By Taylor Friedlander
Being a lawyer isn’t easy, and neither is the sheer feat of becoming one—particularly in California. Low bar passage rates are one hurdle—the challenges of finding a job are another. In 2013, California had approximately 2.5 law school graduates for every legal job,and according to the Georgetown University Law Center, the legal market is seeing only marginal improvements in 2015.The question plaguing the minds of many young graduates is how they will secure a job, given the current prognosis for the legal market. While there are no clear-cut answers, this article discusses four strategies that can help recent graduates on the employment front: 1) exploring alternative legal careers; 2) building skills and contacts through legal clinics; 3) acquiring expertise and an expanding network through MCLE courses; and 4) strengthening your resume with certifications.
1. EXPLORING ALTERNATIVE LEGAL CAREERS
Unemployed and underemployed attorneys who are willing to think outside the box may find refuge in alternative legal careers. Hillary Mantis, author of Alternative Legal Careers, describes the field of financial compliance as a growth industry.It is also one in which JDs may find a competitive edge. As advancements in technology have increased the fluidity of monetary transactions, the need for financial compliance professionals has grown at a rapid pace. Resources, such as www.fincrimejobs.com, can help navigate law school grads to open positions at institutions like Chase, Western Union, and Citi Bank. While many of these jobs are traditionally taken on by MBAs, a legal background makes candidates stand out from the crowd in a positive way. Financial compliance is a nuanced and detail-oriented field, requiring the type of attentiveness that law schools instill in their students.
2. BUILDING SKILLS AND CONTACTS THROUGH CLINICS
During the job hunt, it can be challenging to resist feelings of restlessness and stagnation. After all, you’ve worked hard, earned a law degree, and passed the bar exam. While some may tell you that “finding a job is your job,” it simply isn’t feasible to spend 10 hours a day networking and applying to various postings. Keep your mind sharp by volunteering at legal clinics like the LACBA Domestic Violence Project. You’ll hone your legal skills, put your own challenges in perspective, and even have the opportunity to meet other like-minded attorneys who believe in lending a helping hand to those in need.
3. ACQUIRING EXPERTISE AND AN EXPANDING NETWORK THROUGH MCLE COURSES
When it comes to fulfilling MCLE credits, there are two avenues: online or in person. While the generation of recent law graduates is more inclined towards online portals, it could be to our detriment. First, in person MCLE classes usually focus on a specific area of law. Anyone in attendance will share your interest in that particular area and most likely be receptive to connecting with you. MCLE classes are not only a great learning opportunity, but also a potential way to connect with more experienced attorneys.
4. STRENGTHENING YOUR RESUME WITH CERTIFICATIONS
Many new attorneys encounter the “no experience” Catch 22. You need experience for the job you want, but you can’t get experience unless you have that type of job. While there is no silver bullet to overcome this conundrum, certifications can help, as they are designed to measure someone’s knowledge and skill in a specific practice area—sometimes with enough sufficiency to compensate for a lack of experience. Certifications are helpful for getting your foot in the door for specific areas of law (such as mediation and financial compliance), as well as for niche areas, such as e-Discovery (which will only become more relevant as time goes on).
The one drawback to certification programs is their cost. However, the investment can open many more doors, enhance your resume, and expedite your search for employment. Additionally, enrolling in a certification program helps account for how you spent your time post-graduation when interviewing with potential employers. The key to finding a job is exhibiting a positive and proactive energy that an employer wants to see at their firm or company. Utilizing these strategies can help you harness these qualities and embrace success when it comes. For more tips, read “Job Resources for the Unemployed, Underemployed and Unappeasable.”
1 Wright, Joshua, The Oversaturated Job Market for Lawyers Continues, and On-The-Side Legal Work Grows, Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., http://www.economicmodeling.com/2014/01/10/the-oversatured-job-market-for-lawyers-continues/ (last visited August 23, 2015).
2 Georgetown Law, Georgetown Law and Peer Monitor Release 2015 Report on the State of the Legal Market, https://www.law.georgetown.edu/news/press-releases/georgetown-law-and-peer-monitor-release-2015-report-on-the-state-of-the-legal-market.cfm (last visited August 23, 2015).
3 Mantis, Hillary, Where to Look for Alternative Legal Jobs, the National Jurist (May 13, 2015), http://www.nationaljurist.com/content/where-look-alternative-legal-jobs.