By Monica Valencia • September 13, 2016•Law School, Pre-Law, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job, Curriculum and Classroom Dynamics, Internships and Clerkships, Other Law School Issues
The time is finally here. You’re a 3L now. The last two years as a 1L and 2L may linger a little, but they are far gone now.
After the initial excitement of returning to law school, you might begin to fret a little at the thought of having only two semesters left before you graduate and take the bar exam. Within these last two semesters, your schedule will be booked before you know it. There’s class, externship work, moot court, law review, student activities, networking events, going to the gym, bar night, oh and bar prep – we can’t forget about that.
In between your busy 3L life, finding the time to search for a post-bar job can be stressful and maybe even draining, but it doesn’t have to be if you start early.
If you know what your areas of interest are or what law you most certainly want to practice, then you can focus your energy and doggedly pursue your dream post-bar job. Of course, you may want to take a broader approach and keep avenues open for yourself without narrowing in on any particular area. Either way, it’s all okay.
So when do you have time to actually sit down and start your post-bar job search? Well, now is a good time. The fall semester in your 3L year is where you want to start putting in work and begin searching for some options.
Be Bold and Ask Them for Coffee
I worked for David Fujimoto of Ribera Law Firm in San Francisco, California this summer and he highly suggests attending happy hours, bar association events, and other events where lawyers may gather.
"When you meet attorneys who practice in the areas of law you are interested in, ask for their card, and then follow up by scheduling lunch or coffee,” says Fujimoto. “Be bold. If they do not respond right away, politely follow up. And then after you have met with the attorneys you are interested in, follow up after a couple months for lunch or coffee again. The important thing is to stay on their radar!"
Some of us may be a little shy. Or maybe we don’t know how to actually ask someone out to coffee. After asking for advice, one of my law professors just told me that I shouldn’t expect that just sending out my resume, or waiting for someone I met at an event to call me back, will do the trick.
Meet people "just for coffee" even if you know they have no jobs available. You can try something like this: "I know you guys are not hiring now, but I wonder if we could have coffee, just so I could pick your brain about what the practice is like and who you think would be good for me to talk to?" Making it clear at the outset that you are not expecting a job from them, may make it easier for them to agree to talk. Most people want to help if they can, and the pressure will be off for both of you.
Make Use of Your School’s Connections
You don’t always have to stray too far in your searches either. Your law school can be a starting point in not only looking for opportunities, but also networking and building connections. Utilize the resources that are available to you. Often times, an appointment to sit down with your Dean or a faculty member can point you in the right direction. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, then seeking out your career counselor is also a very good option for them to make some calls on your behalf. Your school should also have a job listing website that showcases both internships, volunteer opportunities, part-time jobs and full-time jobs. That’s how I found a legal advocacy position my 2L year.
Another approach is to do some leg work on your own by identifying conferences that may be of interest to you. Not only is meeting like-minded practitioners very likely, but you can also connect with other students and talk about their methods of post-bar job search. Your school will often have funding for you to attend a conference.
Network at Your Local Bar Associations
I had the opportunity to work for Doris Cheng, one of California’s top lawyers, who explains that law students should attend as many networking events as time permits.
“Groups like your local bar association can help in providing information on networking events in your area and many of them have Barristers Clubs that are helpful as well,” says Cheng. “You can also try specialty bar associations like the Charles Houston Bar Association, Asian American Bar Association, San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association, or even the Plaintiff’s Bar.”
Plenty of interesting events can be found through your local bar associations, which are also open to law students. Attend some events and network, network, network.
Don’t Fret…Be Open and Consider Other Possible Avenues
You might also consider taking a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course. It sounds counter-intuitive because CLE courses are taken once you are a practicing attorney. But, countless attorneys take CLE courses and this creates another opportunity for you to get your name out there.
Don’t discount post-bar fellowships. There are plenty of wonderful post-bar fellow positions out there. Some are highly competitive, so take the time to prepare your applications and line up your recommenders. Within these options, you can also apply for a judicial clerkship in your area, the Presidential Management Program, or even a military JAG position. The point is – there are different types of post-bar options.
Looking for a post-bar job doesn’t mean you have to stay in that same city. You may think that it’s time for a change of scenery and making a move may be a good choice for you, especially if there is a particular need for your specialty or if there are better options elsewhere.
A former professor of mine gave me great advice, which was to cast your job search net as widely as you can possibly tolerate, both in terms of geography and substance of the job, particularly if you live in a tough market like San Francisco! Even if it's not your dream job, the experience you gain may give you more options in a year or two. This type of guidance is valuable because it doesn’t keep you married to any one idea or prospect, especially if moving to another city is a very real option for you.
One thing we may not always think about is our own contacts. Utilize your LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, and even your family – they know a lot of people and their social capital can propel you into the job market search in a much more intentional way.
If you did any volunteer work, internships or externships during your 1L or 2L years, remember the connections you made there and consider re-connecting with them to see if they know of any upcoming opportunities. Often times, the work and time that you invested in a particular community can pay off and nurturing those community connections will go a long way.
The important thing is that you are innovative with the ways in which you search for your post-bar job and the way that you market yourself to stand out. Be willing to be patient. If patience isn’t your strong suit then learn to adapt and be open to opportunities that you might have never thought of.
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