Strategic ways to land employment in a tough economy

By Hillary Mantis

When I was a law student many years ago, it was not all that hard to find a job. You could basically go to on-campus interviews, and apply to job listings. But if I were a law student now, I would try to be a little more strategic. Here are a few ideas to get you started, based on my experience counseling law students in tough times:

Aim for Small Firms:
The National Association for Law Placement Class of 2011 summary report showed strong hiring in the smaller firms, especially those in the 2 to 10 lawyer range. Those are the firms that in general have been hiring recent graduates. In fact, the NALP report indicated that about 42 percent of the Class of 2011 found employment with firms of 2 to 10 attorneys. Smaller firms can also be really interesting places to work, as you might get the chance to work directly with clients or go to court.

Get a Part-time Job:
If I were a second- or third-year student now, I would try to find a part-time job with a nice firm nearby. If you work there during school, you will develop a good relationship with them before you graduate. They might bring you on full-time after graduation. If not, they will most likely try to help you network. They might also let you continue working there after graduation even if they can't hire you full-time, while you look for a job.

Apply for a State Court Clerkship:
Everyone knows that federal clerkships are often hard to come by. They are extremely competitive and much coveted positions. Sometimes, I find that students are not always aware that there are also opportunities in state courts. State court clerkships are sometimes more widely available, depending on where you are. They can provide good litigation experience, are often fun, interesting experiences, and can buy you some time while you wait for the job market to get better.

Be Geographically Flexible:
You might want to plan to take the bar exam in more than one state if you can. If you do, you will double the employment possibilities, in that you can qualify for jobs in both states. You may also be able to get admitted earlier,as some states send their results out sooner than others. Many students in my region take both New York and New Jersey. If you have the flexibility to move around, it takes some of the the pressure off of having to find a job in one state.

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