The Lives of Lawyers: How to Find the Right Job Out of Law School

Getting a job out of law school can be a daunting task. There are so many factors at play such as grades and class ranking, interview skills, interviewer’s personality, and plain old luck. For many students, the natural next step is to turn to career placement at their respective law schools. In their marketing materials, schools heap praise on their career placement services as having the connections and expertise necessary to help everyone get their perfect job. It can be frustrating to be told to “just keep checking the job listings; you’ll get something, champ,” or, “have you considered government work?” just because you weren’t top of the class.

Here are some practical tips for students seeking jobs after On-Campus Interviews (OCI):

  1. Alumni Are Your Friends
  2. Whether you’re in a top 14, tier 3, or unranked law school, one thing is always certain: people have graduated before you. Schools near the top of the law school rankings love to stress the fact that they have alumni in every professional area available. That all sounds great, but what does it do for me, the unemployed 2L? If you’re proactive, it actually can do quite a lot. Schools often maintain lists of their alumni and contact information, which can be given to students. Head to career placement and ask for a document like that. Start sending cold emails to anyone who’s in a practice area that interests you, making sure to mention that your career placement office recommended that you reach out. You would be surprised at how eager attorneys are to help people from their alma mater. People like to take care of “their own,” and that absolutely includes students from their schools.

  3. Head to Reddit
  4. Reddit can be a great resource both for current law students and those graduating and entering the workforce. At the simplest level, Reddit is an open forum message board with boards on nearly every topic imaginable. Reddit’s law school subsection (r/LawSchool) can be an invaluable tool both for asking current students and alumni questions. There are countless Reddit threads dedicated to targeted tips for job searching. While not every thread may provide a tip that ends up working, the beauty is in the volume available. You never know what thread will hold the tip that helps find a job. Similarly, having the knowledge that there are hundreds if not thousands of similarly situated students searching for jobs can provide significant comfort.

  5. Network, Network, Network…and then Network Some More
  6. Yes, it sounds cliché; and yes, it is something you’ve heard before, but the value of networking cannot be understated. Law schools do a fantastic job of bringing firms in for networking events. Contrary to popular belief, these aren’t only for 1Ls! This doesn’t necessarily mean to start throwing your resume at people. The first step to networking is establishing an actual relationship with someone. Building up a friendship, making someone have a vested interest in your success, getting to know them: these are aspects to networking that people often overlook. In addition, the genuine advice that you can get from attorneys while they are just tossing out ideas could be a golden ticket you hadn’t considered.

  7. Expand Your Horizons
  8. Have you always wanted to be a real estate attorney at an AmLaw 100 firm? How about an M&A lawyer working on America’s largest deals? While OCI may have started shutting the door on these options, that door isn’t quite locked just yet. Law firms love practical experience, whether that be on the business side as an in-house attorney or working inside the government agencies that certain firms deal with most, and the value of these experiences can’t be understated. Yes, it’s frustrating not to have gotten that big litigation offer after your first year, but jobs at a local district attorney or even the U.S. Attorney’s office are incredibly competitive to get and provide just the experience that firms are looking for. Many businesses seek young attorneys to work on their in-house teams, and young attorneys can develop significant exposure to many practice areas through that experience as well. There are so many options outside of just OCI for law students, and a key is to use the OCI failure as a springboard for where you’re headed next.

Anyone who’s gone through law school can appreciate the intensity that is OCI and the disappointment that can come with not getting that Big Law offer right off the bat. It’s vital to remember, however, that OCI is not the end of the line. On occasion, these firms will come back in the fall and spring seeking upper-class students if they did not fill their summer associate groups, and anyone still hoping for one of these offers has to remain diligent in watching for these opportunities. It’s important to remember that other opportunities such as government and in-house jobs can provide the perfect springboard to get yourself into a Big Law job and not to discount these because they weren’t Plan A. The degree you’ll get when graduating opens up so many doors, so don’t get too down on yourself just because one door appears closed for now. Like I said earlier, just because a door may be temporarily closed for now absolutely does not mean that it’s locked for good.

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Adam Klein

Adam Klein is a third year student at Fordham Law, having received the distinctive Albert E. Del Vecchio Memorial Scholarship. He has securities law experience working both in NYC-based law firms and multinational corporations on issues ranging from class action lawsuits to various forms of public offering. Adam seeks to provide a unique blend of student perspective combined with young employee insight.