Eight Tips on Getting Your First Job After Law School
Experts in tort, trial and insurance law shared their secrets of career success during the program, “I’m Getting My J.D. Now What? A Forum on How to Get Your First Job,” on Friday at the ABA Midyear Meeting. Panelists offered law school students tips on landing their first job in this tough and competitive legal market. They emphasized to law students that setting themselves apart from other applicants is key.
The panel consisted of Jim Myrick, head of litigation for Buist, Moore, Smythe, McGee P.A. in Charleston, S.C.; Marlo Orlin Leach, Atlanta-based litigator; Christopher Shelton, law student; Robert Caldwell, business attorney at Kolesar & Leatham in Las Vegas; and Vanessa Williams, vice president and deputy general counsel at R. L. Polk & Co in Michigan.
The following are eight tips given by panelists:
- Networking: All panelists stressed the importance of networking—not just when starting a legal career, but all throughout it. Leach urged law students to begin networking now, noting that “it starts in law school and ends when you retire.” Williams emphasized that networking will “help your career progress because of connections you make.”
- Get involved: Caldwell said that being involved in the organized bar or other activities pertaining to the law sets a candidate apart because it “shows a deep commitment to your profession,” something he says he values in the job applicants he hires. He also stressed that also being involved in community activities can lead to new business.
- Be yourself: Myrick said, “You be you… everyone else is taken,” urging students to be original in their approach to applying and interviewing for jobs. If you don’t, he continued, “you have nothing new to offer.”
- Be courteous: Myrick stated that it is important to always be courteous, because ultimately, landing a job is “all about human relationships.” By treating people well, you can build a good reputation, bring in clients and ultimately, bring in money.
- Tailor your cover letter and resume: All panelists urged applicants to have professional looking cover letters and resumes and to pay attention to detail. Williams said that, “you’ll want to blow them away.” She explained that “by setting yourself apart and showing what unique things you have to offer, you can get the interview.” Panelists also advised students to focus on relevant information.
- Select an appropriate writing sample: Caldwell urged applicants to choose writing samples that are appropriate for the firm to which they are applying. Also, applicants should stay within the requested page limit and make sure their sample is truly their work.
- Do your research: Panelists advised students to research the firms that call them for job interviews, and to think about “interesting and knowledgeable” questions to ask interviewers.
- Send thank you cards: Caldwell expressed that sending handwritten thank you cards after an interview sets applicants apart from the competition. He said it is something rarely done and is appreciated.
“I’m Getting My J.D. Now What? A Forum on How to Get Your First Job” was sponsored by the Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section and the Law Student Division.