Most people who know me think of me as a positive cheerleader for success. And I think that they are right. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t provide a swift kick in the butt when necessary. So excuse me for a second as I provide that swift kick for those of you who seem to need it.
Let’s get real for a second. Nothing in this world is promised, including and especially your future success. There is no greater variable in your success than YOU. I’ve heard law students complain about spending tens of thousands of dollars on law school and not being able to find a job (some are even trying to sue their law school). Guess who is most to blame in that situation? That’s right…you.
I’m not saying that there aren’t contributing factors. It sucks that the economy tanked and law firms, like every other business, are feeling the crunch. It sucks that there are probably way too many law students graduating each year who are competing for a finite number of jobs (which has now been confirmed by an actual study). I get it and I agree that it sucks. However, it still doesn’t change the undisputable fact that you are most in control of your future.
Even with all of the difficulty of finding a job, there are thousands of law students who are getting job offers. Some of those students go to your school. Some of them have better grades, some worse. Some have more connections, some have less. Getting the drift? There’s not much you can blame for your lack of a job offer that someone else hasn’t overcome on their way to getting a job offer.
Okay, I’m not writing this just to give you a hard time if you are one of those complaining law students. I’m hoping that I can give you a few tools to help you and keep others from being in your situation.
1) Start early. The job search doesn’t start when companies come to your campus. It starts any and every time you meet someone. Seriously. Anyone. You never know who will be able to help you get a job. If I meet you, and you’ve got a bad outlook on law school or life, I’m going to be less likely to refer you to a friend of mine as a potential employee.
2) Build relationships. If you ask me if I know anyone who is hiring the first time we meet, I’ll let you know but you won’t get any favors from me. Rightfully so because I don’t really know you. If you’ve built a relationship with me over the course of your law school career, I’m much more likely to put in effort to help you. I might call a few attorneys, send out an email blast, write a recommendation, etc. I know many many attorneys who got their jobs because of who they know (not by sending out resumes). Put yourself in position to be one of those people.
3) Be proactive. Yes it’s easy to go through your school’s recruiting process. It’s a lot more difficult to find, research and contact firms on your own. It’s even more difficult to do it when you’ve got a ton of work to do for class. And that is precisely why those who do end up with job offers more often than those who do not. Research the guidelines for contacting firms and proactively do so within those limitations.
4) Be reasonable. You need a job. Your first job doesn’t have to be your dream job. Get some experience and develop a plan to transition towards your dream job. If you ignore or weed out too many firms, you may end up with a list that is one firm too short. In other words, that one additional firm might have been the one to give you an offer. You only need one job offer to end up with a job.
5) Build your story. There is a lot of competition for jobs coming out of law school. What does your resume and cover letter say about you? Why are you better than everyone else applying for this job? I worked very hard to make sure that anyone who read my resume came away with the impression that I was a proven leader. Yes the grades were there but what hopefully stood out was that I was frequently taking leadership positions and had well-rounded interests. Make sure that your resume is telling the best story.
6) Practice. If you are getting interviews but you are not getting any offers, it probably means that you are losing the offers during the interview. Practice answering interview questions. Think of and practice responding to the most common questions that arise when someone looks at your resume and transcript. Practice answering boilerplate interview questions. Make sure you know all that you can about the firm and practice group you are interviewing with. I often asked ahead of time if the firm could provide me with the names of my interviewers. When possible, I would make sure I read his or her firm profile so that I would have relevant quality questions to ask the interviewer.
Sometimes, we all need a little tough love. So turn the negative energy of complaining into the positive energy of taking control of your future. Stay positive, work hard, work smart and good luck. I know you can do it!