How to Find a Legal Job After Law School?
Are you approaching the end of your law degree and stressing out that you don’t have any real legal job prospects? Have your commenced your PLT hoping that your placement may result in a potential graduate lawyer opportunity, but freaking out, what if it doesn’t?
Your fear and anxiety is real! You ask yourself, why didn’t you focus more on gaining legal experience during the earlier stages of your league study, then again, perhaps you did, there are many legal graduates that gained great experience early on, they did it by the book, however still find themselves with limited job prospects. Chances are, you fall into one of the above categories.
Well, the good news is, you’re not alone – perhaps that’s not really considered good news, it’s just that there are plenty of other fresh law graduates who are in a very similar position of trying to figure out how to find a legal job after law school. Unfortunately, in this case, it’s not safety in numbers, it’s just more competition.
The positive side is, all is not lost. If you weren’t so lucky to secure a law job prior to graduation or during PLT then there’s still hope. Actually, all things considered, many law firms won’t pay too much attention to you at all until you are actually admitted, that’s right until you’re actually a lawyer.
Once you’re admitted to practice the challenge still remains, how do you find a legal job after law school?
Now that you’re admitted (or soon to be) you need to make a few updates and then start finding some new opportunities. We cover some great legal career tips in this guide and point you in the right direction of figuring out how to get a legal job after law school.
Here’re some tips to help point you in the right direction!
1. Your Legal Resume Must Be Exceptional – No Excuses
There’s no excuse any more, your resume must be exceptional. As a law graduate, you’re expected to have a very high level of communication, this includes being able to write exceptionally well. Your legal resume is the first piece of correspondence a law firm will receive from you, they are judging you on how well you can write based on the drafting of your legal resume.
If your legal resume is full of errors and is poorly drafted you’re going to find it very difficult to secure an interview. Your resume is the first impression a law firm receives of you, make sure it counts and portrays you as a competent graduate lawyer – there are no excuses anymore.
2. You Must Be Opportunity Focussed
Don’t be too rigid, you may have a particular practice area you would like to work in but understand, it’s a competitive industry and you may need to consider taking whatever opportunity you can to get your foot in the door so you can start gaining real practical legal experience.
You may initially need to consider roles that are outside that of a graduate lawyer, such as a Paralegal. Starting a paralegal is not necessarily the worst idea, as the role is very similar to that of a graduate lawyer. If you decide to take this path, it’s a good idea that the firm knows it’s your intention to move into a graduate lawyer role when the opportunity presents and you have an agreed and clear path of transition into a graduate lawyer role.
3. Check the Job Sites & Follow Up
Opportunities for graduate lawyer roles are much more common on the main job sites, bear in mind that competition is still tough at this level. Ensure that when you apply for any of these roles, you take a systematic approach to following up your application. You will be surprised by how many opportunities you can create by following up your job applications.
The truth is, and sorry if this is a little direct, but most graduates take a very lazy and unsystematic approach to job hunting, when in fact, you must be methodical in your approach. Your process should look something like this:
- Call the law firm, ask for the job poster and introduce yourself;
- Ask questions about the role, what date does shortlisting close;
- Ask if you can send your resume and cover letter directly; thank them for their time;
- Alternatively, ask if you can drop your resume off in person and introduce yourself in person;
- If you don’t hear any news by the shortlist date – follow up, get an answer.
- If it’s not a favourable decision, ask for feedback.
For a more comprehensive guide, see the below article.
Relevant Article: Get Serious About Your Job Search – Follow Up Your Job Applications
It’s important that after graduating you stay relevant by continuing to gain legal experience however possible. A great way to keep your skills current and gain experience is by volunteering at the community legal centres. Not only will you assist with a very valuable service to the community, but you’ll also receive practical first-hand experience and mentoring from senior lawyers.
You must avoid at all costs- graduating and not obtaining any legal experience for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, we see in some situations, individuals graduating law, gaining admission and then failing to get any experience a year+ later. To an employer, it makes you look less relevant because your skills and experience have not been maintained, this makes it especially hard for you to compete with the freshly admitted lawyers.
5. Apply Directly – Law Firm Websites
Many law firms will first advertise their jobs on the career section of their websites, they are then and generally shared online via LinkedIn. This first point of action is to avoid paying advertising costs to job sites by relying on their network and referral sources first. If you’re serious about finding a law job, check the law firms websites regularly and sign up to the job alert notifications so that you’re alerted when a new job is posted that matches your selected job criteria.
6. Apply Directly – Internal Recruiters Teams & HR Personnel
Approach the law firms recruitment and human resources personnel directly. Introduce yourself and inquire as to what current opportunities are available (or coming available in the near future).
It’s always a good idea to ask if you can forward your resume directly so that you can be considered for any potential opportunities that are available now or in the future. You can find good opportunities with this method. Sometimes a law firm may be considering employing a graduate lawyer in the near future, if you get your timing right, you may just be able to find an opportunity before it’s even advertised or shared publicly.
7. Visit Local Firms
It’s always advisable whenever possible to visit the law firms in person and introduce yourself. You will find much more success in meeting people in person than you will be hiding behind emails. Meeting in person allows you to show your personality and it’s much easier to influence and demonstrate your enthusiasm. It’s so effective because 99% of people won’t put this amount of effort in. Be the 1% that does, reap the rewards of being dedicated and proactive.
Relevant Article: How to Find a Law Student Job Online
8. Build Your Network
Perhaps the best way to establish your legal career and to create future employment opportunities is to become an avid networker. If you’ve not spent too much time prior to your graduation or admission networking with others in the profession, it’s not too late to start.
By using LinkedIn, you can establish connections with other lawyers, legal personnel and law firms who practice within your legal area of interest. Reach out, introduce yourself and get involved in the conversations.
A great thing about the legal profession is that they generally enjoy networking. There’s very rarely a shortage of networking or industry events planned, you just need to put the effort into attending, meeting and building relationships with new people.
As mentioned previously, there is no substitute for meeting people in person. People by nature enjoy helping others, there will be no shortage of opportunities once you build a close network of professional colleagues.
Unfortunately, this is not an activity that leads to quick results, it takes time and effort to establish yourself and build your network, which is why we always advise law students, law graduates and early career lawyers to start building their professional networks early in their legal studies.
Relevant Article: How to Establish Your Legal Career: Professional Branding
9. Don’t Give Up
We know it can be tough, but don’t give up. As mentioned previously, take a systematic approach to applying for law jobs, if you don’t, chances are you’ll miss opportunities. There are plenty of opportunities out there.
The strongest advice we can offer you is to get out from behind your email and meet with people face to face. You might feel like you’re being too direct, or that you’re being pushy, but you’re not. If we’ve learnt anything from our experience in law, it’s that most legal practitioners are extremely supportive of legal graduates. They will make time to meet with you, just ask,
Follow the above tips and you’ll see how much easier it can be to find a legal job after law school!