The legal profession is constantly changing, and job seekers need to change with it. Regardless of where you are in your professional development — a law student, a new attorney just starting out or an experienced lawyer desiring to make a change — this is an optimal time for you to favorably position yourself in the legal market.
The following six tips are time-tested strategies that serve as the foundation for a strong job search. Although this article addresses the legal field, these tips are universal.
Before beginning your job search, it’s important for you to change your perspective. Job searching is more than just finding a “job”; it’s finding the right opportunity to broaden your experience and cultivate the necessary skills to propel you further in your career. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Law students and lawyers I’ve counseled who have regularly applied these strategies have obtained positive results. Almost without fail, those who were unsuccessful did not. Notice that it’s the consistent practice of these strategies that yields results. In addition, this aspect of one’s professional development should become second-nature. Even when you obtain a desired job, it isn’t the time to relax and become comfortable, but to continue this process in order to stay on top of your career game.
Now, without further ado, let us begin:
1. Adjust Your Attitude
We all know that attitude is everything. Unfortunately, there’s a huge difference between those who are merely aware of this and those who actually put this into practice.
Be the type of person people want to help and be around because of your positive attitude. Being obnoxious or negative will not get you very far. Even though everyone who attends law school is smart, attitude determines opportunities. I knew a young lawyer who was extremely polite and well-mannered. Despite being an average law student, he had the type of infectious attitude and work ethic that people noticed. Consequently, he was able to obtain prestigious judicial clerkships that will no doubt aid him in his desired practice area. Be optimistic, well-mannered and professional to everyone — no matter what.
2. Follow Your Passion
I can vividly remember the second half of my 1L summer when I interned with Cochran, Neufeld, and Scheck in New York. To be able to work with such brilliant legal minds on civil rights cases was exhilarating! At the end of the internship, we asked Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck for career advice. They said to always follow our passion and not to do things merely for money; the money will come when we follow our passion.
I immediately thought that was easy for them to say as famous members of OJ’s Dream Team who obtain multimillion dollar verdicts. I was a little disappointed because I wanted specific tips on how to do the same. Little did I know at the time that their simple advice would prove useful and serve me well. I’ve always excelled at those jobs I was passionate about and which allowed me to grow professionally. The same will hold true for you.
3. Be Strategically Flexible
Although this may sound contradictory to the prior tip, it isn’t. In pursuing your passion, you may find that there a few detours you must take along the way and many routes available for obtaining your goals. This is especially the case as the constant changes in the legal profession force you to be strategically flexible.
Not being strategically flexible is one of the biggest mistakes many law students and attorneys make. There is a tendency to doggedly adhere to a particular outcome, despite its disadvantages, and miss out on enriching opportunities that have enormous potential for professional development and satisfaction. Those who are strategically flexible, making the most of their opportunities on the way to obtaining their ultimate goals, will reap tremendous benefits.
4. Use Your Career Services Office
Another big mistake law students and alumni make is the failure to adequately utilize their career services offices. These offices are usually staffed with attorneys who have practical experience and can assist you in your job search.
The more the advisors know about you and your interests, the better they can assist you. If you’re dissatisfied with your assigned advisor, visit another advisor who can help you. Advisors are paid to develop employment networks, as well as keep abreast of the latest updates and trends in the legal field. Additionally, these offices have access to a number of career development resources and programs that are available to law students and alumni. It’s usually evident to employers which applicants use their career services office and which don’t. In light of this, it would be foolish to disregard such a beneficial resource.
5. Research and Stay on Top of Current Market Trends
The significance of this cannot be overstated. Just as market research is important in the business context, it’s equally important for those in the legal field to research current trends. For instance, if you’re interested in sports and entertainment law, you should research things such as a list of law schools with relevant programming/coursework and strong alumni contacts when deciding where to attend, as well as geographic locations, prospective job growth, types of positions (i.e., internships and paid jobs) available, information from attorneys who have practiced in these areas, etc.
As you advance professionally, you should continue your research, regularly assessing yourself, your goals and your strategic plan. Remember, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
Finally, the rewards of networking, both off and online, are enormous. Just last week, a law graduate thanked me for using my network to quickly find him a legal job after a rescinded offer.
Although there are many lawyers, you will be amazed at how small the legal profession really is when your network expands. For introverts who hate networking, simply think of networking in its most basic form: a way of getting to know new people and cultivating relationships. This alleviates the pressure of trying to find a job, and you’ll find that things go smoother when you don’t appear desperate.
Professional social networking sites have made networking even easier. Remember to remain professional online. Additionally, be creative when choosing which events to attend, and try to meet as many people as possible. Turn to volunteering, both inside and outside of the legal field, to develop different skills and expand your network.
Law school is an expensive investment. Make this investment work for you by taking charge of your career with these six simple tips!
Tamesha L. Keel, Esq. directs Miami Law Legal Corps, an award-winning post-graduate fellowship program that places recent law graduates in public sector organizations. Be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn.