5 Tips for Landing Your First Job in the Legal Field
Chances are you went to law school thinking that was the final stop on your road to a lucrative career. The legal field is one of the most consistent and widely respected career paths you can choose, and in past years excellent students were able to roll right out of graduate school into a quality law firm. Regrettably, this is no longer the case. The recession that has gripped the global economy over the past several years has taken a toll on practically every industry, and the legal field is not immune. Firms have tightened their hiring schedule, preferring to ask for more work from their current employees rather than take a chance on someone new. And since cloud computing and the internet have reduced the need for clerks and researchers there are simply fewer jobs to go around. That’s why you have to enter your search with eyes wide open, and a willingness to go the extra mile. Here are five tips for landing your first job in the legal field.
First of all, look over your skill set and make sure you are positioned properly coming out of school. Look over all of the entry level job postings you can find. You’ll notice a trend in the experience required and the grades you are expected to have received. Do you have what it takes to stand up against the thousands of other applicants for these jobs? Develop an idea of the sort of positions that are open these days, and make sure you have the skills to put yourself in the right position. If not, look for internships and additional classes to fill out your resume.
As you’re headed towards graduation, you might want to consider taking several bar exams. Remember, you’ll have to take the bar for every state you want to practice law within. If you only take the bar in the state where you go to school, you’re limiting your job pool to positions close to home. These days you’ll need a bit more flexibility than that. If you have the time and the money to prepare, take bar exams for the entire region. You’ll have a much larger chance of success this way.
Regardless of how well you performed on the bar or in school, remember that the job hunt is actually your first full-time job. After graduation is not the time to relax. The job market is incredibly competitive, and the most motivated graduates will land the best positions while you are kicked back, poolside. Take a couple of weeks off if you need to, but then get serious about your job hunt. Keep hours as if it is a job in and of itself, even if you have to give up on other plans.
If you keep in mind that people want to work with friends, you’ll know that networking may be the most important step. It’s all about who you know, and the vast majority of jobs in the legal field come through personal recommendations. Anyone you meet at a party, a sporting event or even a family picnic could be that connection to your new career. So look the part wherever you go, and know how to make an impression on people. Join legal networking groups and meetups and go to as many of these events as you can. It may get boring, but just when you think it’s all in vain is probably when you’ll make that crucial connection.
Finally, make sure you approach the search from a place of flexibility. Perhaps you’ve always seen yourself working as a lawyer in New York, but if you read more about the job market there you’ll find it is completely overwhelmed with recent graduates looking for work. You might have to start your career in a less exciting market, where your skills will be more in demand. And be willing to consider working outside of your specialty. There may not be any openings in the type of law you want to practice, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a job. Expand your search parameters, and you’ll find success.