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Reasons Law Firms Do Not Hire Attorneys and Law Students After They Apply

published August 03, 2021

By Author - LawCrossing
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( 110 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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The legal profession is beautiful, but it can be not warm-hearted sometimes. Rejection is something every attorney experiences, most of them multiple times. This is not true only for law students and junior associates, but lawyers on every level experience rejection. This is especially true for attorneys applying to the more prestigious law firms as there are more applicants than positions, and the environment is extremely competitive.

It can be not very encouraging to apply for hundreds of positions in the span of months and not even get an invitation to interview. Then even, if you get the odd opportunity to come for an interview, it leads to nothing. Unfortunately, it is the everyday reality for many qualified lawyers.

There are many reasons why it is difficult to get law firm jobs. And a lot of times. People do not really understand them. This article will give you an overview of reasons why law firms reject applications before inviting attorneys for an interview, as well as reasons they reject them after invitation. In the final part of the article, I will give you tips on successfully surviving the legal job search for all law firm positions.

Being Rejected Before Even Getting an Interview in a Law Firm

The truth is, most attorneys get rejected before even getting an invitation to interview. The following are some of the reasons why applicants get turned down before getting in the door.

Not Applying to Enough Law Firms

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your job search is not applying to enough law firms. Unfortunately, most lawyers apply to the same top law firms that are popular, which means that most of them will be rejected while there are open jobs in smaller or less known firms. You are just setting yourself back that way.

The thing is, many aspects are weighing into hiring decisions. Firms consider whether they have work for someone with your qualifications; the timing and current economic situation in your practice area; whether you will fit into their company culture with your ethnic and religious background, political leaning, the law school you went to; whether they have an urgent need to fill because of someone leaving; whether you have connections in the firm or someone there has a problem with you, and many other things.

While it is impossible to find the absolutely perfect candidate, firms try to find someone who ticks as many boxes as possible. When you apply only to a few firms, your chances of ticking all of these boxes in one of them is quite slim. There is almost always something that does not fit into what the firm wants. However, the more firms you apply to, the higher your chance of finding the place where you will fit in.

Even the best lawyers have to apply to more than 50 firms to hear back when the market is slow. But that should not discourage you! There are thousands of law firms in markets like New York or Los Angeles, and you have to apply to all of those that do the kind of work you do.

Not Being the Best Applicant for the Major Law Firm

Another common reason why many applicants are rejected before they are even invited in for an interview is that better applicants are applying for the job. There are going to be better applicants at most jobs you apply to. It could be because of the law school they went to, the law firm they are coming from, the stability of their career path, the type of clients or the amount of business they have, or countless other important aspects for that particular firm.

Even if you went to a great school, did well, and worked in one great law firm afterward, it is naive to think that you will be the best applicant the firm gets, especially if you apply to a prestigious law firm. The odds are that there will always be someone better because of their qualifications, fit into the firm, or completely different reasons only the law firm understands. The only way to increase your chances of being the best applicant is by applying to more places.

It would be best if you did not focus only on the most prestigious law firms, as do most attorneys. That is not the right way for your legal search. The best firms will always want the best applicants, and it will be challenging to get positions there. If you really want to get invitations from more firms to choose a firm, you should also send applications to smaller firms or firms, not on the top 10 list.

Not Applying Among the First Candidates

I have said this several times across all of our media, but a great way to increase your chances of getting hired is by responding to applications as one of the first applicants. If you are applying too late, it might be the reason for the rejection.

The hiring process is demanding and tiring and keeps attorneys away from spending their valuable time on billing clients. They want it to go as fast as possible, so if they find a skilled and qualified candidate within the first few that apply, they do not really have a reason to drag it out by inviting more attorneys. The hiring attorneys also form bonds with the people they interview first that are sometimes hard to overcome, and the candidates following those do not really stand a chance.

This is also something we pay close attention to at BCG Attorney Search. Whenever we get information about a new position at any firm, we immediately send it to relevant candidates and encourage them to apply as soon as possible to ensure they are among the first to apply. And it has worked as many of our clients have been successfully hired when they have listened and applied immediately.

The best thing you can do is constantly monitor the legal job market. You have to apply for the position in the first days of it being posted. When you are applying for positions that have been posted for weeks, you are risking the disappointment of never hearing back from them.

Not Applying to the Firms That Could Be Interested in You

Not applying to the right firms is another common mistake in the legal profession. You have to apply to firms that could be potentially interested in you. Those firms work in your practice area and employ attorneys with similar backgrounds, qualifications, seniority level, and other important characteristics. If you apply to a firm that does not do the type of work you do or does not hire attorneys from your type of law school, you cannot be surprised that you do not hear back from them. This is especially true for prestigious law firms that are more demanding on the qualifications of people they choose to hire.

If you went to one of the fourth-tier law schools, you probably would not hear back from any major firm as they very rarely consider such attorneys. If you come from a small law firm without a particular specialization, big law firms will probably not consider your resume, and you will probably not hear from the firm. The law firm you are coming from is one of the most important factors firms consider, so if your current firm is not competitive with a good name and enough work, you might have to adjust your search.

Law Firms Do Not Consider Your Application Serious

Larger law firms typically receive hundreds of applications for every open position they publicize. And even though they usually have hiring teams responsible for handling these applications, it is not humanly possible to read every last one. Moreover, many of these applications come from lawyers who are not even convinced about working in that firm, so these hiring teams often assume that most applicants that send in a resume are not serious.

A simple solution to this problem is working with a good recruiter, such as us in BCG Attorney Search. When an attorney decides to work with a recruiter that has been in the market for years, knows their way around, and has a good record, they have to be serious, right? At least, that is how large law firms look at it. It is not uncommon that highly qualified attorneys contact us after not getting a single interview in major firms and then getting invited from the same firms to interview once we get involved.

Law firms know that no successful recruiter would risk their own reputation and represent an incompetent or half-hearted candidate. That is why the most prestigious law firms often do not even consider applications that do not come through respected recruiters.

Law Firms Do Not Think You Are a Stable Candidate

Every law firm hires attorneys with the prospect that they will stay with the firm long term. Hiring is a tiring process that costs a lot of money and prevents some attorneys from earning money. When they have to spend hours interviewing candidates, they cannot spend that time doing billable work for clients. So, if they get a resume from an attorney that switches firms often and cannot seem to stay in one for a longer period of time, they think twice about wasting their time on interviewing them.

Law firms have their set ways and want their employees to bring the same stability they are offering. If they think you might be bringing problems or not want to dedicate your whole career to the firm, they will often discard your resume before inviting you to interview. They are looking for people who will fit in and will try to resolve any issues that might come up, not run away from them. They want people who will stick around, and if you have too many moves on your resume, they assume that you are not the one.

Your Practice Area Is Not Currently In-Demand

You cannot really influence this, but the economy and how it influences the legal market, and your practice area is also an important factor in whether or not you will get a chance. If the market in your practice area is slow, firms do not have a reason to interview you.

Corporate law is one of the practice areas either really booming or prolonged. Every corporate lawyer remembers the 2001 and 2008 crises when almost everyone in corporate law lost their job. It was a horrendous time, and many legal professionals not only lost their jobs but stopped practicing law completely.

When the practice area is slow, the rejection is omnipresent. Everyone, including the most qualified lawyers, gets rejected in such a situation. Many attorneys even lose jobs that they thought were secure. Attorneys who find themselves in a situation when they have been rejected because of the state of the market should not take the rejection to heart as it has nothing to do with their skills or qualifications.

Currently, litigation and intellectual property litigation are not in the best shape. Even some of the best and most successful IP litigators can easily find themselves in a situation when they need to look for a new position, and many have. I have been noticing in BCG Attorney Search that even some are from Harvard or Stanford. So, the state of the market in your practice area does not really pick and choose.

Not Applying to More Legal Markets

The best advice for a better legal career you can get is to apply to more markets when searching for a legal placement. If you are not applying to enough markets, it might be the reason why you do not hear back from firms. If you are determined and looking in more than one geographical market, you are bound to find a good job sooner rather than later. With every additional market you are looking at, and you increase the chances of finding a good position.

I recently worked with a contract attorney who quit her job in a big firm in San Francisco and stopped practicing law for some time because of some personal issues. When she tried to find a job afterward, she did not really get invited for interviews as she only had nine months of law firm experience. There were too many attorneys fighting for the same jobs. But when she started looking at other markets, smaller markets around the country, she got 12 offers in a fairly short period. You have to look at a lot of markets, and it will make your search successful.

If you are in a specialized practice area, looking at more markets is inevitable, as positions are not always available. There might be no new openings in a niche area for a few years in one market, but when you look elsewhere, they might need you immediately. Recessions are also periods of time when looking at more markets is necessary. The work moves from major firms to small law firms, so many highly qualified attorneys would probably not look at these smaller markets when the economy is in good shape.

However, when choosing markets to apply to other markets, there are some things you should take into account. If you want to look only in major markets in big cities, there will be a lot of competition. It is much easier to find jobs in smaller markets if you have solid qualifications. Some bar exams are harder to pass, and if you do not have the bar in these markets, it could be a setback. California is a great example of this as firms in California mostly hire attorneys who are already admitted to the bar.

Applying Only to Firms With Open Positions

Most attorneys make the mistake of only applying to open positions. Of course, if you see an opening that fits your skill set and qualifications, you should apply. However, the best thing you can do is find law firms that do the work you do and contact them with your resume without an open position published on job markets.

Most placements we make at BCG Attorney Search are for jobs that were never posted anywhere. Also, if you are only applying to public job postings, you are making your job harder than it has to be. There are many highly qualified candidates for every opening posted that you have to compete against, and chances are some of them are better than you. However, when you apply to firms without formal openings, there is almost no competition, and you are sometimes the only applicant fighting to get hired.

These are only some of the reasons why you might be rejected before even getting an invitation for an interview. In reality, there are many more of them, and even the best attorneys get rejected without getting a chance to interview in some firms. If you are serious about the practice of law, do not get discouraged and keep applying. It might take months for you to find a great position, but eventually, you will search correctly and be persistent. You have to push forward, not let rejection get to you, keep applying, and adapt your applying strategy based on some of the tips I mentioned earlier.

Being Rejected After Getting an Invitation To Interview in a Law Firm

Just as attorneys get rejected before even getting the chance to interview, you can be rejected after getting this invitation.

A few months ago, I worked with a partner from a large law firm in Washington, D.C. He got an invitation to interview in a law firm in New York, so he took a day off from his work and went to their offices. After waiting for almost two hours, the secretary told him they could not interview him that day. He thought they would call to set up an interview for a different day, but they never called, and he never actually interviewed with them.

This, unfortunately, happens. And some attorneys that actually interview with firms and are promised the jobs also do not hear back from the law firms sometimes. Some lawyers go through several rounds of interviews in different offices around the country, and everything seems to be going great. The firm likes them and tells them how great it will be when they start and ghost them. It is not uncommon. Law firms in this situation usually tell you that they want to hire you because they really want to. They believe you will be a great addition to the firm and you will be able to bring them money.

But sometimes, things happen on their end that you do not see, and all of this falls through. Following are some of the most common reasons firms reject you after spending the time and money to interview you.

Better Applicants Interviewed With the Firm

This is something that happens very often. Firms interview many applicants, and sometimes some are just better than you. When you were interviewing, the hiring attorney might have thought that they would hire you. However, when an attorney that fits into the firm better comes the next day, you can do nothing. It does not mean the other attorney is better than you; they just fit the law firm or the job better.

You cannot influence this at all, so you should not worry about it. The only thing you can do is do your best in every interview. And if you still do not get the job, even after doing the most you can, do not beat yourself up about it. There was nothing else you could do, and there are countless other firms where you can be successful.

The Law Firm Lost or Is Unsure About the Business You Were Supposed To Be Working On

Law firms sometimes lose business they thought they had or are not certain they will keep it. When this happens, and you were supposed to be hired for that particular work, it might be the reason for their rejection after you get in the door. When they do not have the work they wanted to hire you for or are not sure about, of course, they are not going to take on the costs related to taking you on. They do not know for sure that you will be able to bring any money in for them.

When something like this happens, law firms will not want to admit it, of course. But it is something that happens quite often, and there is nothing you can do differently to prevent it.

The Law Firm Has Some Internal Conflict You Do not Know About

There are some conflicts in most law firms. People from the outside usually do not know about these problems inside a law firm. Still, once they try to apply for a position, this position might be intertwined with these problems, influencing them without them knowing. When something like this happens in a law firm, it is better to stay away from it as it means much drama. It is also something you cannot control, so if you find yourself in the middle of it, the firm either accepts you, or you better keep away and not think about it.

Someone Is Opposing Your Recruitment in the Law Firm

Law firms are usually very conservative environments where everyone has a vision of how it is supposed to work and gets a chance to join. They may have the weirdest issues with the attorneys they interview, but it might be fatal for your career in that firm if someone does not like something about you. If there is someone opposed to your hiring, whatever the reason is, there is nothing you can do about it. They may not like some personality characteristics, something in your background, or people you associate with. You may never know what it is; it just sometimes happens, unfortunately.

You Do Not Fit the Company Culture at the Law Firm

Sometimes you may not be a good cultural fit for the law firm. And there is nothing much you can do about it, really. People are extremely social animals that function in tribes and, even in major law firms, that is how they act. They are looking for the best fit for their tribe in the company. If you do not fit right into it (or if another candidate fits better), there is really nothing you can do about it.

Many more reasons why a law firm might reject you after they have already given you a chance and everything looked great. The most important thing is not to take it personally, do your best every time, and continue your law firm search.

How To Successfully Survive Law Firm Job Search

If you aim high and want to work in one of the most prestigious law firms, some rules will help you survive this fight successfully without too big of a blow to your ego.

The first thing you have to realize is that most attorneys on this level will be rejected several times. You will probably be rejected by most of the firms you apply to. There is nothing bad about that, and it does not mean you are a terrible lawyer. It is just how the world works in the practice of law. A law firm at this level of prestige looks for the perfect fit in a candidate, and it must be a lucky combination of your talent, skills, background, law firm's requirements, timing, and many other aspects for it to happen.

So, if you get rejected, you should not let it get to you and persevere through this hardship. Most attorneys and law students experience it many times throughout their legal careers before finding the law firm that fits them.

Unfortunately, many great lawyers give up before they have the chance to really show their talent and passion for the practice of law. They give up after a few months of not hearing back from law firms, or they give up after applying to every law firm in their current legal market. Perhaps, they give up for many other valid reasons why a lawyer gives up on their law firm job search. It is prevalent to give up. But if you really want to practice law, you should not give up. Your dream law firm position might be waiting for you on your next job interview.

Every attorney experiences rejection in their legal career. The difference between the successful ones and the other ones is that they persevered, did not let the rejection get them down, and survived until they found the right placement.


The odds are you will be rejected from the substantial majority of positions you applied for in your job search. Most attorneys experience this. Even if you get into a great law firm, many attorneys in the legal industry get dropped for many reasons they cannot really influence. They are then left to find new positions in the cruel world of big law.

You cannot let the rejection get to you. You may conclude that the world of law is not for you after applying to all New York firms or all major law firms in Los Angeles. You can quit and think to yourself that the market is not for you, or you can also adjust your search, look into smaller markets and find a firm you will be happy in that needs your services and skills. It is up to you.

But if you really want to keep practicing law, you should never give up. Being rejected is something all lawyers go through daily, so it is better to get used to it and keep looking for the dream job.

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published August 03, 2021

By Author - LawCrossing
( 110 votes, average: 4.7 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.