Graduating from law school all but guarantees a job. Surveys show that law school graduates have an 85-90% employment rate. Many of those who do not find employment chose not to work as a lawyer.
You have many career tracks out of law school. But the majority of law school graduates work for a private law firm.
Here are some suggestions and hints for getting hired by a law firm.
Career Paths for Law School Graduates
Although most law students will work for a law firm, almost half will not. Other career paths that compete with private practice include:
- Judicial clerk
- Legislative counsel
- Government lawyer
- Public interest lawyer
- In-house lawyer
As you look for a law firm job, bear in mind that you have other career paths. Private practice does not appeal to everyone. You have a much better chance of getting hired by a law firm if you have a passion for private practice.
If you would rather work for an environmental group or teach law, you will probably not interview as well at a law firm. And even if you get a job there, you will probably not enjoy your work.
In short, before you worry about how to get hired by a law firm, make sure that you want to get hired by a law firm.
Early Steps to Get Hired by a Law Firm
If you have always dreamed of working for a law firm, you can set the table early for getting hired.
Lawyers love to hire fellow alumni. Going to the right undergraduate university and law school will potentially give you a connection to use when applying to law firms.
Knowing what area of law you love will also ensure that you get the right undergraduate degree and take the right law school courses. For example, if you want to practice personal injury law, it may help to take a few undergraduate classes in anatomy and physiology. Economics courses may be useful, too, as they can help you estimate the value of cases.
Similarly, if you want to practice patent law, you must have an undergraduate degree in science or engineering. Without that undergraduate degree, no patent law firm will ever hire you because you will not get admitted to practice before the U.S. Patent Office.
Suggestions in Law School to Get Hired by a Law Firm
Most of the steps you will take to get hired by a law firm will happen during law school, including:
Taking the Right Courses in Law School
Most law students do not know what field of law they want to practice. If you fall into this category, take a wide range of courses. When you start to apply for jobs with law firms, you can point out that you took a course or two in tax law or copyright law. This will show firms that you have some understanding of the concepts and vocabulary used in their practices.
Some law students know exactly what field of law they want to practice. Students in this category should load up on courses relevant to their area of interest. Thus, future personal injury lawyers should study tort law, insurance law, and litigation.
Getting Good Grades
Law schools offer a diverse array of classes. Very few students do well in every course. Not every student can finish in the top 10% of their graduating class. So you need to do well in the courses that apply to your area of law.
This can also help you choose your field of practice. If you took a securities law course and barely passed, you may not want to apply to firms that focus on mergers and acquisitions.
But if you took a course in criminal procedure and received exceptional grades, you could consider criminal defense. More importantly, criminal defense firms would consider hiring you.
Working as a Law Clerk
Most law schools prohibit full-time students from working during their first year. But part-time students and full-time students in their second and third years can work.
Working as a law clerk will improve your chances of getting hired after law school. Any experience will help, whether you clerk for a judge, the local prosecutor’s office, or a law firm. But law firms will probably value law firm experience ahead of other clerking experience.
Clerkships are competitive. Getting a clerkship with the firm where you eventually want to work might seem impossible. If you can get it, the clerkship will give you a foot in the door at the firm. Many firms make job offers to high-performing clerks at the end of their clerkships.
If you cannot get a clerkship at your desired firm, try to get a clerkship at another firm in the same practice area. Better yet, take a clerkship with a competitor firm. Law firms love to poach recruits from the competition, especially from a respected competitor.
Hints as You Near Graduation to Get Hired by a Law Firm
As you approach the fall and spring recruiting seasons in your final year, use your law school’s career services office. The counselors will have resources and experience in helping you prepare a resume and cover letters. They will also help you prepare for job interviews.
Law firm recruiting will differ from most other job searches you have experienced. Law firms hire new associates regularly, so you can almost always find a job. But each law firm has quirks that influence their recruiting and hiring. Talk to associates at those firms about their experiences and learn from them.
How to Get Hired by a Law Firm Later in Your Career
Keep in mind that you will probably not spend your entire career with the firm that hires you out of law school. Make the most of your time at whichever firm hires you. Your experiences there will improve your chances of getting hired by your dream law firm.
Do good work. Fellow lawyers, clients, judges, and even opposing attorneys will form an opinion of you based on the quality of your work. This can help you get hired by other firms. It may even lead these firms to seek you out.
There are no guaranteed ways to get hired by a law firm. But the steps you take throughout your academic and legal career can improve the chances that you will get the offer you want.