You may have gone to law school for a lot of reasons, but one of them certainly is to establish a career. Don’t wait until your third year to start thinking about getting a job. You need to start planning today. Below are 8 tips on how to turn your law degree into a successful job!
1. Study Hard in Law School
Many firms and other legal employers will not even look at students who earned a GPA below a designated level. The grades you make in law school and the law school itself are the strongest determinants of how much choice you will have in your job search.
2. Write for Your School’s Law Review
Writing for law review vastly expands your potential pool of employers. Law firms and judges think very highly of students who wrote for law review.
3. Work as a Summer Associate
In 2015, approximately 95% of summer associates got a job offer from their firms. If working for a large firm is your chosen career path, the importance of obtaining a summer associateship with them cannot be overemphasized.
To land a summer associateship, you need to start looking in your first year. Interviews are usually in August prior to the second year, so if you wait until your second year in law school, you have likely waited too long.
4. Decide What You Really Want to Do After Law School
Sometime in the course of law school, you may reach the conclusion that you don’t want to practice law. Or you may find it’s harder than you thought to get the partner-track law firm job of your dreams. You have options.
Here are a few alternative options for practicing lawyers.
- Corporate attorney
- Judicial clerkship (which can be a prestigious stepping stone)
- Law professor or paralegal instructor
- Government attorney
- Judge advocate in US Military
- Staff attorney (non-partner track)
- Solo practice
Here are a few alternative options where you won’t be practicing law, but your law degree will be of help.
- Law Librarian
- Salesperson or trainer for a legal software or search services company
- Legal recruiter
- Contracts administrator
- Politician or strategic government worker and government
- Business executive
- Human resources executive
- Banker or investment banker
- Marketer specializing in marketing to lawyers (expanding into other areas)
- Nonprofit manager
One thing though: If you want to eventually work at a law firm and are having trouble getting a job, do NOT take a job outside the field.
5. Size of Firm and Practice Area
If you want to get into one of the country’s top firms, you should graduate from one of the country’s top law schools. If you are not from a top school, you might still get a job at a large firm if you are in the top 5% of your law school class and wrote for your school’s law journal. Be aware that large firms usually represent large corporations, so if that is not your cup of tea, you should look elsewhere.
Firms often hire from specific schools. If you know you want to work for a particular firm before you even go to law school, research which schools have the best placement relationships with the firm. Check law schools and the sizes of firms where their graduates find jobs at ABA Employment Summary Report.
6. Consider Practicing for a Few Years in a Smaller City
If you cannot find a job in your chosen big city right after law school, apply to firms in smaller cities. After a couple years, you can try to make a lateral move to the city of your choice. However, don’t apply to suburban or rural areas if your ultimate goal is to work in a large city.
7. Use Your School’s Career Services Department
Use your school’s career services department to get help obtaining an internship and a job. Your career services department may ask law firms to come onsite to talk about their firms, answer questions and interview. The department may also help you with resume formats and interview tips.
8. Apply to Many Law Firms
Don’t assume you will get a job at one of your first five or 10 or 15 picks. Apply early to your dream firms, then apply to your second tier firms, then apply anywhere you know has a job opening and then apply to firms which have not yet advertised their job openings.
A couple weeks after you send an application, send a follow-up email. This is only professional; it underlines your interest in the firm.
The biggest take-away is to plan in advance. You should be thinking about what kind of job you want before you even apply to law schools.