The job market is horrible. You can walk around moaning and groaning about it. You can join in with the complainers out there, debating whether law school is worth the time and effort. However, that’s not going to help you get a job.
Getting a job is difficult, stressful, time-consuming, and lots of other horrible adjectives. But, I want you to know that it can also be a life-changing experience. You have the choice to make it rough and tough; or, you can follow some simple tips and tricks to put yourself one step closer to landing a job. I’m not guaranteeing it will be your dream job right away, but it’s somewhere better than your current position, right?
Earlier this week, I reached out to a few friends from across the country that recently graduated from law school and obtained legal jobs. I have compiled below a number of tips, tricks, and suggestions that you can implement as you embark upon your own job search.
1. Exhaust Your Personal Network
How many times have you been told: “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that over the past five years, throughout undergrad and all of law school. I’ll be honest. I never wanted to believe it. I wanted to think I could just browse job listings, apply, and wait to hear back from someone in HR. I wanted to think I could do it on my own. Not ask my parents, friends, and relatives for names of people they knew. I felt overwhelmed to ask professional connections at bar association meetings for the names of someone they think I should talk to about the industry.
In the fall of 3L, I attended a lunch panel event put on by the career services director at my school. It was a panel of local young lawyers. All had jobs. They all said that the best thing to do is to exhaust all the connections you make. Don’t leave a coffee meeting or monthly bar association meeting without asking for the names of at least two or three other people with whom they’d recommend that you talk. Overwhelming right? I can’t explain it, but I still get an awkward feeling just thinking about doing this. “Why do I need to annoy these people and use them for a name or two of another person in the industry?”
I’ve learned my lesson. I wouldn’t have my job today without a mutual friend introducing me via email to the CEO of Naxos of America. It came about through casual conversation one night after small group. It was one of those moments you look back on and wonder, “Was it really just that easy? Telling someone I wanted to do entertainment law? And, boom! They connect me?”
Obviously, there is more to the story than a simple e-mail introduction. The first time I met with the CEO, I thought I was just doing another “information meeting,” in which I ask questions about how to get my foot in the industry. What followed was four months of maintaining communication and seeing if a job opening was even going to be available, on top of waiting to graduate and finish studying for the bar exam, before I could actually receive a job offer and start working.
Long story short, I start next week in a business affairs capacity and can’t be more exited. I worked all throughout law school to make myself a marketable candidate for employment. What it came down to was simply networking with the people around me.
2. Don’t Spend A Semester/Summer Without An Internship
Anna Waller is a classmate of mine from the Belmont University College of Law Class of 2014. Anna and I became acquainted from day one of law school. During orientation and throughout the first year we were in the same Legal Writing class section. One thing I quickly recognized in Anna is that she had a plan.
“I clerked 4 out of 6 semesters, plus both summers,” she says. “I always volunteered to do challenging assignments, followed up with people for feedback on how I did, and asked tons of questions.” Anna didn’t stop seeking opportunities. In addition to internships, Anna helped found the Student Bar Association, worked as a Student Ambassador, research assistant, and managed to make Dean’s List.
“I scheduled meetings with the decision makers to seek their advice on applying, which also made them know me personally and that I was interested,” recalls Anna. Rather than sit around and wait to hear a response, she understood that attorneys and working professionals had busy work schedules. “I kept in touch monthly so they wouldn’t forget about me. Basically I made sure I was first on their mind when a new position opened up.”
It was very fitting that during our last semester in law school, Anna and I both ended up working together at the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office in the same division, the Consumer Advocate and Protection Division (“CAPD”). Anna was starting her second semester with the AG, while most students only stuck around for one. It paid off. After graduation, Anna applied to the AG’s HR department, despite there not being a specific job in the section in which we worked. Before she even knew there was an opening, Anna was called in for multiple interviews and later offered a position within the CAPD! It was Anna’s hard work, persistence, and visible work ethic that contributed to her obtaining a position within the TN AG’s office right out of school.
3. Get Involved
“You can never do enough,” Griffin says. You’re in law school, right? That law school is located in some city and state, right? Great! Join your local bar association!! It’s as easy as filling out an online form, paying a really cheap student membership fee, and letting the event emails roll in!
“Go to American Bar Association [“ABA”] events, and join and attend events for the organizations in your area(s) of interest,” he recommends. “For IP that would include perhaps ABA-IPL, INTA, AIPLA, state and local Bar/Bar Association IP sections, etc. Even if this doesn’t directly land you a job right away, it’s always good to know people and build and cultivate those relationships because they may know people who can help you, or they may be able to help you later down the road.” The ABA is how I first met Griffin. I was a Law Student Reporter, which provided me with an opportunity to attend the annual IP conference in Washington, D.C., reporting live on the CLE panels and conference events. Griffin was a returning second-year reporter providing guidance and insight on how to maximize the opportunities available to law students at the event.
Griffin also recommends students write and publish to get your name out there. “Write and publish anything from scholarly law-review-style articles to daily or periodic blog posts (either on a blog you maintain or guest post with other peoples’ blogs — and don’t be afraid to reach out to bloggers with popular blogs to see if you could offer to guest post about something).” If writing scholarly articles or blog posts isn’t your thing, Griffin also recommends other ways of getting involved online, such as “commenting and/or sharing others’ posts.” Additionally, he suggests: “Be active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media to show other people you are interested and knowledgeable about a subject.”
So, how did Griffin land his job right out of law school? “I randomly met another classmate during my first year of law school at a school-sponsored auction to support public interest legal work; she was a 2L at the time. We ended up going to an auction event that we had co-bid on together and won (dinner at Tom Goldstein’s house — yes, the SCOTUSblog Tom Goldstein, who is an alumnus of my law school). We discovered that we (me and the other student) were both interested in IP issues; I cultivated my relationship with the other student. She landed an internship and later a job with the small firm that I now work for. Through her, I later also got an internship at the same firm. When she left to go to another job, she recommended me to take her place. I started working for the firm full time out of law school/after the Bar.”
As Griffin can attest, the relationships and experiences you gain by getting involved outside the law school building can become the most important connections you make in all of law school. Getting connected and becoming a member of the local legal community is one of the most rewarding aspects of attending law school that you must not go without experiencing.
4. Brand Yourself
Reg Levy is a 2011 graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, CA, working in-house at top-level domain name registration company Minds + Machines. Personal branding might seem challenging at first, but Reg provides a few tips to help brand you and maintain confidence during the job search.
First, Reg recommends everyone carry business cards. She says, “Go to moo.com and get some printed (pay to remove the ad). Get a professional email address. I don’t care if it’s at ‘yahoo.com’ (okay, I kind of care) but ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ is leagues ahead of ‘email@example.com.’”
Second, Reg says “to take it to the next level, be googlable.” It might be a little more challenging without a unique name, but Reg says there are ways around common names. “Are you Jane Doe? Become Jane-About-Law. Get on Twitter and LinkedIn.” Social media is the first, and by far the easiest, method of beginning the process of personal branding. “Master your LinkedIn messaging,” Reg advises. “You may, in fact, be a ‘law student seeking high-pay, low-effort career in the tech sector’ but so are a lot of other people. Use your headline to stand out. Are you a Blackbelt Conversationalist? (Note: this is an actual headline I’ve seen on LinkedIn. And he totally was.) Are you Crafting the Legal Future? That is someone I want to meet.”
Don’t stop there! Reg advises young lawyers to “buy a domain name and start putting up useful content. Do you love something? Blog about it! Do you want to work in a particular industry but don’t love it enough to blog about it? Don’t plan to work in that industry. Follow blogs about what you love and comment on them. Follow tweeters in your area of interest and RT [“re-tweet”] them, maybe even adding value (MTs [“modified tweets”] can be a mutual signal bump).”
How did Reg land that first job? “What got my resume past the first round was that I worked one summer at Kirkland & Ellis, which impressed one of the guys reviewing the resumes,” Reg explains. “The other guy liked that I lived nearby. They didn’t want to have to contend with commuters if there was a 5 a.m. emergency. Of course, I didn’t know this right away.” Reg also advises proving your value not just during the first interview, but maintaining that stamina during the initial trial period with a new employer. “I interviewed well and then made myself indispensable — the temporary position is the new interview, I keep telling people.”
Overall, Reg believes it’s important to stay true to you. “Be unique. But be yourself. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not,” she encourages. “My personality meshed with the people already [at Minds + Machines], which made them want to keep me and me want to stay. Plus, it helped—in the interview and in my job—that I was excited about what my company did. You can’t fake that (not long-term, certainly)—and you don’t want to.”
Image by Mike Licht via Flickr. Creative Commons license.