Question & Answer
I Have a Van, Need Help With a Plan
October 30, 2012
I am graduating this spring from a 1st-tier law school with mediocre grades. (I had a bad first year, with tons of improvement since.) I am relocating to New York City and have begun my job search.
I have had little to no success in landing even an interview. I had prior job experience before law school and speak a couple of languages. I am wondering if New York employers just aren't interested in someone who hasn't moved there yet or what?
I am moving shortly. Any suggestions on how to capture a great job from far away?
At this moment as we anxiously wait for Hurricane Sandy to arrive in New York, I am not clear why anyone would want to move here. Of course, that's today and once this storm has moved on, I will once again be singing the praises of what I consider to be the greatest city in the world. So, having recognized that you caught me at a "I don't love New York" moment - and I might add that this is just a brief moment in a New York lifetime of loving it here - let me say that this is not the reason I am having difficulty coming up with suggestions on how to find a great job in the greatest of all cities.
First, let me address one of your questions. It is not true that New York employers just aren't interested in someone who hasn't moved here yet. When you think about how many offers of permanent employment from New York law firms are made to law school students at those out-of-town law schools such as Harvard, Yale, Penn, Stanford, Boalt, Northwestern, Chicago, UVA, Michigan, Duke, Minnesota, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, UCLA, USC, etc., you have to know that theory just doesn't hold water. In other words, just because you haven't moved to New York yet doesn't mean anything to the law firm employers.
In fact, they will do everything in their power to persuade you to move to New York if they are interested in hiring you. They will take you to Broadway plays and Yankee games. They will help you find a great apartment. They will treat you to wonderful meals at trendy restaurants. They will show you the best that New York has to offer. They love students from those out-of-town 1st tier law firms.
But I forgot to mention something. Those New York law firms have a requirement and that concerns grades on your transcript. I have discussed this before in many previous columns. The good news is that law firms are a bit more lenient when you have a JD from a first-tier law school. Nevertheless, there is a certain cutoff that they require in terms of a grade point average.
So, unfortunately, even though you have had a tremendous amount of improvement on your transcript in your second year and feel that your third year of law school will show the same good grades, those bad grades from your first year probably are preventing the firms from bringing you in for an interview at this time.
I would suspect that your grade point average is below the minimum level accepted for your school - even though you are graduating from a first tier law school - at the New York law firms.
The other issue at play is my guess that you did not work at a firm during your 2L summer (again, probably no offers due to those grades during your first year). That also hurts when potential employers are looking at your resume. There are many things that those possible employers search for on a resume prior to asking a 3rd year law student to come in for an interview but really only three things that are critical to their decision: law school; 2L summer employer and whether or not an offer was extended; transcript. In your particular case you are coming up short on two of the three critical areas.
So, what is my suggestion? Well, as always, don't give up. You really never know. What I recommend you do first and foremost is to enlist the help of your law school's career services office. You might also want to start applying to firms geographically close to your law school and to your hometown. Network in these two areas. Do everything and anything you can to get a law firm job and once you have gained some experience - meaning after a couple of years - then you can try to transfer to a New York law firm.
Or, if your heart is really set on moving to New York after graduation and sitting for the bar, then go ahead and do so. You have a lot of time between now and then to continue to send out your resume and network, network, network. Just be realistic and understand that your grades and transcript more than likely are going to disqualify you for the top tier firms. But there are still loads and loads of other firms in New York that would love to have an associate from a 1st tier law school in their Martindale listing so, as I have said, don't give up. Best wishes!
Ann M. Israel