Attend a free non-CLE webinar entitled Impact of COVID-19 on Recent Law School Graduates and Rising 3Ls on July 16th. This session will discuss the financial and emotional impact on recent law grads and rising 3Ls as they look ahead to their future. Panelists will provide practical tools and strategies to help navigate through these challenges both in the short and long term.
3Ls and recent grads, I feel your pain. I started law school in 2007, when the economy was strong, only to graduate during the Great Recession. Despite all of my hard work in law school, my post-bar job search resulted in no relevant postings and countless rejection letters.
With ongoing productivity, resilience, and self-awareness, however, I secured my dream job nine months after graduating. Just as those efforts paid off for me a decade ago, I believe they will for the class of 2020 too.
Productivity: Network, Volunteer, and Keep Your Day Job
With limited job postings, it is more important now than ever that you have a strong network. Start forging connections during bar preparation or earlier, then you can reconnect with them down the road when you’re ready to start working. Make sure everyone in your existing network is aware that you are looking for work, and also expand your network by finding attorneys in your desired practice area(s) on LinkedIn. Before reaching out to those new contacts, though, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile to maximize SEO, craft a descriptive and multi-faceted headline, and complete the “About” field so that it sets you apart from other candidates.
The first alum who helped with my post-grad job search gave me invaluable advice: when there’s no paid work, volunteer. With no other options in sight, I swallowed my pride, took out a bar loan, followed through on a lead with a local public agency, and secured a post-bar law clerk position that I absolutely loved. I treated that position like a permanent job, always asking questions and seeking out interesting assignments. I also networked with several attorneys working in the same field, quickly getting on file with the firms for which I ultimately wanted to work. Sure enough, after bar results came out just a couple of months later, two of those firms had openings, and I was soon deciding between two offers.
Bottom line? Volunteering keeps your skills fresh and your resume current while introducing you to lawyers inside and outside the agency and showing prospective employers your strong work ethic.
Keeping Your Day Job
Every year, several third-year students working in their final semester report they are unemployed at graduation simply because they never talked to their employer about post-bar plans. If you are working during law school or afterward, talk to your employer about staying on post-bar! Even if you want to go elsewhere, it is much easier to secure a new job once you are already working.
Resilience: Be Determined, Prioritize Self-Care, and Maintain Relationships
The two permanent job offers I received came in February—nine months after graduating and 18 months after I began my post-bar job search. That was a long, stressful period! But no matter how stressed I felt, at the end of each day, I searched the job boards, checked my inbox for recruiter emails, and contacted alumni to set up informational interviews. I acknowledged the countless rejection letters, processed my disappointment, then moved on to find the next opportunity. It was exhausting, but I was determined and refused to quit.
Under typical circumstances, taking care of yourself (mind, body, and soul) is important, so it is essential this year. Beyond eating well and exercising, also make sure you have a healthy mindset around your job search, or you could fall into several common mental traps, like feeling overwhelmed or lacking motivation. Consider making it a habit to meditate, do yoga, or listen to a mindset and empowerment podcast daily.
Finally, do not ignore your relationships! Taking care of yourself is important, but no one is expected to get through difficult times alone. A strong support system is another vital but often ignored element to a healthy job search. Be proactive and set aside distraction-free quality time with your closest family members and friends. Take this transformative year to be more selective about the individuals you connect with the most—surrounding yourself with positive people is a surefire way to elevate your mental state.
Self-Awareness: Find a Healthy Balance between “Too Open” and “Too Picky”
Despite the desperation that continuously crept up during my post-bar job search, I turned down the first offer I received. I thought good and hard about that decision—I had been looking for months after all. But I wasn’t interested in the practice area, it required a lot of non-billable travel, the salary was very low, and the partners laughed at me when I asked about a bonus. It is essential to know when to say “no.”
So how do you remain open but not too open? Pursue your dream job while also pursuing other opportunities that would serve as steppingstones toward the dream. Focus on jobs that offer transferable skills, related practice areas, your preference for litigation versus transactional work, and hands-on experience. If you want to be strategic as you expand, consider these practice areas that have remained relatively steady during the pandemic: Healthcare, Labor and Employment, Insurance, Bankruptcy, Wills and Trusts, Technology, and Data Privacy. And to show demonstrable interest in these areas, explore the numerous CLE’s, certificates, and other educational opportunities on topic.
Keep in mind: even if your first job is a little outside your desired practice, employers down the road should understand why you took it amid a pandemic. Regardless, your law school career services office can help you prepare to explain your choice to nail future networking opportunities, cover letters, and interviews.
Which brings me to my final thought: if you have not done so already, connect with your law school administrators to make you sure you are taking advantage of ALL available resources this year and in the future. We are here for you now and will be then to help you stay productive, resilient, and self-aware to secure a post-bar job!