10 job search tips from a legal recruiter

By Hillary Mantis

How can you position yourself for a successful, and ultimately satisfying legal career? David Letterman may have retired, but legal career expert Stephanie Biderman, a Managing Director at Major Lindsay & Africa, has ten tips to help you on the road to understanding the legal job market, and your future career. Stephanie has been a legal recruiter since 2010, when she joined Major Lindsay after working as a real estate associate at a law firm in New York. Here’s her advice:

1. Try to explore different practice areas through your summer positions

If you have an opportunity to try different practice areas, do so now, while you are still a student. “In my experience, very few people go to law school definitely knowing what to do,” she said. “It’s very hard to retool later, after you’ve already chosen a practice area.”

2. Figure out your ten year plan

Tempting as it is just to focus on the immediate future, if you put some thought into where you want to work down the road, it might be easier to get there. “What do you ultimately want to do?” she asked. ”What’s the best practice group to help you get there?” For example, if you want to go in house later, you might want to focus on corporate/transactional law now.

3. Find practice areas that are in demand

Corporate law and real estate law are hot right now, according to Biderman. “I’ve seen a huge amount of demand in real estate; and on the corporate side the work is back.”

4. Consider doing a clerkship

“Federal clerkships on the litigation side are viewed very positively by employers,” she emphasized. “Having a clerkship can really distinguish you from other candidates.”

5. Take advantage of an improving legal job market

Don’t get too depressed about the job market, it’s been getting better, she related. “For example, I think the job market for well credentialed corporate mid level associates has been hotter than I’ve seen it.”

6. Keep your grades up, even as a 3L

Firms will still request transcripts for lateral positions, even several years after graduation, Biderman cautioned. So remember that, even as a graduating 3L.

7. Figure Out if A Legal Recruiter Can Help You

Recruiters generally work with candidates who are at least two years out of law school. Typically they don’t work with very recent graduates. “But recruiters can always be a good source of information,” she added.

8. Actively Network

When Biderman transitioned to recruiting after working as a real estate associate, she networked extensively to ultimately discover her next move. The networking process can be helpful in determining what careers might appeal to you.

9. Think About What Practice Area/Career Path Would Make You Happy Long Term

“If you like it, you’re going to excel and be happier,” she advised.

10. Consider All Sorts of Career Paths, including Alternative Legal Careers:

After working in a law firm for two years, Biderman became a legal recruiter in 2010 and has remained with that career ever since. She discovered that legal recruiting was a great fit for her, and enjoys her role as a “guidance counselor” to those retooling their own careers. “I never looked back,” she concluded.

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Hillary Mantis is a Career and Pre-law Consultant who works with law students, lawyers, and college students. She is a Director of the Pre-Law Advising Program at Fordham University and the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can reach Hillary at altcareer@aol.com.