Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Some useful job search advice from one reader:

Post #16

The job market is extremely tough for law school graduates if you didn't go to Harvard :) and you don't have an offer from wherever you worked during law school -- whether it be as a summer associate at a large law firm, or even just as a law clerk for a smaller place. I worked for a year and a half at a medium sized firm that doesn't hire first year associates as a rule. I got good experience there, but now I'm just an unemployed law school graduate with good grades and some decent experience, but still not enough experience to really make an impact anywhere. People will look at my resume and say that it's good, but that they don't really need anyone like me. Or "we're not hiring, but with that resume, you'll have no problem finding something." Thanks. In Illinois, the bar results still have not come out -- I guess that's not the case in some places. But I'm not convinced that people who aren't doing any entry level hiring will all of a sudden do so in two or three weeks just because the bar results have been released. Maybe they will, who knows. Nonetheless, I refuse to blame this all on career services. People who come from second tier schools (like myself), or really any tier outside the top 20 or 30 schools, often complain about how the career services office does nothing to help them get a job unless they are in the top 5%, 10% or whatever. The reason it seems that way is because the only firms that have the resources to sent people to do a full day of on campus interviews are the firms that are only interested in the top students. Blame the firms, don't blame the career services office. Beyond that, all the career services office can do is try to put together events where practitioners talk to students about how they got their jobs and promote jobs when small or medium sized firms or agencies call them to say they have openings. The rest has to be done on your own. But I will say this: there are a lot of things that you can do on your own that career services does not do a good enough job of telling you. So here are some things that you can do as a law student that I wish I had known more about when I was a second year student.

1) Pursue the lesser know firms. If you're a second year student right now, there are LOTS of firms that have summer associate programs, not just the ones that come on campus to interview. I'm talking about firms that have 30, 40, 50 and 60 attorneys, not the giants. Some of those firms will be a little less competitive because not everyone knows of them. Send them your resume. Email random associates at the firm and ask them to meet you for coffee to give you the scoop on the firm hiring process. You'll be surprised at how many people are glad to do that. And do it now because by the time you get into my position, it's too late because they only want people with 2, 3 or 5 years of experience.

2) Go to Bar Association Events. I know that Bar Association meetings might be worthless for the most part, but they are good ways to meet people who might be able to help you get a job sometime in the future. I admit that I'm not comfortable walking up to some strange law firm partner and striking up a conversation, but I think it's something we just have to get over. What really bothers me about it is that I feel like I would be a burden to them. But they wouldn't be there if they didn't want admiring law students like yourselves to go up and ask how they got where they are. So just introduce yourself, be personable and tell them that you're interested in what they do. Once you've gotten the introductions out of the way, then you've made a contact, and that is a person that you can touch base with periodically who might eventually have or know of a job opening. You've got to figure that if you do that 10 times, that opens up lots of doors for potential jobs.

3) Publish articles in an area that you want to work -- even if it isn't through your own school's journal. There are a ton of law journals in this country and most of them will take submissions from anyone. At my school, there is only one journal -- the law review. And you have to be in the top 7% to work on it. When I was still in school, I didn't realize how many other options there were for publishing articles, so I'm working on one now and it would have been much easier if I could have done it for a law school seminar or something, rather than having to self-motivate. The bottom line is that it will prove to an employer that you are seriously interested in a subject and aren't just saying so in your letter, or even in your interview. For example, I've had one interview since graduation and it was in a specialized area in which I am genuinely interested, but they couldn't tell. The firm was looking for someone who either had experience, which I didn't, or a "demonstrated interest" in the area. Courses that I chose apparently didn't count. But a published article certainly would have. In the end, they went with someone that was two years out, but I'm convinced that if I had an article that I could have pointed to to show my interest, I would have gotten the job.

4) Look for externships. There are a lot of large firms that will hire people as law student externs during the school year. Granted, this might only apply if you go to school in the city where you want to work. It might not be advertised, so just email some partners in practice areas that interest you and see if they would consider taking on an extern. You can probably get credit for it through your school with only a minor adminstrative hassle. And if you do get one, try to go above and beyond and get involved with different projects and get to know people. I have a friend that did an externship with a large firm and ended up getting an permanent associate offer because he did exactly that. And he wasn't the type of student they normally would have hired directly out of law school. And again, this isn't something you can do once you are out of school. I've actually contacted a few places and offered to work as a volunteer on a temporary basis, but have been uniformly rejected. I guess they figure if it's through a law school it is enhancing the firm's reputation, but if it's just bringing on some random person with no experience, it creates unnecessary administrative hassles.

Hopefully this helps. The most important thing is to be a little creative when you're searching. The mass mailings don't work. I did it each year of law school and got nothing but rejection letters out of it. And I even took the mass mailing to another level by sending one letter to the HR person, and then several other letters to partners in the areas in which I was interested. But that only resulted in getting multiple rejection letters from each firm, presumably because the partners would just forward the letters to the HR person who would then send out a rejection. So try something different.