BY RYAN BYRNES
You may have heard that it’s tough out there for law school graduates.
Here in New Jersey, only about 60 percent of 2011 graduates of the state’s three law schools found full-time, legal employment within nine months of graduation. Meanwhile, about one-fifth of each of the classes remained under-employed through the same time period. The 2012 class data, which should be released in mid-March, doesn’t figure to vary much. And, comparatively, New Jersey is in better shape than many other states.
Traditional methods of finding post-graduate employment are changing. For example, fewer than four percent of Seton Hall Law’s class of 2011 reported on-campus interviews as the source of their eventual job. More than ever, the path to one’s first professional opportunity is one that must be proactively paved by the individual.
Luckily, we live in an era that makes that arduous task slightly more manageable. Though legal positions are scarce, there has never been a better time to break into professional networks and build relationships capable of yielding dividends in both the short- and long-term. As a recent law graduate, here are three keys I kept in mind as I navigated the legal job market.
The first is connectivity. Expand your web of contacts as wide as possible. Your alumni network – whether undergraduate or law school – is more than willing to help, but think a little more outside the box. I spoke with professors and family friends, but also attorneys I had caddied for and fraternity brothers 20 years my elder. The Internet allows these contacts to be just a few clicks away, but you must take the initiative to connect.
The second is consistency. Lawyers are busy people. The resume they were happy you passed along will soon be pushed aside for more pressing business. Stay on their radar with brief follow-up messages or offers to meet for coffee. Their schedule is busy, but if you show a respectful willingness to work around it, most will find the time to speak with you.
The most important key is confidence. Stop taking rejection personally. Build off of your strengths. Translate your experience into a form that will impress potential employers. Establish a professional presence on LinkedIn or Twitter. Blog about legal trends. Be active in your local bar association. Make it easy for others to see that you have something valuable to offer. If you don’t believe that you do, there’s no reason to think anyone else will either.
Luck will likely play a role in your eventual job, but these tips should diminish your reliance on chance and place your fate more directly in your own hands.