Below is a post from a loyal LegalJob follower about he ultimately landed a big law firm job.
Happy holidays! I am a big firm associate who did extremely poorly for the first half of law school, but was able to turn things around with hard work, not to mention LegalJob’s inspiration and support. LegalJob asked if I could share my story, so here goes:
Grades. Some of my classmates understood how to craft an “A” exam going into law school.
I didn’t. Eventually, I realized that law school is a game, like golf or chess. There are rules, and strategies for using those rules to do well. And since no one was teaching me the rules – my professors didn’t deign to write any feedback from my exams – I’d have to teach myself. So I bought books on how to write legal exams and practiced incessantly. After doing that, I started looking forward to hammering out the next law exam. Oh, and my grades improved, too.
LegalJob is consistently emphasizing the value of persistence. That quality will help you overcome rejection throughout law school career, including during the law school application process.
LegalJob recently participated in a productive program about informational interviews. Here are some takeaways:
- Set up these meetings with alumni with whom you have something in common (referred to as touchpoints)
- e.g., from same town, same undergraduate school, same major, same background, etc.
Two articles (linked below) providing advice about securing a job on the Hill highlight the three principles emphasized on this blog (and in the new ABA book Making Partner) for securing a legal job: 1) Focus, 2) Network (with a plan), and 3) Practice Persistence.
The first article “Capitol Hill or Bust!” highlights the importance of Focusing and Networking with a plan — “Rather than telling colleagues you want to “return to the Hill,” be specific. Say you want to work in energy policy or you want to help with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Then they can introduce you to people who are directly connected to those positions.”
The second article “When will something come up” highlights the importance of practicing persistence in the context of exploring all of your options. ”The chance of getting a job through the job banks is likely less than landing a job through regular informational interviews or an internship. But that does not mean you should give up. On the contrary, the job banks and job postings exist because offices are still interested in outside talent. And while I wouldn’t rely solely on the job boards, I wouldn’t ignore them, either. Even landing an interview is a good step toward networking further. And keep in mind the golden rule of Washington, D.C.: Even if you don’t get the exact job you’re interviewing for, it doesn’t mean there won’t be another job for you in that same office that is a better fit.”
The answer to this question seems fairly obvious, especially if you are familiar with the posts on this blog — employers are looking for what you can do for them. Law students should keep this in mind when considering classes to take as a 2L and 3L, preparing for and participating in interviews (including informational), and corresponding with potential employers (initially, thank you letters, and any follow up).
One technique to help shift your thinking generally and to help you prepare for an interview is to make a list of your qualities and the potential employer’s qualities. Head the first list “What I Can Do for Them.” Under this heading, list all of your talents and skills, taking into consideration the types of abilities legal employers are likely to look for: writing ability, analytical skills, research skills, interpersonal skills, and some understanding of the business of practicing law. Then make a list headed “What They Can Do for Me.” Here list all of the reasons why you want to work for this particular employer. Consider size, type of practice, location, and anything else that draws you to the firm. Next, distill each list into two or three points about yourself and about the firm and commit to communicating those points in your interview. You may have the opportunity to communicate your selling points as answers to questions, but if not, volunteer them in the interview.
Image courtesy of cooldesign.
1) Distinguish yourself in the application process by articulating intended career path
When reviewing your materials, the admissions committee is wondering:
a) whether you are likely to be one of those students with lots of job prospects upon graduation, despite your academic results; and
LegalJob repeatedly emphasizes the importance of picking a major early and gaining academic and work experience in that area. The goals are to match your interest to a booming legal field and, if possible, identify a practice area, which may provide multiple paths for obtaining a job. Towards this end, consider technology. This recent ABA journal article (link here) notes that law students with technical training are finding themselves in high demand.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
The founder of LegalJob has authored a book published by the American Bar Association which will be rolled out today at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. The book is called ”Making Partner: The Essential Guide to the Law School Path and Beyond.” The book provides practical information and specific advice about how to obtain a position at a top law firm of any size, including AmLaw 100 firms, and how to excel once you are there.
The link to purchase the book is here.
LegalJob was recently asked how to effectively seek out and reach out to small law firms. Evidently, some recent law graduates are being advised to randomly reach out to small firms (cold without having a contact) and see what happens.
This approach does not seem likely to be very fruitful. Instead, consider following many of the approaches discussed on this blog for targeting large firms. As two examples, experts in this area point out two useful strategies of:
- Making the business case for how you can be helpful to the firm’s bottom line immediately, and
- Putting yourself in a place where decision makers will be for the particular job you want
- For different resources that could be helpful including a link to a NALP book containing skills and training required and narratives from practitioners about their daily work life, take a look at the information posted by the career development office at UC Berkeley School of Law. This site provides links to tools to help find out about different practice areas, employers in a particular practice area, a particular employer, etc.
- If you truly have no idea what you want to practice, try to:
- match your “major” to your background
- relevant summer work experience you can leverage
- relevant law school classes in which you excelled
- undergraduate major
- clinics, journals, other activities
- match your “major” to your background