How to Get Legal Experience as a Recent Graduate

Unfortunately, graduating from law school does not guarantee that you will find a paying job as an attorney. Last week I wrote about the importance of getting legal experience as a recent graduate, even if you are working at a non-legal job to pay the bills.

If you are looking for ways to get legal experience as a recent graduate, here are a few tips.

Start with who you know

Did you have a good relationship with any of your law school professors, or work as a research assistant for any of them? It is unlikely that you can work for them again, but many professors are engaged in all sorts of other legal endeavors outside of law school. I know at least one recent graduate who got set up with an appellate case under the tutelage of a former professor. Talk to your professors to see how they can help you get real experience.

It is also worth networking with your classmates. Some of them will try and hang their own shingle and might want to co-counsel on a case. You probably cannot quit your day job, but you can still get some good experience and keep your legal skills fresh.

Contact the local volunteer organizations

There is always room for another attorney to do pro bono work. Depending on your level of availability, there are multiple options. Many organizations hold weekly or monthly clinics for clients in the evenings. Clinics are a great way to get your feet wet. Many times, cases are assigned based on intake clinics—if you meet with them, you can choose to take their case.

Handling a case from start to finish is even better experience than clinics. There is more opportunity to develop a robust attorney-client relationship. In addition, you will probably get some motion practice or courtroom experience—you can’t beat that.

Do not let your legal skills go to waste—get out there and start lawyering!

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eversheds/4192286925)

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  • I would really like to see an informative article on “How to get Clients as a Recent Graduate.”

  • I.Nwawe

    I agree w/ Mr. Becker. Volunteer opportunities are even overwhelmed. I have to get my own clients. This topic is very relevant to me.

  • Getting clients and getting experience can be a chicken & egg kind of problem. It’s not easy to get clients for something you’ve never done before, and might even be unethical, if you don’t have a more experienced lawyer connection or a seminar or some other way to educate yourself about it. But if you don’t have any clients, how do you develop experience?

    Sometimes by offering to do some work for free or very low cost for experienced lawyers, you can get the experience you need. And you may soon find that they will refer to you matters they don’t want or don’t have time to handle. [Would that be a chicken & egg solution? :-) ] For additional ideas about getting experience, an article I wrote is at http://www.lawyer-coach.com/index.php/2010/10/20/how-new-or-re-tooling-lawyers-can-get-experience-they-need/.

  • Steven Appelget

    When you do volunteer work, the people you represent _are_ your clients.

    The biggest and best source of business for any lawyer is referrals from clients pleased with the lawyer’s work. If you do good work for your pro bono clients, they can and will refer their friends and relatives to you for paying work. They themselves will return with paying work for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for the referral, and don’t be afraid to tell people the work might not be free.