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.


  1. Avatar Can'tTellIfSrs says:

    This is the best satirical advice article I’ve read for new lawyers yet.


    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      I was being tongue-in-cheek about the job surplus, if that’s what you mean. Who knows when or if the job market will recover.

      But I don’t think anything is wrong with the advice. Getting experience through volunteering and writing for a publication or blog are good ways to put yourself out there and find a job.

  2. Avatar John Grimley says:

    the global economy continues to expand. In some economies at double digit figures. Long term global economic expansion continues. Alternative legal services providers are growing, capturing more market share. While traditional law firms for the most part may not be healthy enough to add to their ranks of lawyers – economic growth coupled with alternative legal services providers capturing increasing market share – bodes well for new lawyers – as even if technology replaces some tasks once performed by lawyers – the number of lawyers needed to work on the growing amount of work globally related to economic growth — will likely increase along with that growth. Boutiques and alternative legal services providers ought to be included in job hunts for any new law graduates.

  3. Avatar Susan Gainen says:

    Thank you, Sam. The three legs of the self-starter are volunteering (because it gets you out of the house and engaged with clients and lawyers), writing for publication (something related to your career goals: this is not the time to write about “Law and Chaucer”), and writing a professionally-useful blog (unless you are transitioning to “chef,” this does not mean a food blog).

  4. Good advice, Sam. I would point an unemployed noob to this blog post.

    If the above steps were followed, then you could add getting active on social media and law Q & A sites. Start the process of building up your personal brand as a “law expert” and the number of people you know online.

    The first thing an employer will do is google you. If you have spent a year branding yourself online and it looks like you are social enough that you might bring in a few cases to your boss, that can go along way.

  5. Avatar FEB says:

    I agree with this advice. And also hope things pick up with the business in the legal economy, hopefully before 2021.

  6. The unfortunate reality is that competition is fierce. All of the top competitors for jobs will display high marks, engaging personalities, volunteer experience and written examples of their talent. If on the strength of what you know/what you do you cannot get a job, then my view is you need to be looking at who you know, not what you know.

    Try and make contacts, meet people, go to law/industry events, and engage with people on relevant social media. It’s easier than to say than to do, but given the sheer amount of talented young graduates looking for jobs, your contacts will be critical when the time comes to go hunting (or as the hunt continues). You never know how your next contact might be able to help you out in the job hunt. A great conversation with a lawyer could score you a job when 100 blog posts do not.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      A great conversation with a lawyer could score you a job when 100 blog posts do not.

      True. But a blog is fairly likely to lead to that conversation, if you don’t already know the right lawyer to have that conversation with.

      • Good point Sam. I guess that ultimately it’s a matter of creating an opportunity to have a discussion that you might not otherwise get to have. Creating visibility for a blog/article that gets noticed by the right people might be a bit tricky, in my view. But it certainly can’t do any harm (assuming the blog doesn’t say anything stupid, of course…)

  7. Avatar Matthew Salzwedel says:

    Someone from Texas, who knows a few things about being and working with highly successful lawyers, once said that to be a successful lawyer you need two things: people skills and writing skills.

    I have a slightly different view: to be a successful lawyer you need to be able to do one thing well—write. A new lawyer who can’t write well is useless. A new lawyer who can’t write well in a tight job market is unemployable.

    So, as Sam advises, start writing and keep writing and keep writing and keep writing.

    Burn your Lynne Truss books, especially the horrible Eats Shoots & Leaves. Buy and read some quality books on usage and style and grammar from these authors: Garner, Fowler, Follet, Zinsser, Gowers, Bernstein, O’Conner, Kimble, Barzun, Trimble, Walraff, Walsh, Safire, etc etc.

    Finally, don’t fret. It may take some time to get a job, but you will get a job. And after that, you and you only will control your destiny—in the law and in life.

  8. Avatar Paul Spitz says:

    I would add a fourth suggestion: start your own practice. Look, if you can write a decent article or a blog, you have enough expertise and/or research skills to get out there and represent clients. Find someone who has experience and will help mentor you, but you might as well get out there and control your own destiny. Also, volunteer opportunities are pretty limited to certain practice areas. If that isn’t your area of interest, then don’t waste your time. Instead, put your time into doing what you want.

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