How To Get a Job When No One's Hiring

Let's face it. Getting a job in the legal profession today is not as easy as it was even just a year ago. The "downturn" in the economy has sparked hiring freezes and attrition through performance reviews. But we've got a few tips to maximize your chances of getting a job even in this tough market.

First and fundamentally, make your resume a knock out. In reformulating, the goal is to make your background and experience stand out from the crowd. If your resume is in a stack of 50, you want it moved to the small pile of five who get interviews. Anyone who's tried to make document review and motions in limine sound impressive knows that this is far easier said than done. One rule of thumb is to put the most impressive information first -- dates and locations are largely irrelevant. Also, prepare different resumes for different kinds of employers. For example, one firm may do more mergers but another may do more IPOs -- if you've done both, prepare alternative resumes highlighting your background accordingly.

Also, consider drafting an addendum to your resume that features transaction or case summaries. Alternatively, you can organize the attachment functionally by your skills. Also, try to describe your experience in quantifiable terms, such as in the number of motions won or deals handled. The goal is to provide potential employers with extremely specific examples of your accomplishments. Even if you decide not to send the addendum to every potential employer, at least you've honed in on how you're unique, which will help you at the interview stage.

Second, to increase your marketability, find out what kind of legal work is not getting done, but should be. For example, read industry and trade journals -- are new laws developing in the agricultural industry? Is there a shortage of estate planning experts? Learn where you could add value to a firm or corporation -- by saving them time, money or adding a new practice area -- and pitch yourself that way. If you don't have much experience in one of those practice areas, do some pro bono work to beef up your resume and highlight your commitment to that specialty. If you already have experience in that area, write an article for a relevant trade magazine, which will give you credibility with potential employers.

Third, be flexible and proactive. For example, research which cities are predicted to experience future economic growth and think about applying for jobs there.

As part of being flexible, explore unorthodox routes. Rather than just applying to large firms, for example, consider smaller firms. Those firms frequently need lawyers, but often don't have the time or resources to advertise job openings.

Finally, the most effective method of landing a new job in a slow economy is networking. The idea is to build relationships so when you apply for jobs, you're not a faceless resume. Employers are more likely to hire someone they know, and offering a job to a friend makes recruiting administratively easier for the employer.

Call your contacts -- law professors, practicing lawyers, family friends -- and ask if they can refer you to firms or companies that are hiring. If you aren't real connected yet, join your local bar association or even a service organization like the Rotary Club. Not only will you be networking for a new job, but you may even land some new clients!

Another way to gain contacts is through temporary or part-time positions, which can help you get your foot in the proverbial door. Plus, you'll gain experience and make money while networking.

The most important advice we have for getting a job in this economy is to stay positive. Like the market in general, the legal profession is cyclical, and before you know it, jobs will once again be plentiful.


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