I know a lot of you are worried about finding that first job out of law school. (And with good reason.) That’s why I’m thrilled to have Shauna C. Bryce here.
Shauna’s a Harvard Law grad who paid her dues in BigLaw before leaving to start her own career consulting business for lawyers, Bryce Legal. She’s written a great book: How to Get a Legal Job: A Guide for New Attorneys and Law School Students and runs a useful website on the same topic.
Her advice is consistently useful and interesting, so let’s get started!
I’m a rising 2L, and I’m starting to get concerned about OCI. My grades are pretty good, and I’m at a top school, but I’ve never had a “professional” job before, and I’m pretty intimidated by the whole process. What can I do to improve my chances of a summer associate offer? And if that doesn’t work out, what should I do instead to find a summer position?
This is a pretty complex question, so it’s hard to give a complete answer in limited space. But it boils down to one principle:
The more prepared you are for the OCI process, the less intimidated you will be and the better you will perform.
Learn as much as you can about the OCI process and the employers who will be attending.
- Apply to a variety of employers, but focus your efforts on employers who value your strengths. And be sure to showcase your strengths in your résumé and in your interview.
- Learn and implement résumé-writing techniques to help you identify and showcase your strengths in your résumé.
- Learn and practice interviewing techniques (including dress rehearsals).
- Research the employers who will be interviewing you—understand them, their business, and what your role would be.
If you don’t land a summer associate offer at a law firm, there are plenty of other productive things you can do for the summer.
Remember that not all employers participate in the on-campus interview process.
Small law firms and businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies, for example, are not the usual participants, but they might still make great summer employers for you, providing opportunities for legal or law-related work.
You might also consider being a (paid or unpaid) research assistant for a professor in an area of law that interests you, volunteer at a nonprofit and for a bar association legal clinic, intern for a judge or court clerk, assist a smaller law firm or business, or more.
If you know what area of law you want to practice, you could get some “field” experience.
For example, if you’re interested in construction law, you might want to work for a construction company so that you can learn about the business and practical sides of the industry, as well as learn about complex contracts, labor law, insurance, construction regulations, and other areas of law that touch the industry. If you’re interested in employment law, you might work in a corporation’s human resources, recruiting, or benefits departments. [Note from Alison: Love this idea!]
Just remember that OCIs aren’t your only opportunity to get a worthwhile summer experience.
Law touches every type of organization and every industry, so there’s no need to limit your summer opportunities to the large law firms that participate in OCIs. Think creatively!
I’m a 3L without a job offer, and I’m currently studying for the bar. Once I take the bar exam, what are the most important things I can do afterwards to find a job, ASAP? The job market is so terrible!
The job market is tight, there’s no denying that. And it often takes people longer to find employment than they think—it can take months. So ideally you wouldn’t wait until after the bar exam to start your job search. Instead, you’d get started right now.
Starting your job search as soon as possible is one of the most important things you can do.
Like it or not, fair or unfair, there’s a bias against the unemployed that reinforces itself in ways that work against the job seeker.
Basically, the longer you are unemployed, the harder it will be for you to get a job, which increases your length of unemployment, which makes it harder for you to get a job… This cycle can become more and more difficult to break and have long-lasting consequences—years after you successfully escape the unemployment cycle itself.
Another important thing to do is to identify and lead with your strengths.
- Did you get fantastic grades? Excellent, find employers who value grades.
- Are you a hands-on learner with a lot of on-the-ground experience? Great! Find employers who value that.
Know what your strengths are, know how to articulate those strengths to employers, and know how show employers how your strengths help them and their clients.
Put together your career documents—résumé, cover letter, references, writing sample, and even networking cards.
Remember these are marketing documents with a specific target audience (the employers you’ve identified), and so put them together with that purpose in mind.
But of course even the best career documents can’t do you any good if you’re not getting them in front of decision-makers, so that brings back to the first most important thing—get started!
Could you talk a bit about what you do in the average day at work, and how it’s similar to (or different from) what you thought you’d be doing when you started law school?
When I went to law school and then practiced law in New York and New Jersey, I never imagined I’d become an expert in career solutions and strategies for lawyers! But the transition was easier and more natural than it seems.
While a litigator, I was on the hiring committee of an Am Law 200 law firm and so I was very involved in recruiting, hiring, and mentoring.
I took the knowledge and skills I gained in legal hiring, along my knowledge of law practice, to create my own niche.
One of the nice things about my work now is that every day is different. Of course, I work with individual clients to develop their résumés, cover letters, references, and other career documents, as well as on one-on-one strategic coaching to guide their job search, prepare them for interviews, and more.
I answer specific questions in Ask The Hiring Attorney® (a syndicated question-and-answer expert advice column) and How To Get A Legal Job (a members-only website built around the series of books with the same name), which allow me to help people on a larger scale.
Lastly, I know I can counsel my clients best by also being a researcher and thought leader, and so I spend additional time each week discussing issues like trends in hiring, lawyer satisfaction, interviewing techniques and preparation with other leaders in the careers industry, hiring attorneys, legal recruiters, law school and college career centers, and others.
I love what I do, and I’m fortunate to have so many opportunities to share my work and give job seekers every advantage they can get as they face the toughest legal job market in a generation.
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Thanks, Shauna! Great advice for all the job-seekers out there.
Want more? You’ll find additional job-hunting and career advice here:
- Job Hunting for 3Ls and Recent Grads
- 12 Things I’d Do if I Were an Unemployed 3L
- Looking for Work? 7 Tips for a Remarkable Résumé
- The One Question That Will Improve Any Résumé
- Searching for a Legal Job? The Author of “From Lemons to Lemonade” Shares Some Ideas
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Do you have job-hunting questions for Shauna? Leave them in the comments!