Question & Answer
The Year of Living Futilely
June 12, 2012
I can't find an attorney job, any attorney job, even after over a year of trying. I live in the Washington DC area, got better than average grades in law school at a worse than average law school (if you believe the rankings) half a country away.
Every week or so, I see and apply for a position advertised for which I feel qualified, but I rarely hear anything back from the employer. My resume was professionally prepared, and during law school I attended mock interviews and was told I present myself fairly well (although I have only had three or four interviews in the past year). Starting my own practice is out of the question - I am married and have children, and cannot go without a paycheck for any appreciable amount of time (I am currently working as a non-attorney).
And yes, I have spoken to a few prominent lawyers (attempting to network) asking if they knew anyone, asking for advice, anything. They have been sympathetic but not helpful. At this rate, it could be years before I get an attorney job. Help!
I have read your question over and over and over again and I can't find any way to answer except in the following manner and I am afraid it is not going to be what you wanted to hear.
First of all, take that professionally prepared resume, rip it up and start all over again. Did it ever occur to you that the professionally prepared resumes all look exactly the same? I don't understand why people go to these resume houses and believe that their resumes have been tailored to each person individually. It is actually insulting to me when I receive emails from potential candidates I have never heard from before telling me that we had spoken months earlier and now they have updated their resume and want to make sure I have the newest version. Then I get to the resume and they are all worded in the exact same format. The insult is compounded.
So, that is step #1. Individualize your resume. Rework it so that it is written by you.
Next, I am not quite certain how it is that you feel qualified for the positions advertised. Based on the little you have told us about yourself and your background, it would seem that you have never practiced law. The only legal job you are actually qualified for would be as a first-year attorney. Of course, that doesn't excuse any employer for not getting back to you but I suspect that with the job market the way it is these days, they must receive literally hundreds maybe even thousands of responses to an ad each week and it just doesn't make sense to reply to every resume that comes in. I do think that with an individually prepared resume that you have done yourself, and one that is geared to the particular job to which you are responding, you might have a slightly better chance of hearing back from the employer than with a resume that is the same as everybody else's format.
The other problem you face in responding to the ads is that you have only better than average grades at a worse than average ranked school (the employers do believe in the rankings whether or not you do) which probably means a third or fourth tier law school. This puts you in a very difficult position right now as you are competing with the recent law school grads who don't have jobs and are graduating from better schools with better grades. And now you have a year of applying for jobs behind you; these are recent grads to add to the pool of competition.
I can understand why you don't want to hang out your own shingle at this time, particularly without any practice experience. But with all the doom and gloom that I am preaching right now, there is some sunshine in what I have to say. You do have a job. And that's a lot more than what so many of those other job applicants have right now, even though as you have told us, you are working as a non-attorney and what you really want is to practice law.
My advice to you is as follows: continue to network. You are doing the right thing even though nothing has panned out from that so far. But you really haven't done much of it and so I encourage you to step up your efforts. Don't just speak to a few prominent attorneys - speak to everyone about your situation; go to local bar events; pester your law school's career services office; continue to respond to ads but this time tailor your resume as I have recommended. Lastly, look for jobs that are appropriate for a first year associate without specific and previous legal experience. Perhaps your current work experience might be pertinent but since I don't know what you are doing, I can't advise you on how to use your current work experience on your resume.
In any event, thank goodness you have a pay check coming in right now. Don't give up your day job but don't give up looking for the legal job. You are right, it could take a long time but then again, you never know. Best wishes!
Ann M. Israel