Job Search Strategies

Job Search Strategies

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Although the legal job market expands and contracts along with the economy, it is always highly competitive and unpredictable. Therefore, whether you are a new admittee or an experienced lawyer, you must be particularly diligent and enterprising in your job search efforts. You must creatively identify and systematically pursue all options and opportunities to find the best possible job in this challenging, changing environment. At the same time, it is important not to lose sight of basic principles and techniques when embarking on a job search. For detailed information about choosing a recruiter, click here

A Word of Encouragement:

Your chances of getting a good job are increased if you do your homework, creatively explore all prospects, present yourself well in person and in writing, and are persistent and consistent in your job search efforts.  For a more detailed discussion of the topics below, check out our blog.

Q?

Where Do I look for job postings?

A.

Don’t forget to check the online postings on your law school and undergraduate career services web portals. Many schools also have LinkedIn alumni groups with a career opportunities subsection. Although you might find some good attorney employment leads on general online job boards such as Indeed.com, Monster.com, or the Wall Street Journal online listings, you will have better luck at sites aimed specifically at the legal profession such as LawJobs.com, Lawmatch.com, Careers.Martindale.com, Goinhouse.com, and the like. Nevertheless, don’t forget to check the career listings on LinkedIn.com which, usually, has quite a few for lawyers. There are numerous websites catering to the legal profession, and virtually all of them have job listings. In addition, almost every website for a major law firm and corporation has a page devoted to recruiting and hiring needs, so check specific employers you wish to target. In addition, you can attempt to create a niche with a practitioner or firm which has a practice that interests you. Although the particular firm or company may not be advertising, they may be interested in an excellent candidate who makes a good pitch.

Because the legal community is so fluid these days, a savvy job-seeker must keep abreast of changes in order to identify and seek out boutique firms, spin-offs, new branch offices, new firms, new companies or divisions, and emerging practice areas. Law.com, which publishes the American Lawyer Magazine, National Law Journal, Corporate Counsel, and regional legal periodicals, is particularly informative, as well as being good reading. For a slightly irreverent take on legal news, check out AbovetheLaw.com. For local news, many cities have legal newspapers/websites which include information on business developments in the legal community. Pay special attention to coverage of recent developments in law practice such as law firm break-ups, mergers, and movement of lawyers from firm to firm and reports on in-house developments. If you are particularly interested in an in-house position, check out the American Corporate Counsel site as well as other websites and blogs targeted for that audience.

Q?

Does My Area of Practice Make a Difference?

A.

It is important to keep ahead of the trends and retool, if necessary. Practice areas "heat up" or "cool down" according to the effects of the economy, politics, and technological advances. For example, corporate finance and securities lawyers are in great demand in good economic times but their skills barely marketable in the recessionary periods; bankruptcy lawyers can barely keep up with their work in down economic cycles, but have time on their hands when the economy improved; labor lawyers are sought after as sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and ADA claims increase; and intellectual property lawyers are "hot" as technology advances. Relative constants include family, estate planning and probate and criminal law, and elder law is a growth area into future as the population ages.

Q?

What About Networking?

A.

The most important element of your successful job search (and, for that matter, business development for career advancement) is effective and relentless networking. Actively participate in alumni and bar associations, civic, social, charitable, and political organizations and talk to everyone possible about what they know about the job market. An obvious, though sometimes overlooked, approach is to contact any lawyers you know for job leads. They may even have an opening of their own to fill.

Q?

Who Is The Ideal Candidate?

A.

Our clients most often seek attorneys with JD degrees from the top 25 nationally ranked law schools, who graduated at or near the top of their classes, with a stable employment history at top-tier law firms or corporations. In most cases, more senior lawyers also must bring some business with them to a new law firm. We handle lateral placement of experienced attorneys only, therefore, we cannot assist current law students or new graduates with less than a year or two of post-bar admission experience.

Q?

What Kind Of Options Should I Consider?

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Keep in mind that it takes time and a concerted, systematic effort to explore all options and find the right opportunities. In a fluid market, it is important not to limit yourself. Be flexible and open regarding possibilities, such as opportunities with corporations, governmental agencies, public interest groups, or organizations of different sizes and types, or in areas of practice other than those with which you are familiar. Furthermore, you might consider other geographical areas, including suburban, or outlying communities.

Q?

What Else Can I Do While Looking For The Right Job?

A.

It might be necessary to consider taking a temporary, contract, or even a volunteer position just to get in the door. It sometimes happens that these activities can turn into permanent positions. At the very least, you will have gained good experience and established relationships which may be of use in the future. Moreover, because of trends in the legal community, such positions do not have the stigma they carried in the past. In addition, lecturing and publishing articles in your areas of expertise are highly recommended during the job search process as well as at other times in your career. These activities will set you apart from other job-seekers and afford visibility, thus making you more attractive to potential employers.

Q?

What Credentials Are Employers Seeking?

A.

Once you have identified possible target opportunities, you must objectively assess your credentials in light of what employers are seeking. For many legal employers, rightly or wrongly, the threshold issue is academics. Historically, the mainstream, established law firms and corporations required superior grades from a top-ranked law school and, preferably, law review membership and a federal judicial clerkship after graduation. And for lateral hires, there was a strong preference for work experience with a similar type of firm or corporation.

Even in times of increased hiring, competition continues to be quite stiff. Therefore, you must emphasize all aspects of your talent, competence, and motivation such as work experience, community leadership, clinical programs and other advanced degrees.

Additional education or work experience that would be relevant to your area of practice will make you that much more marketable. For instance, a scientific background is useful, if not required, for some areas of intellectual property and environmental practice. Similarly, medical experience is advantageous for certain types of healthcare, personal injury, or malpractice law practices. And, if you are interested in pursuing a career in tax, you will find an L.L.M. or CPA qualification highly beneficial. Language ability, especially an Asian language or Spanish, is a plus for some positions.

As legal practice becomes more bottom-line oriented, portable business and potential for business development have become more important in determining a candidate's attractiveness, particularly for the experienced lawyer. A firm is much more likely to hire an attorney who will make an immediate contribution to the bottom line. Therefore, if appropriate, you should emphasize their ability to expand the potential employer's practice capabilities, contacts, or client base.

Q?

What is the “Like” Factor?

A.

Employers hire candidates that they are comfortable with, which, quite often, means those that are like themselves. Therefore, you can identify the most likely targets for employment by researching potential employers’ websites to determine which organizations have lawyers with backgrounds similar to your own in terms of academics, activities, and interests. In addition to the objective criteria which legal employers consider, the "like factor" comes into play. That is, because each organization has its own particular style or culture, you must fit in on a personal level with a potential employer. Moreover, you must be perceived to have the attributes necessary to become a successful lawyer within that organization, and this must be demonstrated in the interview. In the end, however, there are subjective judgments made by both sides which are difficult to anticipate or alter.

Q?

What Makes a Winning Resume?

A.

At all stages of the job-hunting process, it is imperative to present yourself well in person and in writing. Your resume should be one-to-two pages, clearly written, easy-to-read, with no typos. Tailor your resume for each opportunity by highlighting your experience which is relevant to the employer’s needs.

At a minimum, your resume should contain your education, employment/experience, and memberships in relevant organizations (including bar admissions and other professional licenses). Listing personal interests is optional, but should be included if applicable to the position, or extraordinary. While language abilities should be indicated, it is not appropriate to include personal information such as marital status and physical characteristics.

Q?

How Do I Write an Effective Cover Letter?

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The cover letter should be addressed to a specific person and tailored to fit each position, if possible. It should be clear, brief, and well-written as it is the first opportunity for you to showcase your writing skills. The cover letter should state the position being sought, and mention a few strengths, but should not tell your life story nor be too chatty. It is essential to let the addressee know when to reach you to arrange an interview and your preferred phone number or email address.

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How Do I Prepare for an Interview?

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Once an interview is scheduled, you should prepare by researching the firm or corporation, including its size, structure, representative clients, recent major cases and/or transactions, financial condition and, if possible, the persons who will be involved in the interviewing process. Besides checking with your network of contacts and spend some time on the Internet.

You also should prepare a list of references. It is advisable to contact the individuals first to get permission to use them and to find out what they would say about you and your work. Especially when seeking a litigation position, you should choose a writing sample which demonstrates your excellent research and analytical skills, and lucid writing style. It is absolutely crucial that there be no typos! Additionally, if you have five years or less of experience, you should obtain a certified copy of your law school transcript and make copies to provide to potential employers upon request. To complete the interview preparation, you should confirm the date, time, address, contact person, directions to the interview, and parking instructions, and practice answers to tough interview questions.

Q?

How Do I Maximize My Success at Interviews?

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At the interview, your appearance should be as professional as possible. Interviewers will notice shaggy hair, scuffed shoes, split seams, falling hems, or missing buttons. Good interviewing protocol includes being on time and, if late, calling; being polite to staff; and having a firm handshake, good eye contact and a confident smile. It should go without saying that profanity, gum-chewing, and smoking are inappropriate at all times, even if engaged in by those conducting the interview. You should be armed with extra copies of your resume, the list of references, transcripts, and writing samples to offer, as appropriate.

In an interview, it is paramount to demonstrate responsiveness, intelligence, and personality. You want to be assertive without being cocky or arrogant, friendly without being overly familiar, and articulate without being long-winded. You must indicate a willingness to work hard and demonstrate a high energy level. It is important to communicate a grasp of what the position entails. Listen carefully to what is being asked, and be completely honest and not evasive in answering direct questions. You should be prepared to answer "hard questions" such as those relating to your law school performance or job changes. Asking intelligent questions demonstrates interest in and knowledge of the potential employer, as well as assertiveness. Never speak negatively of a former employer, nor discuss money in an initial interview!

Q?

How Do I Follow-Up Effectively and Appropriately?

A.

Appropriate follow-up is an essential part of the job-hunting process. If your interviewer has not volunteered the information by the end of your interview, you should ask what the next step will be, and when you should expect to hear from the potential employer. Immediately after the interview, it is good form to send a thank-you note, so be sure to get the name (and correct spelling) of the interviewers. An easy way to do this is to collect business cards. If there has been no response in the time period stated by the employer, it is acceptable to make a polite telephone or email inquiry. Be persistent, but it is important not to be a nuisance.

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E-mail:  info@seltzerfontaine.com

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Los Angeles, CA 90064