How to Get a Job in the Legal Field

Whether you are a seasoned veteran in the legal field looking for new employment or brand new to the field, the steps in this article will help you land a law job. Employers in the legal industry are typically lawyers who are often busy and have different ways of thinking than employers in other fields. There are two key ingredients to landing a position in the legal industry: being persistent and bringing relevant skills to the table. Keeping these key ingredients in mind and following the steps below will provide the best chance at gainful employment.


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    Obtain the necessary education and training. You shouldn't expect an employer to hire an unlicensed attorney for an attorney position. Likewise, you shouldn't expect an employer to hire an uncertified paralegal for a paralegal position. Make sure to obtain the necessary education, training and licensing before applying for a legal position. Most employers will hire an uncertified person for a legal assistant position, although accreditation is available for legal assistants. Individuals looking to become licensed attorneys should consult with the state bar association in their jurisdiction. Paralegals and legal assistants should consult with the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) for information about certification and for a list of accredited educators.
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    Build the perfect resume. The perfect resume for a legal position will have the following characteristics:
    • The resume will be brief. Attorneys spend an average of 5 seconds or less looking at any given resume. By way of an example, a legal assistant job posting in a major metropolitan area will garner several hundred applications.
    • The resume will focus on the applicants experience. Highlight the experience that relates to the job you are applying for.
    • The resume will include something to catch the reader's eye that is different from the stack of other resumes, such as bold or italicized font in certain areas, bullet-point lists, lines or other attention-grabbing marks.
    • The resume will include at least one memorable, non-employment related fact about the applicant (e.g., "Ran with the bulls in Pamplona last year").
    • The resume will have been proofread over and over, including by people other than the applicant. Any noticeable spelling or grammatical error will turn the employer off immediately.
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    Be persistent. Employers will generally not be put off by an applicant's reasonable persistence in trying to gain an interview. It actually shows initiative in the employer's eyes. Be careful not to overly pester the employer, but a well-thought follow up email every other day may go a long way.
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    Use your network of family and friends. Your friends and family may be an important ally in helping you land that perfect legal job. Add a post on Facebook or other social media that you are looking for a position. Add a funny line or memorable picture to attract attention to your post.
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    Cold call employers for career advice. Nothing bolsters a person's ego like giving them the opportunity to talk about themselves. This applies to lawyers and everyone else. Place a call to an attorney, paralegal or other administrative staff person at a law firm that you believe is reputable. Offer to meet with the attorney or other staff person for coffee before work in the morning just so you can meet them face to face and find out about their career. You may be surprised at how willing they are to meet with you and help you. Don't pester the person for a job, or even broach the subject. Just indicate you are considering a career in the legal field and want to learn.
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    Offer to serve as an intern or apprentice. If you identify an attorney or law firm that you would like to work for, contact them and offer to serve as an intern or apprentice for a period of time. It will give you a foot in the door and provide valuable experience.
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    Bring something to the table. Bringing a skill set that will help a law office become more efficient and therefore more profitable will help procure a job. For example, an attorney who also knows about computer networking should also highlight that skill in her resume and interview. Paralegals and legal assistants that understand about the latest technologies for timekeeping, compliance with the Professional Rules of Conduct, accounting, and other such administrative issues have a significantly better chance of landing a job than those applicants that are not up-to-date on technology. Lawyers are short on time and any method to help an office become more efficient and therefore save money will garner the employer's attention more than anything else. Offer to take on the task of instituting the new, more efficient method of billing and conflict checking for the firm on your own time. Here are some examples of the tools you can learn about to enhance your marketability to a solo practitioner or law firm:
    • Lawyers and law firms are all required by their state's Professional Rules of Conduct to check for conflicts of interest when a new, prospective client calls their office. Many lawyers do not have a method in place. Many other lawyers who do have a method in place utilize an inefficient system like an Excel spreadsheet to run a conflict check, which costs their staff significant time.
    • Most lawyers need to research case and statutory law as part of their daily work. Find out what the lawyer uses for research and become familiar with alternative options and the cost of those alternative research options.
    • Solo practitioners and smaller firms often use very rudimentary methods to track their billing time and send out bills to their clients. Research the most up to date billing software and mention that during your interview as a possible solution for the law firm's billing procedures. There is software available that allows lawyers to easily track their time online and send out bills to their clients by email.

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Categories: Legal Careers