Amy Cashore Mariani is of counsel to Fitzhugh, Parker & Alvaro, LLP and currently works as a contract attorney in all aspects of litigation matters
At the MBA's Annual Conference 2003, more than 50 people participated in a Mentoring Roundtable session sponsored by the New Lawyers Section. You might ask why this program was so popular. I believe the answer to that question is twofold. First, the program allows newer attorneys to network with their peers as well as with more seasoned attorneys. Second, newer attorneys are searching for different ways to approach the job-search process.
In the past six months, I have spoken with a number of recent graduates and law school students who are looking for advice on how to land their first job. I also have spoken with many attorneys who have weathered the ups and downs of the legal market over the past 20 years. While there are no easy solutions to the problems facing recent and future graduates in effectuating their job searches, here are a few hints that may help:
(1) Networking - Most attorneys say that their best career moves have been, in large part, facilitated by contacts they have made within the legal community; that is, they have heard of a job from a friend or have seen a job advertised in a firm in which they have a contact.
Virtually all of these attorneys believe their candidacy for a new position was taken more seriously because someone within the target entity could vouch for their character and competency. Based on these experiences, most attorneys suggest extending your circle of friends and acquaintances within the legal community to the broadest extent possible. They further suggest making sure that you maintain some level of regular communication, such as a phone call or a quick note every few months, with your friends and acquaintances to make sure that you stay on their radar screens.
(2) Skills development - If you have recently graduated or are about to graduate from law school, chances are that you have little to no experience in the legal field. Legal employers, particularly in a down economy, are more likely to take notice of applicants who have practical skills that can be put to use immediately. Therefore, consider taking an unpaid government or public-interest position while you continue your job search. These types of entities are always looking for volunteer assistance and usually will provide training to their volunteers. You will gain valuable experience that will distinguish you from other candidates, while also providing invaluable legal assistance to someone in need.
(3) Flexibility - In this economy, you may need to consider taking a position with a type of firm or other organization that is different from what you envisioned when you began law school. Remember that many smaller firms and organizations continue to have hiring needs. Moreover, you should not forget that law firms are not the only entities with legal hiring needs. Make sure that you keep the public sector and the business world in mind as you conduct your job search. You also should consider expanding the geographic area of your job search; firms outside of Boston, Worcester and Springfield often have opportunities for exciting work and for greater responsibility.
(4) Long-term planning - The legal market, like other facets of the economy, is cyclical. Attorneys who have been in practice for a number of years have experienced swings in legal hiring in which employers moved from being unable to hire quickly enough to being unable to hire at all for a year or more. It is important to start thinking now about where you would like to be in five or 10 years and to reevaluate your goals on an annual basis. While the first step that you take on your career path may not be the one that you intended initially, it can lead you to the same ultimate destination.
(5) Getting your name out there - Name recognition in the legal community can make a tremendous difference. Many opportunities exist to write for MBA publications and to work on MBA programs. If you are interested in writing for the MBA Section Review, please contact Renee Hackett at (508) 926-3410 or via e-mail at [e-mail rhackett]. If you are interested in working on an MBA program, please contact me at (617) 354-8858 or [e-mail acashore].
Above all, feel free to ask people that you know who have been practicing for some years for their thoughts and suggestions. Everyone's job history is different, and most practicing attorneys are happy to share with you their past experiences.