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Your First Legal Job: How Smart 0Ls Think About The Job Search

One of the most important things for you to think about before entering law school is the type of job that you want when exiting law school.

You should begin planning your job search before you even sign up for the LSAT.
Why so early?  Because a successful job search requires a thoughtful, targeted approach.

Employers hire students who:
– Can thoughtfully explain why they want to practice law – not merely why they went to law school.
– Have interned in a legal practice setting to experience the actual day-to-day practice of law.
– Demonstrate – not just claim – an interest in the particular legal practice for which they are interviewing.
– Have established that they are willing to work extremely hard and put in the hours the moment they walk in the door.

Employers avoid students whose expectations are for the Hollywood lawyer life, complete with long cocktail hours, trials that wrap up quickly, and a perfectly tailored Armani suit for each day of the week.

You will give yourself the best chance of landing a law job by meeting early and often with your law school’s career development office. Your career development office can best guide you when you have a clear vision of the type of job you want, and the narrative you want your resume to portray.

Employers are reviewing your resume to see if:
– Your experience indicates that you are actually interested in the type of job for which you are applying.
– You are prepared for the hard work that the job will require you to do.

For instance, say you want to pursue a career in family law in California. If you’ve already set that goal at the outset of law school, your career counselor can immediately begin to help you execute a precise plan for getting a job from the moment you step into his or her office.

Your counselor can direct you toward summer internships with family law practices in California; help you choose classes, pursue volunteer activities, and join organizations that show an interest in family law; encourage you to meet with family-law oriented professors; and introduce you to alumni who practice in that field.

By the time you are a 3L, if you don’t already have a job in family law, you will have a resume that clearly demonstrates a consistent interest and capability in the field, and connections with several attorneys practicing family law. In other words, you won’t be looking for a job for long.

Contrast that with a student who enters law school entirely unsure of the type of career she wishes to pursue, or even the geographic area in which she wants to practice.  This student may take courses, externships and internships in law school that do not have any coherent theme, and do not demonstrate a consistency of interest or purpose to an employer. If that student is unemployed 3L year, she simply lacks the resume showing consistent interest and experience in any one area of the law and is much less likely to find a job than her family-law focused counterpart.

When you exit law school, the absolute most important issue will be whether you are employed.  Start thinking about the specifics of what that job might be as a 0L, and you will give yourself the best chance of success.

Today’s blog post comes to us from Katelynn McBride, Assistant Director of Career Development at Notre Dame Law School.