Wednesday, January 16, 2013
First, the bad news: law jobs are not falling off trees. Here's the good news: the jobs are out there because people always need lawyers, and law firms need you. They may simply not be coming to campus to find you.
The giant firms can afford to let an associate sit all day on your campus, interviewing the top 15%. In a firm of hundreds, that associate's day represents a tiny fraction of the firm's billable hours.
Smaller firms cannot afford anyone to sit around interviewing all day. In a firm of five attorneys, one person's day represents somewhere around 20% of the day's billable hours. The jobs are there, but you will not find the firms sitting around on campus to pick up a summer associate or new attorney.
So how do you find these jobs? It takes some hard work and persistence, but you can find them if you go about the search in the right ways. One way that has worked for many of my students is below.
Step 1: Make a list of all the lawyers and judges you know personally. It may be a short list.
Step 2: Make a list of everyone you know that may have used a lawyer at some point. Think about adoptions, divorces, trusts and wills. Think about people who own businesses, work in management positions in organizations that have legal counsel. Think about people who have been in accidents or property disputes or employment disputes. Think of all the ways people use lawyers and ask yourself whom you know that would likely have a lawyer. Include your friends, family, and parents' friends.
Step 3: From the two lists, choose three people who would know attorneys that do the kind of work you might like to try. If it is a lawyer or a judge that you know call her and ask if you could take her to lunch to pick her brain about opportunities in the field. If it is a lay person, ask if you could use that person's name to contact his attorney and invite the attorney to lunch. Tell the attorney, "Your client, Joe Smith, suggested I contact you and invite you to lunch to get your advice on finding the kind of work I am interested in pursuing."
Lawyers pay attention when they hear the words "your client." They also need to go to lunch, so you are not wasting their time. Finally, most attorneys would love to help a novice get established.
Step 4: Take these people to lunch (separately, of course) -- nothing too pricey; they all know you are a student. Talk to them about their experiences in the field and your goals and interests. Give them copies of your resume, and ask for advice on how best to place yourself in the field. Whatever you do, do not ask for a job. This cannot be a bait and switch. Learn from them.
Step 5: Send a note thanking each for his advice and time.
What typically happens is that each lunch partner will send your resume around to people she knows in the field who might be looking for someone like you. You may be surprised who calls you. My students often are.