After I published 12 Things I’d Do if I Were An Unemployed 3L, I reached out to Katie Slater, lawyer-turned-career-coach and founder of Career Infusion Coaching, to see what job hunting advice she’d give to an unemployed 3L.
Well, she came through in spades! She’s got tons of great advice — so it’s going to be a five-part series running all week.
Job Hunting Advice for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads
To all the 3Ls looking for gainful employment and recent law grads without jobs, I have a few thoughts that may help.
The most honest advice anyone can give you given the current legal sector is this — the job search is hard.
Absolutely without a doubt, unless your goal is BigLaw and you’re in the top 5% on law review at a top school, this job search is tough.
However (and I say this knowing that this is scant comfort to you right now) I also know that it is easier to craft the life you want from the front end than it is after you have been on a track for a number of years. Many of my clients who have been practicing for several years wake up with a start one morning and realize they aren’t as happy as they could be, because they did not think a lot about what they wanted in the beginning.
That all being said — you still need a job now.
How Do You Start a Legal Job Search?
Developing a plan for your approach is a must.
Consider it your first project management endeavor and good practice for the future, as most legal jobs require solid project management skills.
Your plan needs to attack the issue on multiple levels, operating from each at the same time.
- The first level is developing the big picture view about: yourself, what you might want, and what you offer to prospective employers to meet what they need.
- The second level is tactical: what are the concrete steps do you need to take to get to the ultimate goal of getting a job.
- And the third level is being aware of the mental and emotional toll the process might exact from you, and finding ways to combat it.
Part One: The Big Picture
Let’s take the big picture level first.
You need a concrete picture of yourself, what you offer, what you like, and how you are able to help your future employer. The end goal is to have parameters for your job search.
One of the reasons the job search for law grads is much more difficult now is that the automatic treadmill or recognized framework that has been in place for the past 10-15 years is not as defined due to the changing economic landscape.
That means we have to come up with our own parameters.
The Goal: Know Thyself
Where do you start?
You need to spend some time analyzing yourself and what you like, how you operate, and what you offer.
This is not on-the-couch-crying-about-your-parents stuff, but you do need to subject yourself to a little introspection. The goal is to flesh yourself out as a person and employee, as well as start developing a list of your skills. And no, you are not just a 3L with no job and no other abilities besides being able to pass law school classes!
Ideally, you should come up with a list of 4 things:
- Your strengths
- Your skills
- The field(s) of work that interest you
- Some sense of the type of work environment where you’d thrive
Generate a List of Your Strengths and Skills
How do you generate this list? Start with some of the following questions:
- What strengths and skills did you bring with you into law school? If you can’t start listing these immediately, consider what were you good at before law school — either in your undergraduate studies, or what you did before you went to law school. To provide you some examples of how to pull out your strengths and skills from this question, if you were one of those who put on events, or ran clubs or organizations or associations (particularly if you were told you did a good job, or you received any accolades!) your strengths may include being detail-oriented, good at project management, and able to manage people.
- What have you found highly rewarding? One way to shake loose some strengths and start identifying areas and environments in which you shine is to think back to some of your really rewarding experiences. These should be times where you felt you really accomplished something or felt that you made something a success. It needs to feel personally successful or like a personal accomplishment — not whether other people thought it was so. Identify several of these occasions, and ask yourself what you were doing, what abilities were you using, and who were you around. You should be able to identify some core strengths and perhaps some skill sets that you enjoy using.
- What non-legal skills do you have that could be helpful in the workplace? On the skills front, an example of an existing skill you have would be getting frequent positive comments on your non-legal writing abilities. Legal jobs still require non-legal writing for everything from comprehensible emails to clients to pitch pieces to articles written for the general public. Being able to communicate clearly is a valuable skill set, independent of legal writing.
- Also, what skills have you picked up in law school that you enjoy using? Have you written great notices or law review articles or papers — these are examples of solid legal writing skills.
- Do you have any tech skills? Have you developed a website, organized any new social media or pushed it in a new direction, or developed any IT — either before or in law school? Any of those fairly obviously indicates skills in coding/web-based development, and shows strengths in innovation, creativity, and design.
- Are there any other bright shining moments? Do not overlook things like being captain of the intramural team — there are still things to be learned from those experiences. Maybe this speaks to your ability to lead a team, or engage well in a team dynamic, or be quite tactical or strategic.
How to Use Your List of Skills and Strengths
What do you do with your strengths and skills now that you’ve identified them?
Make sure that the jobs you are looking at/seeking/applying for are also looking for those strengths and skills!
Yes, that may seem blindingly obvious, but it will make your life less painful if you try to align that now.
Also, you now have examples to refer to in cover letters and interviews of how you’ve used the strengths and skills you possess.
So, now you have a better sense of your strengths and skills, let’s think about the next part of the equation: What do you want to do?
Tomorrow, we’ll determine what types of law or fields would suit you. Stay tuned!
If you enjoyed this article, check out our interview with Katie, where she talks about her own career path and the number one thing that prevents lawyers from having the careers they want. (Hint, it’s a four-letter word.)
Or read on for the rest of the series:
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: What Do You Want?
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: Who Do You Know?
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: How to Get the Inside Scoop
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Law Grads: Coping with an Extended Job Search
If you’re still reading, take a look at some other recent career-related pieces:
- Searching for a Legal Job? The Author of “From Lemons to Lemonade” Shares Some Ideas
- Want to Start Marketing Yourself in Law School? Some Great Tips!
- Cool Idea for Legal Networking: Make A “Contacts Roadmap”
You can also sign up for our weekly mailing list, and get job hunting tips and other good stuff sent right to your inbox!
Got job hunting tips or questions? Leave them in the comments!