6 steps to jump-start a spring job search


The beginning of Spring Semester is the right time to jump-start your job search. Here are six step to help you begin.

1.  Check your tool box

Critical tools for a 21st century job search are:
  • Electronic and paper resume. at least one version, more if you are approaching multiple types of employers.
  • Spreadsheet of networking contacts. Review your networking efforts from last semester. Be prepared to re-connect with old contacts and to develop new ones.
  • LinkedIn profile, Facebook, and blog posts. Update your LinkedIn profile with new accomplishments. Scrub your Facebook page and blog of anything that could come between you and a job that you might want. Yes, I know that in some places employers cannot ask for passwords, but they make judgments about items that are forwarded or that come up on Google searches.


2.  Check in with career services. 

While you frolicked during Winter Break, your career services professionals were hard at work doing research, making connections, and developing new avenues for you to pursue. (Yes, even if your law school was closed.)

3.  Explore practice areas. 

If you are unsure about what practice to pursue, do some research. You cannot outsource this activity, and waiting for a bolt of lightning to give you inspiration is not practical. Pick two or three practices and:
  • Answer these questions:  Who does the work? Where is the work done? (geography, big cities, small towns; large firms, small firms, in-house, public service, public interest, non-profit) What training or education before or beyond a JD is useful or required? What are the hot or trending topics? What is the posture of the practice (litigation, transactions, regulatory, lobbying, etc.)? Is its practice more like a team sport (prosecution) or a solo activity (writing opinions for administrative law judges)? What industries does the practice serve? Do those industries look forward or backward?
  • Scan the leading casebook or hornbook and get a syllabus of a class to understand how the topic is taught. 
  • Decide whether you might be interested in the work.
  • AFTER you have done some of this research, talk to a professor and then talk to lawyers who do the work. Do not approach a professional and say “I am interested in [your practice area]. Tell me everything you know about it so that I can decide whether I want to do it.” No one will help you.
  • After you have done this research and spoken to a number of professionals, assess your interest. If everything you have learned makes you cringe, thank everyone you have spoken with and begin again on a new topic. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

4.  Explore writing competitions.

2Ls and 3Ls should review journal articles and class papers against lists of writing competitions for which you can get publication credits and/or cash. Revise and recycle. Sometimes winners are invited to events (banquets, bar association meetings) to pick up their prizes. Usually the winners sit at the head table: great networking opportunities.

5.  Commit to meeting one new lawyer a week. 

Students committed to a single practice area should focus their networking on practitioners in that area. Everyone else should seek out lawyers in a wide variety of practice areas. With technology, you can make this work even if your law school is in a tiny remote town. Reflect on your research for names of prominent professionals. Look to your career professionals or alumni office for names of skilled alumni.

6.  Understand the calendar that controls job application.  

Apply promptly when summer clerkships are posted. Consider whether you are realistically available before you apply for a part time school year job. 3Ls should note that some state and local judges post immediate openings when their clerks leave for permanent employment. Those judges need to make immediate hires, and full-time 3Ls are generally not considered. 

For more tips:

Susan Gainen will present 2nd, 3rd or 4th Careers: Concrete Steps for a Life Changing Process at the 2013 Wisconsin Careers Conference (a program for undergraduates and graduate career professionals), and Alternative Careers at the 2012 NALP Annual Educational Conference. Her creativity workshop, Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun, is for all ages.

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