Getting a job at a law firm can require years of preparation depending on your goals. Standing out from a packed applicant pool and excelling in your academics, whether in law school or undergraduate college, can definitely help. Your path will vary depending on whether you want a job as an entry-level attorney, an attorney with experience or a member of the support staff.
Entry-Level Lawyer Jobs
If you're hoping to get an entry-level attorney job at a law firm, you'll have to start early. To get such a coveted position, you'll typically need a summer internship at a law firm after your first or second year of law school. If you excel at your job, then you'll stand a better chance at getting a full-time job offer after you graduate. Participating in your law school's on-campus interviewing process gives you a chance to interview with multiple law firms that visit the school. To get a job with a smaller firm, try networking at your local courthouse and watch trials relevant to the area of law you're interested in. Tell the clerk that you're a new lawyer and you might get introduced to the judge and lawyers who are there. If you have a specific smaller firm in mind but it isn't hiring anyone full time, approach the firm about working on a contract basis and proving your worth.
Jobs for Lawyers With Experience
Getting an attorney job at a law firm after you already have a few years of experience is a different matter entirely. Prepare yourself for a possibly long process that includes weeks, maybe even months, of decision-making by the law firm. The more years of experience you have, the less that the law school you went to and your GPA will matter. For lateral hires, law firms are looking for the quality of the current firm you're working at and your hands-on experience. When interviewing or putting together a cover letter, focus on any successes or big wins that you've had. You might also consider working with a headhunter or recruiter.
The requirements for getting a paralegal job at a law firm vary depending on the firm's size and focus. Some firms want paralegals to have a bachelor's degree, good grades and experience directly related to the area they'll be working in at the firm. For example, a paralegal working in medical malpractice might have previous experience in a hospital or with an insurance company. Larger firms may not require formal paralegal training if they have their own in-house paralegal training program. Smaller firms, however, may require paralegal training or certification in addition to a bachelor's degree.
Information Clerks and Secretary Jobs
Law firms hire numerous people for other non-attorney support staff positions, such as secretaries, information clerks and intake personnel who handle incoming calls about cases. The competition for these jobs is pretty tough, since law firms are expected to continue diminishing the number of legal secretaries and information and record clerks that they employ between now and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To get one of these coveted jobs, you'll need to demonstrate through your resume and interview that you're a team player who can work with groups of lawyers and can handle the intense pressure of a law firm. These staff must be able to jump from one case and assignment to another and handle multiple cases.
Information Technology Jobs
Law firms rely heavily on computer systems and messaging applications to keep track of all the cases they're working. Because of this, law firms normally have at least one person on staff devoted to information technology and information security. These jobs may also involve running and overseeing the law firm's website. To get one of these jobs, you will typically need at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as computer science. You should have extensive knowledge of software applications commonly used by law firms, such as case management software, time tracking applications and billing software.
- U.S. News & World Report: Turn a Law School Internship Into a Job
- LexisNexis: The On-Campus Interview: Get In, Get Out, Get Called Back
- American Bar Association: Strategies for Finding a Job With a Small Law Firm
- BCG Attorney Search: Coping With the Process of Applying for a Position in a Law Firm
- Above the Law: Headhunters. Huh. What Are They Good For?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Careers in Law Firms
- Vinson & Elkins: Paralegals at V&E
- Paralegal Today: Getting Started as a Paralegal
- U.S. News & World Report: Paralegal
- Legal Services: Sample Job Description: Director of Information Technology
- Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
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