For many law students, finding a job in the legal field is as challenging as law school itself. So be sure to keep these five essentials of successful law job searching in mind.
A Custom-Tailored Resume
“This is by far the most important step in any job search, and to be honest it’s the step I find candidates mistakenly focusing on least,” says Derrick Brummell, director of legal placement for Hudson Legal in Chicago.
Brummell stresses that it’s not smart, considering your resume is typically the first impression you make on an employer -- for better or worse.
This important document can’t be a job search afterthought. Tailor your resume specifically to the opening, Brummell advises, and make sure you highlight your skills that directly satisfy the requirements listed in the job description. A one-size-fits-all resume simply won’t cut it.
Networking and Relationship Building
If given a choice, most employers would rather hire someone they know, or who comes highly recommended by someone they know and trust, over a stranger. So you need to become known to employers in the legal field.
There is no shortage of industry professional associations, Brummell says, “so be sure to leverage membership in these organizations as a component of your job search.”
It’s also smart to set up informational interviews with employers of interest, says Deborah Schneider, coauthor of Should You Really Be a Lawyer?
“Meeting attorneys and developing relationships with them in a relaxed, noninterview setting is a good way to demonstrate that you have initiative and intellectual curiosity,” Schneider says.
But don’t confine your networking efforts to lawyers, Schneider cautions: “Nonlawyers -- your friends, relatives, hair stylist, yoga teacher --also know lawyers, and they just might know a lawyer you want to hire you.”
Instead of using the almost always unsuccessful throw-a-bunch-of-resumes-against-the-wall-and-see-if-any-stick approach, research employersthat best match your skills and areas of interest.
“There are tools such as Martindale that allow you to conduct searches on law firms by practice area, size and location,” says Brummell. “You can then generate a list of options that fit your criteria, go to their Web sites and pursue suitable positions at those firms.”
With employers sometimes receiving hundreds of resumes for every open position, it will be difficult to stand out from the crowd without some sort of follow-up.
A simple phone call or email will do -- “anything that helps you distinguish yourself from the countless other resumes an employer receives,” suggests Brummell.
Tapping Available Help
Practically all law schools offer free employment-related services to their students. But those great resources won’t help you unless you actually set foot in your law school’s career center.
“There, you can meet with a career counselor who can help you refine your job search strategy, review your resume, create a networking game plan and offer support throughout the process -- so that your job search is less stressful and more effective,” Schneider says.