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General Legal Job-Hunting Tips

published July 16, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 11 votes, average: 4.6 out of 5)
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No matter what type of legal job you are looking for, or when, the following general tips and guidelines should be kept in mind.

During the interview, you should also be prepared to discuss the classes you have taken in law school (always a favorite), your past work for other employers, and your legal writing skills. Many legal employers will also want to see one or more writing samples. Accordingly, bring alpng some high-quality samples whether or not you have been specifically asked to do so. Furthermore, employers will also want to see your law school transcript. Have copies available for the interviewer. If your transcript has a low mark or two, some interviewers may also ask you to explain what happened. Such a question is not a pleasant one to deal with. The best approach is simply to explain what did happen, to indicate that you learned from the experience, and that you (to the extent that such is actually the case) are doing quite well in your classes presently.

Finally, bring several copies of your resume, transcript, and writing samples to the interview even if you previously supplied them to the employer. The interviewer may not have received them, or may have misplaced them. Being able to provide them on the spot makes the interview more meaningful and makes a good impression.

Present a Good Image

During an interview (and in all dealings with legal employers), it is crucial that you present a good image of yourself. You present such an image by the way you dress and speak, in the materials you provide, and by your conduct and demeanor in dealing with the legal employer.

It may not be fair, but superficial perceptions often do matter even if they are not reflective of your true abilities, so pay attention to details.

An example best illustrates the preceding point. Recently, an attorney one of us knows related that she had received a resume from a top student from a top law school. However, she did not give the student an interview because his cover letter contained several typographical errors. She figured that if he could not take the time to proofread the cover letter for his resume, he would not take the time to properly review any work he did for her. This story demonstrates the fundamental principle that all material you give a potential employer should be as perfect as you can make it. This includes cover letters, follow-up letters, resumes, and writing samples.

Other "simple" details are similarly crucial in the interviewing process. When going to an interview, make sure that you arrive for the interview a few minutes early. Getting to an interview late, or on time but out of breath, sweating, and disheveled, makes you appear irresponsible. Dress professionally. Blue or gray business suits are always a safe bet. If you need a haircut before the interview, get it. In short, you need to appear at your best when you meet the interviewer.

During the interview, make every effort to speak clearly and to be personable. (Have a drink of water or coffee if your mouth gets too dry.) Most legal employers use hiring committees to decide who to hire. Often, the person interviewing a candidate assumes (or has been told) that the hiring committee will determine whether the candidate is capable of doing competent work. Such an interviewer is thus mainly interested in figuring out whether he or she could work with the candidate. For this reason, it is important that you appear to be a likable person who is able to listen to and communicate with others. Demonstrate that you are a real person with interests beyond simply studying and writing 50-page briefs. A simple way of showing this is to put some interesting hobbies, interests, or activities that are not law-related on your resume. Also, remember to occasionally address the interviewer by name during your discussions with him; this adds a personal touch and lets him know you are paying attention.

Be Straightforward and Honest

Many students view looking for a job as some sort of game. It is not. The best approach in dealing with legal employers is to be straightforward and honest. If a particular law firm is your top choice, make sure that firm knows it. If you are willing to accept a firm's employment offer as soon as it can be given, let that be known. If not, apprise the interviewer of that fact and explain why. (Be careful, however, to reaffirm your interest in any offer more than 30 days old. The NALP Guidelines allow an employer to revoke an offer if a student does not reaffirm his interest within 30 days of the offer letter.) Your straightforwardness, if sincere, will be appreciated.

Also, do not under any circumstances misrepresent anything about yourself or your record to a legal employer. "Resume inflation" in any form is dishonest, unethical, and fraudulent. Presenting false information to an employer may not only prevent you from participating in future interviews with other employers, but could well emerge as a character issue that could prevent your admission to the bar. In short, explain, if necessary, but never deceive.

Be Aggressive

You need to be aggressive in today's job market. Being aggressive does not mean being rude. Rather, it simply means that you cannot be afraid to pursue leads, to pick up the phone and call strangers who can help you find a job, and to follow through with connections you develop. Most of your fellow students also will be trying hard to find a job. To be successful in your own search, you will need to be at least as aggressive as they are.

Be Flexible

Many law students needlessly restrict their chances of getting a job by announcing to every potential employer that they are only interested in a certain type of practice. Law students who do not want to be litigators (lawyers who go to court to represent clients), for example, often make this mistake. Even if you think that you ultimately want to be a business or transactional attorney who drafts complex contracts, do not tell the firm you most want to work for that you are only willing to do transactional work. If you do, you may not get a job offer from that firm if (as is common today) it does not presently have any openings in its transactional department for first-year attorneys. You also may lose out on a chance to demonstrate to that firm that you are a hardworking and bright individual worthy of receiving an offer to work in its transactional department when an opening subsequently arises.

Other students make the mistake of insisting that they want to limit their practice to a relatively narrow field, like communications law. Others insist that they want to be a lawyer specializing in a dying or waning field, like antitrust law. At least initially, your chances of finding a legal job will increase if you are more flexible about the type of law you are willing to practice. Further, if you do want to specialize, make sure that the area you are interested in is growing, or at least is still a thriving and healthy field. Currently, the following areas of practice, among others, are growing in importance:
  • Bankruptcy
  • Intellectual Property
  • Environmental Law

published July 16, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 11 votes, average: 4.6 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.