In a matter of weeks, the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (or COVID-19) has changed our way of life and significantly disrupted the global economy. At the time of this post, many law schools have closed their campuses and transitioned to online classes. This public health crisis has caused great economic uncertainty, and legal employers are far from immune to these concerns.
This post outlines some strategies that job-seekers can use while searching for a legal job in an uncertain economy. Although it’s far too early to determine the full extent of the impact of COVID-19 on the legal job market, some predict a downturn that may impact the market for entry-level jobs for new and early-career lawyers. Do not despair — with some creative thinking and dedicated effort, you can find a great legal job.
1. Keep your Job Experience Current
When searching for a legal job, it’s important to keep your career experience current. In a challenging economy, the full-time job market may tighten. However, this could mean that part-time or short-term opportunities are more plentiful as employers try to remain operational while weathering an economic storm. These types of opportunities are a great way to keep your job experience fresh and learn new skills that can be applied in the future. In general, it is easier to find a job when you already have a job (even if that job is part-time).
You may also want to consider a research assistant position at your law school or a judicial externship or clerkship with a local judge. In addition, there may be meaningful opportunities to volunteer at a civil legal services organization or non-profit. Any experience is better than no experience, and keeping your resume current will give you a leg up over your competition.
2. Maintain a Professional Online Presence
Almost every employer will research your online presence before conducting an interview or making a job offer. When job markets become more competitive as a result of economic changes, it’s crucial to maintain a professional online presence. Update your LinkedIn profile with your most recent job experience and add details about the different projects you’ve worked on in the past. Check to see what members of the public can view on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media networks. If you haven’t already, scrub your profiles and delete any potentially damaging pictures, comments, or posts. Going forward, don’t post this type of material in the first place.
You can use social media to your advantage while searching for a legal job. There is an active community of lawyers in almost every field on Twitter and LinkedIn. Posting thoughtful updates about legal news or developments in your area of interest is a great way to show that you are engaged and informed. When job posts go up, they are often shared on social media, so staying active on these sites is a great way to learn about opportunities as they become available.
Finally, consider writing blog posts about areas of the law that interest you. You might be able to get these published by an established blog. Alternatively, you can start your own blog on a free platform such as Medium or WordPress. A well written law blog can make a strong impression on a potential employer and can be a really great way to showcase your legal research and writing skills.
3. Make Time for Networking and do so thoughtfully
As a lawyer, there are few things more important than your professional network. You’ll need to rely on peers and mentors throughout your career to help guide career decisions, make referrals, and vouch for you to potential employers and clients. During your job search, make time to network with other lawyers. With social distancing recommendations and stay-at-home orders in place in most places, some local bar associations and professional groups are now offering virtual presentations, coffee chats, and happy hours using videoconferencing software. Sign up for email lists that will notify you about these events and keep an eye out for these on social media.
If you can, schedule remote coffee meetings with local attorneys who might be able to help you with your job search. You can ask for more information about how they found their position and get advice about how to navigate the current job market. Always be professional and courteous to other lawyers and consider writing a handwritten thank-you note as a follow-up if you meet with someone one-on-one.
4. Expand your Horizons and cast a wide net
You may have entered law school with a specific vision about how your career would unfold and what type of role you’d be in upon graduation. Unfortunately, a bad economy can force you to change your plans and rethink your early career strategy.
As a recent graduate or new lawyer, you should never be too picky about your first few jobs after law school. You may find more success if you search in smaller legal markets or shift your focus to a practice area on which the economy has had less of an impact. Treat your first job as a steppingstone to the career of your dreams. Your dream job might be closer than you think!
5. Stay Positive and don’t give up
A prolonged job search can have an impact on your self-esteem and motivation. Try to maintain a positive outlook and don’t give up on your job search too soon. If you need advice beyond what your law school’s career office can offer, you may want to consider speaking with an experienced legal career coach.
Searching for a legal job in an uncertain economy may take more time than you’d like, but we have seen many recent law school graduates and early-career land amazing jobs after a strategic search. Good luck with your applications and try to remain patient — the right opportunity will come your way.
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