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Post-OCI Job Strategies; By Sara Gail, Esq.

It is that time of year--you had a great summer; you polished up your resume and your shoes; and you tried to find a job through your school’s on campus recruiting efforts. 

But OCI is over and perhaps it didn’t go your way.  What do you do now?

The first thing to do is to take a deep breath.  Assess and accept your position. You didn’t get the job of your dreams—or at least not yet.  So take a minute to ask yourself a few questions and answer them honestly.

What type of job do you want?  Do you want to work a ton of hours or do you want to work 9-5?  Do you want to have a big office or does working with just a few people appeal to you?

What are your fears about the job search process?  We all have fears and it is important to know what they are.  For instance, most attorneys I encounter have a huge fear of networking.  It is never easy, but it is something to recognize and accept.

What are you confident about?  First, look at your law school network–you should always be confident in the instantaneous network, one that will lend you more support than you might think.  You should also be confident that you have made it through the toughest year of law school.  And be confident in your personal strengths.

What are your strengths?  And what are your weaknesses? Are there classes you really enjoyed?  Courses you excelled in?  Do you have previous work experience?  How are your interpersonal skills? 

All of these questions should give you a pretty good reality check. But there are a few other things to consider.  Many law firms, especially the large ones whose names we all know, are highly selective when it comes to grades.  If you don’t have the grades, you probably need to recognize that a job at that firm is going to be a stretch.  But that doesn’t mean you should lose hope of becoming a great lawyer—it just means you need to refocus your search to avoid wasting time on the few firms that are going to make their initial decision solely on grades.  Let go of these places!

Now that you have had your reality check, it is time to move forward and develop a plan.  First, where are your target markets?  Look at places where you have personal ties.  It is always easier to network and reach out if you are looking at a market where you know people.  Also, consider the type of market – is it big or small? A busy metropolis or a secondary market? 

Second, what is your target practice area?  See my colleague’s post on picking the right practice area. Pick an area that you enjoy, but also be realistic.  If you have an interest in litigation, reach out to that friend.  But if you’ve never met a provision of the tax code you like, don’t start calling tax lawyers just because you think a job may have opened up. 

Finally, get ready to put your plan into action.  All law students are busy, but make time to prioritize your job search. Be organized and methodical in your search, keep a chart, write everything down, and use technology to your benefit (for example, bcc yourself on emails so that you always have an easily accessible copy in your inbox).

Now that it’s time to implement your plan, know the tools at your disposal.  In addition to your career services office, Martindale-Hubbell, LinkedIn, Chambers and Partners, Legal 500, and Law Dragon are great resources for your job search.  For example, Martindale-Hubbell has the best coverage of firms with less than 50 attorneys, while Chambers and Partners has great summaries of the top attorneys in each practice area as voted on by their peers.  Lateral Link has a full library of information covering the top firms in the country.  To check it out register for our site for free.

And one side note—LinkedIn is not optional anymore.  The searches and capabilities of LinkedIn are often underused, and it is a fantastic way to broaden your search in a targeted way.  Take some time to learn the site's features and consider upgrading to a professional level account that allows you more search functionality and results. 

Now that you have done your research, it is time to start sending emails and making calls.  Do your research on who you are emailing and your market, and set a goal for yourself each day.  Keep your emails short and to the point, conversational but not too familiar, and don’t ask for a job in the first email.  Your goal is to network with the person you are emailing and get them to want to help you, even if helping you is spending five minutes with you on the phone or fifteen minutes over coffee.  You never know how that person may help you out in the future! 

For more on networking, check out my colleagues’ posts on successful networking and tips on making the most at a network event.  

The next step is to periodically (maybe even weekly) review and revise your plan.  Take time to see what is working and what is not working.  Maybe you’ve realized that a short and concise email really does work better than a stemwinder.  Maybe you realized that certain people are not going to respond – mark them down as a “no” and move on.  Don’t overanalyze or spend too much time dwelling on these people, but it is worth it to consider where you are getting results.  And then adapt your plan to get better results.

Remember that life and your career are not over because you didn’t get the elusive OCI job.  There are alternatives to private practice, including certain LLM programs, late hiring clerkships, government service, and public interest law.  You can also explore getting contract or temporary work or exploring new markets that are less popular.

Sara Gail is a Director in Texas region of Lateral Link.  She can be reached at sgail@laterallink.com.

Lateral Link Group LLC is a legal recruiting attorney placement firm and networking forum founded in December 2005 is a proud collaborator with Ms. JD. The company provides free career services to "Members" in the form of an online job database as well as traditional off-line recruiting and networking services. Lateral Link works with both law firms and in-house legal employers in the United States, Asia, Western Europe, and Middle East

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