority and go with that, be flexible in the other.

4. Evaluate what size/type of employer you will be best suited for.
Read feedback from other students, read the law student periodicals. Review the NALP ( www.nalp.org) firm profile (large firms), America’s Best Places to Work (K. Walton)

5. Have your résumé and cover letter reviewed by a hiring attorney or career services professional. This review is for content and effect. A great resume is more than just error free. It needs to reflect your experience and accomplishments in the most positive way.

6. Contact everyone you know in law and business in your target region. Let them know you are looking for work and intend to relocate there. Ask advice from the people you contact. Ask about good lawyers to talk to and firms to apply to, particularly in your preferred practice area.

7. Learn about the legal players in your target location: who are the firms, how big are they? Who does what kind of law? Use www.martindale.com to search and filter this information and drill down to get contact info for lawyers, firms, and their websites.

8. Read the local newspapers and periodicals. Create the perception that you are not an outsider. See www.allyoucanread.com. Do as much research as you can on these locations.

9. Locate fellow alumni in the area and contact them. Again, Martindale Hubble or your law career services office can likely help with this. Don’t forget your undergrad alumni. Call up or e-mail a few of them to introduce yourself and tell them that you are relocating there and ask for their best advice on finding work there.

10. Request reciprocity with law schools in the area. This is done through your career services office. This is usually done in writing between career services offices. Let them know which schools you are interested in working with.

11. Read your e-mail—Career services offices usually e-mail job postings weekly to each person who has provided an e-mail address. Call (or e-mail) to get on the list!

12. Join local and county bar associations in your target locations to start getting to know the area better and to meet other lawyers. Request any materials they have about committees, volunteer opportunities, employment opportunities, and so forth.

13. Join your state bar and find out about practice area/topical events you can attend, like CLE (continuing legal education) and practice section meetings. State bar websites contain and are linked to amazing legal resources that can be used in your job search.

14. Check with and get to know the prosecutor (or DA) and defender’s offices, both at county and city levels. These offices typically have lots of work and relatively frequent job openings. Ask them about volunteering and whether they ever hire from their volunteer pool.

15. Volunteer to keep active in the law and the legal community. This is a great way to meet lawyers and to do something positive for the community.

16. Have a convincing reason why you want to be there (geographically). All employers will look to you for a compelling reason why you want to work there.

17. Put yourself out there to nonlaywer groups too, and have some fun! Try out the sports or other activities that the area is known for like hockey, rollerblading, wine tasting, biking, book clubs, drinking lattes at a café, or whatever appeals to you. You will be meeting people and learning more about the area.

18. Utilize your law career services office and website to develop a strategy, talk about what you are doing and finding, to brainstorm new ideas, and to get a pep talk.

19. Join an advance sheet group—lawyers who meet to discuss the recent decisions of the appellate and/or supreme courts.

20. Go to the courthouse(s) and find out who the judges in municipal, district, superior, appeals, and federal courts are. Sit in on some proceedings if you are able. You’ll see the lawyers and the judges in action.

21. Attend CLE courses in the location you want to work, regardless of practice area. A CLE meeting allows you to meet local lawyers and learn the hot issues being discussed in that area of law, which is great low-effort networking! If you’re just out of law school, many CLE courses have special “new graduate” or “unemployed new attorney” discounts on registration fees.

22. Create your own interviews—“informational interviews.” Once you have identified employers you are interested in, ask the hiring attorney (or another contact there) to meet with you so you can ask some questions about the firm and that practice area/career. Dress and prepare as if for a normal job interview but don’t ask for a job. Any meeting with someone is the chance to make a great impression, regardless of the existence of a job. If you make a good impression on an employer, doors will open for you.

For questions please contact: Joni Driskell, Director of Career Services, Gonzaga University School of Law, P.O. Box 3528 , Spokane, WA 99220-3528; 509-323-6122; jdriskell@lawschool.gonzaga.edu .

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