Expert Career Advice for New Lawyers

legal professionals

It’s a tough world out there for recent law school graduates, many of whom are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet. Here’s some tried and true career advice from experts in the field that will hopefully make the transition a bit easier.


Cultivate a network.


Law school is a great place to begin building a network. “Be really nice to all your fellow law students,” says Miami lawyer Kendall Coffey. “Referrals, even employment may come from former classmates. Someday some will be judges, others will be elected officials, and most will be successful at something that really matters….So share your notes and other help if asked—you are already sharing an unforgettable present and a fascinating future.”


A recent study found that 64% of people find their jobs through networking, so it’s definitely important to build up your contact list. Start simple with people you know, asking for advice, information, or referrals. In time this could lead you to new professional opportunities. “No one is going to hand you a job,” says Kathleen Brady, who runs a career planning firm in New York City and Philadelphia. “But if they can offer you ideas and introduce you to people in their network, you can take it from there.”


Always be adding to your knowledge base.


Even if you’re not currently employed, there are a variety of ways you can bulk up your resume and offerings for potential employers. Internships and volunteer work might not pay, but they can put you in the way of professional contacts and experiences that will help you get the next job. Try volunteering with a judge or court, a legal clinic, or a local or federal government office.


“To land a job, you have to convince the other lawyers that you will do a better job of making their lives easier than anyone else they are interviewing,” says Grover Cleveland, a Seattle attorney and author of Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks. “Your words and actions have to demonstrate extreme attention to detail and unfailing dependability.” One way to do that is to find ways to learn new things and keep up with the latest in your profession as you continue to apply for positions.


Broaden the net.


If the job search isn’t going well, it may be time to consider broadening your approach. Are there nontraditional positions in the legal profession that appeal to you? A part time job you could take while searching for something more permanent? Something that will help you develop research, writing, or analytical skills? Many different organizations and business areas need legal advice—contract administration, policy work, nonprofits. If that perfect position in that perfect law firm isn’t available now, there may be a way to get something going in the interim that can help you continue to develop your skills and move toward your dream job.


Alternatively, there may be other skills you can focus on developing that will make the job search that much easier: developing your LinkedIn profile, networking at events, and getting in touch with your university’s alumni association, for example.