By W. Martin Behn, Hopkins & Carley
The last time we wrote an article about job resources in January 2015 for the unemployed, under employed, and unappeasable, the bar passage rate was one of California’s lowest in nearly a decade. Just a few months later, in July 2015, the bar passage rate had slipped to the worst in nearly 30 years. The silver lining is that during the same period statewide unemployment dropped in California by about 1.3%.
Despite encouraging employment statistics, after speaking with both a recruiter from inside a law firm and a career resources dean of a law school, it became clear that the advice for newly minted graduates and attorneys seeking to lateral remains constant. The best use of resources is to build your professional network and stay up-to-date with law school friends and acquaintances.
There are a few different ways to learn about and take advantage of existing opportunities. In order of importance, consider the following avenues:
- Professional Network: Your friend network may be the best resource. Many firms offer incentives for bringing on new hires or lateral attorneys. That means your friends may try to bring you on board when a new opportunity arises. The best part: they probably know about the opportunity before any of the below-mentioned resources. Also, they will be more willing to stick their neck out for you if they know what you have been up to since graduation and how you might fit into a particular office culture. The worst part: if you do not stay in contact then they will not think of you when a new job arises.
- Campus Career Centers: One of the greatest strengths of most law schools is their ability to connect newly minted lawyers and law students with people in their alumni network. Do not overlook this resource when you are trying to get into the job market, or if you are trying to lateral between current jobs. If you are trying to move out of your area these can be great resources to connect you to alumni in your job-search area.
- Affinity Groups: Affinity groups based on your own identity may be the next best way to land a job or lateral. This combines your professional network and the services a career center offers. It is not unlike joining a non-profit to volunteer where you can. You will get to know other professionals and they will get to know your work. Many law firms are also directly reaching out to affinity groups for new hires and laterals because they see it as the best way to broaden their own workplace culture.
- Third-Party Recruiters: Job search companies (sometimes “head hunters”) get paid by placing new hires, laterals, and partners. The higher the position, the more the head hunters get paid. Thus, it may not be a great place to sink your resources if you are looking for that first position out of law school. If you do not yet have contact with recruiters, you can find them on LinkedIn. They will generally post jobs they are searching for and many of them post job-trends in your target market.
- Bar Associations: Most, if not all, county bar associations have a career opportunity database. These can be hit or miss. The sure-fire shot is to go to events. Meeting new people at bar events is the best way to rub shoulders with possible employers if you are a newly minted grad, or if you are lateral curious about a different area of law.
- Social Media: Larger firms, mid-market firms, and even some boutique firms are hip to social media platforms. In fact, they may post opportunities to those sites prior to widening their searches with third-party recruiters. So if you know what types of jobs and firms you are interested in, you should start following them or make a note to check them periodically. Keep in mind though- they will look at your profile. Treat social media like a resume and make sure it is filled out and up-to-date.
- Publications: The Daily Journal is still publishing legal job openings. You probably will not find much success as a new hire, but many first choose this method for advertising lateral positions. Firms are targeting the audience they know are reading, so keep that in mind when you apply.
In short, with a stronger market for those looking for work, it is still important to rely on the professional network you build out to ensure you are informed and up-to-date with the latest opportunities.