Job After Law School
January 7, 2004 9:52 AM   Subscribe

How do I find a law job? (more, natch)

So, I'm entering my last semester of law school and still don't have a job offer. It's bewildering, but there are no places that have any advice or help available on the internet that don't charge an arm or a leg.

Additionally, the vast majority of job listing pages only have listings for lateral (i.e., attorneys with experience) hires, so the internet generally is of limited help.

Other particulars: I go to a top-twenty law school in the upper midwest and would like to stay here if possible, but am willing to relocate. I'd like to work for a law firm doing civil litigation. I'm in the top quartile gradewise and have been told in mock interviews that I interview well. I have worked as a law clerk for the last two years, so I have some level of experience, and I have good recommendations. I've done the On Campus Interviewing (OCI) business and got several call-backs but no offers.

My biggest problem, I guess, besides the awful job market, is that my Career Services Office puts a lot of energy into the fall OCI but then doesn't do much else. I am not getting any ideas from them about places or methods of application and am at a loss for my next step. What can I do?
posted by norm to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're bewildered that lawyers won't give the tiniest morsel of advice without charging for it, I'd say you have a *lot* left to learn about the legal profession. :)

(kidding; I hope you find something great!)
posted by boomchicka at 10:18 AM on January 7, 2004

*starts clock*

I'm a little surprised that you didn't receive offers at any of your callbacks, especially given your credentials. My experience has indicated that 60% or more of callbacks result in offers. Although it may simply be the job market, you might think about how your actual interviews have varied from the mock interviews you've had, and anything you might have done that would hurt your chances.

It's a little late in the game for the really big firms, but there should be plenty of small firms that are still hiring. In fact, there's a bit of a lull between the fall hiring season, when most big firms hire, and the spring hiring season, when lots of small firms finally get off their asses. That lull is often disconcerting for the law students without jobs, because it often seems like everybody is done hiring. Trust me, they're not. One of my good friends was hired by a large Kentucky firm in April, just weeks before finals.

My recommendation, without knowing more, is three-fold. First, send letters. Lots of them. It will cost you a bit at Kinko's, but it will be worth it if you get even one offer. If you're willing to relocate, you can use to get a good idea of the firms in each city you are willing to move to, and send them letters. Keep in mind that you need to personalize the letters, to some degree, in order to convince firms that you want to do their kind of work in their city. This is especially true of firms in smaller markets. If you have a graduate degree or other relevent experience, emphasize that.

Second, work any contacts you might have. Some law students make the mistake of eschewing this kind of job hunt strategy, hoping to get a job on merit alone. That's nice, but not always the reality. Knowing someone at the firm you're interviewing with is a huge help, assuming they like you.

Lastly, because of the recent change in hiring schedules in the federal courts, a number of federal judges at both the district and circuit level are still hiring clerks for the fall. A one or two year clerkship for a federal judge is invaluable experience and will be immensely helpful in finding a job afterwards. My firm, for example, offers a $35,000 incentive bonus to federal clerks who accept a job. The federal law clerk information system maintains a great database of judges who are hiring. However, not all judges list there, so check for other judges in the areas you're interested in. You can always call their chambers to find out if they are hiring. UT maintains a complete list of judges in mail merge files that are easy to use.

Good luck!

*stops clock* Hmm. .25 hours. I wonder if I can bill that to recruiting?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:52 AM on January 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

chicago is currently the worst legal market in the country--so if you really want an attorney job, don't bother with chicago.

start working now. at a legal clinic, as a law clerk in what ever local firm will have you, volunteer with any pro bono, bar group, any that needs help. work the people you meet there mercilessly. recruiters have less than no interest in new graduates and most of the big firms only take new graduates through on campus recruiting. most of hte on-line lists of firms (like infirmation) only have those "big" firms listed. any gap in your legal resume will kill you.

get involved, now, in your local bar association. the ABA is as hard to break into as the circuit courts, but the local associations are not and you will make the right connections. with the market as bad as it is, that's your most likely route.

i am a graduate of a top-ten east coast law school who has been without an actual job (i contract as an attorney with one of the US's top 5 largest firms--here in the midwest) since my clerkship ended years ago. expect a long slog uphill.

look into career services reciprocity with other schools as soon as you graduate--my school's career services are useless, but at least i can get the listings from other schools.

good luck--i may have a jaded view, but it's really really ugly out there right now.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:06 PM on January 7, 2004

Another option to consider, based on my several readings of "Do You Really Want To Be A Lawyer?" many years ago: if you haven't already, perhaps consider a non-lawyer job. Your language, speaking, thinking, and reasoning skills can be applied in many "non-attorney" jobs, I imagine.

Best wishes.
posted by davidmsc at 12:14 PM on January 7, 2004

I'm in a somewhat similar situation, and I think I've learned a few things, but I have absolutely no time to write them out tonight. Email me if you'd like to talk.
posted by gd779 at 7:43 PM on January 7, 2004

On preview, what gd779 said. Feel free to email.
posted by anathema at 10:25 PM on January 7, 2004

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