The job market is still tough.
It has been a little over a year since I got my pass results, and I am still job hunting. As such, I wanted to share with you some tips I have for bar takers while on the hunt for work.
I spent the first three months after the bar applying to a lot of positions — most of which were well beyond my scope of experience (3-5 years), and so I didn’t receive much of a response. I’ve since refined the kind of jobs to which I apply, but I also used those initial few months to set up a website for myself (that could easily be turned into a law firm, if need be) as well as blogging and giving educational presentations to colleges in my city. I think every lawyer does this at some point in their career, and I found it to be very helpful in building confidence and giving me something to do while I awaited application responses.
Law firms tend to be very firm on the years of experience they require.
If they say they want a “junior” (lol) attorney of 3-5 years, they mean it. No one in the job field considers your internships as “years of experience” — they mean post-law school experience.
That being said, companies are typically more flexible in what they’re willing to take, experience-wise.
This is evidenced by the phrasing “the ideal candidate would have…” or “prefer 2-4 years experience.” If your credentials (or salary requirements) fit their needs, they may be willing to take less experience.
Go to all the law networking mixers you can.
If you’re not one of the lucky ones to get a job from a past internship or some other connection, your quickest bet to get real-world legal experience will be by doing freelance (paid) work for other attorneys. You’ll get paid **** for it, like $20/hour if you’re right out of the bar, but you don’t have to have insurance to do it, and it’s post-law school work you can add to your resume and on LinkedIn. Lawyers are a much faster way to getting work than trying to find paying clients. At least, that’s been the case for me.
Sometimes it can work out if you only remember the CLE 15 minutes before it starts.
If you plan to go solo, even for a little while, check out your state bar’s options for malpractice insurance.
For example, California offers a “start strong” program where, if you qualify, you only pay $500 total for the first year of practice, $1,000 for the second year, and $2,000 for the third year. Now, the first time I looked into it, right after passing, I was told that they weren’t offering new plans to IP/entertainment lawyers. If you are in IP, know this: insurance people don’t understand the differences of intellectual property law. I said I would be doing entertainment law work, which meant contract drafting for people in various entertainment fields as well as trademark and copyright work.
They read that description like this:
Entertainment: THEY WILL BE DEALING WITH ACTORS AND DEFAMATION OMG – NO INSURANCE FOR THEM!
Copyright/Trademark law: OMG PATENTS — NO!!!
I was urged by an attorney with whom I work to try again, but this time to make it very clear to the insurance people that (1) I was drafting contracts for creative professionals and (2) I would not be doing any patent work.
If you do patent work, it’ll be more difficult to find affordable insurance, but, again, if you work under another attorney, you won’t need it. It’s just like an internship — if they farm work out to you, they have to review it before it gets submitted anywhere, thus using their insurance for the work.
Don’t under estimate Craigslist for useful job postings.
Job websites I primarily use include:
- Indeed.com — A great aggregator of all the job boards out there, and it has great word-filtering capabilities.
- GoInhouse.com — Usually, the jobs there require 4+ years experience, but sometimes, you’ll come across a 2-3 years experience job, and they might be willing to take a look at you with less if you have the right credentials.
- My law school’s Job Board (Symplicity)
- Craigslist for a wide variety of cities (go to jobs–legal)
Note that many of the jobs there are for secretaries, paralegals and assistants, but there are a fair number of attorney/associate positions as well, so I suggest searching that section with keywords like “trusts” or “entertainment” or “corporate.”
Save the job descriptions in different folders as well as the date you applied
I had an interview early on for a position, but I didn’t save the job description, only my cover letter, and the job description was no longer on their website. I literally couldn’t remember what they needed, and so my preparation was really weak for that interview. Since then, I have created individual folders for every job I’ve applied to, as well as the cover letter I wrote for it so that I could make cover letter writing faster.
Also, most of the time you won’t get a response for an application. Instead, they’ll just repost the job a month or so later if they didn’t find anyone, and you’ll want to be able to confirm whether you’ve already applied to that job before.
Keep your cover letter as short as practicable, and have someone else review your first few letters (and resume) for typos.
Seems obvious, but after a hundred applications and various edits over time, you’d be surprised what typos you can miss.
Attend CLEs in person when you can.
I’m an introvert, I live in the suburbs, and most of my city’s CLEs are downtown, where I’d rather not bother trying to park. However … if the CLE is a subject in which you have a strong interest, it is very likely that anyone who would bother to attend in person is someone you will want to get to know.
I went to a Formation Basics for New Lawyers CLE, and while the content was a little too close to what little I learned in law school, I snagged a lunch date with one of the presenters because he represented the company whose jacket I was wearing and liked that I clearly had similar interests as him. Oh, by the way, sometimes it’s okay to be in street clothes, wearing a video game jacket, when going to CLEs. Not all the time, mind you, as you want to make a professional impression, but sometimes it can work out if you only remember the CLE 15 minutes before it starts.
Don’t get bogged down by the rejections.
Don’t take it personally. There are a lot of graduates out there, and companies are always looking for people they don’t have to train. It stinks, but that’s the way it is. Keep applying — even to jobs you don’t think you’re qualified for. You never know. It costs nothing to apply but time, and at least then, you can know that you tried.
Keep applying. You’ll get there.