Your Job Search Should Start Early In Law School
“Isn’t law school hard enough? You want me to think about a job too?”
Afraid so. Those stacks of readings and marathon study sessions are just a start. Three years will rush by faster than you think. Sure, you probably need time to re-charge. But you’ll find that those classmates who networked during the fall, interviewed during the spring, and worked during the summer were the ones who landed the jobs.
In a recent post on the Ms. JD blog, Susan Smith Blakely, a Georgetown Law Center grad and author of “Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law,” sums up your job prospects with a familiar cliché: “The early bird gets the worm.” According to Blakely, “Finding a job after graduation is your most important job while you are in law school.” If you wait until your second or third year to start networking and chasing opportunities, you’ll already be too late:
“When you think of how to go about finding your first job as a lawyer, most of you think about combing through hundreds of law firms websites your last year of law school, going to any on-campus interviews you can get, contacting anyone you know who may lead you to a job, expanding that network at every turn, and even hiring a headhunter if you can afford one. These are all good options, but the search should start much earlier than your last year of law school. Your job search should start in the first year of law school and be on-going throughout all three years — or four years for those of you in night programs.”
That’s especially true in a down market, where full-time employment for new grads is just 57%, according to the ABA.
One way to increase your chances is through your school’s career services office (CSO). At a recent legal panel featuring law school deans and CSO officers, Blakely noticed a familiar refrain: Students weren’t taking full advantage of career services. “These deans and directors want to be involved with your job search from the get-go,” she writes, “to assure a greater degree of employment success at the end of your law school journey. Waiting until the second semester of your third year of law school to turn up in the Career Services Office is a mistake, and not showing up at all is an even bigger mistake . . . It is not their job to hogtie you and haul you into their offices. Getting there is your responsibility, and getting there is just as important as any course you take in law school.”
Think of it this way: If your peers aren’t using the CSO, that just means you get more personalized attention and help with your own job hunt.
Finally, Blakely warns that you should check your ego at the door. Many internships or opportunities to gain experience probably won’t cover the legal areas that interest you (let alone pay much). “. . . Don’t make the mistake of acting like you expect to be paid for that internship — or externships for that matter. Those days are over, and new rules and practices came out of the recession. Law students now are lucky to be paid for summer clerkships (if they can get them) and associate positions after graduation.”
And that just makes building relationships within targeted firms all the more important. Take potential mentors out to lunch (chances are, they’ll pick up the tab). Connect with them on social media. Volunteer to help on your own time. Bottom line: Let them get to know you. Who knows? They may grow curious enough to see what you can do.
Source: Ms. JD