By Hillary Mantis
As we head into August and you start to think about going back to school, no doubt you are trying to figure out how you can make the best of the current job market. Whether you are just starting school, or finishing up, there are some practical steps you can take when you start the new school year.
If you are going to be a 1L:
• Be aware of Summer Job Deadlines: Your law school’s Career Office will reach out to you most likely in early November. That’s when most law schools start seeing 1L’s. You should definitely go to this appointment, even if you are already buried in work. They will tell you about summer opportunities for 1L’s, critique your resume for you, and tell you about upcoming deadlines. Some 1L summer deadlines are in the fall semester or early winter-you don’t want to miss them!
• Be Ready to Focus: Be ready to hit the ground running when law school starts. You want to be relaxed, and able to focus. Clear up anything that will prevent you from doing so before law school starts. If you are aiming for a Biglaw job especially, your first year grades are very important. As the economy shrinks and there are fewer of those jobs, if that’s your goal, you want to give yourself every opportunity to shine. You don’t want to be distracted during your first year. It’s a quick year, but it requires total focus.
If you are going to be a 2L:
• Get Practical Experience On Your Resume: Try to get as much practical experience as possible this year, in the way of externships, internships, clinics, and part-time jobs. If you are on a journal, great. If not, you should also try to get some writing experience. These days, you need to distinguish yourself from the pack more than ever. If a law firm does not have to spend a lot of time training you, you will be a more attractive candidate.
• Broaden Your Job Search: Look beyond on campus recruiting programs. No doubt you have heard and read that summer programs are smaller. Strategically, you might want to go beyond the firms coming to your school, and write to some on your own. Cast a wide net. Look in other cities that might be less competitive. Also, look into government jobs for the summer. Federal government has some great summer honors programs. But the deadlines can be early-start checking them out as soon as you get back to school.
If you are going to be a 3L:
• Work Part-time: Consider working part-time at an area law firm during the year. If you develop a good relationship with them, perhaps they will bring you on as a permanent hire. If not, they might let you stay on after graduation until you find a permanent position. This can sometimes be a great safety net while you do your post grad job search.
• Stay Informed: Keep informed about the job market. It is changing quickly and hopefully for the better. You want to keep up with emerging hot practice areas, growth areas, and cities that are showing growth.
• Educate Yourself: Start to educate yourself about loan repayment options now, if you haven’t already. That way, you will have all of the information before you graduate. Programs such as Income Based Repayment (IBR) and law school LRAP programs can be very useful. Sites such as Equal Justice Works (www.equaljusticeworks.org) explain the options very well.
• Stay Hopeful: Hopefully things will improve in the job market by the time you graduate. The lateral market already seems stronger — let’s hope that the recent grad market will follow.
Hillary Mantis is a consultant who works with law students, lawyers, and pre-law students. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can write to Hillary at: email@example.com