Alternative Legal Careers: Job Hunting Tools

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There are three main methods utilized in the job hunting process:
  1. Referrals
  2. Cold Calling
  3. Intermediaries

Of the three methods used, which is the most effective and how might you utilize these methods for the optimum likelihood of success?

  1. Referral—According to studies of job hunters, referrals bring about the best jobs, the most expressed job satisfaction, and the greatest likelihood that a job will be created for the candidate. The key to the successful referral is most likely to be an acquaintance who can be objective about you, not a spouse or close friend.
  2. Cold Calling—The cold call is the second most successful way to find a position. This refers to literally approaching the employer and asking for work. People will do anything to avoid cold calling because it is so rejection oriented.
  3. Use Intermediaries—This is the least effective method. It includes sending letters and resumes in response to job ads and seeking the assistance of employment agencies or headhunters.

It would appear that the intermediary method would be the most "logical"; it consists of candidates formally contacting employers about listed vacancies or employing the assistance of a third party to contact employers. The problem is that the labor market is not logical.

A reason that cold calling can be effective is that it requires no effort on the part of the employer. Why should an employer go to the trouble of writing an ad or paying an employment agency if qualified candidates will seek to be hired without this expenditure? Some career counselors would suggest that one should be suspicious of a position that has been advertised—why was it not filled through the informal process? Employers may be genuinely working to satisfy affirmative action when they place an ad. You should certainly actively pursue any employer who has advertised for a position, but understand that only a small percentage of people are successful in using this method.
What this should encourage you to do is to spend time on the referral process. This is not simply a question of who you know; it is also a matter of who you meet. What a job candidate is doing is penetrating an existing information network. In order to do this, you need to behave like a spy or like an investigative reporter seeking to write the definitive article on your given choice of field or position. Utilize directories, professional associations, informal networking spots, charitable organizations, and recreational areas. You want to find out about the special characteristics of the job market you wish to penetrate. Obviously an outgoing personality has a distinct advantage in this process. Remember as you become involved in this network to ask people for things that they can say "yes" to.

Many candidates feel uncomfortable "using" their contacts or seeking job referrals. This is understandable. No one wants to back a friend or relative into a corner by asking the contact person to find them a job. This is not what the referral process is about. Remember that, at least initially, you are purely seeking information about jobs, work environments, the job market, and certain employers. Approaching people with a list of employers you have contacted, interviews you have scheduled, and positions you are considering will help them to help you. It's much easier for them to add to your lists than it is for them to create the lists for you. In the "real world" (i.e., after law school) job-hunting requires effort and creativity. The alternative to employment by referral, which is simply interviewing for a position and getting hired, is as unusual as getting married after the first date. Referral is helpful in the "dating" process because it gives you, the candidate, more information about the position and the organization. Once the interviewing process begins, both the candidate and the employer are on their best behavior. Remember that people who accept positions through the referral process stay longer at their jobs.

All of this certainly takes time. The third year law student who comes into the office at the beginning of second semester with very little sense of direction about his or her career interests and wants to immediately find a position is bound to be in a bind. There is no "hurry up" method of developing contacts and penetrating a job network. This is something that students are encouraged to do from the very beginning of—or prior to beginning—law school.

One of the easiest ways to develop a personal network is to get to know upper-class students. A first year student should look at all of the students in the third year class as job referral agents. Because of the pressure of first year, the intensity of the work, and the natural camaraderie that develops among classmates, there is a tendency for you as a first or second year student to develop contact with upperclass students. When it is then time to look for a position, you will have built in referral agents in the job market from whom to seek counsel, advice, and referral.

When you are seeking information about a particular field, you must understand the model of networking. Too many candidates assume that "networking" is just another way of asking for a job. This is not the case. Candidates who approach employers as if they are seeking information and instead ask for a job violate the principles of networking and make it more difficult for other candidates to utilize the process in the future. Remember:

The purpose of networking is to gain information and to seek advice.

Absolutely do not ask for a job or about a job. This is the one cardinal rule.

You have set up this meeting to find out the specifics of this career. Some areas you may wish to explore in the meeting are:(what does the person do, what do they like about the job, and what do they dislike) So how would someone land a job in this field? What level of skills, experience and knowledge are typically required at the entry level?

Telephone people to set up appointments. If you have been referred, mention the name of the person who referred you. Write a simple letter of introduction. Ask the person on the receiving end if they will consider an informational interview with you. Include a copy of your resume. Close the letter by indicating that you will call them in a week to try to set up a time. Make sure that you limit the amount of time you need to spend with this person; twenty to thirty minutes should be sufficient.

Try to see a person in his or her own environment. This will give you more information about the employer and the work setting. Lunch is not the best time or place, as you are outside the setting. Try and meet before, after, or during regular working hours, and always set up the meeting for the ease of the employer.

About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About LawCrossing
LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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