Twenty-two million. This is the number of people who have filed unemployment claims since a national emergency was declared in the United States due to Covid-19. This is the number recorded as of the date that I’ve written this article, and this number will likely be higher by the time you’re reading it. This figure is staggering to say the least. Many small businesses have had to close their doors, many companies have had to lay off or furlough an overwhelming number of employees and upcoming graduates from the class of 2020 are beginning to see internships and job opportunities crumble right before them. The economic downturn the US is now facing all but confirms that a recession is coming. In times like these, the fear and uncertainty we experience is absolutely justified. As it currently stands, there is no end in sight to this pandemic and even when it does come to an end, we can’t even begin to comprehend the long term repercussions that will impact our economy.
However, in trying to plan for the future, we can always look to the certainty of the past; and what we do know is that we have gotten through several recessions and although the journey was tough, we landed on our feet. What we do know is that the class of 2008 faced similar uncertainty and although their path into post graduate work was not very smooth, they ultimately made it there. Finally, what we do know is that you have made it through three very difficult years of intense, challenging work that has undeniably prepared you for the trials ahead. Therefore, to the 2020 JD graduates, a recession may be coming, but I implore you to not give up hope. Finding a job will certainly be hard. However, putting a plan in place will help to appease some of the fears you are facing and will ultimately get you started in your career. Here are some tips to finding post graduate jobs during a recession.
1. Revisit Your Career Plan
The first step I would recommend is using your time in quarantine to revisit your career plan with your career advisor. As a 3L, it’s likely that you already had a plan prepared to guide you through your job applications and this may have been the same plan that secured you interviews throughout the past year or even guided you to a post graduate job offer. Our new reality however, is one where some of these interviews may have been canceled or job offers may have been deferred or pulled completely. I recommend revisiting this plan and realigning your career path in light of our current experience. This may mean considering alternatives that may be a bit different from what you envisioned at the start of your career. Were you planning on working in a firm or in-house at a corporate start up? These employers may face a strong financial hit from a recession and may not be able to staff new hires in the near future and may halt hiring completely or even ask new hires to delay their start. Considering these possibilities, you may need to consider jobs that may not be your ideal start but can still bring you income. This may mean considering legal jobs within essential services, considering fellowship opportunities or even remote contract work.
2. Look for Legal Jobs in Essential Services
Restructuring your career plan may mean looking for jobs in essential services. Although many jobs have come to a halt during the COVID-19 quarantine, state stay at home orders have excluded essential services. Many of these industries have been able to continue their workflow even while everything else seems to have come to a gripping halt. Therefore, you could consider finding a legal job within the healthcare industry, social services, building code enforcement, telecommunications etc. Now, you may have to get creative here, because you may not necessarily be able to walk straight into an in-house/staff attorney role for any of these employers. However, there may be a variety of JD advantage roles available that could be a perfect fit. Also, even if a JD advantage role isn’t available, these are the fields that need our help the most right now. Starting your career within any capacity with these employers, could be of great benefit to our national community and also to your future job search.
3. Consider Alternatives to Traditional Employment
I would also recommend considering alternatives to traditional employment. The next year or two may be a great opportunity to take advantage of post graduate fellowships. These are typically offered to JDs working in public interest. I would recommend first checking with your own law school to see what fellowships they may offer. My law school had an exceptional fellowship program that gave many graduates the financial security they needed to start their career in an area of law that people needed a lawyer’s help the most. Your law school may just have something similar available.
You may also want to consider accepting contractor positions for different firms or organizations needing temporary assistance. Many lawyers already look to temporary contract roles in legal research, writing, discovery etc. as an additional source of income. Our recent transition to a remote work lifestyle may give you the flexibility to juggle several contract roles that could equate to full time income. LinkedIn and Legility are two great sites to look for these roles.
Another consideration during this time may be to continue your studies. Depending on your chosen career path, an LLM or even MBA degree may be extremely beneficial. Continuing your education during the recession could prove advantageous as it may set you up for even more success in a future job search.
Finally, network like you never have before! Although you may be limited to online legal networking at this time, who you know is always the best way to get your foot in the door.
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.