At least one law professor who has done the math has predicted there will be more full-time law jobs than law-school graduates by 2016. Definitely not everyone agrees with this, and it could be more like 2021, if you use different numbers. But it looks like the jobs problem will eventually sort itself out — at least for new graduates starting in 2016 or so.
What about currently-unemployed law-school graduates?
First, I am sorry for your situation. But I think that, besides relentlessly applying for jobs, there are some things you could be doing to improve your chances of future employment, as the legal job market starts to improve. All of them require a substantial investment of time, which means you will have to start practicing for the 60-to–80-hour-per-week law job you hope to get in 2016.
The first thing you need is experience.
Getting experience is hard when you have little or none to begin with. There are, however, plenty of people who need a lawyer but cannot afford one. And there are organizations that help find volunteer lawyers to take on those clients pro bono. However, it is not quite as simple as marching into your local volunteer-lawyer organization and offering your services.
Pro bono clients need competent lawyers just like paying clients. If you don’t yet have enough experience to take a case on your own, you may be more of a burden than a benefit. Many volunteer-lawyering organizations work around this by incorporating mentoring into their client-service model. Others are happy to let you volunteer anyway, and may or may not offer resources and support.
If you find a volunteer-lawyer organization built to support new lawyers, use the resources and support it offers. Especially if they can connect you to a mentor. If there are little or no resources, look for a different organization. Or if there is not another organization, find a mentor, first. Reach out to the lawyers you know, and see if anyone is willing to do their pro bono service as your mentor.
This is very different than asking someone to mentor you on fee-generating cases, so you may have an easier time finding a pro bono mentor.
Once you take a case, pour yourself into it. You owe your diligence to your client, but the organization, any judges you find yourself in front of, and your mentor will take note of your work, as well. The best way to get a job or get clients is to do good work whenever you have the opportunity. Volunteering is one way to give yourself that opportunity.
Along with experience, though, you need to build your reputation. There are at least two good ways to do that.
Write Articles for Your Bar Journal
Originally, my advice was to write a law-review article. That’s great if you have the time and you can find a journal willing to accept your article, but it is probably not the best use of your time.
It is usually much easier to get an article accepted for publication in a bar journal, and many more people will read it. Most bar journals have instructions for submissions on their websites or in the journal itself. Find them before you start writing anything.
If you are out of work after some years in practice, you probably already have a good idea of what to write. If you are new, focus on developments in the law that you can research at your local law library. Your insights into law practice aren’t likely to be too sought-after, at this point, but you can certainly cultivate an academic subject-matter expertise that could get you noticed by employers.
Keep writing. Aim to publish at least three or four articles in your bar journal over the course of a year, so that readers start to recognize your name. If you are successful in finding interesting angles on legal developments, you will probably be contacted by local lawyers who want to pick your brain. Take advantage of any such networking opportunities.
Start a Blog
Maybe law reviews and bar journals are too highbrow for you. Starting a blog may not carry the same prestige as seeing your name in print on actual paper, but it can still be a worthwhile endeavor. In fact, some blogs are becoming legitimate alternatives to law reviews.
If you start a blog, pick a legal topic to focus on — preferably the area you want to work in — and start building a readership. Before you get too far into it, though, be sure to read my blogging manifesto, which condenses most of what I have learned about blogging into a hopefully-helpful tutorial on what not to do.
A good blog often naturally results in new connections, networking opportunities, and reputation-building. Build a good blog, and take full advantage.
If you are unemployed at the moment, how are you preparing for the 2016 job surplus?
This was originally published on April 23rd, 2009. It was sustantially re-written before re-publishing on January 10, 2014.
Featured image: “Young business woman holding sign Looking for a job” from Shutterstock.