One of the biggest concerns for new attorneys is finding a job. When I graduated law school in 2011, the job market was tough. I applied to so many positions and only received a handful of call backs. It is easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged when all your hard work in law school doesn’t translate to getting the job even though you may be qualified. With student loan payments looming, the fear of not having a steady paycheck is daunting. Post bar I was able to use my connections to seek out some part time contract work from other attorneys which helped pay the bills and padded my resume with new skills. I would recommend that those of you who are looking for a job try to contact your attorney connections to see if you can assist with any part time contract work if you are able. Many attorneys that I know, including myself, get slammed from time to time and need some extra help.
When you first graduate law school, you think you have a clear understanding of the type of law you want to practice. From personal experience, I can tell you that those career goals will change at least once after working in the field and realizing that the particular area of law is not for you. You will quickly learn what you enjoy doing and what you don’t. In applying for jobs, I cannot stress enough the importance of networking connections. Knowing someone who works at the firm you are applying to can make the difference between getting an interview, or having your resume stay at the bottom of the pile. Most attorneys that I know would be more than willing to speak with an applicant about the firm environment or meet them for coffee to see if they would be a good fit at the firm.
Additionally, your resume and cover letter are key to getting your foot in the door for an interview. It is important to make sure your resume is up-to-date, relevant, and pleasing to the eye. Your resume should be used as an effective marketing tool to sell yourself to the law firm and highlight the skills and qualities that set you apart from everyone else applying for the position.
Here are a few helpful tips in drafting your resume from my sister who is a human resources professional that I think are worth stating:
- Use correct grammar and spellcheck. Recruiters and law firms will be looking for professionalism, so they may automatically rule out your application based on spelling and grammatical errors.
- Stay consistent in using correct past and present tense when describing job experience.
- Be simple and precise with your words so you get your qualifications across to the employer efficiently and effectively. Recruiters and law firms may only look at your resume for a few seconds, so make sure you have the most important aspects highlighted, bolded, or italicized to catch their attention. Use a format that is easy to read, has appropriate white space, and minimal bullet points. Make sure to use standard font like Times New Roman or Arial.
- Do not include pictures or reveal too much personal information. You never know what types of bias and preferences your employer could potentially have, even if on a subconscious level.
- Research the employer and make sure to tailor your resume to highlight the work experience, education, accomplishments, and skills that would be directly relevant to the position. Do not lie or exaggerate your experience, as the truth will ultimately be discovered in a background check or in interview.
- Set up a professional email address to use on job applications. Do not use a personal email that would be distracting to the recruiter or sends the wrong message (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Limit your resume to a single page. Recruiters will read top to bottom, so decide whether you want your education to come first or your relevant work experience. Only include specific information from within the last few years, as your most current or recent job duties will be looked at by recruiters as the most applicable.
- Make sure to have a professional voicemail message on your cell phone if that’s the number you are using on your resume. You can quickly make a bad first impression with an unprofessional voicemail message when the employer calls to set up an interview.
For every job I applied for, if I did not hear back from the employer within a week or two of applying, I would follow up with them directly to just check on the status of my application. After every interview, I would also send a personal handwritten thank you note to the interviewer thanking them for their time and the opportunity. Emails often get overlooked, but a handwritten note definitely stands out in this day and age of technology. Patience and perseverance are key to landing a job in the legal field, so don’t give up. Your hard work will eventually pay off.
In the meantime, you can continue to develop your networking base at the Forum’s Spritz into Summer mixer on May 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Davanti Enoteca in Carmel Valley. Several prominent attorneys and judges will be attending, so it will be a great opportunity for each of you to establish those vertical networking connections. We encourage you to invite your friends and colleagues. Please RSVP here.
The Forum is also pleased to announce that it will be teaming up with the Immigration Law Section to coordinate a post-race meet-up and mixer at Waterfront Bar and Grill after the Rock and Roll Marathon on June 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration for this event will be posted soon, but we encourage everyone to attend.