Job Search Guide for Recent Graduates

Job Searching Guide for Recent Graduates

Legal job searching and the bar exam

If you are pursuing a position that requires a license to practice law, focus your time and effort on studying for the bar exam.  Legal employers do not frequently hire recent graduates for attorney positions before they are admitted to a state bar.  You can increase your job search efforts after you take the bar exam, but be aware that employers may be slow to respond to your inquiries before you receive your bar exam results.

Keep a regular schedule

Waking up and going to sleep at regular times will optimize your time for job search activities (you’ll be less likely to miss a 9 a.m. call from a recruiter) and help you transition to full time employment.  Create a regular routine by blocking your calendar each weekday with job search tasks (time to review new job listings, send and respond to emails, work on application materials, and make phone calls).  Also be sure to make time for networking events, pro bono work, and taking care of yourself (e.g., exercise and healthy eating).  A more structured schedule will help you limit your time spent browsing the Internet and watching TV or movies during the work week.

Find a job search partner

Reach out to a friend or classmate who is also job searching, and set a time each week to report on your progress, discuss new postings and networking opportunities, review cover letters, and practice potential interview questions.

Focus your job search

Although it may sound counterintuitive, the most successful job searchers are focused and strategic, not open to anything available.  If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it is difficult to search for a job and even harder for anyone to help you.  To get clear on your preferences, spend some time thinking about past employment at which you have excelled and enjoyed.  What are your strengths, skills, interests, and preferences for job settings?  Meet with a career counselor if you need help assessing your skills and interests.

Stay organized

Use a spreadsheet to track each application you send (and to whom), including the date sent, materials included, a pasted copy of the job posting (in case you receive a request to interview and the webpage has been removed), and any follow up communications you have with that firm/organization.  If you do not receive a response to your application, set calendar reminders to ask about its status after one to two weeks.

Use your resources

Remember that you have lifetime access to the GW Law recruiting platform, CORE, which includes attorney job postings.  After graduation, contact the career center for login credentials to other paid resources such as the Government Honors Handbook, Brad Traverse (for Capitol Hill positions), and others.  Also check for job listings via LinkedIn, Google jobs, and Craigslist.

Ask for help

Reach out to former employers (from your 1L or 2L summer jobs or externships, for example) and let them know you are still job searching.  Contact an attorney who would likely remember you and your work.  Describe the type of position you are seeking, and ask if they have any advice about where to look or who else to contact.  Your law school professors are lawyers, too.  They may also be able to help you with your job search.  Contact any GW Law professor whose class you particularly enjoyed, or who may have contacts in your practice areas of interest.

Get out there

Attend alumni receptions (for GW and your undergraduate institution) to reconnect with former classmates and more senior alumni.  Be sure to use your informational interviewing skills to ask attendees where they work, and follow up with those in relevant practice areas or settings for advice on job search tactics.

Gain skills and find mentors by volunteering

Seek out pro bono opportunities that interest you at a legal aid organization or local bar association.  This way, you can gain practice experience or keep your legal skills fresh.  You will also get to know practicing attorneys in areas of interest to you.  Pro bono can add valuable experience to your resume and may well create contacts who become job references or make future job recommendations to you when an opening becomes available at their organization or firm.

Get published

Remember that perfect journal topic that you didn’t have time to pursue?  Or the case that you worked on 2L summer that was appealed and created a unique precedent?  Now that you have more time, you can research and write about these things and seek publication in any legal journal or legal periodical (for shorter, non-scholarly articles).  Be sure to list these publications on your resume.

Make your materials as polished as possible

Review the career center’s reference materials for cover letters and resumes. If you have not had your resume or cover letter reviewed in a while, make an appointment with a career counselor to review your application documents.  Likewise, ask a friend or classmate to review your cover letters and writing sample for improved clarity and style.

Prepare and practice your interview skills

Review the Interview Skills Overview and fill out an Interview Preparation Organizer before each interview so that you can explain, with supporting examples, why you want to work at that organization/firm and why you think you are a good fit for the position.  For more targeted assistance, make an appointment with a career counselor for a mock interview, or ask a friend or classmate to practice asking you some of the questions in the Interview Skills Overview list.

Job searching out of state or internationally

If you are seeking employment in another state, consider applying for reciprocity with a law school in your target area.  Reciprocity can provide access to out-of-state law schools’ career resources and job listings.  Contact the career center for more information.  If you are seeking legal work in another country, look for GW Law alumni in that city or country and request informational interviews with them to help you learn more about the local market and job search practices.  Find alumni in locations and practice areas of interest to you on LinkedIn, Martindale, Westlaw, and law firm websites.

Seek part time or temporary work

If you need to find paid work while awaiting your bar results, look for paid law clerk positions at small or midsize law firms or legal offices of other organizations.  Sometimes these positions can be converted to full time attorney positions pending bar passage if the employer is impressed with your work.  Consider part time or contract work at temp agencies (but be aware that attorney positions will require bar passage).