There is a misconception among law students these days that the only way to get a job is through on-campus recruiting. If they don’t get a summer associate slot or an after-graduation job this way, then they will likely remain jobless, will not be able to pay back their loans, and may have to leave the law completely. I know that sounds like a “parade of horribles,” but this is the dialogue I am hearing from students.
Sure, it can be more challenging to find a job outside of on-campus recruiting, but in the long run, you can still be happy in your legal career and be a very successful lawyer.
First, remember not everyone wants to (or should) work in a big law firm.
Most on-campus recruiting is for jobs at large law firms or “BigLaw.” Alison and I both have worked in BigLaw and left because we weren’t happy. Most of my friends in BigLaw have now left because they weren’t happy. Sure, the money is good and some people really like it (yes, I also have friends who actually enjoy working in a big firm), but it is not for everyone. If you don’t get a job in a big law firm, it may be because it isn’t a good fit for you. You might in the long run be happier and more successful in a different law job.
Second, you might have to hustle to get your law job.
Yup, the legal marketplace is still challenging. But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t jobs out there. But, you will need to hustle to land yourself a summer associate or after-graduation job. Here are some suggestions for ways to kick off your job hunt.
- Work Your Contacts. You know people; I know you do. Your friends know people. Your family knows people. I bet you, your family, and friends all know some lawyers. Start asking for introductions to lawyers who practice in areas you are interested in. These days, jobs often come from personal connections and you have to talk to people to build your network of contacts. Sure, this is time-consuming, but you never know when one of these contacts could turn into a job lead.
- Get Out and Meet People. Not only do you need to collect contacts, you have to actually go out and meet people. You need to attend networking events, alumni events, or volunteer days. You need to meet as many people as you can and talk about what you are interested in. You may be surprised where that will lead you.
- Explore Job Opportunities During the School Year. Sometimes, it is easier to get a part-time job or externship during the school year than during the summer. This is a great way to add to your resume and gain valuable work experience. I know many people who got permanent positions through school-year work. Or try out an on-campus clinic at your law school.
- Explore Different Geographic Opportunities. Could you move for a job? Having a willingness to move can really open up your job opportunities. There are many communities without large law schools that are desperate for qualified young lawyers. (I am from the Central Valley in California, and that community is one of them.) If you are willing to move, you could actually gain great experience that can set you up for success in the future (even if you plan to return to a metropolitan area).
- I know it is important to make money. But sometimes we need to volunteer to gain experience and meet people. Contact your local bar association for law-related volunteer opportunities. Or get involved in your community one way or another. Volunteering can add to your resume, help you meet people, and do something nice for your community. It is a win-win.
Third, you are not alone!
We know you probably still don’t believe us that many lawyers who are happy and successful didn’t find their job through OCI. So we are kicking off a new interview series at the Law School Toolbox for practicing attorneys to share their stories. We hope these stories can give you ideas and inspiration and help remind you that OCI is just one way to launch your legal career. No matter how you get that summer or after-graduation job, you have a long, great career in front of you if you want it. Check back weekly for new interviews as part of this series.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- How to Ace Your Law Firm Interview
- How to Use the Summer to Jumpstart Your Job Search
- Do You Have Time for Coffee and Networking?
- Hey, Law Students: Here’s How You Network
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