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Law Practice Settings

published July 22, 2015

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Law Practice Settings

Law Firms
 Advantages of Law Firm Practice

 Disadvantages of Law Firm Practice
 Getting a Law Firm Job as a Law Student


Public Interest Work
 Types of Public Interest Employers
 Advantages of Public Interest Work
 Disadvantages of Public Interest Work
 Getting a Public Interest Job


Government Jobs
 Types of Government Employers
 Advantages of Government Work
 Disadvantages of Government Work
 Getting a Government Job


Judicial Clerkships
 Advantages of a Clerkship
 Disadvantages of a Clerkship
 Getting a Clerkship
 Courts with Clerkships


Judgeships
 Advantages of a Judgeship
 Disadvantages of a Judgeship
 Getting a Judgeship


Corporations
 Advantages of Corporate Counsel
 Disadvantages of Corporate Counsel
 Getting a Corporate Counsel Position


International Legal Employment
 Types of International Employers
 Advantages of International Law Jobs
 Disadvantages of International Law Jobs
 Getting an International Legal Job


Nontraditional and Non-legal Careers
 Examples of Nontraditional Careers
 Marketing Yourself to a Non-legal Employer


An awareness of the many practice area specialties is only part of the career puzzle. Law students and attorneys must also understand the variety of practice settings where they can work. Some factors students and attorneys must weigh when choosing an employer include salary, flexibility, and service to society, prestige, atmosphere, job security, size, location, travel, and work expectations.
 
Law Firms

Even before law school begins, many students dream of working at a law firm. Most law firms offer relatively high salaries, interesting work, prestige, and the opportunity to flex legal muscles in a courtroom setting. Three "official" categories of law firms exist: large firms, having 251 or more attorneys; medium-sized firms, having 51 to 250 attorneys; and small firms, having fewer than 50 attorneys. However, these designations are purely arbitrary. For example, a firm in New York City might have 300 attorneys and only be considered a medium-sized New York firm, while a firm in Salt Lake City might have 100 attorneys and be considered a large Salt Lake firm. Law firm stereotypes have followed these general preconceptions: large law firms are competitive, impersonal, high paying, prestigious, and hour-intensive with gradual opportunity for client contact and real responsibility for cases. Smaller law firms are collegial, family-oriented, low paying, and mentor-accessible. Additionally, small-firm attorneys work reasonable hours and have added responsibility, increased client contact, and greater opportunity for partnership. Although these stereotypes may contain a grain of truth, in the final analysis these descriptions are just broad generalizations. Law firms are as varied as the attorneys that practice in them. Small firm "sweat shops" exist where the partners seem only to care about their share of the profits, as do large firms that place family, community, and social obligations high on their list of priorities. Medium-sized firms may have characteristics of both large and small firms. Thus, it is important to look beyond the common stereotypes before deciding which law firm fits your career goals.
 
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Advantages of Law Firm Practice

In General

Because the firm's client base is constantly changing, work at a law firm is rarely the same from day-to-day. Even if the firm deals primarily with one legal area, such as tax, clients bring in a constant barrage of novel legal issues. These novel issues present a challenge to even the most experienced lawyers and often demand thoughtful, imaginative arguments. Additionally, a law firm is often a great place for associates and clerks to get their feet wet. The quality of legal training at law firms is reflected on the bench, in government, in corporations, and in a wealth of other positions. Many judges, law professors, corporate counsel, and politicians began their careers at a law firm. Firms give new attorneys and summer clerks an opportunity to learn the basics of law practice-filing briefs and memoranda, meeting with clients, engaging in discovery, and addressing the court-while providing a safety-net of experienced attorneys to supervise and assist when necessary. This "hands-on" experience is critical for making contacts, learning the ropes of the legal profession, and making the transition from law student to lawyer. Finally, attorneys are never "locked-in" to a law firm. Once an attorney feels comfortable with law practice, he or she may stay with the firm; laterally transfer to another firm, to government, or to a corporation; or start a solo practice.

Large Law Firms

A primary advantage of large law firms is that they generally attract the most complex and challenging work. Due to the high stakes involved in major litigation and large transactions, clients in these situations often want to draw on the vast legal and administrative resources of a large firm. Because large firms attract big clients and stimulating work, large-firm attorneys often enjoy an additional advantage-namely, they often rub shoulders with nationally or locally respected attorneys, law firms, business people, companies, government employees, politicians, and government agencies. A second advantage is that because large amounts of money are often involved in litigation or transactions, clients want a well-researched, polished product. Frequently, clients are willing to pay attorneys large legal fees so that the attorneys can offer a high-quality presentation to the court, the client, or the government agency. Generally, these large-firm attorneys also have a deeper pool of resources from which to draw when working on a project. A third advantage of a large firm is that an attorney may specialize in a particular legal area. Associates and summer clerks are often encouraged to "shop around" in the firm to determine what areas interest them. Once the associate selects an area of specialization, a large firm will generally assign a mentor to make sure that the associate is well trained in that field of law. Large firms have the resources to provide superior continuing legal education; so many large firms provide in-house training on a wide variety of issues. They also often encourage young associates to gain "hands on" experience through participation in firm-subsidized pro bono programs. Finally, large law firms pay well. It is not uncommon to find a junior associate whose annual salary is well into six figures. Summer clerks are also paid well and at some firms make $20,000 to $40,000 in one summer. Senior associates usually earn between $130,000 and $300,000 annually, and partners even more.

Small Law Firms

The primary advantage of a small firm is that a relatively new associate or intern will receive substantial responsibilities quickly. Small firms generally hire attorneys who can handle cases with a minimum amount of supervision, thus creating ample room for the demonstration of partnership potential. An additional advantage is that many small firms have become "boutiques" and limit their practice to a particular area, such as tax or real estate. This specialization allows attorneys to demonstrate their experience in a particular area when they are in the courtroom or when they are drafting documents. Finally, small firms provide an opportunity to work closely with other associates and the firm partners. Often, everyone at the firm is well acquainted. In many small firms, this informal relationship among the attorneys reflects a supportive, cooperative atmosphere.

Medium-Sized Firms

Medium-sized firms share many advantages of both the large and small firms. Often a medium-sized firm is large enough to have a variety of practice areas but small enough to allow new associates and interns to have substantial responsibility over cases.
 
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Disadvantages of Law Firm Practice

In General

Law firms also have their share of disadvantages. For instance, clients can be very demanding. Many clients want their problems taken care of as quickly and as inexpensively as possible and can be impatient when they learn that the attorney has other matters that take priority. In addition, long-term clients know how to reach their attorney whether at home or at the office, and some clients exercise this privilege regularly. Late evening and weekend work are common. Firms also have the burden of finding new clients. Because institutions and repeat clients make up only one-half of all legal clients, most law firms have a very fluid client base. Firms must therefore expend time and resources to discover and attract new clients to replace previous ones. Finally, because the client base and the economy are constantly changing, law firms occasionally run into rough economic times. When this happens, firms tend to stop or slow their hiring and increase the workload of their existing associates.

Large Firms

The primary disadvantage of working for a large firm is the high billable hours requirement. Revenues must pay the entire overhead-the facilities, benefits, and employees-for legal work. To pay for this overhead, each associate must bill a minimum number of hours each year. Because larger firms tend to have more overhead than smaller firms, large firms generally require more billable hours from their attorneys. Attorneys in large firms do not work nine to five. They easily work 10 to 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Many of these hours may be spent doing such mundane tasks as proofreading large documents for errors or doing due diligence document review. A second disadvantage is that, because of the large size of the firm, attorneys often know only a small percentage of their colleagues in the office. The size and the rapid pace of large firms discourage attorneys from meeting one another socially. In a firm of 500 attorneys, it is not uncommon for an attorney to know only 100, or 20%, of the other lawyers in the office. The office politics (e.g., distribution of work, chance to make partner, training, and compensation) among the attorneys who do know each other can be daunting. Often partners in these firms do not even know all of the other partners. This can cause attorneys to feel isolated or unimportant within their firm structure. Finally, large firms often demand perfection. For attorneys that are not inclined to open a citation manual while writing a brief, large firm practice is difficult and frustrating. Because large firms and clients want the work to be excellent, and because the associates want to produce excellent work, associates spend many hours at the office-a significant portion of which may not be billed.

Small Firms

Partnership in a small firm often depends on how quickly the firm grows. If the firm experiences a slowdown in business or does not grow as quickly as expected, associates might be forced to look elsewhere for partnership opportunities. Another disadvantage of small firm practice is that, unless the firm specializes in a particular area, attorneys must generally be willing to take every case that comes to them. This means that an associate might work on a $500,000 estate case one day and a trespassing cow case the next day. While this variety makes for interesting work, some attorneys might become frustrated with the "trivial" cases that are assigned to them. Finally, small firms generally do not have the level of prestige and recognition that a medium-sized or large law firm might have. If an attorney is planning a lateral move after several years at the firm, experiences at a smaller firm may not be as marketable as the same experiences at a large firm. Also, firm name recognition is often an important factor when firms and companies hire experienced attorneys.

Medium-Sized Firms

Medium-sized firms share many of the disadvantages of both large and small firms. Overhead might be high, requiring associates to work longer hours, but the cases might be smaller and more "trivial."
 
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Getting a Law Firm Job as a Law Student

Large law firms begin interviewing potential associates and summer clerks in late August and begin hiring in late September. This interviewing and hiring process continues through October and occasionally stretches into November, but students interviewing after September often have a difficult time finding a job with a large firm. It is therefore essential that second- and third-year law students apply to NALP (National Association for Law Placement) employers in August. Students interviewing with large firms should be cautious not to limit their opportunities. Although dozens of large firms come on campus to interview, only a small percentage of students receive offers from these firms. Many large, nationally known law firms hire only those students that are at the top of the class. Large firms generally have a two- or three-tiered hiring process. Often, the student will have an initial screening interview with a member of the firm. If the student passes this screening process, he or she will then have a "callback" interview with a panel or committee made up of firm partners and associates. This interview will often include a lunch or dinner with members of the firm. In most firms, if the student passes this interview he or she will be hired. In a few firms, however, the student will be invited to interview a third time, often with one of the senior partners. Large firms generally look for students with high grades and journal or moot court experience. Medium and small firms typically begin hiring as soon as they can forecast their future workload. These interviews may begin as early as September or as late as April. Occasionally the interviewing and hiring process for these firms will extend as late as May or June. This means that law students looking for work with medium and small firms should never give up! If a student has not received a legal job by April, he or she might still get a "dream job" in May. Students interested in working for medium and small firms should begin submitting resumes in August or September. Students should update their resumes and transcripts regularly, and with each update should include a cover letter stating that they are still interested in a position. More importantly, students should keep in constant phone contact with the employer, asking when the firm will be interviewing.
 
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Public Interest Work

The term "public interest law" is often used to refer to legal areas that focus on and affect public interest issues. Public interest practice includes those organizations representing the public either as attorneys for governmental units or as attorneys for non-profit organizations. This is a diverse sector of the legal services market and encompasses virtually every area of substantive legal work, including advocacy to influence public policy or legislation. Some organizations engage in direct representation of individual clients while others advise governmental agencies as a part of the decision-making and policy-making process. The firms that work in the public interest sector may be non-profit organizations or for-profit law firms with a public interest orientation. These firms often specialize in a particular practice area, such as environmental law or utility rate cases. In addition, a few legal positions, such as Attorney General, often fall under the definition of both public interest work and government work. Public interest employers share many characteristics with private law firms. The work performed, research required, and skills utilized differ little from those required in a private firm. First-year law students may not apply to NALP employers until December 1. In addition, many law firms generally do not hire first-year law students. Tips on applying to law firms as a first-year student are provided later in this handbook in the First-Year Job Search section. However, the public interest sector often differs from the private sector in clientele, resources, and areas of practice. The most pronounced difference between firm practice and public interest practice is the amount and variety of resources available to the attorney. Public interest practitioners tend to be overworked and under budgeted. Public interest law covers a wide range of areas and issues, making it difficult to fit public interest legal work into a static definition. As such, many types of public interest employers exist.
 
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Types of Public Interest Employers

Public Defender's Offices

Public defenders represent indigent clients in criminal cases. The offices may be part of a centralized system or may be localized. In larger jurisdictions, the public defender's office may be divided into units dealing with specialized practice areas, such as appellate or juvenile. Additionally, many jurisdictions provide for private attorneys to handle public defender cases on a contract basis.

Legal Service Organizations

Legal service agencies are non-profit organizations that represent indigent clients in civil cases. Some agencies are limited to handling only certain types of cases, such as domestic violence or children's rights, while others engage in community advocacy or impact legislation. In some areas of the country, legal service support centers have been established to provide additional assistance to attorneys in the local legal services offices. Interns in these offices often research issues relevant to cases in a number of offices.

Public Interest Policy and Advocacy Groups

These organizations are primarily concerned with influencing governmental policy through regulatory comment, lobbying, and advocacy. While there is some overlap, most of these organizations engage in very little litigation. Generally, these organizations have an issue focus (e.g., gun control, hazardous waste, or women's rights), and they can be found on both the liberal and the conservative side of an issue. Interns in these settings often research the status of legislation, draft regulatory comments, and provide information to policy makers.

Public Interest Litigation Groups

These groups primarily seek to litigate or support litigation that impacts particular issues. Often these organizations separate their litigation branch from their policy branch (e.g., NOW Legal Defense Fund and NOW National Headquarters), though it is not uncommon for an organization to combine public policy and public interest litigation functions.

Public Interest Environmental Organizations

These organizations work to protect the environment or to implement programs benefiting the environment. They work in a diverse range of environmental areas, including land trusts, environmental policy organizations, environmental litigation, and preservation organizations.

Trade and Professional Associations

These associations and organizations represent the interests of their members in a variety of contexts. Professional associations generally work in areas of legislative or regulatory policy that impact their membership. Similar positions are found in labor unions.
 
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Advantages of Public Interest Work

The primary advantage of public interest work is that attorneys can use their education to promote an idea in which they firmly believe. For example, an attorney who strongly believes that the U.S. educational system should be changed can do legal work for an organization that strives to develop and implement a new national education plan. Public interest attorneys work for a wide variety of organizations that fall on both sides of any given issue- the NAACP, the ACLU, the John Birch Society, and many more. Because public interest attorneys are typically promoting their own agendas as they work for the public good, they are generally much more satisfied with their jobs than are their private-practice counterparts. The nature of public interest organizations also offers unique opportunities to gain legal experience. New attorneys and legal interns will often be given substantial responsibility and will be exposed to policy issues typically not encountered in the private sector. For first-year students, these positions often provide valuable exposure to legal practice and the opportunity to begin building a resume for future legal positions. Second-year students should focus on experiences that will increase their marketability upon graduation. Recent graduates interested in public interest work should also look for opportunities that will increase their marketability should they later desire to move to the private sector.
 
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Disadvantages of Public Interest Jobs

The primary disadvantage of public interest work is the lack of funding. A substantial number of public interest employers pay either a modest salary to their attorneys or a stipend to their summer interns. However, because of budgetary restrictions, many are unable to provide substantial monetary compensation. To assist law students who are interested in the public interest sector but who cannot afford to work for free, the BYU law school Public Interest Law Forum provides a limited number of scholarships. Several corporations and law firms also offer fellowships to attorneys and law students interested in public interest work. Information on these scholarships and fellowships can be found in the LawCrossing database. In addition, several national programs provide grants or stipends for legal interns to work with specific organizations. Groups concerned with public interest law, such as the National Lawyers Guild, often sponsor these programs or are programs covering legal positions in government, such as the Rhode Island Internship Program or the New York Legislative Intern Program. Occasionally, these budgetary restrictions also limit the amount and quality of preparation that an attorney can do. It is not uncommon for a public interest attorney to be unable to call an expert witness or to pursue a large appeal because of a lack of funding. An additional disadvantage of public interest work is the lack of prestige associated with many of the positions. While some government positions are well respected, others are not as glamorous. Because of this, an image conscious attorney whose primary goal is prestige and recognition will probably not enjoy public interest work.
 
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Getting a Public Interest Job

Unlike law firms, which typically recruit heavily in the fall, public interest employers may interview and select summer interns and new associates at any time during the year. Students seeking a public interest position should not only look at the job notices on the Career Services website, but should also consider directly contacting agencies in which they are interested. Because many agencies have difficulty finding funding for their interns, students are encouraged to contact agencies early, so that they can consider other funding sources if the employer is unable to compensate them. In addition, public interest fellowship applications for graduating students often have early deadlines, typically in October or November. Public interest positions are not always easy to find, but students who persist will usually be able to land a position that they will enjoy.
 
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Government Jobs

The government, at the federal, state, and local level, is in a constant state of change. New legislation can produce new programs and new legal responsibilities. Legal staffs may then be reorganized or augmented to meet these responsibilities. At the same time, priorities shift, financial resources are reallocated, agency responsibilities can diminish, and legal staffs may be reduced. Thus, while the basic outline of the government's legal establishment remains constant, elements of the substructure expand and contract in response to a broad range of political and public demands. For attorneys interested in a government career, this continual change means that employment opportunities are constant and varied. Taken as a whole, the range of governmental legal responsibilities is so diverse that there is probably no legal specialty that remains unrepresentative. For example, government attorneys may be experts in everything from state water law to national agricultural trade regulations to international space law. In addition, government attorneys engage in contemplative legal research as well as aggressive prosecution. Further, because the federal government hires more attorneys than any other employer in the United States and because state governments are often the largest employer of attorneys within a state, legal positions are always available. Entry-level attorneys are recruited from law schools and experienced attorneys are recruited from the private sector and from other levels of government. Positions become available as staff attorneys are promoted, retire, move laterally to another division or agency, or move to the private sector. This revolving-door aspect of attorneys migrating between the public and private sectors is a longstanding phenomenon, one which continues to flourish, because everyone concerned ultimately benefits.
 
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Types of Government Employers

Federal Government

Federal attorneys deal with issues affecting the federal government or U.S. citizens generally. For example, federal attorneys deal with issues such as government contracts, welfare reform, environmental protection, criminal justice, representation of the indigent, transportation policy, military policy, immigration and emigration, worker health and safety, and employment discrimination. Federal government attorneys might work for:
 
  • The Department of Justice
  • The United States Attorney
  • A federal agency (e.g., SEC, IRS, INS, FTC)
  • A congressional committee, senator, or representative on Capitol Hill
  • A federal judge

State Government

State government jobs are often substantively similar to federal jobs, but they deal with issues primarily affecting the state and its citizens instead of the United States. For example, state attorneys work with issues such as state government contracts, weapons laws, education, drug and alcohol enforcement, and state securities law. States often have agencies and departments that mirror federal agencies, such as a state environmental commission and a state department of transportation. Thus, state government attorneys might work for:
 
  • The state attorney general
  • The state legislature
  • State courts or judges
  • State agencies

Local Government

Government jobs are also available on the county and city levels. City and county attorneys represent government agencies and provide legal advice to municipal agencies. They also generally perform transactional legal services in the areas of government contracts, real estate, and employment. Attorneys in this context may enforce municipal ordinances and may work in diverse areas such as education law, environmental law, zoning, labor negotiations, and civil rights. Employers may include:
 
  • City or county prosecutors
  • Public defenders
  • The city or county attorney's office

Tribal Government

An increasing number of federally recognized Indian tribes provide employment opportunities for attorneys who are dedicated to the cause of Native Americans. Attorneys who work for Indian tribes perform many of the same functions as attorneys in other levels of government, and often work in cooperation with state and federal government entities.
 
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Advantages of Government Work

Probably the greatest advantage of a government legal career is that it offers an entry- or mid-level attorney a degree of responsibility generally not offered to private sector attorneys with similar work experience. Government attorneys participate directly in legal and policy actions that have an immediate impact on public and private interests. Their work is often reflected in the headlines of the media. Whether it is tax simplification, water law disputes, Wall Street scandals, education reform, international trade conflicts, the war on terrorism, illegal technology transfers, or immigration reform, government attorneys are on the front line-analyzing legal issues, framing remedial legislation, writing and implementing regulations, and handling litigation and enforcement actions. In addition, because government lawyers are not competing for clients or attempting to make a profit for their organization, they are freed from the constant pressure to get new clients and to bill hours. This allows them to concentrate on solving legal issues rather than on wooing prospects. It also allows most government lawyers to work reasonable hours. An individual who wants to pursue outside interests will often find government practice more in tune with personal needs. Government legal positions may also be very prestigious. Counsel for the U.S. Attorneys Office or a state attorney general's office is often well respected among the legal community. (However, not all government positions carry this level of prestige and respect.) Finally, government attorneys have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of the law. Many attorneys use a government job as a stepping-stone into a career with a law firm or as corporate counsel. If this crossover advantage is appealing, keep in mind that specialization is valuable only if there is a similar area of specialization in the private sector. For example, government attorneys that specialize in areas such as banking, tax, securities, or environmental work will have less difficulty making a lateral move into private practice than will government attorneys specializing in nuclear weapons issues, international space issues, or railroad issues.
 
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Disadvantages of Government Work

The pay scale is the largest disadvantage of government work. Most law school graduates that work for the government start at approximately $42,000 a year; experienced attorneys who move to government positions often start at approximately $54,000. If you are interested in a large paycheck and a cut of the partnership profits, government work is definitely not for you, unless you plan to move laterally to a law firm at a later date. Another disadvantage is that a government attorney who plans to move to the private sector must often do so before practicing for too many years. It is often difficult to move with more than four or five years of government experience. However, most agencies and departments are not eager to expend resources training attorneys just to send them into private practice after two years. In order to retain attorneys after training, many agencies require that newly hired attorneys make a time commitment of three to four years. Some government agencies have new attorneys expressly agree to this time commitment, but most treat the commitment less formally, though not less seriously. A third disadvantage of government work is that federal executive-level officials who have worked for a department or an agency may not appear before that department or agency for one year after leaving. For example, if an attorney leaves her job at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she may not represent a client before the EEOC for one year. In addition, special conflicts of law rules apply to government employees. For instance, federal government employees may not represent people on matters that fell under their responsibility during their last year of government service. Some excellent lawyers who would otherwise be interested in government work do not take government jobs because they do not want to limit their post-government options. Finally, some government jobs, especially high level jobs on Capitol Hill and leadership positions in government agencies, may require a particular political affiliation. For instance, an appointment as White House legal counsel will depend on knowing politically connected people and having the same political affiliations as the current President. For those who do not enjoy networking or do not have strong political ties, seeking and keeping such a position may be frustrating.
 
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Getting a Government Job

Federal Jobs

Most federal agencies and departments hire interns and new attorneys through either their general counsel's office or their personnel office. Most federal job applicants are required to fill out a voluminous multi-page application called an SF-171. Fortunately, several agencies and departments have replaced the SF-171 application with a simplified hiring process. In order to apply for a job under this simplified hiring process, an applicant need only submit a resume with all the necessary information. To protect against an incomplete resume, these agencies and departments suggest that an applicant include a cover letter and a two-page form called the OF-612 with the applicant's resume. Contact the agency or department to find out which application materials it requires. Having ties to a particular geographical area may be helpful in obtaining some jobs, particularly jobs on Capitol Hill. Some senators and representatives prefer to hire counsel from their home states. Chairs of congressional committees also may prefer to hire committee counsel from their home states.

State Government Jobs

The hiring process for positions in state government often seems like a maze of bureaucratic red tape. Unlike private employers, state agencies and departments have regulations governing how they must choose the most qualified applicant. Likewise, state personnel policies may embody other criteria (e.g., preference for veterans) that further impact the selection process. While at first glance hiring procedures may seem confusing, the states generally follow one of four patterns for applications for legal positions. The basic patterns are listed below:
 
  • Centralized listings and application process
  • Direct agency recruitment
  • A register of qualified applicants
  • Attorney General selection

Each of these processes is used to fill attorney vacancies in some states. Only by being familiar with the pattern used by government agencies in your state can you be assured that your application will receive appropriate consideration. States that utilize centralized listings and application processes generally require that application be made to the state personnel agency. Applications often must be for a specific advertised position (with applications made within the vacancy period) and vacancy announcements may be requested from one source. This process has the advantage of centralizing all attorney positions in one location, but requires the applicant to repeatedly check the vacancy listings for job openings. The opposite of the centralized process is direct agency recruitment for attorney positions. In this case, each agency lists its own positions, establishes application requirements, and hires with little involvement by the state personnel agency. While this process has the advantage of less formality, it requires that the potential applicant contact each agency to determine if there are, or are likely to be, any attorney vacancies.

The third hiring process often used by state governments is the establishment of a register of qualified applicants. In this process, applicants submit application materials to state personnel to have their qualifications examined for positions that may arise within state government. Generally, this examination process does not require any additional testing beyond the bar exam. Once the applicant's materials have been rated, the applicant will be placed on the register and referred to agencies with vacant positions for attorneys. In states utilizing this procedure, applicants must be hired from the register. For this reason, applicants are encouraged to regularly update their materials to achieve a higher ranking on the register. The final pattern of state hiring is that of Attorney General selection. In states using this method, the Attorney General is responsible for representation of all state agencies and all attorneys are hired as Assistant or Deputy Attorney Generals. Once hired, the Assistant Attorney General is assigned to represent a particular state agency.

County and City Jobs

Each county and city has its own hiring process. Contact the county or city personnel office, or the county or city attorney's office directly, for more information.
 
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Judicial Clerkships

The tradition of young lawyers serving as law clerks to experienced members of the judiciary is a long and important one. The impact of judicial clerkships on the careers of attorneys can be seen in a review of the biographies of prominent members of both the bench and bar. A clerkship experience provides a unique perspective on judicial decision-making and in many ways serves as a capstone experience for a student's legal education. The duties of a judicial clerk are defined by the needs of the individual judge and will vary depending on the nature and extent of the cases pending before the court. Typically, judicial clerks perform legal research, prepare memos and draft orders, write draft opinions and stipulations, assemble documents, and perform other duties as the judge may require. The clerk will often spend an extensive amount of time reviewing motions, memoranda, briefs, and other documents submitted to the court. Most judges use their clerks as a sounding board to prepare for argument and discussions; therefore, judges often expect their clerks to be well briefed on the legal issues and facts of the various cases. Judicial clerks often accompany the judge to trials, hearings, and conferences, and may occasionally take part in the discussions. Although some clerks have secretarial assistance, most clerks find that moderate typing and word-processing skills are a prerequisite for the job. Work and library facilities are generally more than adequate. Clerks typically work Monday to Friday from 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning to 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening, but many put in longer hours. There is occasional evening and weekend work, particularly immediately before the court hears a case. In exceptionally busy courts, night and weekend work may be common. A few judges have permanent career law clerks. However, most law clerks are recent graduates from law school. A clerk is generally appointed for one year, but some courts-particularly trial courts-appoint law clerks for two-year terms. Federal judges typically have one to four clerks, most often two or three. State appellate judges generally have two clerks, and state trial judges generally have a single law clerk, if at all. In addition to law clerks working for individual judges, many courts have staff law clerk positions. Staff law clerks work for the entire court, doing work on assignment or by request from different judges. A few courts have only staff law clerks. The federal courts employ pro se clerks that provide administrative assistance to litigants who are not represented by an attorney. Some federal courts also have motions clerks that handle procedural matters before cases are assigned to judges. Finally, some state trial courts have clerk-bailiff or trial clerk positions. These clerks engage in smaller projects requiring fast work. For example, they may be called upon to research points of law during a recess to aid the judge in making rulings during the trial. In jurisdictions where trial judges write opinions, a trial clerk will work on the opinions in the same way as an appellate clerk. Because of the press of business in trial courts, clerks may have considerable responsibility for minor matters and administrative duties. Trial clerks usually spend much of their time in the courtroom.
 
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Advantages of a Clerkship

A position as a judicial clerk provides a student with an exceptional educational opportunity. Clerking provides an insight into the process of judicial decision-making. It also provides exposure to the documents, procedures, and functioning of the litigation process. Perhaps most importantly, it provides the opportunity to strengthen analytical skills and legal writing abilities. Often, judges will serve as mentors to their law clerks, providing the clerks with insights into the practical aspects of law practice and suggesting additional preparation for each clerk's future career. This role is often an informal one and may consist of critiquing the clerk's analysis, making suggestions regarding writing styles, or discussing the advocacy style of attorneys coming before the court. All of these experiences combine to improve the preparation of the clerk for his or her future legal career. In summary, a judicial clerkship is not merely a job; it is a continuation of the student's legal education and preparation for a future legal career. Clerking also has practical advantages for the student. Legal employers recognize the benefits of the clerkship experience and consider them heavily in making hiring decisions. A federal appellate level clerkship has almost become a prerequisite for many law school-teaching positions. In addition, law clerks gain exposure to local practice and to the local bar where they will practice, particularly if the clerk is at the state court level. In some instances, such as in a family court or bankruptcy court, the opportunity will enable the clerk to develop an area of expertise upon which to build a future legal practice. Finally, the recommendation of a judge known in the legal community will carry a great deal of weight with potential legal employers.
 
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Disadvantages of a Clerkship

There can be some disadvantages to judicial clerkships. The workload is sometimes extremely heavy, and an eccentric judge can make for an unpleasant year or two. Additionally, some people find themselves bored by the seemingly endless research required by appellate court clerkships; the work can often seem very much like a one year internship with the Law Review. In addition, most clerkships provide a modest paycheck, which can be difficult to accept when classmates are earning high salaries. (However, many large law firms provide a clerkship bonus if a law clerk joins the firm upon completion of the clerkship. Some firms may also count the year(s) spent at the clerkship as a year toward making partner.)
 
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Getting a Clerkship

Getting a clerkship is not easy, especially on the federal level. Most federal court clerkships are extremely competitive, and it is not uncommon for a court to be filled with clerks that graduated in the top five percent of their classes, especially at the appellate level. State appellate court clerkships are also competitive; however, state judges are often willing to consider more than grades and Law Review positions when making hiring decisions. Trial court clerkships are the least competitive, but even these positions often attract dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of resumes. Clerkship applicants need to submit a letter of application, a resume, law school and undergraduate transcripts, as well as two or three letters of recommendation. However, some years judges have begun interviewing as early as the summer after the student's first year. Thus, early contact with the Judicial Clerkship Committee is essential. Also, a recommendation from people familiar with their legal work, and, in some cases, a recent legal writing sample is also needed. At least one, but preferably all, of the letters of recommendation should come from a law school professor. In addition, students are more likely to receive a clerkship offer if someone recommends them that the judge knows. Students considering judicial clerkships should learn as much as possible about both the positions and the judges prior to submitting applications for particular positions. To learn more about a judge's writing style and approach to types of cases, students should read reported decisions, which can be obtained by performing a search on Lexis Nexis or Westlaw. The student should also consider the legal community in which the clerkship will be performed and the composition of the bar in this locale. Finally, in an effort to assure that their clerks will enjoy their experiences, some judges prefer to hire clerks with some connection to the location of the judge's chambers.
 
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Courts with Clerkships

The Federal Courts

Judicial clerkships are available on both the federal and state levels. Federal courts hear cases when the questions of law involve federal law, the United States government is a party in the case, or there is diversity of citizenship between parties (i.e., the parties are citizens of different states). Below are brief descriptions of the various United States federal courts:

The United States Supreme Court

This is the highest court in the United States. It has authority to hear an appeal from both federal and state court decisions.

United States Courts of Appeals

There are 13 United States Courts of Appeals, including the Federal Circuit, the D.C. Circuit, and the First through Eleventh Circuits.

United States District Courts

Ninety-four district courts make up the trial level of the federal system.

United States Bankruptcy Courts

Bankruptcy Courts handle individual and business reorganization and insolvency matters, exclusive of state court jurisdiction. Each district of the United States has a Bankruptcy Court.

Special Courts

A number of Special Courts have been created to resolve disputes in specific areas. These courts include:
 
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims: Decides claims brought by individuals and business against the federal government (other than tax claims).
  • U.S. Court of International Trade: Has jurisdiction over tariff conflicts and hears appeals from the United States International Trade Commission.
  • U.S. Tax Court: Hears taxpayer appeals involving income, estate, and gift taxes.
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces: Comprised of five civilian judges who review court martial appeals.
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Appeals: Reviews decisions of the Board of Veterans' Appeals.
  • Administrative Law Judges: Approximately 1,400 judges in 29 administrative agencies hear cases pertaining to their particular agency.
  • Magistrates: Appointed for a term of eight years and hear pretrial matters such as bond hearings and motions, conduct settlement conferences, and issue search and arrest warrants in federal criminal matters; magistrates may also try persons that are accused of minor offenses when designated to do so by a district judge.

The State Courts

Most states have courts at three levels: trial, intermediate appellate, and highest appellate. These courts hear cases dealing with issues arising under state law, including contract disputes, torts, criminal prosecutions, divorce and custody matters, and probate of estates. In some circumstances, state courts may also adjudicate federal law issues. The following are general descriptions of the functions of each state court:

Highest State Appellate Court

This court is generally considered the final authority on state legal issues; however, the United States Supreme Court can hear appeals from its decisions. Most states refer to this court as the state supreme court, though some states call it the court of appeals (e.g., Maryland Court of Appeals, New York Court of Appeals). All 50 states have a highest state appellate court.

Intermediate Appellate Court

States typically create this court to help lighten the caseload of the highest appellate court. An intermediate appellate court often hears appeals that have been statutorily assigned to it. However, the highest state court generally has the option of sending down any issue to the intermediate court for decision. Most states refer to the intermediate court as the state court of appeals, but some states use different titles, such as the Florida District Court of Appeals, the New Jersey Appellate Division of Superior Court, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Some states, such as Alabama and Tennessee, have separate intermediate courts for civil and criminal matters. Forty of the 50 states have at least one intermediate appellate court.

State Trial Courts

Most cases involving state law-and many that involve federal law-begin in a state trial court. In these courts an entire case is presented to a judge or jury. Because of this, trial courts are often much more emotionally charged than the comparatively sterile and serene environments of the appellate courts. Although some trial courts are specialized, such as the Delaware Family Court and the Hawaii Land Court, most trial courts hear cases in every area of the law. Keep in mind that application deadlines can be as early as two years or as late as a few months before the term begins, depending on the particular court.
 
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Judgeships

Judging is often not the first career option a law student considers. Most judges are not appointed to the bench until after many years of practice. Thus, attorneys who ultimately obtain judgeships usually begin their careers with other goals in mind. However, considering early on the possibility of judging can enable an attorney to gain the experience necessary to obtain an appointment. Judges are needed at all the court levels described in the previous section regarding judicial clerkships. In addition, many state and federal agencies employ judges to adjudicate various issues. The process of appointing judges is as varied as the court to which they are appointed.
 
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Advantages of a Judgeship

Judges are in a unique position to directly influence the law, as well as the lives of those who appear in their courtrooms. While a great responsibility, being in a position to adjudicate disputes can be very fulfilling. Rather than representing a client against an adversary, judges are able to act as neutral mediators. Judges who obtain positions in specialty courts, such as a family court, may be able to use their prior experience in a specialty area in a new and exciting way. Because judges need not obtain clients or bill hours, they do not have many of the pressures of traditional law firm jobs. Thus, they can concentrate on determining the correct legal outcome to decisions. Additionally, judgeships also may allow for a somewhat flexible schedule. Often judges, especially at the state court level, have some degree of control over how they schedule their dockets. They may be able to work only a few days a week or leave at a certain time each day. Finally, judges enjoy a great level of prestige. While federal judgeships carry national recognition, state court judges also enjoy a great deal of honor in the communities in which they work. Judges may also have community opportunities to deliver lectures, teach adjunct classes, or participate in university mock court competitions.
 
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Disadvantages of a Judgeship

One important disadvantage of judging are that judges will usually earn much less than they did at their former careers. Additionally, although judges have a certain degree of flexibility over their dockets, the workload also has the potential of being extremely heavy, especially because the judge has little control over the number of cases that are filed. Along with carrying the heavy weight of responsibility for parties to each case, a judge faces the risk of having his or her decision overturned on appeal. The judge's reputation may be damaged if the judge consistently makes decisions that are unpopular or are later overruled. Depending on the court, a judge may have few colleagues on the bench with whom he or she may regularly converse. Finally, most state court judgeships are not particularly secure. Most states require judges to periodically run for reelection. In such states, a judge may lose his or her job if the political tide has turned. The necessity of maintaining political allies may be frustrating to a person who merely desires to adjudicate disputes.
 
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Getting a Judgeship

Getting a judgeship is very difficult, especially at the federal level. Federal court judges are nominated by the President and must have the approval of the Senate before being confirmed. If the President and the Senate are not politically aligned, the process may be long and difficult. Additionally, most federal judges have previously been judicial law clerks, often with the Supreme Court of the United States, and have taught several years at the law school level. The most important feature of a federal judge appointee is that he or she is politically connected. Additionally, he or she must have had a stellar and unblemished legal career. Most federal appointees do not have such strong political leanings that they would offend members of the opposite political party. State court judgeships are somewhat easier to obtain, although applicants must still be politically connected and have excellent prior legal careers. Judicial clerkships are not required, and in some cases may actually hinder getting a job. Often judges first seek trial court positions and then seek to move into the intermediate appellate or highest appellate court. Thus, those seeking state judgeships would be wise to gain solid trial experience early in their careers, for instance, with a state attorney general or U.S. Attorney's office. Most state court judgeships are initially obtained by election. While it is helpful to have political connections, it is also important to appear as neutral as possible about sensitive topics that may come before the court. Judges for federal agencies, such as administrative law judges, generally also obtain their positions through political appointment. A career in the specialty area of the agency is just as important as political connections, however. State administrative law judges may obtain their positions by appointment or through the traditional application process used for state government jobs. If a student is interested in judging, it would be useful to talk to as many judges as possible about how they came to obtain their position. A judicial externship is also a wonderful way to learn more about what goes on inside a judge's chambers.
 
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Corporations

For law students considering alternatives to firm practice, corporate counsel positions are often appealing. For years, in-house counsel often was not viewed as "real" lawyers or top-notch legal minds. As business competition has changed in the past decade, however, so has management's view of the role an attorney can play on the management team. For reasons of both cost-efficiency and crisis prevention (as opposed to damage control), corporate legal departments have gone through a major metamorphosis. Business and legal management are now trying to create the most productive, cost-effective legal environment in which a corporation can operate. Along with the changes in the roles and duties of in-house counsel have come changes in the environment in which they work. Once considered cushy, Monday through Friday, nine-to-five jobs with steady salaries, good benefits, bonuses, and job security, corporate counsel positions have become increasingly competitive. Corporate counsel responsibilities vary from company to company. Some corporations have a small number of attorneys take care of all the legal work, such as drafting contracts, overseeing employment programs, checking regulatory compliance, and defending the corporation in litigation. Other corporations have separate legal departments with different responsibilities. For example, a corporation may have a different department for litigation, contracts, securities work, intellectual property, and employee relations. Most corporations do not hire summer clerks or graduates fresh from law school. Instead, corporations look for attorneys with practical experience in the legal areas that affect the corporation. Corporate attorneys come from all legal fields-large firms, small firms, government agencies, courts, and a variety of other places. Most corporations look highly upon attorneys who have three to five years of experience-enough experience that the attorneys know what they are doing, but not so much that the attorneys are closed to new suggestions.
 
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Advantages of Corporate Counsel

The primary advantage of corporate legal work is that attorneys can deal with potential problems before they blossom into expensive litigation, strikes, or contract disputes. This ability to prevent problems, rather than deal primarily in litigation, attracts many attorneys to corporate practice. In larger companies, in-house attorneys generally enjoy high salaries and excellent benefits. Occasionally these attorneys also receive a company car, stock options, a lavish expense account, a board of director's position with another company, and a complimentary membership at a nearby country club. This is not the lifestyle of most corporate counsel, however, as the luxuries of lavish expense accounts and country club memberships are usually reserved for top management. Corporate counsel generally has an added advantage of having more manageable workdays. While it is no longer common for in-house counsel to work nine-to-five for five days a week, corporate attorneys routinely have less demanding schedules than their law-firm counterparts. In addition, corporate counsel is generally free from billable hours requirements. Finally, corporate counsel has the advantage of focusing on a single client rather than multiple clients. This allows in-house counsel to build a strong relationship with management and lets the attorneys spend time working on projects rather than hunting for new clients.
 
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Disadvantages of Corporate Counsel

One disadvantage of corporate counsel positions is that in-house counsel may have less variety in the legal work they perform than work taken on by lawyers at law firms. In-house counsel always has the same client, the company, and often does the same deals over and over again. A second disadvantage of corporate counsel is the pay. In-house lawyers generally make significantly less than, and also are not afforded the opportunities for advancement as, their counterparts at medium and large law firms. Lower salaries for corporate positions may, however, be offset by stock options and other benefits. Another disadvantage of a corporate counsel position is that in-house counsel can be caught between what the corporation wants to do and what is legal. Because the corporation is the in-house attorney's only client, the attorney cannot refuse to take an unpleasant project and faces critical decisions if asked to do something illegal or unethical. An additional disadvantage of a corporate counsel position is that it is not entirely secure. Management may decide that the in-house counsel office should be downsized or, in some cases, entirely eliminated. New management may take control and opt to move all of the corporation's legal work to outside counsel. Finally, the company may fall onto hard economic times and break into smaller companies or decide to shut its doors altogether.
 
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Getting a Corporate Counsel Position

Attorneys move into corporate counsel positions in a variety of ways. Corporations routinely advertise attorney openings in law and business newspapers. Occasionally, corporate management will seek out and hire an attorney or group of attorneys practicing at a firm or in a government agency. Additionally, management will sometimes ask its outside counsel to come in-house. The best way to find a corporate counsel position is to network with attorneys who are presently in those types of positions. For instance, a student interested in landing a position dealing with pension and ERISA issues should contact in-house attorneys who deal with employee benefits. These attorneys might not be in a position to offer a job, but they might be able to share information and job leads. Students who plan to take corporate positions should take every possible corporate-related law class. For instance, even if the student plans only to litigate environmental issues for a corporation, a solid understanding of business and business law will help make the corporate-attorney relationship less stressful. Networking is very important in obtaining a corporate position, especially if experience is limited. Most corporations require a minimum of three to five years experience and rarely hire new graduates. Students wishing to practice corporate law should establish contacts before and during law school that will strengthen their chances of getting a corporate position. Because a joint JD/MBA degree is valued highly in the corporate world, it is an option worth considering.
 
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International Legal Employment

International legal employment is extraordinarily diverse, ranging from jobs with multinational corporations to law firms to Peace Corps-related activities. Foreign legal experiences extend from living in Seoul and working for a South Korean law firm to living in Los Angeles and flying out to IBM branch offices throughout the world. Travel abroad is common. Law students with unique foreign language skills and with experience living abroad may have an advantage in being hired. Most international legal work falls into the area of international business transactions and business litigation, which are often governed by U.S. or British law. Thus, an attorney's best chance of doing international legal work is found at a U.S. or British law firm or company. International legal employment often involves working with contrasting laws from two separate countries to accomplish the client's objectives. It can be helpful if an attorney is familiar with the language and the customs of the countries involved. Foreign legal opportunities fall into four general categories: foreign law firms, Unites States law firms, multinational corporations, and public interest work.
 
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Types of International Employers

Foreign Law Firms

Overseas law firms, with the exception, at least, of British law firms, usually limit their formal recruiting to a search for experienced attorneys. However, some firms offer internship positions and new associate positions to students that show exceptional language skills and express a genuine interest in living and working in their country. Foreign firms typically hire American attorneys who have specialized in corporate law or litigation. Foreign firms tend to want many of the same characteristics that American firms seek: high grades, journal or moot court experience, a good legal background, and strong writing skills. However, foreign firms also look at other characteristics such as language fluency, intent to practice in the country, an understanding of the culture, and some understanding of that country's laws. Large British law firms offer U.S. law students the best opportunity to practice at a foreign law firm in an international setting. This is because, with the sole exception of U.S. law, British law governs most international business transactions. Large British law firms may have offices worldwide and tend to be structured and pay their U.S. attorneys similarly to their U.S. law-firm counterparts. From the start of their careers, young associates at large British firms often have the opportunity to practice law in offices all over the world.

United States Law Firms

A large U.S. law firm is the most likely place for a law student to find international legal work. An increasing number of U. S. firms, especially the top 200 U.S. law firms, operate offices in other countries. Some of these firms have dozens of foreign offices. These firms occasionally have openings for interns or new associates in their overseas offices, but generally new associates have to work one to four years in the firm's U.S. office and then transfer overseas. Attorneys at these firms frequently deal with litigation or transactions involving one or more U.S. citizens or corporations. Many large domestic firms work with foreign clients who do business in the United States (e.g., German, Brazilian, or Japanese clients coming to New York or Los Angeles to seek advice on international business transactions).

Multinational Corporations

General counsel for a multinational corporation, such as IBM or General Motors, will often travel internationally and may occasionally be assigned to live in a foreign country. These corporations tend to hire experienced attorneys, but will periodically hire new associates and interns.

International Public Interest Work

The Peace Corps is one example of a public interest employer that seeks applications from attorneys who want to live abroad and work in service-oriented legal positions. This program has many openings each year and hires new attorneys as well as experienced attorneys.
 
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Advantages of International Law Jobs

For some attorneys, a job in the international legal field gives them an opportunity to simultaneously do two things that they enjoy-practice law and see the world. Many international attorneys work in countries where they made connections before law school through military service, church service, or Peace Corps service. By working internationally, these attorneys are able to return to a country in which they enjoyed living, keep their foreign language skills up-to-date, and use their legal skills to deal with interesting and unique issues.

For attorneys who enjoy traveling, international work gives them an opportunity to see the world. International attorneys are often able to mix business and pleasure in their travels, attending to client needs in the morning and touring the Louvers in the afternoon. An additional advantage of international legal work is that it allows attorneys to experience a language and culture different from their own. Whether it is a one-week trip to Germany or a 10-year stay in Brazil, attorneys are able to see what lies beyond the borders of the United States.
 
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Disadvantages of International Law Jobs

The primary disadvantage of international legal work is that some attorneys who practice it must live outside of the United States or travel a great deal of the time. For attorneys who are single, this might not be a significant disadvantage. However, for attorneys who are married or have children, international work might be difficult. Some foreign countries have unstable political systems, inadequate health care facilities, or poor educational programs. Even in those countries with high standards of living, an international lifestyle can be difficult for a family member unfamiliar with the language or culture of the foreign country. Most U.S. attorneys practicing law on an international scale, however, are able to live in the United States. Another disadvantage is that skills developed in the international legal arena may not be easily transferable if an attorney decides to return to the United States. Although globalization reduces this concern, it does not entirely eliminate the problem. For instance, while an attorney working in Japan might quickly find work at a law firm in the United States, an attorney working in Turkey may have skills and specialized knowledge that appeals to only a small number of U.S. firms.
 
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Getting an International Legal Job

Networking is important when trying to find any job, but it is essential when looking for an international job, especially for an international corporate position. Students interested in international work should contact anyone they know in the foreign country of interest and ask for names of attorneys and law firms in that country. The cliché "it's not what you know, but who you know" holds true.

A few foreign law firms will pay for airfare and lodging when they are interviewing U.S. attorneys, but generally these arrangements will be the responsibility of the applicant. Additionally, while some firms will arrange for visas and currency exchange, these arrangements are also typically left to the applicant.

Some Internet sources include:
   
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Nontraditional and Non-legal Careers

Although definitions may vary, a traditional law career is generally defined as one that requires as prerequisites a Juris Doctor degree and bar certification. Obviously, this definition covers only a very small number of jobs-thousands of jobs fall under the "nontraditional" or "non legal" career umbrellas. A nontraditional job deals with legal or quasi-legal issues on a regular basis. For example, although a politician is not actually practicing law and does not need bar certification to work, a law degree helps him or her draft clear, effective legislation.

A non-legal job, on the other hand, does not involve the practice of law. In these jobs, the skills learned in law school are an asset to both the employee and employer, but knowledge of the law itself does not help or hinder the employee. For example, a high-school English teacher may benefit from the skills developed in law school but will not be advantaged or disadvantaged directly because of his or her knowledge of the law. Today, many students begin law school planning never to practice law. Others, in the course of their law school studies, decide to combine law with another discipline, such as management or business. Many career opportunities exist for the attorney who does not want to enter into a traditional law practice. However, before deciding not to practice law, students and the attorneys you are advising should consider the pros and cons of the choice, understand their personal motivations, and assess long-term career goals. Law students and the attorneys you are advising should be cautious not to make this decision out of frustration with the trials and stress of law school. It may be easier for a practicing attorney to later move to a nontraditional career than for a person who begins a nontraditional career directly after law school to go back to the practice of law. Before selecting a nontraditional career, students and the attorneys you are advising should evaluate the time and monetary investments of a legal education and research to see whether or not the desired nontraditional opportunities are available and will meet their career goals. However, many nontraditional careers exist for students and the attorneys you are advising who do not wish to be practicing attorneys. For such students and the attorneys you are advising these career choices may offer more job satisfaction in the long run; thus, those who are not sure what they want to do should not worry that they will not have many career options to choose from.
 
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Examples of Nontraditional Careers

Because the law touches every aspect of life, legal training is useful in virtually all careers. However, in nontraditional fields a law graduate has a distinct edge over other applicants. A law degree may be used in an endless array of job settings.
 
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Marketing Yourself to a Non-legal Employer

Job-hunting will present unique challenges once a student decides to work in a non-legal area. For example, law students interviewing for non-legal jobs should plan to provide evidence to prospective employers that their legal training would be an asset to the organization. One challenge a student may face is convincing a nontraditional employer that he or she is truly interested in the job and will not miss practicing law. Students may successfully market themselves in this way by using conviction, persuasive oral communication skills, and knowledge of the prospective job. Many law students would claim that the primary skills developed at law school are how to deal with lack of sleep, how to perform under pressure, and how to cope with frustration. In reality, law school students develop a wide variety of highly transferable and marketable skills that are valuable to non-legal employers. For example, law students are able to digest large quantities of material in limited amounts of time, and they learn to think on their feet when called upon in class. Other acquired skills and characteristics include the following:
 
  • Critical thinking and listening
  • Persuasive writing
  • Assimilating new data quickly
  • Handling stressful situations effectively
  • Brainstorming
  • Being able to innovate
  • Applying theory practically
  • Engaging in teamwork
  • Dealing with difficult people
  • Speaking cogently
  • Having a good eye for details
  • Setting priorities
  • Being personable and outgoing
  • Working well without supervision
  • Learning technical jargon
  • Clarifying information
  • Editing and proofreading
  • Exchanging ideas coherently
  • Following through
  • Making hard decisions
  • Delegating
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Dealing with the unexpected
  • Training others
  • Troubleshooting and problem solving
 
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