When I started law school I didn’t really know how I was going to get a job. I just assumed that closer to my graduation, I’d start applying for entry level positions. LOL. Of course, soon I learned about the importance of externships/clerkships and back then the “rule” was that where you summered your rising 3L year was where you’d likely get an offer from and you’d be set by the time you took the bar. LOLLOLOL.
Cue the recession.
But honestly, with or without the recession, I wouldn’t have known how intricate and long-term legal job applications can be; your interview process can begin a year from your start date. This was a completely foreign concept to me, like what do you mean I apply for a job in October that doesn’t start until June? So by now, if you have one or two internships under your belt, you understand the concept a little (a lot) better. You know that the goal of a job offer starts now, not months before graduation. And if you’re serious about being employed post-graduation, then you need to have a game plan for this summer:
One. Participate in OCI. Look, I was very anti-big law when I was in school and eschewed anything that seemed like corporate law. It is not for everyone—not just the practice area, but the culture and the requirements (there’s a reason their offices are so shiny and full of food—they’re not allowed to leave J). If you’re on the fence about big law or don’t have an EXTREME aversion to it, then plan on participating in OCI. There’s no reason to close doors on yourself. Plus, I’ve been happily proven wrong and see frequently how much impact Big Law attorneys have in their pro bono work, so it’s not all one-sided over there.
Two. Plan deadlines for applications. This is especially important if you’re in public interest and want to pursue a fellowship sponsored by your school or a larger organization. Figure out deadlines and match yourself with partner agencies now so that when it’s time to apply you are a known quantity to those agencies and they’re open to helping you create a project when the time is right.
Three. Do your research. Start getting job notices now via linkedin, simplicity, and other job posting sites. Look at what they’re looking for in entry level attorneys and start sharpening those skills.
Four. Talk to your peers. Reach out to younger attorneys to get an idea of what worked for them. If there are specific paths that interest you (a specific firm, government agency, etc) find alumni that would be willing to send you an email about their experience and give you pointers if you do end up applying/interviewing. I emphasize newer attorneys because hiring culture shifts quickly and they’ll have more recent experience to know what’s really up as opposed to those that have been practicing forever who go their job through “gumption” or whatever.
Most importantly, if you do graduate without a job lined up—don’t despair. You will find something. It may not be your dream job, but first jobs seldom are dreamy. But the sooner you game plan your next steps, the closer you’ll be to your goal of a job that pays!