How to Get Experience When You Can't Get Hired
By Tiffany Davison
Tiffany C. Davison, an assistant state’s attorney in the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s Office (Traffic Division) in Illinois, can be contacted at tiffany_ .
You have just passed the bar exam. All you need now is your first job, but you have no job offers. What do you do now? How do you get experience? Do what many other attorneys have done: work for free. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
First, volunteer to work for an experienced attorney. Submit a copy of your résumé to a solo practitioner or small firm you know needs help, just as you would to a potential employer. Offer to do research, write routine motions, and file court documents. Suggest anything that might get your foot in the door and get you the experience you need.
Perhaps now you are thinking that this sounds great in theory, but in reality you cannot afford to work for free. But remember that you are building your career, so you need to be creative. Ask if the solo attorney or firm will pay for your transportation costs, even if only in part; if you can come up with enough money, you may be in business. Treat your work as a job, and always be conscientious because the person you work for may become a reference or may be willing to hire you permanently.
Next, seek out pro bono work. There are plenty of organizations looking for people to volunteer no matter what level of legal experience they have. Visit your local bar association Web site for ideas, and do your research first; some of these organizations may be willing to provide you with training and malpractice insurance. Not only will you be helping people and gaining legal experience, you likely will make valuable business contacts in the process.
Lastly, take advantage of every opportunity. Most of us have family members or friends that have legal questions. For some reason, nonlawyers sometimes assume that all lawyers are equipped to handle anything from traffic cases to felonies. While that is not true, do not be afraid to handle a relatively simple issue in
any area of law. For example, consider taking a traffic case involving a speeding ticket or a driver without insurance. Take the legal experience when and where you can get it—as long as you are not in over your head. Each opportunity you pursue helps build your résumé and increases your chances of getting hired.
  • A Lawyer’s Guide to Networking. 2006. PC # CEV06LGNB. Career Resource Center, Center for CLE, and Young Lawyers Division.
  • Objection Overruled: Overcoming Obstacles in the Lawyer Job Search (Manual). 2000. PC # V00OOOB. Career Resource Center.
To order online, visit