Although the hiring outlook for recent law school graduates has improved, learning how to find a job remains, well, a job. Legal careers are in flux as traditional business models evolve, and law firms and corporate legal departments face ongoing pressure to deliver more cost-effective services.
If you're a job seeker entering this rapidly changing environment, you must be as knowledgeable about how to find a job as you are about contracts and statutes. Consider incorporating these five strategies into your search efforts:
1. Go the extra mile in law school
Earning a high grade point average and participating in extracurricular professional activities — such as doing pro bono work, holding a leadership role in a law association or publishing articles — will give you an edge in finding a job.
Here's an example: A newly appointed judge in search of a law clerk received about 75 applications for a position that might have drawn a dozen candidates in the past. To weed out applicants, he eliminated those who hadn't written for their school's Law Review and who didn't have at least a 3.0 GPA. That allowed him to cut the applicant pool by about half, illustrating that what you do in law school does matter.
2. Think outside the box
Some traditional career routes have narrowed, but legal careers have become more varied and diverse overall. Since law firms may never hire partner-track associates in the numbers they once did, more law school graduates may need to consider roles outside of the legal profession in which a law degree is preferred or required. Examples include positions within consulting and accounting firms, legal processing outsourcers and corporate compliance roles. When considering how to find a job, be open to some of these nontraditional ways of using your law degree to gain employment.
3. Follow trends
New opportunities continue to emerge in the legal job market, which makes it essential to stay abreast of trends. A good resource is Robert Half Legal's Future Law Office research program, as well as periodic surveys on hiring projections. Knowing how to find a job means keeping up with in-demand practice areas and taking note of the types of positions being created. Shifting needs may suggest that you should target a different practice area than you initially planned.
4. Use your career services office
Your on-campus career services office can help you find internships and articling opportunities, shedule on-campus interviews and become more educated about the legal job market. If anyone knows how to help you find a job, it's the career centre staff! They can provide information on a range of legal jobs, including nontraditional-track positions in law firms and corporations. You can also learn more about interviewing, starting salaries and billable hours expectations, among other topics.
5. Explore multiple strategies
Don't rely on just one method to land a position. It's equally important to network online and in person. Join professional groups and stay in touch with law school colleagues and professors. In addition, you may want to research and proactively contact firms, as well as respond to job postings you find through LinkedIn or other sources.
Although it's ideal to be recruited for a position, don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Learning how to find a job after law school is more likely to involve equal parts diligence, networking and luck.