BarWinners- How Is The Legal Job Market?

September27, 2016
by Shari Karney

Is the Legal Job Market Better Than the Wall Street Journal and Other Media Portrays It? Yes!

When law school students are in search of law jobs and work experience, (internships, externships, law firm associate, summer associate) it is important for students to look at their own wants, needs, and desires as well as the new skills firms are now in search of.  Newspaper headlines and the media tend to exaggerate how “bad” the legal market is and how most firms aren’t hiring. This simply is not true. The reality is recent law school graduates are finding placements quickly and with good firms they are happy with. Overall, law schools are reporting higher employment statistics, better starting salaries for law students largely due to increased funding and resources from law schools to help recent grads find these jobs.

Law firms and the public sector are looking for attorneys and young associates that are tech-savvy enough to handle projects on cases that involve knowledge and interest in computer software, a willingness and ability to learn new applications, and to apply emerging technology. These skills and interests can range from Microsoft Word proficiency, to eDiscovery familiarity, to specialized skills used on search platforms like LexisNexis and Westlaw. Even good social media skills (such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, SnapChat, Yelp, and others) can be very appealing to law firms.

Cases hitting the dockets now, in unchartered legal territory are drone regulation, social media issues, Internet privacy and defamation, virtual reality in gaming and entertainment such as Oculus Rift, App development, and legal issues surrounding industries dealing with new technology. A willingness to learn and delve into new areas of the law involving emerging technology, social media law and Internet law is an area of great opportunity for young lawyers entering the job market. This is true whether you are interested in being hired in the private or public sector.

Many law and regulations are years behind technology-related legal issues coming to the forefront in the courtroom and in law firms today. That means this area of the law, is going to be the next frontier for good law jobs and a booming opportunity for young lawyer entering and becoming experts in law and technology-related issues. You need to be willing, ready, and able, with good techno skills (those you use everyday) to tackle these exciting new opportunities for young law students looking for legal jobs.

Law firms are finding themselves needing to keep up with the new “technology ‘industrial’ revolution.” Of course, a background in computer science, technology, engineering, would even add more to your resume.

Another factor helping create these jobs are baby-boomer attorneys that are now retiring (or at least easing into it), which makes room for the next generation at each firm to move up with better pay, more opportunity opening the door and increasing the demand for the new generation of law school graduates to gain entry into a variety of previously, very exclusive law firms now hiring.

When hiring, if two candidates have equal academics and work experience, specialized computer skills, good legal and strong writing and people skills (paired with a friendly personality), can sway an employer dramatically. Even social media skills can be in high demand at law firms.  Law firms are beginning to understand the importance of social media in their overall business plan and client outreach. Clearly, recent graduates are the most equipped to understand this world and add value to the firm.

A smart move when looking for jobs at firms you are interested in:
Figure out what kinds of technology the firm uses, reach out via email or phone, or even look up recent cases the firm has worked on and what tools were used to work on it. Cover letters and resumes should target these special needs-avoid sending mass, generic application materials…as that will likely only see the inside of a recycling bin.

The top three tips when applying to any kind of job, whether it is at a firm, public interest, or elsewhere are these:

1) Everyone hires someone he/she would like to work with. Be friendly during your interview and genuinely engage with your interviewer if you’re interested in the position. Send a thank you note following the interview for the opportunity to interview for the position.

2) Be willing to spend time on projects outside of work on weekends and evenings…and if that isn’t something you are willing to do, inquire what the firm/work environment’s culture is when it comes to “taking work home.”

3) Be interested in what you are doing and willing to learn at every opportunity. Whether the job is paid or pro-bono, the skills learned at a job are invaluable. While some law schools currently require “practical skills,” others do not emphasize this. However, the reality is work experience is something that sets job candidates apart after graduation. Plus, what better time to do free or minimum-wage work to learn what areas of the law interest you, make good connections and network, get a chance to explore different work environments and many of these positions are also eligible to be applied for law school class credit! Win-Win!

You’re able to see law ‘in action’ and helps define what areas of the law you are drawn to and like, helps focus you on what you want to pursue after graduation. You make good connection that is useful for networking when you are actively searching for a job after graduation. The exposure to clients and different fields of law is something law school classes cannot provide, and oftentimes is the best way to secure a permanent job at a firm that prefers to not hire outside of its own interns or externs. Taking advantage of exploring these options during law school will not only open more opportunities for you after you take the bar, but also give you a more well rounded education about the law outside of the classroom.

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