Tips to Jumpstart Your Legal Career
This week, tens of thousands of recent law school graduates sat for the bar exam. Now what? If you haven’t secured a legal job yet, you don’t have to just sit around and wait for your bar results (which, in some cases, might not arrive for four months!).
Moving Your Legal Career Forward
- Keep applying for jobs. It goes without saying that you should keep applying for legal jobs while awaiting your results. Many employers will wait to see if you passed before making a permanent hire, but you might be able to find part-time or temporary work (or, if you’re very lucky, you might come across an employer who’s willing to take a chance on you). Temporary work can lead to permanent employment, or to valuable connections and experience. Even if it seems demoralizing, keep putting your application out there. You only need one hit to make it worthwhile!
- Use this time for informational interviews. Summer is a slower time for many attorneys, so they’re more likely to accept your invitation to coffee or lunch. Informational interviews with lawyers are a great way to make connections, find out more about practice areas you might be interested in and practice your networking skills. Set a goal to have at least one informational interview a week while awaiting bar results. Before you know it, you’ll have tons of new professional contacts (all of whom you can email when you get positive bar results!).
- Get involved in your local bar association. Your local bar association would love to welcome you into the fold, so take advantage of that. Many offer reduced-cost membership for new graduates, and some even have programs specifically designed to ease the transition to practice. You’ll find networking opportunities, chances for CLE, pro bono training, and more. New grads often underutilize the bar association, and this is a great time to get involved before you’re too busy working!
- Take on a pro bono or another volunteer project. If you find yourself stressing out about not having a job, or whether you’re going to pass the bar exam, that’s a sign that you need to get out in the world and help other people. As an almost-lawyer, you’ve got lots of opportunities to give back. Find a pro bono project of interest (your local bar association is a great place to look!) and you’ll receive practical training and (potentially) be able to meet useful mentors. And, of course, you’ll have the satisfaction of helping someone who really needs your assistance, which is a great way to distract yourself from thoughts of failing the bar exam! Similarly, if you’re burned out on legal work for the moment, look at other volunteer opportunities. From packing food at a food bank to playing with puppies at the SPCA, there are always organizations looking for reliable, enthusiastic volunteers like you!
- Perfect your application materials and online presence. Even if you’re not applying for jobs right now, you will be soon. Make sure all of your job hunting application materials are in order: resume, cover letter, writing sample, and so on. Also, review your online presence (start by Googling yourself.) Is your LinkedIn profile fully up to date? Could you get endorsements or testimonials from any of your prior employers (including any unpaid work you did during law school)? This is also a great time to learn the basics of Wordpress and set up a blog for yourself. You have to be careful not to hold yourself out as an attorney until you’re admitted, of course, but it’s easy to start building your online presence and reputation. Who knows where it might lead?
- Visit your law school career office. Your law school wants you to find a job if only to improve their job placement statistics. Use this to your advantage! Make an appointment with the career office (or alumni career office), and get suggestions on your job search strategy and application materials. That’s what they’re there for, after all.
- Do some outside reading. You’ve got time on your hands, so put it to good use. Here’s a detailed series on job hunting for recent law grads, and you’ll find tons of interesting books if you look around. One that’s useful is From Lemons to Lemonade in the New Legal Job Market, and here’s an interview with the author.
Best of luck! And fingers crossed that you pass the bar.