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Your Placement Office and the NALP Forms

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No matter what type of legal job you are looking for, your law school placement office is usually the best place to start. Therefore, you should visit your school's placement office immediately upon starting law school, or soon thereafter. Familiarize yourself wjrf) its resources. You should also introduce yourself to the director of the placement office (or his assistant) by making an appointment with him to discuss your long- and short-term employment goals and ways to attain them.

Most placement offices run on-campus interview programs for students seeking summer and post-graduate legal jobs. There are usually strict deadlines for signing up to participate in these programs. Traditionally, most law students have found work by participating in such on-campus interviews. Accordingly, you should find out when the signup deadlines are for your schools on-campus interviews, and comply with them well in advance.

On-campus interviews are usually held for second-year students seeking summer associate positions and third-year students seeking jobs after graduation. Employers schedule interviews during the first few months of the fall semester. Additionally, in the past, another set of on-campus interviews typically have been held during the spring semester for first-year students seeking summer jobs and for third-year students who have not yet found post-graduation employment. Although such spring interviews still exist, they are diminishing in number due to the economic factors discussed at the beginning of this chapter.

Virtually all legal employers participating in on-campus interviews will fill out and send to your placement office a data form published by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). NALP is a nonprofit educational organization whose membership is drawn from both legal employers and law schools. It has generally been successful in setting uniform standards for interviewing and hiring law students. NALP Forms contain certain information about the legal employer in question, including the number of attorneys it employs, its primary areas of practice (for example, environmental, real estate, administrative, labor law, etc.), the number of minority or handicapped attorneys it employs, and the average number of billable hours its attorneys work.

The NALP Form also contains a section for the employer to list the person or persons responsible for administering or overseeing the hiring of attorneys and law students. Although this person's precise title varies from employer to employer, it usually is something similar to director of recruitment or hiring coordinator. The NALP Form also provides a space for a narrative statement concerning a legal employer's special characteristics, such as its work atmosphere. You should carefully read the NALP Forms for legal employers you are considering applying to for a job.

In addition to those legal employers who will be conducting on-campus interviews, there are some legal employers not interviewing on campus who are still interested in hiring law students from that particular school. Usually these employers also submit completed NALP Forms to that school's placement office along with letters expressing their interest in receiving resumes from the school's students. Such potential employers should be included in your job search.

Most placement offices will have a copy of NALP's Directory of Legal Employers. This directory contains NALP Forms for over 1,000 legal employers who are indexed by, among other things, geographical location, office size, and type of employer (Government, Corporate, Public Interest Groups, and All Employers).

WestLaw, a computer research data base, also contains NALP Forms. Most law students learn how to use WestLaw during their first year of law school and can access the system through computers kept in their school s law library. (Additional information on using WestLaw can be obtained by calling 1-800-WestLaw.)

You should use the NALP Directory to identify legal employers that seem suited to your abilities and interests, even if they are not interviewing on your campus. Before taking the time to send a resume, however, call the contact person listed on the NALP Form to verify that the legal employer has some interest in receiving it.

The NALP Directory also contains the NALP Principles and Standards for Law Placement and Recruitment Activities (the NALP Guidelines). The NALP Guidelines set forth certain employment and job-seeking principles along with general standards for the timing and acceptance of offers. Almost all reputable legal employers and law schools abide by the NALP Guidelines. Employers generally expect that law students will abide by them as well. Accordingly, you should read the NALP Guidelines before you start your job search. Most placement offices provide copies of these guidelines to their students.

Besides NALP Forms, you also can find in most placement offices sign-up sheets for, or information on, various programs designed to help students increase their job-hunting skills. These programs often include mock interviews and resume-writing workshops. You should take advantage of these programs if they are available at your school.

Your placement office should also have information on which legal employers have traditionally hired students from your school. Obviously, such employers deserve a closer look than those who have never hired a student from your school. Placement offices and your school's clerkship committee (if it has one) may be able to help students find judicial clerkships and externships; such positions tend to enhance a student's resume and increase her marketability as a lawyer. Ads for part-time legal jobs are also normally listed or posted in the placement office throughout the school year.

In summary, familiarize yourself with and use the many resources available in your law schools placement office. Doing so will vastly enhance your job-hunting prospects.

Before you go into any interview with a legal employer, you should do some research. Specifically, you need to find out as much about that legal employer as possible. What types of law do its attorneys practice? Does the legal employer have a specialty? How many people does it employ? Who are some of its key attorneys? Does the legal employer have more than one office? If so, where are they located? What clients does the legal employer serve? What is the academic and professional background of the particular attorney(s) you will be interviewing with? The more you know about the employer before you step into the interview, the better it will go.

Besides the NALP Forms, you should also review the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory listing for the legal employer in question. This directory contains practice profiles on most law firms and corporate legal departments, along with individual professional biographies (listing undergraduate and law degrees, clerkships, publications, bar affiliations, practice areas, and other accomplishments) for the attorneys who work for them. Most law libraries keep the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory at the reference desk.

Before going to any interview, you also need to prepare by anticipating some of the questions commonly asked. Almost universally, your interviewer will ask why you want to work for his firm or agency. For each employer with whom you interview, have a convincing answer prepared for this question. If, for example, you are interviewing with the legal employer because a fellow law student raved about working for the employer, pass this information along to the interviewer. If you picked this employer because one of its clients recommended it as a good firm, tell the interviewer this. If you have no such personal insight on the employer, at least mention that you were impressed by its narrative statement on the NALP Form (make sure you remember some details though), or that you like its primary practice areas.

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP)


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