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Working relationships with attorneys can take you to the next level

Career Assistance

Developing working relationships with attorneys at your internship can make a real difference in your success after law school. Attorneys operate at the center of the robust legal industry. They are walking, talking small businesses regardless of whether they are self-employed, employed by the government, in- house at a company, or at a law firm. The services attorneys provide create jobs for other attorneys as well as for numerous other types of professionals working in the legal industry.

The top three benefits that can come out of a working relationship with an attorney include:

Meaningful career guidance

Access to credible, reliable guidance is a necessity for any career, especially a legal career, which tends to have considerable lateral mobility. The decisions made during law school will largely shape the direction and trajectory of your career after graduation, and you should not make these decisions without the input of someone who has traveled down the path already. This valuable information includes, but is not limited to:

  • Current pressures and emerging trends in the marketplace and job market;
  • Unwritten rules, structures and customs defining a particular organization’s culture;
  • How to avoid common mistakes as you pursue your career;
  • The identity of/contact information for influential people; and
  • Sources of information concerning continuing education or networking opportunities.

An attorney’s wisdom in this area is real and useful. Additionally, your working relationship with attorneys can provide you with a special kind of career advice. Specifically, based on what they have observed about your strengths and weaknesses, they can provide tailored, constructive feedback on what opportunities or career paths are most suitable and realistic for you. This type of guidance is priceless.

Share information about jobs

It is widely-accepted that the vast majority of job vacancies are never advertised. This ocean of job opportunities inconspicuously absent from websites or publications is commonly referred to as the “hidden job market.”  Some estimates indicate that the total amount of job openings filled through word of mouth is somewhere around 70 percent.

Attorneys are plugged directly into this hidden legal job market. Before the job posting appears on a job search website, a law school’s career services office, a legal recruiter’s inbox or Craigslist, it is an attorney who first identifies the need to hire a new attorney. And when a position becomes available in the hidden job market, attorneys e-mail and call each other to seek referrals. If you are successful in developing relationships with attorneys during your internship – especially working relationships – they will think of you during these conversations.

Provide persuasive recommendations

Law students make two common mistakes when seeking help from practicing attorneys in their job search. First, they expect or rely on attorneys in their professional network to hire them. This is a highly unlikely outcome. Thus, you should count on the attorneys in your network to write recommendations on your behalf, not hire you.

This leads to the second most common mistake – students asking an attorney to vouch for their work performance if they have not worked with that attorney. Do not do this. Each time an attorney writes a recommendation, they put their reputation on the line. It is unprofessional to ask them to do so. For this reason, a recommendation from a non-working relationship attorney has limited value, as they cannot (and likely will not) speak to your work performance. This is where the true value of a working relationship with attorney shines through.

Developing a working relationship with an attorney is not easy, but nothing great ever is. Ensure that your work performance is excellent during your legal internship. This will help develop relationships. In the end, you will have created a highly- beneficial relationship with a practicing attorney who will continue be a reliable source of guidance, information, and recommendations throughout your career.

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Max Rosenthal Maxwell D. Rosenthal is in-house counsel at a large media and entertainment company in New York City. He is also the author of "The Bridge: How to Launch Your Career through a Legal Internship" (Lexis Nexis 2015), which can be found on his website. He also frequently speaks at law schools and bar associations on topics related to career development and legal experiential learning. He can be reached at