I feel for new law school graduates who are in professional limbo. You’ve taken the bar exam but you won’t have results for weeks. You’re starting to look for jobs, but you know a lot of firms aren’t interested in you until you’ve gotten your law license.
If you haven’t secured a job, now is an optimal time to network with lawyers who practice in the type of firm you want to work at or in the area of law you hope to practice. If you started building some of these relationships prior to graduation, reach back out and invite these people to coffee or lunch now that you’ve re-surfaced after the bar exam. (Congrats on taking the bar exam, by the way. That thing’s a bitch!)
If you haven’t formed relationships with the lawyers you hope will become your professional friends and colleagues, there’s no better time to start conversations with them. You want to be top of mind when they hear that their firm or a friend’s firm has an opening for a new associate.
I got a painfully awkward email from a law grad in No Man’s Land this past weekend. I know how hard it is to try to strike up a conversation from nothing but there are ways to make it easier. His email inspired me to share some suggestions to help him and others be more effective when trying to network online.
1. Start the email with “Dear Mr./Miss.” I will tell you to call me “Ruth” in my response but it’s a sign of respect and decorum to start out by calling the person by their title and last name, bonus points if you know that I am a Captain in Starfleet.
2. Don’t ask for a job in the first email. Unless the firm is actively hiring, don’t ask about job openings or say that you want to work for me. You want to be building friendships, not working the legal job phone tree. Ideally, you want to build a network of friends, who happen to be lawyers with similar interests, who will come to you when they hear of an opening, not the other way around.
3. Tell me where you went to law school. If you don’t say what school you graduated from, I’ll assume you’re ashamed of it and I’ll wonder what else you’re hiding.
4. If you tell me you’re “keenly interested” in an area of law I practice, bolster that statement with information about classes you took on the subject, work experience, or even books, blogs, or situations you’ve followed – something that shows your statement is sincere.
5. Finish your LinkedIn profile. Before I respond to your email, I will look you up on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile at least has a decent photo of you, states where you went to law school, and any internships, clinics, or clubs you were involved in. It’s ok if it doesn’t say what type of law you’re interested in – I know lots of grads will take any job they can get. It would be great if you could get recommendations from your internship and clinic supervisors, but that’s not always possible.
6. If you’re on Twitter and the person you want to meet is on Twitter, follow them and look for opportunities to converse with them. Ditto for LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and/or YouTube.
When you send an unsolicited email, ask for a meeting with the person – coffee, lunch, or even just a 20-minute visit or video chat. (If I do coffee with you, I’m probably giving up at least an hour of my day so often times a short visit or video chat is preferred for a first conversation.) If you’re interested in an area of law they practice, ask about what a typical day/week of work is like. Ask them what kind of life they have outside of work – that may open the door to talk about mutual interests/hobbies. Afterwards, send a thank you note and do some type of follow-up within thirty days – send a useful article or just chat with them on social media.
If you’re interested in resources to supplement your job search, I recommend the following books:
- The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development by Ari Kaplan
- Personal Branding in One Hour for Lawyers by Katy Goshtasbi
- The 6Ps of the Big 3 for Job-Seeking JDs: 60+ Ways to Get Hired Using Social Networking by Amanda Ellis
I don’t envy anyone who is in post-bar exam No Man’s Land. It was a stagnant time in my life where my professional future was in limbo until I had bar results. I hope you’re enjoying your down time and building towards your professional future.