Suggestions for a Long-Distance Job Search

Q1: I am a third-year law student at a regional Midwestern law school. My grades are top 10%. And I have law review and moot court. The summer after my first year I worked for a magistrate in the trial court and this summer I am working as the sole clerk to a 20-member firm in the town in which I go to school. I want to move to Chicago after graduation, but am unsure how to go about a job search in such a big city. I want to do (defense) litigation and am interested in mid-size to larger law firms. Any suggestions??

Q2: I will be graduating soon from a prestigious law school in Washington DC. I am looking for a job in Chicago after I graduate. How do I go about looking for jobs there? I will be doing the law school campus interview program in DC.

A: Job searching long distance certainly presents its own interesting set of challenges to a process that many believe is challenging enough. However, there are numerous steps one can take from a far to help increase the possibility of a successful job search.

First, I would suggest getting familiar with the information available at FindLaw's Career Center, which includes advice on a wide variety of issues facing job searchers.

Another resource is the National Association for Law Placement annual publication, National Directory of Legal Employers, which has information on 1400 employers nationwide that's indexed by location, practice area and office size (can be purchased from the publisher at 1-800-787-8717).

In addition, the book How to Get a Job in Chicago, by R. Sanborn is part of a Surrey Books' series covering a dozen major cities, has contact information for over 30 Chicago law firms. The book also identifies local professional groups (i.e. Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Council of Lawyers) and their publications, which I would urge you to try to get current copies of.

Firms that seem interesting to you can be contacted directly. You might want to do a little detective work to see if you can identify specific individuals more directly involved in areas of your interests. Let them know when you intend to visit their city so that information interviews might be set up.

Other suggestions for making contacts long distance before actually visiting one's city of preference are:

  • Writing to leaders of civic groups (i.e. Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks) to see if they can put you in touch with related professionals
    Check with your college placement service to see if they have reciprocal working relationships with any colleges in your target city (they often provide services to alumni).
  • Touch base with all members of your current personal and professional network to see if they know anyone in your city of preference. Their contacts don't necessarily need to be in the law field for if they're not, they may well know others that are.
  • Check with religious leaders in your city of preference (whether of your denomination or not), they have congregations full of potential contacts.

Contact specific individuals via letter when requesting information or referrals to help develop your network. Start the process a few months before an exploratory visit. Set up information interviews with appropriate contacts for a one week (if not more) visit to the city you're interested in.