How Can I Increase My Chances Of Finding a Legal Job?

Q: What can a recent jobless law graduate do to increase his or her odds of finding a job? Does using a temp agency help at all? Any other suggestions?

A: There are a number of things a recent graduate can do to expose himself or herself to more potential job opportunities. Here are some of them, in no particular order:

1. Attend local bar association functions in the practice areas in which you have an interest, so you can meet relevant practitioners. Most often a personal connection is more effective for referrals to other jobs, and even for direct hiring, than is mailing an unsolicited resume. It is not uncommon for a job to be created to accommodate an individual who, after gaining some familiarity, is perceived as worthwhile.

2. Contact any of your law school classmates with whom you had even a passing acquaintance to let them know what you are looking for. Ask these people if they know of any openings and request that they keep you in mind if they hear of anything.

3. Realize that networking contacts are everywhere -- at your kids sporting events, at religious institution programs, at social gatherings, at protest marches. You never know whom you will meet at one of these events who may be helpful, so it is important to get yourself out to meet them. Realize that no one will come knocking on your door, looking for you.

4. Do some research on the smaller firms in your areas of interest and contact them to offer to do work for them on a contract or project basis. Working on a limited basis is a great way to preview a firm and for them to evaluate you, without any continuing obligation for either side once the project is finished. But this preview also has the opportunity to blossom into a romance that might result in the contract lawyer being offered a permanent job.

5. Offer to do work on one of the bar association's or other legal organization's pro bono projects, but stipulate that you will only do so if you can be assigned to work with a mentor. This will give you an additional connection to an experienced lawyer.

6. Contact your law school to see if the Career Services Office maintains a mentor list of lawyers. This list is generally made up of graduates of the school who have agreed to talk to and even mentor law students and new graduates, giving these aspiring lawyers information and support. Even if your law school isn't located in the area where you now live, you may find that some graduates live nearby.

7. Most of the temporary lawyer placement agencies aren't terribly interested in new graduates because the hiring attorneys, for whom the agencies work, usually request temporary and contract lawyers with some experience, who can walk in and begin the assignment without instruction. That doesn't mean that an individual attorney won't hire, on a contract basis, a new graduate. It just means that most hiring lawyers won't pay the premium that the agencies add, over and above the fee given to the contractor, if that contractor doesn't already have at least a modicum of relevant experience.