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5 Tips for Landing a Job During and After Law School

In today’s economy, merely getting stellar grades in law school does not guarantee you will land a legal job.  More and more law students looking for jobs are realizing the frustrating Catch-22 of today’s legal market.  Future lawyers apply for jobs with the hopes of gaining work experience, while employers are looking to hire candidates who already have significant work experience.  Thus, it seems impossible for hopeful attorneys to offer employers what they cannot get – work experience.  Below are 5 key tips for making your own career luck by securing relevant work experience that will help you reach your dream legal job.

Tip #1 – Seek out informational interviews.

If knowledge is power, give more power to your job search by conducting informational interviews.  Informational interviews are merely mini-visits with people working in, or connected to, your dream job.  Conducting informational interviews is as easy as Googling folks who do the type of work you’d like to do and inviting them to lunch or a short coffee break.  It may cost you the price of a lunch or coffee, but what you stand to gain outweighs this cost.  These folks may have a wealth of information since they were once where you are and have gone before you to navigate the job search waters.  They will likely know other people you should meet for more informational interviews and can give pointers from their own experience on what worked for them in landing their jobs.  And it’s possible you’ll find one that knows of a job opening that suits you.  Ask if they can share any insights on how you can land your dream job and if they could recommend other people in the profession that might be willing to share their insights and experience.  Don’t forget to follow up each visit with a thank-you note as those do not go unnoticed!

Tip #2 – Get a mentor.

There are many people who were once in your shoes and now have the professional success you are seeking.  Don’t leave this resource untapped.  Find at least one of these folks and ask if they would be willing to serve as a mentor.  If asking a stranger out-of-the-blue is too intimidating, look for an established mentorship program.  Sometimes law school organizations have mentoring programs with attorneys in the community.  Some law schools have a list of alumni willing to serve as mentors to students and recent graduates.  If your law school does not have any such mentoring programs, call your local bar association to see if they know of any mentor/mentee programs in the area.  Many attorneys are flattered to serve as mentors and many more attorneys would do so if only someone asked.

Tip #3 – Look where no one else is looking. 

There are those jobs that the general public knows about and then there are those that the public may never see.  It’s the latter that you want to find to minimize your competition and maximize your chances to land your desired position.  Find these hidden gems by networking, meeting folks on your informational interviews and contacting professionals already sitting in the jobs that you want.  By keeping yourself at the forefront of their minds, they will think of you when they hear of upcoming job openings.  Calling on people that are associated with your desired position may actually plant the seed in their minds that their workplace could use more help and they may look to you to fill their need.  The key is to act before a public job posting is generated by making it known to those with the power to hire that you are willing and able to join their team.

Tip #4 – Keep an open mind.

Sometimes attorneys-to-be sabotage their odds of landing a job because they get tunnel-vision by prematurely ruling out certain legal work.  Those same students may only apply for positions within a few, select practice areas or hastily decide they could never qualify for a position, resulting in slimmer chances to gain work experience.  Leaving yourself open to a various types of legal work, rather than pigeonholing your options, will maximize your chances of landing job experience.  It is not uncommon for some attorneys to start off practicing one type of law and transition into their desired area later.  In the interest of retaining legal talent, some firms allow attorneys to transfer practice areas.  Even applying for a position that may be a long-shot can be worthwhile if it gets your resume in front of the right folks who may decide they could use your talents in another position.  The bottom line is that it is better to have some experience than no experience, so remain open to the possibilities…even the long-shots.

Tip #5 – Make yourself heard. 

Now that you are determined to put forth the effort it takes to land your job, make sure you follow through.  Tossing your resume in the ring is not the final step.  Set a reminder for yourself to make a follow-up call to ensure your resume was received and to verbally express your interest in the job.  Enhance the potential employer’s impression of you by letting them hear how personable you are on the phone.  Allowing them to put a voice with your resume will give a fuller picture of who you are and help them keep you in mind.

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