Career services for attorney looking for new position
August 12, 2008 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me evaluate the utility of resumé services, career consultants, and placement agencies for attorneys in a smallish job market near a large market.

I'm looking for an attorney position, but I'm a terrible networker. I'm considering signing up and paying for services to help me find a job. However, I don't want to waste my money and would like some confirmation that these services can help me secure a position.

I'm working on my own but I feel like I can't hack the solo route -- possibly for lack of networking skills. But, too, I can't handle the feast and famine nature of the practice. A steady income -- even a very modest one -- would make me happier.

I've considered generating my own "resumé blast," but don't feel confident it would be successful. I've seen sites like,, and Their puffery lures me. I haven't found any independent information about their effectiveness or value.

Too, I've seen several career coaches online. I have had some independent confirmation that they can be pretty shady, unhelpful, and expensive. I imagine the right one or a more general therapist could help with broader psychological goals.

And then there are the legal temp agencies and legal recruiters. I've heard very mixed tales. Plugging myself into one of these seems like a viable short term option. I know they sometimes don't do much for career development, but any predictable income would be helpful.

Some notes on my background:

General Employment Background
- Currently self-employed solo (1.5 years)
- Small niche firm (3 years)
- Legal researcher during law school (2 years)

- Second tier law school in a different market
- Unexceptional grades
- Graduated five years ago

Current Market
- Large sprawling metropolitan area
- Not willing to relocate
- Smallish local market but if I'm willing to commute, more options exist

In summary: I need to work, but am terrible at finding work. I'd like to hire someone to find me a job, but don't want to waste my money.

Throwaway email:

Thanks in advance for your specific referrals, positive or negative anectodes, and other brainstorms I might not have considered.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (2 answers total)
It's hard to give much advice without two really critical pieces of information:
- What metropolitan area are we talking about?
- What niche was your previous firm in, and have you continued that with your current practice? Basically, what kind of lawyer are you? Do you litigate? If so, in what subject? Do you do transactional work? If so, for what industry?

Without knowing these things it's really hard to say anything concrete.

Still, on the whole, paying someone to find you work is, in my opinion (no direct experience but I know people who have done this) usually a waste. They've got no real incentive to do all that much for you, since they generally don't offer any guarantees, and if you don't come back, well, there are plenty more where you came from.

I've done my fair share of job searches considering my age, and I usually go about it in two steps.

1) "What kind of jobs am I qualified for?" and/or "What kind of jobs might hire me?"
2) Of those jobs, who do I want to work for?

If you come up with a good answer for the first one, you'll probably eliminate a huge number of potential employers, leaving only the more realistic ones. You then cut those down in the second step and keep applying until you get a job. Most of the people I know who have been the most frustrated with their job search consistently reach beyond their grasp. For example, you shouldn't even bother applying to a BigLaw firm like Kirkland & Ellis or Latham & Watkins. Just ain't gonna happen, especially this year. You've been out of law school long enough that employers are probably going to be less interested in your law school experience/results than what you've done since. To be honest, the answer seems to be basically "Nothing special," unless that firm gig was really awesome (but if it was, why'd you leave?) You seem to have been employed for most of the time since you've graduated, but that isn't necessarily going to stand out, as most lawyers are.

With that in mind, you should probably consider legal temp agencies and legal recruiters. They do a much better job of finding you work than someone you pay, as they actually have a vested interest in pleasing their clients. The work is not likely to be glamorous or pleasant, but if you're willing to put up with less-than-ideal work and environment, it can be regular and reasonably well-paying (as compared to the national average, not the attorney average).

Also, depending on your practice area, consider looking at state and local government postings. They're frequently hiring, and while it may not be the most lucrative or scintillating work, they can't really fire you either.

Anyways, good luck. If you decide to give more information, maybe I or someone else will have more specific things to say.
posted by valkyryn at 7:03 PM on August 12, 2008

Go to a reputable agency, which will have at least some jobs.

It's in the agency's interest to place you, so they will work with you to put your resume in a form that will be familiar and credible to a firm's representative. They'll also help you focus on what your experience qualifies you for.

Even if you don't get a position through the agency, you'll at least end up with a good resume.
posted by KRS at 12:45 PM on August 13, 2008

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