Adam Avitable, a Career Counseling Manager at Legal Authority, a firm that devotes itself to marketing job-seeking attorneys to various kinds of legal employers
, has been counseling both law students and established attorneys for several years now and, in the process, has reached some interesting and provocative conclusions about how attorneys, both individually and as a group, tend to approach the task of searching for a job.
"Most attorneys go about their job search
all wrong," says Avitable, who holds a Juris Doctor
from Washington University Law School in St. Louis. "They peruse local and national legal newspapers and magazines and if they see a job that interests them, only then do they apply."
When asked to critique such an approach, Avitable smiles. "Well, for starters," he says, "The 'Let's see what's out there' approach is rather disorganized and haphazard in my opinion. Furthermore, it's passive rather than pro-active. I've also noticed that when attorneys look for jobs, whether they realize it or not, their tendency is to seek what seems familiar or close to what they've already been doing. When they focus so narrowly, they pre-judge their adaptive abilities…the thinking process in bankruptcy law, for instance, is not that much different from real estate…and they miss out on the opportunity to branch out and try different things. More than anything else, I think, this frustrates me the most when talking with attorneys and law students. Take some chances, I tell them. True, you don't want to stray too far from your experience base, but some latitude is perfectly acceptable."
What about law students? Avitable was asked. What advice do you have for them?
"A reporter for the New York Times
asked me this several weeks ago for an article he was doing," Avitable said, "and I'll tell you substantially what I told them. Unlike established attorneys who try to focus too narrowly when looking for their next job, law students tend not to focus at all and are often wildly unrealistic about their abilities and their opportunities. I'll get calls from law students in the bottom half of their class at a Tier III law school wanting to join a large firm. I have to tell them they don't have a chance."
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