This post continues the series tracking a rising 3L through the process of securing his dream job. Below are his insights about how to incorporate a research paper into one's job search. Most law students have to write a lengthy research paper (around 8,000 words) before graduation. For some students this will be a journal note; others will write a paper for a class. Writing an 8,000 word paper is an onerous task, however it is also a fantastic opportunity to get ahead in the job-hunting process.
First, choose a topic that is closely related to the area of law you want to practice. Ideally it will be linked to your law major. Your paper should focus on a real problem, not something overly abstract, because you want it to be read by practicing attorneys. Second, plan to get the paper done early; preferably by the end of the fall semester of your second year. Most journals give students a full year to write a note, so if you get it done sooner you will be ahead of the competition for the next two stages.
Once you have a solid first draft, you should start incorporating it into requests for informational interviews. Mention the paper as an additional “touch point” with the attorney (assuming it covers a topic in his or her practice area), and ask for feedback. If you get an informational interview, the paper can serve as a topic of conversation, which gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the attorney’s practice area. The attorney is also far more likely to remember you if he or she has read your work, and you will also have a reason to touch base with the attorney a few months down the road.
Once you have finished the paper, it’s time to get it on the resume. The publication process for journals is not quick, so if you get the paper finished early there is a real chance you will be one of very few students to have a published paper while still in law school. Also consider trade publications. While not as prestigious, these often have quicker turn-around times than journals, and may actually be read by practicing attorneys. Speak to your professors to find out where they publish papers and ask them to put you in touch with the editors.
Many organizations, such as the ABA, run student-writing competitions, often categorized by subject matter. You should make a note of the entry deadlines and ensure you have a complete paper ready for submission. Winning a prize is a great way to demonstrate your research and writing skills to potential employers.
A strong paper can help you make contacts and get your resume noticed, so be sure to devote as much time and energy to it as you can spare.
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