What Is the Best Way to Get Back into Top Law Firms after Being Out of the Workforce for Several Years?

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I've been out of the workforce for several years and would like to get back in. I have great credentials and I'm targeting top firms. What is the best way to go about doing this?

How can you come back to work after taking a break from the practice of law?


Julie Lehrman In a word: Connections. If you have been out for some time, hopefully you made a mark while you were still practicing and there are some people who will remember you. (See You Need Connections to Make the Most of Your Career for more information.) Great credentials are wonderful, and will certainly help. But in a world where lots of people have great credentials, most employers will favor someone who has recently practiced. That doesn't mean that you have no chance, though. There are a few things you can do.
  • Call everyone who used to know you when you were practicing, and let them know that you are on the market again. I personally prefer a softball approach; simply ask them for a reference, and this will get them thinking about all the great work you did for them in the past. Then, when they hear of a job opening in that field, you will be the one they think of. You won't even have to ask.
  • Make new connections. Become active in your bar and participate in its groups. Go to CLEs and meet the people giving them. Become active in your law school's alumni association, and meet the other graduates in your city. These avenues will create introductions to people who might want to use your legal skills part time, or small firms that may need you long term.
  • Don't focus only on the big firms. You have great credentials, which means you were likely a big firm lawyer in your past life. However, big firms sometimes have a hard time seeing past an atypical resume. Additionally, they are inundated with top candidates who are currently in the workforce and whose skills are fresher than yours. Therefore, you may need to spend some time in a smaller firm in order to ramp back up so that big firms will look at you again. Or, you may find that you prefer practicing in a smaller firm after spending time in one.
  • Don't be shy about explaining why you left the workforce, and why you want to come back. Employers' biggest fear when people leave the workforce is that you no longer have what it takes to work hard. Don't be defensive. Instead, confidently give your reasons for leaving, matter-of-factly, and enthusiastically explain why you are excited to come back.

I have seen plenty of people come back after some time away from practicing law. It can be a long process, so be patient. Use your connections, and make new ones, and eventually you should be able to start practicing again.

See the following articles for more information:

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