More law grads find jobs through networking and self-initiated contact

No job yet? You are not alone — more law graduates are finding jobs on their own, instead of through traditional fall on-campus interviews. In fact, fall on-campus interviewing accounted for only 14.7 percent of all jobs obtained, one of the lowest figures since NALP started tracking the figure 20 years ago. Why the dip?

“The short, simple answer is Big Law is hiring fewer summer associates,” NALP’s Executive Director James Leipold said.

Instead, most 2013 graduates obtained jobs through referrals, 19.5 percent, or self-initiated contact, 18.8 percent.

Lydia Russo, assistant dean for the Center of Development & Career Strategy at Emory University School of Law, is well aware of these changes and has ramped up recruitment efforts. As a result, jobs obtained from fall on-campus interviewing have increased modestly at her school.

“It’s not a huge increase but it is in the positive direction,” Russo said. “We have been extremely aggressive with employer outreach in cities where our students have interest. A little over half of our graduates find jobs through school-facilitated means and a little less than half find jobs through relationships, some form of networking or referrals.”

Fall on-campus interviewing still accounts for the majority of jobs obtained at large law firms. About 65 percent of all jobs taken by class of 2013 graduates at firms of 500 or more lawyers were obtained through fall on-campus interviewing. Leipold said large firms stick to the familiar process when it comes to hiring.

“We’ve seen very little experimentation with other models,” he said. “Big Law tends to unfold that way. We see some firms willing to do Skype interviews but it’s still pretty heavily reliant on traditional on-campus interviewing.”

The drop in jobs obtained through traditional means has caused an increase in graduates finding jobs through networking. LinkedIn is a good start, but Leipold said it is not enough.

“Students need to be more entrepreneurial about their job search,” Leipold said. “They need to get as much practical experiences as they can through clinics, externships and get out from behind the computer or smartphone and network with lawyers.”

The increase in jobs obtained via self-initiated contact does not mean it is any more effective than it used to be, but it is a method students are turning to more often, Leipold said.

“It is a lot more work to get a job through self-initiated contact,” he said. “For many students fall on-campus interviewing is the path of least resistance, so if they can get a job, they do. If that doesn’t work out they need to use other methods.”

Self-initiated contact was most effective for law graduates seeking careers as public defenders. Of the 558 public defender jobs taken by 2013 graduates, 30.5 percent obtained their job via self-initiated contact. Directly contacting employers was also a successful method for 28.2 percent of graduates working as federal clerks.

Students seeking jobs in academia found referrals to be most effective, as 28.7 percent of all academic jobs were obtained through the help of a third-party. Those seeking jobs at small law firms, those less than 10 lawyers, also found referrals to be helpful as 30.7 percent of all class of 2013 graduates found small firm jobs this way.

No matter what kind of job you are seeking, do not expect any one job-hunting method to be the be-all end-all, experts said. Russo encourages students to do additional networking with members of the local bar association or through Emory University’s 23 practice societies in areas including family law and criminal law.

“What is great about these groups is it pulls together students interested in the law and practitioners from the community,” Russo said. “It is one of the best ways for students to build a network right here on campus. Like any industry, it is all about relationships.”