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After the Bar

Career Resources

Networking for State and Local Government Legal Jobs

Jeremy K Anato-Mensah

Networking for State and Local Government Legal Jobs
gremlin via iStock

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Many young attorneys are attempting to find positions in the public sector. While many of these positions are not as coveted as big law jobs, they still provide attorneys with a wealth of experience and can be a means to many other opportunities. They can be competitive and require strategic efforts to achieve the ultimate goal of an employment offer. 

The Best Way to Start Your Journey

First, as a new attorney or law school student, it is important to understand that the journey to an employment offer begins with research and a precise understanding of the targeted position. If you are a law school student,  summer internships and fall externships will play a pivotal role in landing a job at the county or city level. Take courses and learn from seasoned professionals about what these roles entail. Look for courses or organizations that will give you trial experience (moot court, mock trial, trial advocacy, etc.) and mentors who have successfully filled those roles. Starting early is critical because the connections you cultivate in law school are the beginning of lifelong professional relationships. Make these connections during law school to demonstrate your genuine desire to work in these roles.

Being the Help That You Want to Receive

What are the best ways to network? First, understand that networking is a two-way street. You must be able to bring something to the table in exchange for someone’s time. Too often, individuals think about contacting and connecting with well-established attorneys without considering what they can offer to these attorneys in exchange for their time. Be willing to offer yourself as a volunteer or a researcher to show that you can also assist. Even something as simple as offering to bring lunch to an attorney’s office can be a worthwhile gesture that says that you are interested in their work and considerate of their time.

The Art of Conversation

Another critical skill is the art of conversation. You must learn to become less invested in the results of a conversation and more focused on connecting with people personally. Your conversations should be natural and should include topics that genuinely interest you. It never hurts to engage in soft conversational topics; local news and sporting events are safe topics to get a conversation going. If you try to target lawyers who have worked in areas of law similar to your areas of interest, the conversations will happen naturally—you don’t want to have forced conversations. The seasoned professional will also gain a better understanding of your interests and goals during this process. If you realize that the person is less receptive to a topic than anticipated, be prepared with a backup topic.

Staying Connected

After the meeting, make sure that you follow up with individuals either with a phone call, an email, or my favorite—a card. Cards are personal and stand out above all of the other calls and emails.

The Best Events for You

Events are another excellent way to network for public sector positions, and most lawyers are members of several organizations. For a comprehensive list of these organizations, contact your law school for more information. The events conducted by these organizations are significant, and aspiring attorneys who want to target a specific county or city should regularly attend relevant organizational events. As a more general matter, it also makes sense to join a local bar association and network at events that lawyers frequently attend. For state and local government attorneys, this can include political events, law school panels, or charitable fundraising events. You can make connections anywhere—ultimately, your instincts will guide you to the appropriate venues.