California's Bar passage rate in July 2014, was one of the State's lowest in in nearly a decade. Nonetheless, in recent years over 6,000 people annually take the California Bar Examination. Approximately 50% are passing the Examination, creating approximately 3,000 new licensees in California. The legal market has not kept pace with law schools' production of graduates and with which graduates are gaining licenses to practice. Many prognosticators boldly predict a prospective upsurge in employment numbers but whether the 2010-2011 years was the worst of the recent glut in employment numbers for newly-minted lawyers in the Golden State remains to be seen. And even if the bottom is behind us that is not much solace to the unemployed and underemployed - more of whom we see now than ever before. Irrespective of the current state of the job market, resources exist to help the unemployed, underemployed, and unappeasable:
- Career Centers: Often mocked and ridiculed and often inappropriately so, the suggestion might be anathema to many and sound too obvious to most. But many recent alumni fail to take advantage of post-graduation services offered by their alma matter career centers. And many career centers have reciprocity agreements with schools in other geographical locales to assist recent graduates looking for jobs in other jurisdictions.
- Third-Party Recruiters: The catch-22 of third-party recruiters is that their personal financial incentive is to place lawyers at firms that pay market rate. And firms that pay market rate tend to look for distinguishing characteristics, pedigree: order of the coif, law review, American jurisprudence recipients, federal law clerks... And those types of people, those "others", tend not to find themselves reading articles, re: job resources for the unemployed and underemployed (hence the addition of "unappeasable", though also for the alliteration effect). Nonetheless, many smaller third-party recruiters are becoming more adventurous with untraditional candidates. If you do not have recruiters constantly calling and e-mailing you because of the virtue of your online biography on a biglaw website, rub elbows with your colleagues who are inundated with these awkward telephone calls and e-mails. Ask them to pass along recruiter names and contact information. And start inundating recruiters with the same unsolicited contact. It may just work. After all, at some point, the job search becomes a numbers game.
- Social Media: Various social media platforms are good networking tools but do not overlook the employers who are actively posting advertisements and announcements on social media. Of course, staying out of trouble on social media can be just as important as positively networking on social media. In any event, many firms and other legal employers are actively using social media not to vet candidates (and all of the employment-law implications therewith) but to advertise and solicit candidates. Take advantage of this new trend.
- Publications: Contrary to newer avenues like social media, traditional forums such as hard print publications are often ripe avenues for job seekers. The Daily Journal publishes legal job openings. As do many other publications, most of which are readily available at local county law libraries or law school libraries free of charge.
- Bar Assocations Not only a great place to network in the hunt to find a job, bar associations and their publications and websites are often fertile ground for advertising job openings. For instance, the Los Angeles County Bar Association maintains a Career Center database with job openings all over the City, County, State, and Country. Indeed, the search function gives "Austin, Texas" as an example.
- Stay or Alter the Course: Searching for a job or a new job can be exhaustive. It can often seem like a job unto itself. Make a plan, and stick to it. Depending on the level of desperation level, set aside one hour per day, or two, or three -- for networking, job searching, applying, etc. Utilize the resources that are out there. Do not shy away from asking friends for help. Oftentimes the best job openings are word-of-mouth openings that are gobbled up before they are openly advertised. Many law firms reward current associates with sizable referral bonuses for recommending a friend. And the best part is, the sizable referral bonuses exist whether the "friend" part of that last sentence applies. So contact a number of acquaintances, it is hard to say which one might just develop into the financial symbiotic relationship that is the referral program. Publish articles. Volunteer where necessary. And keep going until results blossom.
Despite continued improvement in the legal job market, competition for many entry-level and lateral positions remains fierce. While the resume is only one part of a typical job application, it is likely the document that potential employers will review first; their impressions of a job candidates resume will likely color their evaluation of the rest of that candidates's application materials. The following tips for improving your resume, collected from senior hiring attorneys and young lawyers alike, can help ensure that your resume has the desired effect.
Be honest to a fault. Everything on your resume must be true. There are no exceptions. Lawyers are trained to detect dishonesty and will spot any embellishments, overstatements, or inconsistencies, no matter how innocent. Getting cross-examined during a job interview is not pleasant and will not result in the outcome you are hoping for.
Proofread, proofread, proofread. Lawyers pride themselves on attention to detail. While this attitude can cause occasional awkwardness at social gatherings, it also helps ensure that briefs and other documents lawyers prepare on behalf of clients are as close to perfect as possible. Hiring attorneys will expect the same from your resume. Fair or not, meeting this expectation will give your resume the best chance of impressing who it needs to. Besides, typos and grammar/punctuation errors are, at the very least, distracting, and will interrupt the employer's evaluation of your credentials.
Treat your resume like a writing sample. Your resume is often the first chance employers have to judge your writing. You should craft your resume as you would any written communication: be concise, be concrete, use the active voice, and choose each word with precision and purpose. For example, "assisted with the drafting and revision of various agreements" is wordy and obtuse; try "drafted financing documents for $40 million capital investment" instead.
Be mindful of aesthetics. There are myriad articles on resume formatting for a reason. Choose a readable and professional font, create a logical hierarchy for headings and descriptions, and use consistent typeface choices. The visual structure of your resume should add to your candidacy, not distract from it. Additionally, when you submit a resume via email, send a PDF instead of a word processing document. PDFs look cleaner and more professional.
Emphasize practical skills and real-world achievements. Employers are looking for lawyers with practical skills who can get a running start; they would not be hiring otherwise! It's up to you to show potential employers how you can help and why they should trust you. If you've obtained good results for clients in law school clinics or with a previous employer, don't be shy about highlighting those accomplishments (while, of course, respecting confidentiality obligations). And noteworthy experience, even if it doesn't seem earth-shattering to you, is worth noting: employers need new lawyers who can take on even mundane tasks without needing too much supervision.
Consider customized versions. You may be seeking jobs from different kinds of employers. Law firms, corporations, governmental entities, and nonprofits will each prioritize different experiences and skills. Your undergraduate finance coursework, while impressive for an in-house position, may not go far with a criminal defense firm. You can use customized versions of your resume to highlight items that will be of interest to specific employers. A word of caution: be sure to remember which version of your resume you submitted when you show up for your interview.
Be prepared to talk about anything on your resume. Anything on your resume is fair game during an interview. And it's a good thing, too: interviewers can only talk about legal matters for so long, and discussing novel topics can be a chance to set yourself apart. So if your resume notes your senior thesis on Norse mythology, review it before an interview; you never know when your interviewer might have a master's degree in Scandinavian history. Likewise, if you advertise fluency in a foreign language, don't be surprised if an interviewer starts asking questions in that language!
Get a fresh pair of eyes. The more you stare at your resume, the less likely you are to catch errors, awkward phrasing, or accidental nonsensical sentences. Get a friend or member family- preferably a non-lawyer - to give your resume a fresh look. If it makes sense to them, chances are it will make sense to a potential employer
As an aside, this article presumes that you are accompanying your resume with a well-crafted cover letter. Unless a job posting specifically instructs you not to send one, sending a resume without a cover letter tells employers that you are putting little effort on your job search. Your cover letter should identify, with specifics, why you would be a good match for the employer (without simply mimicking language from its website); state (in tasteful terms) why you are seeking a new position and/or location; and emphasize the value you can add to the employer's business.
In conclusion, your resume is a prime opportunity to show prospective employers that they should pay attention to your candidacy. The way to make sure employers take your resume seriously is to take it seriously yourself; spending just a little extra time on this important document can significantly improve your chances of obtaining an interview. For the interview, you are on your own!
I think everyone can agree that we have become an electronic society. Email has quickly turned into the preferred method of communication between friends and colleagues. The job application process has sort of lagged behind the digital revolution somewhat over the years, but I think it's now safe to say that most employers prefer to receive candidates' materials through email.
The problem with this new shift is that some applicants seem to believe the required formalities that exist in paper applications somehow disappear when they are applying by email. This way of thinking is fatal to your job prospects. Most of the time, you will never hear from the employer and unfortunately may never realize that the reason for this was some crucial email mistake. Keep in mind that since your email is the first thing a potential employer sees, and if there are problems with it your documents may not even get read.
With all of this said, here are a few tips for improved email communication. Although some of them may seem obvious, you would be surprised by the amount of people who routinely make these costly errors.
In the subject line of your email, be sure to indicate the proper name of the position to which you are applying. For example, "Application for Post-Bar Law Clerk Position" and not "Law Clerk."
As with a proper paper letter, make sure you open your e-mail with a salutation. Do not simply start your email with "Attached please find....."
Starting with "Hi" or worse "Hey" is also completely inappropriate. Begin with "Dear" and end the greeting line with a colon.
Never use the contact person's first name. Unless directed otherwise, use Ms. or Mr. followed by their last name. Do not address a female contact as "Mrs."
However, if the person has a title, use it and their last name. For example, if the contact is a professor, military officer, senator, judge, or has another official title, use that title in your greeting line and be sure to spell it out. For example, "Dear Captain Gomez:" or "Dear Professor Taylor:" (not Prof.).
Do not include a joke or in any way display anything other than a conservative, formal approach. If you are asked to include multiple documents such as a cover letter, resume and references, combine all of the documents into one attachment in lieu of multiple attachments. Do not make it more difficult for the employer.
Always convert your word document into a PDF to avoid any potential tampering with your materials, and to preserve your formatting.
If you've ever used the track changes feature for your materials, be sure that any comments or edits are not lingering. Your best bet is to accept or reject all the changes, turn off the track changes feature, and then save the document.
Finally, your closing should be just like a formal letter and not include every possible affiliation you have or your favorite inspirational quote. Simply provide your full name and best contact information.
Follow these helpful tips and you will significantly increase your chances of receiving a call for an interview. In a very tight job market, where there are many qualified and over-qualified candidates, one simple mistake can be the reason that you remain unemployed.