More strategic ways to land employment in a tough economy

By Hillary Mantis

There is good news — the legal industry now employs 3,200 more people than it did a year ago. And there is bad news — the legal sector lost 1,400 jobs in August alone. If you buy into the negative chat, it's not going to help you get a job. It can only bring you down. Here are five ways you can strategically act to get a job in a challenging economy. 

1. Stay positive: A student I met recently told me that all her friends told her “there’s nothing out there, no one’s hiring.” The same student wisely decided to ignore them, did her job search by herself, and ultimately found a great job. Not that you have to isolate yourself, but it’s important to surround yourself with positive people.

2. Focus on areas that are hiring:  Certain areas, such as healthcare and energy law, are expected to show growth this year. See the National Association for Placement (, and the Robert Denney marketing report ( as well as recent articles in the National Jurist Employment Insider, for more growth areas and predictions.

3. Attend events at your school: While you are still a student, it’s much easier to do this — law schools are generally chock filled with opportunities to meet alumni and practitioners at seminars, alumni events, luncheons and CLE programs. I have talked to many former students who have successfully utilized this job search method.  If you are already a graduate you can still attend some. For example, get a business card from a panelist who practices entertainment law. Then contact them at a later date for networking purposes.

Along the same lines, take opportunities to get to know your Professors. They are often very tapped in to the legal community and may have friends or colleagues who are hiring. If you have graduated, email them once in a while to let them know what you are doing.

4. Target your résumés and cover letters: One size fits all just doesn’t work anymore for résumés and cover letters. These days, most students and graduates have different versions of their résumé and cover letter so they can target different practice areas, and legal settings.

5. Take advantage of opportunities through bar associations: Many local bar associations offer free or very low cost memberships to students and recent graduates. Some have their own job boards; most also offer membership on their different practice area committees, which can be a fabulous way to network. The American Bar Association also offers limited free membership to recent grads — see for more information.

And remember, it is always better to think long term. After you have been admitted to the bar and have a year under your belt, it will be much easier to make a job transition. If you don’t find exactly what you what right now, you have a lot of years ahead to get to your goal.

Hillary Mantis works with law students, pre-law students and lawyers. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can write to Hillary at