Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box: Your Approach to Finding a Legal Job in a Tight Job Market

By Randi S. Lewis and Ellen B. Feldman
The Current Reality:
The legal job market is slow. But remember, nothing in life is permanent. The market will change.
Dealing With Your Current Reality:
  1. Prepare an updated, accurate resume to be able to provide to anyone at a minute’s notice.
  2. Evaluate your skill set and determine the legal and non-legal market for your skills.
  3. Research the job market via internet, legal newspapers, trade associations, peer groups, professional and personal contacts, and legal search firms.

  4. Determine your flexibility:
    (a) Are you willing to take a pay cut? (b) Are you willing to relocate? (c) Are you willing to take a non-lawyer position? (d) Are you in a position to take a volunteer position in a legal setting? (e) Are you willing to travel for your job?
  5. Do not apply for specialized positions for which you are absolutely not qualified.
  6. When applying for a position, apply once, follow up once by a phone call or email after time has passed. Don’t apply several times for the same position.
Networking & The “About Me” Speech:
  1. Networking is very important. More people get hired because they have a contact somewhere (either the reference or the connector).
  2. Force yourself to attend every personal and professional event to which you are invited. Prepare the “About Me” speech (otherwise known as the "Elevator Speech." It needs to be positive and confident - without bitterness or negativity.
  3. Contact everyone you know: family; friends; colleagues. Give them your “About Me” speech and ask if they know anyone you might contact.
  4. When you talk with people at a networking or other social event, be prepared with your “About Me” speech. Where appropriate, ask for their help AND ask for their business card and their permission for you to email them your resume. Email your resume the next day with a similar “About Me” transmittal email and make sure you are asking them to do something – either passing your resume along or providing you with names of others with whom you can connect.
  5. If anyone offers you a courtesy or informational interview, TAKE IT happily. Conduct yourself like it is an actual job interview. The interviewers may be your next connectors. Also, when the organization’s needs change, you may be first on their minds to fill a position.
Job Search Tips:
  1. Look at traditional ways employers advertise job openings. If you are not finding anything and you are available, you should consider doing contract legal work either by networking with people you know to work on short-term projects or by working through a legal staffing company such as Special Counsel. It has been a very busy time in the temporary legal world.
  2. Look at federal and state government jobs.
  3. Look at law & policy/analyst positions.
  4. Look at other public interest positions.
  5. Look for in-house positions either part-time or full-time, in legal or quasi-legal positions.
  6. If you are trying to switch practice areas, invest in education and volunteer.
  7. Take some CLE’s in that different area.
  8. If you are really serious, get an advanced degree (i.e., LLM, an MBA, MPh, MPA).
  9. Attend a meeting of your area of interest or practice group through the bar association.
  10. Find volunteer work for an organization working in your area of interest.
Current Trends in the Job Market – Who/What is Hiring:
  • Bankruptcy Litigation
  • Federal Government Jobs
  • Insurance Defense Litigation
  • Business & Commercial Litigation
  • Labor & Employment Litigation
  • Estates & Trusts in smaller firms
This was adopted from a presentation prepared for the Bar Association of Baltimore City Young Lawyers' Division (http://www.baltimorebar.org/files/pdfs/JobSearchProgram.pdf). For more information about temporary lawyer positions, contact Ellen B. Feldman, Esq., Senior Search Director, Special Counsel, ellen.feldman@specialcounsel.com.