Google the phrase “find a law job” and you will get 790,000,000 results in half a second.
Actually finding – and getting – one might take a bit longer.
One option is to click on the first of those 790 million sites and begin plowing your way through the list. That will take some time.
A better option is to turn off your laptop and go out and talk to a real live person who might be able to actually give you a job.
Introduce yourself. Look them in the eye. Tell them why you want to work there (you’ve done your homework in advance) and why you would be a great fit.
Who knows? Before you can even Google “find a law job,” you might just land yourself one.
People Who Need People
It’s all about people. As the world grows faster, flatter and ever more digitized, the value of personal relationships is increasing.
This is Economics 101, of course. The price of a commodity, generally speaking, is a function of its scarcity, utility and difficulty of acquisition. And there has to be a demand for it.
Which is why the value of personal contact is soaring. There’s not as much of it as there used to be. There’s less time and opportunity to get it. Other forms of communication – text, email, Skype – are crowding the field.
Meanwhile, its usefulness has never been greater. Witness the emergence of EQ (emotional intelligence) as a key hiring criteria.
Position Yourself as a People Person
Law school is a great place to start honing – and showcasing – your interpersonal skills.
Volunteer at a law clinic. Shadow a litigator at a nearby firm. Take a lawyer to lunch and ask what they like and dislike about their work.
Sure, you will acquire valuable experience and information. But more importantly, you will boost your EQ. And that will improve your marketability.
Here are some specific ways to get going:
- Engage in extracurricular activities. “If you are still in school, extracurricular activities can provide useful experience that may help get your foot in the door of legal employers,” writes career consultant Sally Kane. “Law students can participate in moot court competitions, sharpening their oral advocacy skills through mock oral arguments before a judge. Since strong writing skills are necessary in many legal professions, students can gain writing experience through writing competitions, writing clinics and school-related journals and newsletters.”
- Consider contract work, temping and part-time gigs. Law firms and corporate legal departments are looking at how to reduce costs. One way is to use independent contractors and temporary or part-time workers. Sure, contract work (think document review) can be rote and impersonal. But it can also be a stepping-stone to a full-time position. Some companies use temporary employment as a testing ground for potential associates. Do a stellar job and you might be asked to stick around. Even lower-tier assignments like file clerk or office messenger will get your foot in the door.
- Belly up to the bar. Attend the next meeting of your state or local bar association. Why? Because that’s where you’ll find actual, practicing lawyers – and perhaps your next boss. “If you want a job in the community, you need to be a part of the legal community,” says Miranda Selover. “Go armed with a stack of business cards, be humble, and just see what comes of it. You’re not aiming to get a job at any of these events, just trying to plant some seeds. In a few months, people will start to think ‘Oh, I saw this person last month at a related event. I wonder who she is, and what she’s interested in.’ And if you meet anyone who seems interesting and willing to help you — FOLLOW UP! Having a stack of business cards does no good. You have to create relationships. People are generally more willing to help than you think, so let them help you.”
- Volunteer on a committee. “Simply attending networking events doesn’t give attorneys any insight into your skills or work ethic,” writes Liz Stone of The Dubin Group. “If you join an organization and volunteer to help on events, the attorneys will see that you work hard and are reliable. They will get to know you and want to vouch for your candidacy.”
- Do pro bono work. You will meet judges and other lawyers. You will develop client relation skills. And best of all, you will get up off the couch.
Are you a law student or recent law grad? How is your job search going? What tips would you recommend to others in your position? Drop us a line.
- Sally Kane, About Legal Careers http://legalcareers.about.com/od/jobsearch/a/Test.htm
- Liz Stone, The Dubin Group http://dubingroup.com/job-search-advice-for-recent-law-school-graduates/
- Miranda Selover, Equal Justice Works http://equaljusticeworks.org/news/blog/tips-1
- U.S. News & World Reports http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/articles/2011/11/03/law-jobs-exist-where-students-dont-look-dean-says
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man has practiced in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.