In law school, and after, the best law job search tool is also the simplest: friends. In the current job market, you need all the help you can get, and having friends that will actively lobby for you with their employers is a big advantage. Unless your job search features interviews driven by a high class rank, the job search really isn’t about what you know, but whom you know.
On my first day of law school, the dean told us that the people sitting around us would be our colleagues in the law for decades, so we should all try to make friends and treat each other with respect. It sounded like good advice. Following it has paid off.
The Real You at Your New Law Job
When it was time to find my first law job, I asked a friend who was clerking with the county attorney’s office to help me get a job there as well. He did, and I was hired based on his recommendation. A year or so later, another law school friend helped me get a job as a fill-in judicial clerk. That job allowed me to get to know all the judicial clerks in the district. Their kind words about me helped convince a judge to hire me. With his recommendation, I later got an opportunity to join a law firm. That didn’t work out, but a fellow former judicial clerk lobbied her boss long and hard for me. Eventually he hired me. I later learned that she got her job after a law-school friend had lobbied for her.
Why does this happen? Because people making hiring decisions, particularly those who hire lawyers, know that the kind of skills and personal qualities they seek can’t be found on a
resume, nor can they be revealed in an interview. They rely heavily on employees’ judgment in making hiring decisions because they know that the person at the interview is not the same person that will be working there a year from now. A friend knows the real you, and she won’t risk her reputation lobbying for you if you are going to make her look bad down the road.
Be Friendly, Not Phony
So, how do you make friends that will help you? Obviously, fellow students with good jobs are going to be the most help to you. It’s tough to give good advice on how to make friends, but I’ve found that a sense of humor has always been a big help. Genuinely trying to be helpful to someone in need doesn’t hurt, either—I and the friend who got me my current job clerked at different times for the same judge; she helped me learn aspects of the job that I didn’t know, and I later had the chance to reciprocate when the judge was re-assigned. Keep in mind, people can see if you worked to create your friendship just to seek a job. Friends are honest with each other.
The reason we have clichés is because they are true—but it’s astonishing how many people don’t take their advice. Your mom was right: be the kind of friend you want to have.