Sally Kane writing for About.com has outlined ways to get legal experience during your law studies, or while you are looking for a permanent position upon graduation.
Internships, externships and clinics are a wonderful way to get your feet wet in the legal profession and this experiential learning necessity is much touted by Coastal and the Career Services Department alike. Volunteer positions, both during and after law school, are also great ways to obtain quality experience and the non-profits, public interest organizations and legal aid offices would appreciate the help with tasks that really make a difference in the lives of people and the community. While still in school, extracurricular activities like moot court, writing competitions, writing clinics and more hone your skills that may help you get your foot in the door of legal employers. The more experience you gain during law school can only better prepare you for your practice in the future.
Part-time legal jobs, like file clerks, court filers, data entry clerks and the like may allow you to work in the legal field, or in a particular firm you like until they will consider you for an associate position, if, for example, you are waiting for bar results, or they don’t have an opening. Temping is another method where you may be placed in short-term assignments through a legal staffing agency. Temping is a great way, also, to explore a particular firm and vice versa. Some firms hire temporary employees to recruit permanent staff by testing them out on a trial basis, so keep that option in mind.
Contract jobs are becoming more plentiful in this market as law firms seek ways to reduce costs. In a contract job, you are not considered an “employee” of the firm, but are an independent contractor hired to work on a contract basis. Sometimes, these positions may work as a stepping stone to full-time permanent employment with the firm.
One of the biggest mistakes law students make when conducting their job search is the failure to research their selected legal market. While there may be many factors that influence where you want to practice, a significant factor should be whether there are opportunities there in the legal field. Unfortunately, however, students often blindly select locales without ever considering what the local job market is like or whether the geographic location is already saturated with attorneys.
To avoid this mistake, you must research your potential markets. One of the best ways to do this is through informational meetings with local practitioners and judges, who are often finely tuned in to the local market. In addition, you might contact the state’s bar association to request any demographics or surveys regarding hiring trends or average salaries.
Researching the market should be one of the first things you do before you even commit to a state’s bar exam, so remember to start early. Make an appointment with a Career Counselor in the Career Services Department to develop your individualized market research plan and ensure that you select the locale with the most potential, which can affect the time it takes to find a job, how hard you have to work for it, and what your compensation will be.
Networking is often most effective when you are at a smaller event . Focus on opportunities that provide more intimate interaction with those attending, rather than huge receptions where it is difficult to establish a one-on-one connection with someone else. The target attorney is more likely to remember you and to spend time chatting with you if you are only one of ten people attending an event, rather than 1,000 at a large reception. Look for small gatherings sponsored by bar associations, including section breakfasts, small group CLE’s, and sports activities. Moreover, people are often more relaxed and casual in small groups, so both you and your targets will be more comfortable and likely to make a real connection.
A cover letter is an important tool in your job hunt. While a resume lists your education, experience and skills, it may not convey if you are a good fit for the law firm or organization. That’s where your cover letter comes in–it helps the employer get a full picture of you, but it’s important to get it right!
1. Tailor each cover letter to the firm or organization for the specific position you want. Form letters (yes, employers can usually detect if it is a form letter) may eliminate you from consideration.
2. Address your letter to the hiring partner or other designated person. If you don’t know who that is–find out by contacting the firm. Never, ever write “to whom it may concern”.
3. Sell yourself. This is your chance to let the firm know YOU are the right person for the job.
4. It can be used as an opportunity to explain gaps in your employment, a return to school, staying home to raise a family or illness.
5. Research the firm and possibly work in details like referencing a published case tried by the firm to give yourself an edge. Showing you’ve done your homework will show that you are enthusiastic about this position.
6. Check it and then double check. Ensure there are no mistakes, whether they be spelling, grammatical, or factual, and make sure you’ve signed the letter.
7. Use the right format. If you have questions in this regard, please consult the Career Services Handbook in the Application Materials section, or make an appointment with one of our counselors through Symplicity.
How can you differentiate yourself from other candidates in this tough job market? You need to have the skills many firms will be looking for. One new and lucrative niche right now is in the area of E-Discovery. It is vitally important and just as complicated. As more data is stored electronically, businesses and law firms need an E-Discovery attorney to help identify, preserve, collect, process, review and produce this electronic discovery. Further, law firms need expertise is advising them of relevant laws, how to protect e-files, and to advise them in trial. If you develop the technical knowledge and skills, you can be on the forefront of this burgeoning field.
When it’s time to decide where to practice law, don’t limit yourself to major cities. Consider smaller communities where towns may need new attorneys as older lawyers retire. There are many benefits to practicing in a smaller community, not the least of which is the economic benefit. The cost of living may be significantly less than living in the city, and there is certainly a variety of work to do. People in small towns prefer hiring local attorneys instead of hiring attorneys from the city that they must pay to drive out to their town. They want to hire someone they know and with whom they feel comfortable. Another benefit is having the chance to raise your family in a smaller community, where you know your neighbors and the parents of your childrens’ friends.
|Lexis/Nexis is offering a complimentary career webcast this Thursday November 8th at 3:00pm ET titled “Ask the Experts: Answers to your Questions about Legal Job Search, Networking & Interviewing”. Please see additional information and the registration link below.Law Student Webcast: Attend a live webcast featuring four legal career experts and get your career questions answered. Send in your questions ahead of timeand our panel of legal career experts will answer them during the webcast.Learn how to identify the right legal career path for you and how to prepare for your interviews.The first 500 to attend and complete the email survey at the end of the webcast will receive a complimentary membership in the American Bar Association (ABA) Law Student Division*. REGISTER NOW.
Meet the panelists:
After the webcast Ask the Experts: Answers to your Questions on Legal Job Search, Networking and Interviewing, join the after-party on Facebook for a lively interaction with all of the panelists.
Improve your chances of getting hired by a small firm by understanding that while law is a profession, it is also a business. While getting legal experience during law school, you should also gain other skills required for running a business that can differentiate you from other candidates. Skills such as marketing or sales experience, accounting, collections or billing experience or budgeting experience could give you the edge, as these are all skills required to run a successful small business.
Are you tech-savvy or can you set up and maintain a network for a small office? While large law firms have a multitude of support staff, small firms have little or no support, so if you want to make yourself attractive to a small firm employer, being able and willing to perform non-legal tasks can make the difference. By demonstrating that YOU can help keep the business end of things running smoothly, you can land yourself a job in a small firm. You can read the rest of Damon Chetson’s article here.