Things are finally looking up for legal job seekers

By Hillary Mantis

For all of those entering the legal job market soon, it sounds like you can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

“The employment outcomes findings for members of the Class of 2017 are surprisingly strong,” according to NALP’s Executive Director James G. Leipold.

“Most notable is a bar passage required employment rate that jumped more than four percentage points from the previous year, and a private practice employment rate that has now increased for six years in a row,” Leipold noted, in a recent press release.

For those now doing OCI interviews or wrapping up summer associate programs, that’s good news. For those just starting law school, it’s good news too. After years of struggling, the legal job market seems to be doing well!

But how do you take advantage of this in your job search?

I spoke recently with legal recruiter, Stephanie Biderman, managing director at the legal recruitment firm Major, Lindsey and Africa, about market trends. She also thinks the legal job market has been improving.

“It’s a pretty vibrant market,” she said.

She sees growth in particular in corporate law right now, in fields such as corporate finance. She has also seen a pickup in the last few months in commercial real estate. Technology practice areas are also doing well, she commented.

If you are now a law student, you can set yourself up to be potentially more marketable in the job market by taking courses now in these areas. Participating in externships and clinics related to growth areas can also serve as a resume builder now, for when you apply to post graduate positions.

It may seem early to choose a legal practice area, but building your resume now, as a student, could help you land interviews for summer and post-graduate employment.

“It is practical to think about growth areas,” Biderman advised. But not at the expense of career satisfaction, she warned.

“If you like the work you are going to do a lot better,” she said.

If you happen to like one of the growth areas, it could be the best of both worlds in today’s legal economy. As a law student you can look for externships and upper level courses, and put them on your resume as you prepare to go on summer and permanent job interviews.

Even if you are not into the current “hot” practice areas, it’s still good news. If the job market for lawyers is getting better overall, hopefully there will be more opportunities for everyone.

Hillary Mantis consults with law students, pre-law students and lawyers. She is director of the pre-law program at Fordham University and author of career books including "Alternative Careers for Lawyers." Questions? You can reach Hillary at