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Getting Placed as a Labor Attorney

published December 27, 2012

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 7 votes, average: 4.6 out of 5)
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The development of a resume and cover letter are the next steps to take after goals, practice area, and geographic location decisions have been made.

Law school and college placement offices should have a counseling staff available to assist students with the writing of job descriptions, the establishment of resume format and writing style, and the sequence of listings on a resume. Counselors will also usually assist students with the drafting of a labor-related cover letter. Most offices will expect students to prepare rough drafts of cover letters and resumes to bring to the initial counseling appointment. Students should keep in mind when targeting a specific area of law practice, that practitioners recommend developing of a special resume and cover letter that emphasize and explain that special interest.

See 6 Things Attorneys and Law Students Need to Remove from Their Resumes ASAP If They Want to Get Jobs with the Most Prestigious Law Firms for more information.

A resume emphasizing the applicants interest in labor law should include the following:
  1. A clear statement of this interest—but, be aware that this specific resume should only be used for contacting firms that specialize in labor law; students should develop another more general resume for "nonspecialty" employers.A list of all labor-related electives taken in both law school and college. (Because employers usually do not request transcripts until after the initial interview selections are made, including relevant courses on the resume is the only way to ensure the employer's awareness of the student's academic background.)
  2. Previous experience: job descriptions should highlight experiences of special interest to a labor practitioner (e.g., list "organizing a new procedure for the investigation of unemployment compensation claims" before "filed documents.")
  3. References selected for their connection to a labor course taken in law school or a labor position previously held. (Of course, students must be sure to obtain permission from these individuals before listing them.)

As is standard for all letters of application, each cover letter should be individually typed and personalized with the name of the hiring contact. In writing a letter that emphasizes a special practice interest labor, it is important to mention and briefly explain a labor-related experience, to call attention to academic elective concentration, and, especially, to express a strong interest in the field based upon extensive experience and study (if, in fact, that is the case).

To develop a mailing list of potential employers, consult the many sources available that list labor attorneys. Directories include the Labor Section Directory of the American Bar Association (available to members of the ABA and from some libraries), Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (the law firm practice directory), and the Law and Business Directory of Corporate Counsel.

Other resources include law professor, alumni labor practitioners as distinguished in the school's alumni directory, and, more personally available to the individual, contact names suggested by supervisors or colleagues for whom the student has worked during law school. All of these resources should provide a comprehensive mailing and contact list for the targeted geographic region.

There are certain types of employers that should be contacted in the fall through the school's on- and off-campus recruitment efforts, while others should be contacted individually by the student later in the academic year. Dividing the newly created mailing list according to the following subheads will be helpful in organizing a schedule of mailing:


Large law firms
Federal government agencies
Large corporations


Small/medium law firms
State & municipal agencies
Small Corporations

Early in the fall, students should consult the placement office for the schedule of on-campus employer visits. The second wave of application, during the winter, is aimed at firms, agencies, and organizations that tend to hire more sporadically as openings occur. (Many require bar membership before a permanent offer will be tendered, and this also affects when they will consider applications from newly graduated students.)

Interview selection usually is made by employers in the early fall. Most placement offices offer mock interview practice sessions, handouts with sample interview questions, or panel presentations fully explaining the interview process.

Once interviews are completed and an offer is extended, a decision to accept or reject will have to be made within a mutually agreed-upon time limit. (If a student is fortunate enough to receive multiple offers, that decision will become more complex.) The student will find it helpful at this juncture to return to the list of likes, dislikes, skills and experiences and match these against information about job responsibilities and growth potential gathered from initial research and subsequent interviews.

Another important aspect to consider when making a decision about an entry level position is that of career advancement. Union attorneys surveyed emphasized that positions with unions that have in-house counsel, with private firms handling union-side matters, or with the NLRB or Department of Labor would provide a new lawyer with the maximum opportunity for advancement and specialization. Management attorneys saw the most opportunity for advancement in positions with corporations, private firms, or government.

Many practitioners on both sides were very enthusiastic about the value of spending the first year after graduation serving as a law clerk to a federal judge. An Atlanta management attorney and a New Orleans attorney both gave essentially the same reasons, also reflected by other lawyers who recommended a judicial clerkship: the experience improves a student's research ability, sharpens the ability to analyze facts and materials, and gives a singularly unique education in court procedures and decision making. A Boston attorney also added that it provides an additional year to mature professionally. After the year's clerkship, a student can easily enter either government labor practice or private practice.

Practitioners were also asked to comment about unique difficulties faced by (or special opportunities available to) women and minorities in the pursuit of career advancement. Most attorneys feel that the labor law practice climate for women and minorities is no different than in any other practice area. In the past, the labor-side environment was considered by some lawyers to be "too rough" for women, but the increasing number of women in the work force, is helping to break down this kind of stereotype. Employers seem increasingly receptive to hiring women. An Atlanta attorney suggests that as more and more women enter all legal practice areas, entry barriers into labor law are virtually gone for women, and almost gone for minorities. He does view minorities as reluctant to apply for management side positions because of their expectation that law firms and corporations will be reluctant to consider them. In his opinion, the only significant factor that will affect how an applicant will be considered by a potential employer, and how that individual will fare once in the position, is that person's ability to generate new client business for the employer.

There are those who question whether there is equal opportunity for women and minorities, but evidence is clear that the environment is better than it was in the past and that it is steadily improving.

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Alternative Summary

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’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads 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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