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Choose the Law Job That Is Fit For You

published February 16, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 5 votes, average: 4.3 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Each profession will likely require an initial time investment of low pay and a willingness to increase qualifications through education, training, and certifications. If you are an aspiring legal professional, you should consider whether your personal traits, habits, and characteristics lend themselves to a successful career. By the creation of a list of personal traits in order of competency and career preferences carefully prioritized, you may compare your abilities with those discussed in this article and required in the professions discussed here.

Evaluate Career Options

Finding legal employment could be a task. Initially, you should decide what type of profession you would eventually like to have, and then you should assess the type of employment for which you qualify now. If this is not the profession you ultimately want, you should determine what type of position will best prepare you for eventual employment in your field of choice. Here are some other considerations that you should investigate.

1. Do you want a law firm or organization as an employer? Approximately 78 percent of all attorneys enter private practice. Thus, many more traditional career opportunities are in private firm practice or devoted to services for private practice law firms. Potential employers of legal professionals, excluding private practice firms, include the following.
  • Governments
  • Including courthouses
  • Judges
  • District attorneys' offices, and public defender offices
  • Law schools,
  • Paralegal schools, and legal secretarial schools
  • Corporations
  • Military
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution organizations
  • Insurance groups
  • Legislatures and executive offices
  • Libraries
  • Title and abstract companies
  • Mortgage companies and other lending organizations
  • Bill collection agencies
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Self-employment opportunities

2. Is the size of the firm or organization important? If it is, you should search according to your preference. Smaller firms or organizations tend to be more individualized than larger ones but offer lower pay and fewer benefits. However, the larger the firm, the more prestigious it tends to be, with higher pays and better benefits. A large firm could operationally be equivalent to a small one if you work with only a select group of attorneys and staff. By looking at the size of firms entered by attorneys, legal professionals can gauge where the most employment opportunities are. Since approximately 68 percent of all new attorneys enter firms that have fewer than 20 attorneys, there are likely more employment opportunities at smaller firms. However, if you live in a major metropolitan area that has several conglomerate law firms, this may not hold true. These statistics show that the odds of gaining employment are higher with smaller firms.

3. Is there is a particular area of law in which you would like to work? Areas of law commonly include corporate and business law, employment law, family law, personal injury and medical malpractice, estate planning and probate, bankruptcy, administrative law, elder law, juvenile justice, criminal law, insurance law, and constitutional law, to name a few. You should find a job that will allow you to work in some capacity in the area of law in which you would like exposure.

4. Do you have a preference for litigation- or non-litigation-type of work? Although most legal work is paper-intensive, litigation work tends to have more time pressure due to filing deadlines than non-litigation work. Litigation work also involves more contact with clients who are frequently frantic and emotional. Those who do not want to deal with clients as often, could prefer non-litigation work in drafting wills and trusts, corporate minutes, or title opinions and abstracts. However, it is easier to change jobs from a litigation sup port position to a non-litigation position, and generally, you will likely acquire more experiences related to other professions in a litigation support role.

If you are unable to pursue the career of your choice, you should consider an alternate; for example, starting off as a filing clerk instead of a legal secretary may not be such a bad idea, especially if you are working with a law firm or an insurance company. This experience will educate you about what legal professions are really like and whether it is an option that you truly want. You will become familiar with pleadings and correspondence, and attendant legal terminology and it will help you get your foot in the door. Eventually, your responsibilities will include those of other positions and you will receive a promotion or be more qualified for the next job hunt.

Market Yourself

Prospective legal job candidates should investigate all posted career opportunities in classified ads, on the Internet, at local schools, and in the state and/or county bar journals. A states bar journal is often the best source of job listings and finding out about the local legal community. Applicants should subscribe to their state bar journal to keep tabs on employment opportunities as well as legal news. Other methods to gain insightful job leads include
  • Career services at your alma mater and other schools.
  • Internet job hunting.
  • Networking.
  • Headhunters.
  • Directories of corporate information.
  • Newspapers, local and national.
  • Temporary agencies and other employment agencies.
  • Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Locator.
  • Westlaw and Lexis.

The current trend in employment is applicant selection through the Internet and computerized applicant tracking systems. Most law firms do not yet utilize these resources but the trend is that in the future they will. Therefore, unless you live in a large metropolitan area, you should probably use bar journals, newspaper, and temporary agencies to locate potential employers. However, other organizations and companies have legal departments that do utilize this technology. The larger and more technologically advanced an organization is, the more likely it will use cyberspace to locate potential employees.
In cyberspace, you can locate many available positions with different organizations in legal fields. Many potential employers have web sites that allow applicants to post their resumes directly on their site. Other general career-related web sites allow applicants to research available positions and post their resumes. Here are some of the general career Internet sites.

Evaluate Offers

Attorneys are devising more and more unusual pay structures and arrangements. If you are hired as an independent contractor, you will be responsible for taxes that would have been paid by your employer, in addition to the taxes you would usually pay. Further, as an independent consultant, you will likely receive no benefits including sick pay or vacation time. Here are some factors you should review when considering an offer of employment as an independent contractor.
  • Salary
  • Association fees
  • Examination fees
  • Membership fees
  • Continuing education fees and expenses
  • Medical
  • 401(K) Plan
  • Paid vacation and sick leave
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Health club fees
  • Other educational fees
  • Other benefits

If you have little or no experience, you should be primarily concerned with gaining entry into your chosen profession and whether a potential employer will provide you with an appropriate opportunity for training and guidance, instead of salary or benefits. The income and benefits will come with increased experience, training, and education.

A Few Key Points to Remember
  • Prioritize your career interests and capabilities and determine which career is right for you.
  • The best ways to Learn about available positions is through state bar journals, the newspaper, and legal temporary agencies.
  • Do not forget to investigate cyber opportunities to market yourself and seek out potential employers.
  • When evaluating offers, do not underestimate the value of experience in entering a new profession. Experience must be acquired before you realize the benefits of higher pay and other peaks such as health and life insurance, vacation and paid holidays, and various allowances.

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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.

More about Harrison

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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