A common piece of advice regarding law school is to attend a school in the city or state where you’d ultimately like to work. I don’t disagree, and doubt anyone would tell you that being in or near the location where you’re searching for a job doesn’t make that process much easier. However, the reality is that (1) this isn’t always an option, (2) you may not know where you want to be, and (3) plans can change in the course of law school. You might also decide that you want to do a specific type of work – criminal prosecution, for example – where some geographic flexibility can open up more job opportunities.
I’ve helped many students successfully search for out-of-state summer clerkships and post-graduate jobs. Although it often requires more initiative and effort on the part of the student, it can certainly be done. Fortunately, there are a number of mechanisms in place or at your disposal that can help the process along.
Who’s Down with (the) UBE?
The Uniform Bar Exam, commonly referred to as the UBE, is a uniformly administered, graded, and scored bar examination. Applicants who take the UBE may transfer their scores to seek admission in other UBE jurisdictions within a certain amount of time after the scores were earned, though jurisdictions retain the ability to set their passing score. Currently, 33 states as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted the UBE. New states have come into the fold every year since the first two states administered the exam in 2011. Texas, which is the most recent state to adopt the UBE, will begin administering it in 2021.
The ability to transfer your bar exam score to many different jurisdictions is a beautiful thing, adding a level of portability that did not exist anywhere less than a decade ago. Generally speaking, I would still recommend taking the bar in the location where you’re hoping to practice, as the process of waiving into another state can take several months. Registering for a state’s bar exam can also be seen as a sign of your commitment to the area and increase the likelihood that you will be taken seriously by potential employers there. The National Conference of Bar Examiners provides comprehensive information on jurisdictional bar requirements.
Use Alumni Connections
Alumni of your law school can be a great resource if you’re looking for opportunities in other locations. Your Career Services Office might maintain a database of alumni, and online resources like LinkedIn and Martindale-Hubbell are also great tools for locating them. In reaching out, it’s usually best to ask for advice or referrals. If there are opportunities to work with their organization, they’ll let you know, but asking for something they can obviously give, such as advice or suggestions about the local market, will put them at ease and likely yield a better response. Remember, too, that your networking doesn’t have to be only with lawyers. If one of your classmates from college is, say, an accountant in the city you want to move to, that person could be a great connection.
To help find job openings, ask career services about requesting reciprocity with another law school on your behalf (and other resources you have access to that might help with an out-of-state job search). If granted, you will gain access to that school’s job postings for a certain period of time, typically 3 months. Be aware that policies vary from school to school and many do not grant reciprocity during fall recruiting.
Join State and Local Bar (or Professional) Associations
Many state and local bar associations offer free membership to any student attending an ABA-Approved law school. There may be sections (e.g. Elder Law, Business Law) that will help you get in contact with lawyers who do what you want to be doing or affinity groups such as the Young Lawyers Division that you can join. Are there any specialty bars such as a Women’s Bar Association or Hispanic Bar Association? A 3L I worked with several years ago was paired with a mentor through a women lawyers group in the state she was hoping to relocate to even though she was attending law school hundreds of miles away. Students can often attend CLEs for free, so check the state bar calendar for upcoming events if you have plans to be in the area. It’s a great way to meet local attorneys.
Consider trying to get a clerkship in the state or city you wish to practice in following graduation. This will allow you a year or two to get familiar with the area, make connections with local lawyers, and familiarize yourself with state laws. While clerkships with federal courts and state appellate courts are highly competitive, many states have trial court clerkships that are less selective. Alaska, for example, has 42. A summer internship with a judge, though usually unpaid, can be a great way to begin making connections in a specific location and open the door to this type of opportunity.
Go to There
If you are interested in searching for a job outside of the state where you’re attending law school, the earlier you can begin laying the groundwork the better. Bottom line, you should be prepared to travel. There’s no way around the fact that the best way to get a job in your target market will be to go there. If you have plans to visit the area over a break, be sure to give any employers you’re interested in a heads up. Make the most of your time in the area by arranging coffee and lunch dates with people in your network and/or potential employers. You could also set up a job shadow or spend some time volunteering. Success rates go up if you have a connection to the location or a good reason for relocating that you can share in a cover letter or interview.
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