ByCarla J. DeVelder
Carla J. DeVelder, a former law school associate dean with experience in student affairs and career development, is in-house counsel in the insurance industry in Omaha, Nebraska.
Although the employment market remains soft, there are opportunities for those who pay attention to the businesses and industries that are weathering the recession—particularly those that might be expected to show growth in the near future and those that value a legal background.
Many of these opportunities lie outside the traditional law firm setting, which also appeals to those who are curious about alternative legal career paths, regardless of the economy. What are some of these jobs and where do new graduates find them? How does a candidate stand out from the crowd of applicants (both lawyers and non lawyers) to land one of these positions?
Preparation is key, according to Susan Gainen, who has spent the past 25 years working in legal career development and is currently a lecturer and coach at Pass the Baton, LLC. “Preparation means that candidates will have researched and networked to acquire a thorough understanding of what a particular job requires before the first interview, and that they can demonstrate with particularity why their skills and training are a match for the job. Saying ‘Pick me, I’m a lawyer,’ is a waste of everyone’s time.”
Candidates must be able to persuade an employer who is not looking for a law-trained person that legal training, skills, and experience are the right prep for the jobs for which they are interviewing.”
Candidates must research both the business and the industry before applying and enter an interview ready to explain how they fit into the position and can be an asset to the employer. Online research will provide a base of knowledge, but insider insight is critical to standing out from the crowd. Candidates must network to find someone in the industry who can help them understand the critical skills and duties of the job. The candidate then must show the employer in their résumé, cover letter, and interview why they are perfect for the position.
Candidates with a legal background should be prepared for additional scrutiny when applying for positions where a JD is not required. Employers may be concerned that the expected salary will be outside the available range or that the candidate will be resistant to responsibilities or titles that are not typical for attorneys. It is the candidate’s job to be prepared for these concerns and get in front of them even before the interview stage.
In addition, flexibility is required. Not only will geographic flexibility expand a job seeker’s opportunities, but flexibility in career fields and duties will give the job seeker more options.
What. While corporate scandals and financial miscues might grab headlines, most companies work hard to build and maintain robust ethical cultures and highly structured compliance programs with performance-enhancing qualities. Lawyers are uniquely positioned to provide advice and develop appropriate corporate oversight.
Where. Candidates should keep an eye on the job board at websites such as corporatecomplianceinsights.com and large corporations’ websites for postings in risk management, loss mitigation, and corporate compliance.
What. All those foreclosures are keeping the title insurance companies and their lawyers busy with claims. The 2010 Affordable Care Act will necessitate jobs related to health insurance and health care in both the government and private sector.
Where. Check the websites for accountable care organizations, title insurers, and casualty insurers. Representing insurance companies as “outside counsel” would be a hot practice area for private firms right now. The flip side of that is that insurance companies are hiring attorneys as underwriters and claims counsel to assess risk and coverage issues. Insurancelawjobs.com and similar websites can provide positions already advertised but also can point job seekers to the industry’s employers.
Legal Information Providers
What. Every law student is familiar with the lawyer/sales representatives for legal services at their law school. These positions exist for law firms as well as with sales representatives training lawyers on their company’s products and services. In addition, legal information providers employ lawyers to produce and edit legal content.
Where. The big three in the industry are Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law. Job seekers should network with their law school’s Westlaw or Lexis representative about their job and how to get a foot in the door in the industry. Bloomberg Law’s website contains a user-friendly search mechanism that allows a search by specialty—law included—and positions such as legal research analyst are open to entry level lawyers.
Highlight Your Skills
Candidates with a legal background should be prepared for additional scrutiny when applying for positions where a JD is not required. What should you highlight so you can stand out from the crowd?
Research and writing ability
Familiarity with legal terminology
Ability to juggle tasks and meet tight deadlines
Ability to speak persuasively in front of people
Keen observational skills
Vol. 41 No. 6