How to Start Your Legal Career Fresh Out of Law School

Career After Law School

Starting a real job at a reputable law firm is the ultimate dream for students graduating from law school. Having spent long years studying and training hard, all that persistence, patience, and dedication you learned are going to help when you start looking for a job–especially since you still lack hands-on experience. Landing your first position will likely be a long and complex process when you’re trying to make your mark in an intensely competitive job market. The sooner you start scouting around, the better your chances of landing a great entry-level position. 

Focus on Building Your Resume

Even while you’re still in law school, you’d want to take up activities that will look great on your job resume. Having completed the first semester, spend summers and other free time interning or working as a paralegal with small, local law firms. You could also volunteer and work with, say, established attorneys or legal departments in large corporates. Don’t turn down any opportunity. You might find yourself picking up practical tips on how to get a criminal record expunged. Or, how to navigate the intricacies of the local legal framework and how district attorneys build cases. 

Keep an eye out for fellowship programs where you can earn a stipend. However, your objective should not be making money but acquiring experience that legal firms are likely to find interesting. Keep in mind that most sizeable reputed law firms follow specific procedures for hiring entry-level professionals and may not rely on recruiters to evaluate candidates. 

Craft an Impressive Resume

When writing your law school resume, list all the skills you acquired. Read up the official description of the positions and responsibilities and use it as a starting point to craft your resume. You’ll talk about the job details and how you accomplished the deliverables using strategies you devised. Use terms that law firm employers are sure to find impressive. At the same time, keep in mind that the person interviewing you is aware that you’re fresh out of law school and have little or no experience. They’re expecting to assess other skills that indicate your capabilities and talents. And that brings us to the next step.

Outline Concrete Skills

List all the skills that could make you a valuable addition to the law firm. Check out these transferable skills that are very much in demand in any law specialty.

  • Researching, acquiring, and processing information
  • Communicating effectively with entities within and outside the law firm
  • Writing and editing reports
  • Quick decision making and problem-solving skills with the ability to think on your feet
  • Integrating with the colleagues and associates and being a team player
  • Convincing people and influencing them

Scout Around for Job Openings 

  • Your first stop when looking for job openings is your law school’s career counseling office. Gather information about past students, graduates, and the firms where they started work. If these firms have hired from your law school before, they might be interested in considering new applications. Also, ask for letters of recommendation. 
  • Research your law school alumni on LinkedIn and read up about their career trajectory for guidelines on how and where to start working. You could also contact them and request an introduction to their firms. 
  • Search online for the top websites listing legal employment opportunities. Set up an account with alerts for job openings that may particularly interest you.

Tap into the Power of Networking

Building personal connections and networking give you a much better chance at landing your next job. Networking should be an ongoing process and not just about getting a job. Make an effort to connect with more experienced and renowned attorneys through social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter. A good starting point is to build a robust profile before reaching out to people in your field. 

You could also search for practicing lawyers’ blogs and follow them, commenting on their posts to develop a presence. Make it a point to attend alumni events and mingle with people. Get their contact information and keep in touch. You never know when an acquaintance can help further your career. Joining a city or state bar association is a smart move. You might get the opportunity to participate in legal events and connect with more people in your field. 

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

When stepping into the legal job market, take the time to research the job descriptions on various platforms. You’ll get an in-depth overview of the potential salaries, qualifications, and expectations. If you set your sights on the top legal firms, know that they’re likely looking for candidates from the top 5 to 10 universities

More prominent, well-established firms undoubtedly pay attractive salaries, but you may have to put in long hours. Further, new hires typically end up taking care of menial tasks without any significant responsibility. It could be years before you get to appear in court and argue a case since the seniors may not have the time to train you. On the other hand, if you work at a smaller firm, the wages could be lower, but the potential to gain hands-on experience is much higher. The cases you manage while working with them will look great on your resume when you look for better positions.

Positions You Can Expect

Check out some of these positions you can expect to snag.

  • If you’re hired as a legal assistant or a paralegal, you’ll work on different tasks to assist the head attorney. The job description typically includes maintaining and organizing files, legal documents, and paperwork. Researching for legal information like the ramifications of leasing out property using short-term rental software, preparing casework, and drafting papers are also a part of the deliverables. 
  • If you’re hired for administrative duties, you’ll complete data entry tasks, scan documents, and manage paperwork. 
  • If you’re hired as a junior to mid-level associate, your job includes drafting discovery requests, complaints, and demand letters. You’ll interview witnesses and file documents in court. 
  • If you’re hired as a court messenger, you’ll deliver documents to in court on time and ensure the opposing counsel gets time-sensitive documents without delay. Any miscellaneous tasks essential for the smooth functioning of the law firm are a part of your job description. 

Prepping for Your Interview

Prepping for your job interview at the legal firm of your choice takes careful planning. Research the firm’s top lawyers, their case histories, ongoing cases, and areas of expertise. Seasoned candidates also talk about gathering information about competing firms. At some point during the interview, you’ll be asked, “Why do you want to work here?” You should be ready with a response that justifies your choice. Dress sharp, be punctual, practice your answers, and project confidence. Also, remember to follow up and deliver a Thank you note. 

Before looking for appropriate positions to start your career in the legal sphere, identify your aptitudes and inherent talents. Law is a wide sphere with various specialties, and not all of them involve arguing cases in court. You may have to search and perhaps, experiment with a few positions until you find the area where you can excel and become a highly successful professional. 

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