This was written almost 2 years ago and posted on LSD. Something's have changed since then and I would probably add more items now based purely on more experience I've gained since then, but it's the best I can do right now. Thanks to another poster on TLS who dug it up for me.
I’m going to give you some advice, some of which was given to me before I went to school, some of which I learned while in school and some of which was given to me by lawyers and judges I know. Everything I list here I have personally tried and it works.
Some info about me: I’m a 4L part-time at a T2 school, I’m well within the top 20% of my class and on a secondary journal, I have had several clerk positions and have several open offers for post laws school graduation. I would describe my job searching thus far as being extremely easy and not at all effected by the presence of a T1 school in my same market with the one caveat that I am also extremely picky about what I will practice and where I will work. I have turned down far more offers than I have accepted. I am not trying to brag, I’m trying to share what you won’t learn just about anyplace else that really does work.
I’m going to give you advice on one thing: landing a job. There is plenty of advice on OCI and mass mailings, I’ve never done that so I won’t talk out of my ass about it, plenty of other folks on here can discuss that (although I am going to try it this year just so I can say I did it and not put all my eggs in one basket). Here is my advice, less than 1% of you will likely take it, but if you do, I will guarantee your job search will be easier and more successful regardless of what school you go to.
(BTW I have sever dyslexia, I’ve tried to proof this as best I can, but my time is limited and I wanted to get this up so I apologize for any spelling errors that got through, auto correct is also my enemy because what it thinks I mean and what I meant are often very different)
1) Realize than that 75% of you will not end up in the top 25% of your class. I do not mean to discourage you, just to point out that you should have a plan B on how you are going to land a job if you do not end up there NOW, not after it happens.
2) Outside of the top 20 or so law schools out there most law students will not land a job from OCI. If you think they do it’s a law school myth. They don’t. And outside the top 25% your odds of getting a job from OCI drop even further. (Note though what I will suggest below works well even at top law schools).
3) 80% of the available law jobs out there are unadvertised word of mouth referral positions. You find out about them from people you know working in the legal field, and those people recommend you for those jobs. There is little competition because few people know about them. This is especially true for mid sized firms, the ones that everyone says don’t exist or don’t hire law grads out of law school, again both of those are myths spread by people who don’t know any better because these places don’t do OCI.
4) You can land a good job out of any law school, regardless of rank, it just takes knowing how the legal profession works AND working that to your advantage from day one. That takes getting out of law school and getting to know lawyers and judges. So many students have problems finding law jobs not because they are not out there, but because they do not know how to properly look for them. I am going to give you advice on how to tap into that hidden job market from my personal experience doing it.
5) First realize the whole point of going to law school is to get a job as a lawyer. This should be your primary concern from day one. I’m not saying grades are not important, of course focus on those too, but don’t lose sight of the main goal, or the forest for the trees if you will. After the semester is over there is nothing you can do about your grades and if you have not already taken the steps to start your job search you will be behind the curve with nothing to rely on.
6) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Do not go into law school thinking you will land a job through OCI, if you do you won’t take any steps to find one other ways, and if you don’t find one through OCI you will have no plan B. Assume you WILL NOT find a job from OCI and act accordingly. If you do get one from OCI then great, the other steps you have taken will only help your future searches. If you don’t you’re not desperate because you have other leads. The primary reason people female dog about having to take sucky jobs/summer work, I believe from seeing it first hand, is because they failed to plan ahead, they got no offers from OCI and they had to take whatever came along, no matter how crappy that job was. They did not have anything else lined up before hand so they have nothing to choose from. This is a bad position to be in but one the vast majority of your classmates will find themselves in.
7) Networking is the single best way to find a law job. Period. No exceptions. Who you know beats where you go. However, networking takes time and effort to pay off. You need to network for several months BEFORE you tap your network, and you need to stay in regular contact with your network for it to be effective. It’s not something you can do in 30 days and see results. Thus, you need to start from day ONE of 1L building your network so by the end of the first year you have people who know you well and WANT to help you. If you do this and continue to do this by 3L you will have far more offers than anyone else you know at school. You will find out about jobs no one else at school knows about, and you will have your entire network working for you on the job search. You can network your way into good offers, even big law offers. People will tell you can’t network into big law. That is bull by people who talk out of their asses about stuff they have never done. I HAVE DONE IT. I have clerked and gotten an offer at a big law firm that I had no business being at school or rank wise. I also got the job before I even showed them a resume or transcript, I did not have to go through the hiring committee, I was personally hired to work under the managing partner all of this came about from a referral and promotion of me as a candidate from a networking friend I have cultivated (over a year before this connection panned out so he knew me very well, well enough to put his name and rep on the line for me). Granted its rare, but not because it can’t happen, but because so few people know how to do it or try it.
Some advice on how to start networking from day one:
•Become a student member of the ABA, your state and local bar associations. This can range from free to $50 for a year. Be sure to sign up for any e-mail newsletters they have. DO THIS. Why students don’t join the professional organizations of the profession they want to work in amazes me. DO IT.
•Find local CLE (Continuing Legal Education classes) for lawyers in your town. This is usually by practice area, it helps if you have a practice area you like, but if you don’t then go to several it’s a good way to see what lawyers actually do in that practice area. These are usually around noon and include lunch; student rates are often free to $10-25 bucks and includes the food. TALK TO PEOPLE THERE. Some lawyers, just like some posters on LSD, love to give advice - these are the folks you want to search out. Students are welcome at CLEs, and you will likely be the only one there – use it to your advantage. People will want to talk to you if you just talk to them first. Not everyone is going to be your mentor, but you won’t find the ones that will if you DON”T TRY and KEEP TRYING. Going each month is a way to see the same people and keep in contact.
•See if the local bar association has any lawyer functions you like, mine has both a kayaking and dodge ball group, join, students are welcome but never go, you already have something in common with these folks to talk about. Go and meet people, real live lawyers and judges, imagine that.
•Focus some of your little free time on meeting lawyers and judges in the community. Joining every student group under the sun is great, but that’s not networking. Those people are your competition for jobs. Being VP of some group as a line on your resume does not beat knowing a judge so well you have his home phone number in your cell. Being the leader of a student group is impressive; knowing someone who knows the person interviewing you who is willing to call them and put a good word in for you is more impressive. (I’m not saying don’t join groups, just make time for outside the school stuff as well- again avoid putting all your eggs in one basket).
•Understand that the legal community in your city is much smaller and more tight nit then you think now. Everybody knows everyone else, if you have a large enough network somebody you know will know or know of the person you are interviewing with or someone high up at the firm you want a job at. BELIEVE ME. I could write an entire post about how just asking my network of lawyers and judges about a certain firm or judge turned into a phone call that got me an interview. Lawyers know other lawyers and judges. Knowing people is how the law gets done. Understand that now, and start meeting people, as a 1L and you will have a HUGE advantage over your classmates who don’t.
•Check the American Inns of Court for an Inn of Court in your town. Contact its recruiting officer and ask to join. (Some may not take students, or only take 2 or 3L, but if they do respond saying that say you’re very interested and would like to join as a 1L if possible). Inns are GREAT. They meet once a month and have up to 200 lawyers and judges as members, and the whole point of Inns is to mentor young lawyers so the folks that join WANT to help.
•Go to networking functions your school puts on. Don’t be a wallflower, TALK TO PEOPLE. Talk to lawyers not other law students. The lawyers and judges who go to these things have volunteered to be mentors. MEET THEM. Moreover, keep in contact with them. Taking their card is NOT ENOUGH. You need to contact them again and again to build a relationship, build up your relationship credits BEFORE you need them then when you do they will WANT TO HELP YOU. Find reasons to talk to them again. Can you shadow them one day at the office or court? Can you e-mail them about elective courses? Ask them to lunch, offer to pay (most time they will end up picking up the bill, but offer). The point is you need to work to stay in contact, that’s networking. Collecting cards and sitting on them is NOT networking. It will be aqward at first, but after a few meetings if you two click it will becomes second nature and you will becomes friends. I know have more friends who are judges and lawyers than I have friends who are classmates.
•If you’re invited by a judge or lawyer to go to some legal event outside of school GO. Just do it. This is a gesture you should not turn down unless you have an exam the next day.
•Volunteer at local bar association charity events, whatever it is, e-mail the person setting up and offer your help. You will meet tons of lawyers this way, and the people you meet are the types that like to give back to the community so they are often good mentors.
•Get this book: Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, 2d http://www.amazon.com/Guerrilla-Tactics ... y_b_text_b
. I dare say it’s the best prep you can do for law school and the only thing that might actually pay off in the end. I’m not going to say I agree with everything in there, but it’s a great start to understanding how the legal job search works, it would take me 100s of post to explain what is laid out in this book. Just read it and you’ll be far above the majority of your classmates when it come to job searching.
•Put your activities with the local bar association on your resume. Why? Law firms like lawyers who are involved in the community it makes the firm look good and it’s how you meet clients. By year four of your firm career you will be expected to bring clients in, showing you have learned networking and meeting people skills in law school is a bonus.
•Be creative in how you meet lawyers or judges. Always be prepared to strike up a conversation when the opportunity presents its self. On more than one occasion, I have had someone comment on my law school sweatshirt out in public that turned out to be alumni. Don’t be shy, suck it up, it’s better to take the chance you might embarrass yourself for a fleeting second than to give up what might have been an excellent networking contact.
•Ask the lawyers and judges you meet to introduce you to their friends. This seems basic, but people like to introduce people to other people, this is how you build your network.
•Do just some of these and your life in law school will be easier than most, your job search will be easier and you will have better success regardless of your grades, ranking or law school you go to.
•If you have, successes please SHARE. This is the most untapped resource for finding a job, 99% of law students have no clue about what I just said. Or if they do they find out too late. If people just understood the power of networking, we would have far fewer posts by miserable 3Ls who can’t find or took crappy jobs because that is the only option they had.
•Start your job search from day one of 1L, look outside school, do not put it off and you will be far ahead of the curve.
•Do not give up if you’re finding it hard at first to meet people you click with. Do not give up once you have a large network. Always keep expanding your network. Networking takes time and effort, this is why most of your classmates won’t be doing it or will tell you (without having tried it themselves) that you should just mass mail out resumes to strangers. Its easier to just submit your resume for OCI or mail merge and hope for the best then stick your neck out and meet strangers. But because its harder is why it pays such huge dividends, if it was easy everyone would do it and you would not get as much success by trying. Its hard so most people don’t do it, so those that do have the pretty much the entire field open to them. Just trust me on this. This thing alone will make your life in law school and your options for after law school so much better if you do it now and do it right.