Tips For Finding Your First Legal Job
Legal recruiters don’t work with entry-level candidates; what steps can you take on your own to find a great first legal job?
Are you looking for your first legal job? First legal job in the U.S.? First legal job in a new practice area? Have you been out of the workforce or in a non-legal role for a number of years now and are looking to get back in? Have you been working outside the U.S. for some time?
Legal recruiters do not work with entry-level candidates for the simple reason that most firms have their own procedures for hiring at the entry level that do not involve recruiters. What steps can you take on your own?
- Make a list of your concrete skills. Think about which roles your concrete skills best lend themselves to. Remember firms/companies may not be in a position to train you on the basics.
- NETWORKING. NETWORKING. You have a much better shot at landing your next job through personal connections. And keep up the networking once you land your next job. Networking should be authentic and ongoing, not just something you do during a job search.
- LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. Connect with people, but be sure they are meaningful connections. And be sure your LinkedIn profile is in tip-top shape before starting your reach-outs.
- Work your alumni networks — undergrad, law school, and former law firm colleagues. Ask for warm intros to others in their networks.
- Remember that Career Services isn’t just for current students. Call your law school Career Services office anytime! Again, ask for warm intros.
- More and more law firms are creating alumni affairs offices. Call your former firm!
- Consider joining a city or state bar association and getting involved with one of the committees.
- Team up with a more senior lawyer to write an article or engage in a business development–type activity. Even if you’re unemployed, you can still be working towards your career and resume-building.
- Set up online alerts for job openings. Ask me for a list of online in-house job search resources.
- Start by requesting informational interviews, especially of those with whom you already have some connection. Do your homework before making the request and certainly before the interview. Structure the conversation to be sure you’re not wasting the other person’s time. Specify the time frame and offer to email questions in advance. Be sure to offer something in return (sharing an article with them they may find interesting, etc.) and show appreciation for the person’s time.
- Keep an open mind. You don’t want to sell yourself short, but put yourself in the employer’s shoes. They are taking a big chance on you. You know you’re awesome, but they don’t know that yet. Be hesitant to pass up a good opportunity just because it isn’t perfect. You don’t have to stay at this next job forever. Especially if you’re looking to move geographically, it may be best to land a job that checks two-thirds of the boxes; think of it as an 18- to 24-month stop with feet on the ground, and aim to be in your true dream job within a couple of years.
- Consider enlisting a third party’s help. Reach out to me directly and I’ll be happy to share some recommendations for career coaches with experience in the legal field.
- If you’re looking to re-enter the workforce after time outside the workforce, you may want to consider PE funds, consulting firms, or other employers who tend to value “smarts” over specific experience. They often prefer to mold someone to the job. The catch: many of them will not even consider candidates from below the Top 6 law schools. You could also look at banks and some other larger employers who may have specific workforce re-entry programs (e.g., JPMorgan Chase).
Of course, feel free to reach out to me or any of my colleagues at Lateral Link if you aren’t sure if a recruiter might be able to assist. We can always help point you in the right direction.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Abby Gordon, Senior Director at Lateral Link, who works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in Boston, New York, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York, Massachusetts and Maine Bars and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian). You can view additional articles by Abby here.