3L in need...
July 16, 2007 4:13 PM   Subscribe

[law job filter] I'm a 3L about to begin the job search for after graduation. I don't have the big firm job (or a job I want yet) and need advice (hopefully creative/different) on what jobs to target and how to sell myself.

So some quick stats about myself:

- Lower 1st tier law school on the East Coast.
- Top 1/3 of class.
- Moot court, but no journal.
- Lived abroad extensively, however I don't speak any foreign languages.
- Lots of government work experience, both federal and state.
- Very extensive practical experience, i.e. I'm actually vaguely equipped to be a lawyer, which is more than many law students can say. I can take depositions, I feel comfortable in court, I can write a wide variety of motions, etc..

Basically I spent the summer working at a government job and I am likely to get an offer. However, the pay is bad and the experience/exit opportunities are not at all what I originally thought when I took the job. I now want to find a job in the private sector. I have many dream jobs, but my base requirements are:

- over 80k (I have about 100k in loans that are gonna come due real soon) - one disclaimer though I may be willing to take a low paying job if the experience/exit opportunities are great.
- Located in a major city on the East coast or anywhere in California or abroad.
- I would love to work in international law, but at this point am not picky, but I'm more geared towards litigation.

Fall recruitment was not kind to me last year. I appear to basically be slightly below the cut off for most "good" jobs. I had some screening interviews that basically ended when they found out I wasn't on journal. I took my current job before the medium and small firms began interviewing so I really have no idea how I would fair. However, from what I've been reading life right now at small/medium sized firms isn't that great and they don't hire a lot of first year lawyers anyway (60k for 90 hour weeks, no thanks...).

My career services is useless and I would really love to hear if anyone knows of any non traditional jobs for lawyers, what sort of firms I might appeal to most, how to market myself, and any experiences any other lawyers may have had getting their first job, etc..
posted by whoaali to Work & Money (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Get this book. Seriously.
posted by The World Famous at 4:22 PM on July 16, 2007

Your career services might be useless, but do they at least have a list of alumni you can contact to talk about their practices? That might be a good place to start.

You might also see about getting into a branch of state/local/fed govt that gives you better experience, rather than giving up on the public sector altogether.

And if you're just now going into your 3L year, then you still have plenty time to line up some internships for the school year, right? That could be a very, very useful way to make contacts.
posted by footnote at 4:46 PM on July 16, 2007

If you're about to start your third year, participating in the fall recruitment round again is where you should start.

Not everyone coming on campus will be looking for 3Ls, but some will. Drop resumes for as many of those as you can. It's easier to get a job when they come to you rather than when you have to go to them.
posted by dbolll at 5:05 PM on July 16, 2007

I've had two major job searches in my career and the Guerrilla Tactics factored majorly in both searches. Both times I found jobs that exceeded my expectations. My credentials were very similar to yours when I got out of law school. Basically, here's what worked for me:

1. Networking -- I can't underestimate how important this is. I got my current job from a contact at my old job. My friend got her first job from a lawyer she met at her sister-in-law's bridal shower. You need to work every contact you have and any time there's a gather of lawyers in your area you need to be there. Go to CLE classes, become active on the board of the local bar association, volunteer with a pro bono project. Go to ABA meetings. You get the idea. Network relentlessly.

2. Send out many, many targeted cover letters. The key word here is targeted. I got the job in law school that launched my career because I wrote a cover letter in which I discussed a supreme court case that the potential employer won. Basically, you want to show that you've spent time researching the employer.

I'm now on the other end of the hiring desk and I can tell you that if I received a letter showing that someone had actually researched our practice area and cared about it -- that person would be at the absolute top of our interview list.

Make sure you have a polished, well-researched writing sample that someone else has proofread Anybody sends a writing sample with a typo in it, the resume is going right in the trash.

You may want to use indeed.com as a job search engine (it's basically a job search aggregator). You can find listings there you can't find anywhere else.

Also, and this is really important - try not to let this consume your life. When I got out of law school and couldn't find a job right away I got really depressed. In retrospect, I could have saved myself a lot of grief and enjoyed the fact that I wasn't working my ass off with 12 hour days (which is what happened when I found a job). You'll find a job, it just may take more time than you expect.

Good luck!
posted by bananafish at 5:16 PM on July 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

I hesitate to say this, because I don't want to be a dream squasher or anything... but the harsh reality of law is, if you weren't successfully recruited by now, you have to pay your dues. You need to line up one of those $60k 90+ hour a week jobs, pronto. And the best way to do that is to send your resume to every single job posting out there (and expect to never hear from any of them ever again, not even to reject you).

The good news is that in the course of paying your dues, you will discover one of two things: (1) the law is not for you; or (2) your niche.

But chin up! About 90% of new grads feel exactly the same way you do.

P.S. Those low pay government jobs have some pretty sweet benefits and hours, you may be begging for a public sector job after your private sector days.
posted by GIRLesq at 5:42 PM on July 16, 2007

Thanks, bananafish. The targeted cover letter is actually really helpful, everyone says that, but I never knew exactly what they mean by that (I thought more like your impressive international arbitration practice rather than big cases, etc).

I kind of suck at networking and well sucking up in general, but I just need to figure out a way to make it work for myself.
posted by whoaali at 5:50 PM on July 16, 2007

GIRLesq, yeah that was my general perception of government jobs too and it is that if you lateral in, you get the best jobs, benefits and even better money. Unfortunately, I have seen that those who start out there aren't really given the opportunity to work their way up and get those interesting jobs. Also, the hours are often as bad or close to as bad as a firm job.
posted by whoaali at 5:58 PM on July 16, 2007

Well... when I was talking about "government jobs" I meant working as a law clerk in state or federal courts. The holiday calendar is fantastic and you are done at 5 pm. It's true you start off at a higher salary if you lateral in, but you will work excessive hours in private sector for the opportunity to lateral in. And, because court salaries are capped, it all evens out quicker than you might you think.
posted by GIRLesq at 6:03 PM on July 16, 2007

The Guerrilla tactic book has excellent tips for networking. Don't think of networking as sucking up -- think of it as making an effort to meet people who can help you. Many lawyers have been in your position and you'll be surprised how may will be willing to help you. Just start doing things that will get you out there meeting lawyers.
posted by bananafish at 8:03 PM on July 16, 2007

if you weren't successfully recruited by now, you have to pay your dues. You need to line up one of those $60k 90+ hour a week jobs, pronto.

This was exactly what I was going to say. A clear-eyed view of a legal career path reveals that the first five or six years out of law school are essentially an apprenticeship ... akin to a medical residency. Those years are not supposed to be fun, and they are not typically very lucrative for the kind of work you put in and stress you endure.

Furthemore, in almost every legal job that I have had any exposure, the 90+ hour workweek is almost unheard of. Don't buy into all the myths about law practice. Very very few lawyers are regularly working 90+ hours, at the beginning of their careers.
posted by jayder at 8:21 PM on July 16, 2007

I guess I am pretty aware right now that my outlook is pretty bleak, which is what I'm trying to avoid. I wouldn't really be posting this if I thought things were easy sailing from this point on, that's why I'm trying to find a new way to approach things to hopefully avoid going through that.
posted by whoaali at 8:47 PM on July 16, 2007

Just ordered the guerilla tactic book!
posted by whoaali at 9:07 PM on July 16, 2007

Is your law school where you want to live when you graduate? I know several people who got post-graduate jobs far, far above where they "belong" (mediocre GPA, no moot court, no law review) because they worked during the fall and/or spring for a fancy boutique firm that ended up loving them.
posted by gatorae at 11:01 PM on July 16, 2007

It isn't necessarily where I want to live, but I wouldn't turn it down. Finding something at a boutique isn't a bad idea actually.
posted by whoaali at 5:30 AM on July 17, 2007

I guess I am pretty aware right now that my outlook is pretty bleak

Aw, chin up! Something will work out.
posted by footnote at 5:57 AM on July 17, 2007

(And "chin up" is actually career advice -- if you get too down on yourself your interviewers might be able to tell. So be sure you take care of yourself this year, take an interesting class or two, hang out with non-law school buddies if possible, exercise, spend time on your hobbies, the works!)
posted by footnote at 6:01 AM on July 17, 2007

My partner was a prosecutor right out of law school. He spent a year conducting something along the lines of thirty jury trials. In the ten years since, he's had far fewer than that.

My point is, student loans can be deferred - my state even helps prosecutors pay for theirs - if you take a job that gives you highly desirable experience even if the pay sucks. If I could take a Mulligan on my first year out of law school, I would strongly reconsider my decision to not try for a prosecutor job even though I had no desire to do criminal law.

Your next job ought to more than make up the difference in earnings.
posted by mikewas at 7:54 AM on July 23, 2007

mikewas - that's actually good to hear. I've been hearing a lot that while i could get a lot of good trial experience, firms don't seem to really value once you try to lateral. Basically its kind of a snobbery thing and if you didn't start at the big firm (or something equally prestigious) you'll never get in. It's been really hard to determine what sort of job opportunities would be open to me if I took a position like a prosecutor for a few years and then lateraled.
posted by whoaali at 4:39 PM on July 23, 2007

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