Positioning yourself for the next legal job

Consider the following tips when seeking that next (or the first) legal job.

1. Pick a practice area and a specialty within that practice area, as discussed in Making Partner
  • Preferably this step is done in law school so you have plenty of time to get work experience and take classes in the area, but it is never too late

2. Meet with people with similar touch points (things in common -- schools, hometown, etc.) and have three goals in mind

  • Give the person ideas to write and speak about to help their practice - Lead with this one; providing helpful ideas could be the way you get people interested in meeting with you
  • Get a job either now or later (don't neglect the later piece.) Ask if you can keep the person posted of your progress as a way of keeping the door open for a job opportunity later.
  • Request two names of people that would be helpful to contact. Ask for specifics about their practices so you can offer ideas to help their practice

3. Create a story to go with the practice area and the specialty which you can use in your opening act/elevator speech/informational interviews.

  • An example is you are a computer wiz interested in technology law with a focus on privacy
  • What do you have to contribute and how is it different then the competition
  • Perhaps something not law related (i.e., computer programming skills)
  • Work experience with specific examples of one or two substantive projects where you did heavy lifting
  • Get into the weeds and get out quickly (be concise) but go deep
  • Law classes (directly and indirectly related), undergraduate degree, etc.
  • Personality traits that suggest you would be a good fit for the specialty

4. Explain how (based on the above) you would be able to hit the ground running on day one

  • You are not an expert but there is a lot you know compared to your peers
  • Demonstrate that you are aware of the economics and that resources likely will be spent training you
  • Who else can speak to what you have to contribute. If possible, have a recommendation letter in hand (as opposed to available on request.)

5. Anticipate weaknesses (real or perceived) and deal with them

  • Think of this process as setting up bowling pins and knocking them down
  • Acknowledge the other side’s possible point of view even if you do not agree.
  • What do you still have to learn (and show you are open to learning)
  • Example --- perhaps you have stayed too long at your previous employer such that, depending on the nature of the employer (i.e., government), there may be argument that you are out of touch with the real world goings on in the practice area
  • Example --- perhaps you still do not have your job in your third year of law school
    • Address this affirmatively without waiting for the interviewer to ask.  Perhaps you had to work to get good grades and experience in your practice area and if so you have an argument that you are less of a risk than others.  At the same time, acknowledge that the employer is wondering why you still do not have a job.
  • Example --- perhaps you are not the typical candidate for the position (i.e., older, younger, not from top 5 school or top 10 percent)

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