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Never been a better time for law school grads to get a job

Law student grad get jobThere’s been no shortage of stories in the mainstream news and the blogosphere about law school graduates being unable to get a job as lawyer. Rather than any fault lying with the law grads it’s the responsibility of the law schools who duped the students into coming to law school representing that they had a good chance to get a job. The latest comes from Solo Attorney David Anziska, who has filed 14 class actions against law schools for misstating employment numbers. Attorney Sam Glover in the Lawyerist characterizes Anziska’s actions as “Law Schools Under Siege.” Unless Anziska is bringing in the cavalry and figures out a better basis for damages than saying a ‘law grad is working at Starbucks,’ we’ve hardly got ‘law schools under siege.’ Anziska may be bringing the class actions for publicity and may escape with a class being certified, if he’s lucky, and and a nominal settlement, but any good trial lawyer would have a field day deposing the putative class representatives on the reliance and damages issues. Law professors may not be the best trial lawyers, but law school deans and trustees know where to find good trial lawyers among their alumni. I’m not buying the damages when it’s never been easier to get a job as a lawyer than it is today.

  • The ability to network while in school and upon graduation has never been easier. You have a computer and the Internet for research, email, and networking. I had Martindale-Hubbell at the public library to prepare me for knocking on law firm doors (that’s how I got a job when all the firms in town told me there were no jobs). Today you have LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, Twitter, and more to network with your target audience of leading lawyers.
  • If you’re like most law students and don’t have a clue how to network through the Internet, figure it out or ask for some help. Despite my overtures to students at Seattle University, the University of Washington, and other law schools, I have never had a student take me up on my offer to help.
  • Don’t wait for graduation. Build your network through the net throughout law school. How many recommendations on your completed LinkedIn profile do you have from law school and college professors, employers going back to high school, and colleagues. How many alumni events have you attended – even if it means bar tending or waiting the tables at the event so as to meet lawyers. How many blogs from practicing lawyers do you follow? Do you engage those lawyers through your own blog? Connect with them on LinkedIn? Follow and engage them on Twitter?
  • Don’t wait for people to post internships. Go ask for one where you want to work, work for free, and let them know that no one wants the internship more than you and that no one will work harder.
  • While you’re knocking on doors and bar tending after graduation, work for free. I worked for the public defender’s office for free doing research, briefs, and memo’s while my job hunt was underway. People at the court house knew me as a PHD – poor, hungry, and driven. Working for free showed my future employer I was driven to succeed and was not going to say no.
  • In your free time, knock on the door of the law firms you most want to work at and ask to meet the partner you’d most like to work with. When the receptionist asks if you have an appointment, tell her or him no. When they let you know that the firm is not hiring, tell them that’s okay, I still want to meet them. When they tell you it will be a couple hours, tell them you’ve got time to wait. You will have piqued the curiosity of the partner who will want to see exactly who this nut is?
  • When the partners tell you they have nothing for you, but they are impressed by your ambition (no one will have done this to them before), go back again and again – about every 2 to 3 weeks. It took me to the third visit to the firm which hired me to get a ‘buy signal.’ It took 5 visits to get a job. A job that paid more than any associate had ever been paid in the town.
  • Your competition sucks. How many law students in the community you want to work in, for the firm you want to work at, and in the area of law you want to work are going to do the above? None. Do it and you shine like a star.

Good lawyers are champions for the people they represent as lawyers. Good lawyers get outside their comfort zone once a week. Good lawyers aggressively and zealously represent their clients. Start behaving like a good lawyer would as a law student and a law grad and you will have no problem getting a job. Relying on someone to feel sorry for you or, like Anziska, expecting jurors making $35,000 a year at age 50 to have sympathy, is not the path to success. Image courtesy of Flickr by Tulane Public Relations.

  • Jacob Kuykendall

    Hi Kevin! My name is Jacob! Can you help me find a job?

  • Mitchell Davis

    By reading this article I can tell that Mr. O’Keefe is one of those rare go geters. He would likely succeed in almost any venture that he undertook and, in the right fields, will certainly earn a very good living. I am a chiropractor and have noticed that people like Mr. O’Keefe usually do very well, but most people are not like him.

  • Mitchell Davis

    He may not be that smart, but some of the most successful people are not highly intelligent. Like a lot of very successful people he works very hard, thinks outside the box, and is persistent.

  • Mitchell Davis

    Kevin got you. He is even offering you his cell phone number. Personally, I think you crossed the line by calling him a liar and I don’t think he should help you.

  • Mitchell Davis

    It is worse in my profession, chiropractic. Most graduates owe about $150,000.00 and there are not many jobs. You have to go out and hustle for business. There are a lot of people out there who need lawyers.

  • Sean Murphy

    Mr. Okeefe, I love your advice. I recently graduated from law school and I am currently looking for work. This is not my first or even second career. In fact, at the moment, I own a small real estate appraisal business. It has been my experience that persistence generally pays off. I have land some of my largest clients by stopping by once a month to touch base until they gave us a shot. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to find work in another state. I am originally from Massachusetts and have taken the Bar there. I should know in May if I passed. The job market in Massachusetts seems to be pretty tight so I have been considering other states. I have narrow my choices to Washington State and the D.C. area. My wife has a lot of family in Washington State and I may be one of the few people who like the whether there (part of my childhood was spent in Ireland). I am a Navy veteran and DC seems to favor veterans and Massachusetts is only a train ride away. Do you have any suggestions on how to find work in those states while living in Southern California? Thanks

    • BlytheSurvived

      Like you, I’m from Massachusetts and I went to law school in DC. I moved to Washington state recently because I interned for a firm in Seattle and had better luck getting interviews. I graduated from a top-tier law school in D.C, have completed four unpaid internships, dual licensed in Washington and Oregon, but am unable to find a firm out here that is hiring. I wish I had a place to recommend to you but Washington and DC (where I moved from) are oversaturated.

    • http://kevin.lexblog.com/ Kevin OKeefe

      Thanks Sean. No magic formula for you on connecting from afar. I can share things I do in business development that I would do job hunting.

      One, find or make a job in area of the law/industry/consumer need that you love. Don’t chase a “job.” Very easy to say, and I know hard to do.

      Two, start making a list through research online of the lawyers you’d give your right arm to be working with and learning from in that area. Dream big.

      Three, start following those lawyers. Their blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Engage them via these mediums. If the opportunity avails itself, be vulnerable and let them know why they are following and engaging them.

      Four, start listening via an RSS reader (feedly, flipboard etc) to sources (blogs, news sites etc) and subjects (keywords and key phrases) that are relevant to your niche. Start sharing things you see as valuable on social media.

      Five, get a home base started that demonstrates your passion. A blog that demonstrates you are following other’s insight and commentary on your niche. Share those things you find in your RSS feeds and offer your take.

      A soft sell like this, which does take time to do and for it to work, is probably more effective than the direct, “are you looking for someone?”

      • Beth Thomas

        Kevin,
        Your profile says you started as a lawyer in Ireland before moving to the US, I have recently moved from England to California with an undergraduate degree in British law. I am keen to find a job out here for a year or two before taking a Masters and the Bar exam. Do you have any advise on how to sell myself as an international lawyer?

      • Leon

        First of all I am not involved in law, I run a business development company in the UK – where everyday I fight for new business and sales.

        I just couldn’t help myself stepping in to DEFEND Mr Kevin OKeefe from all these NEGATIVE IDIOTS that are never going to get jobs with their stupid “I’ve already been defeated and no one is going to rescue me” mindsets – PATHETIC.

        Mr Kevin OKeefe has clearly tried to breathe some positive life into a clearly competitive industry by offering stellar traditional advice that will work in ANY industry or chosen profession such as – WORK HARD, KNOCK ON DOORS AND DO YOUR ABSOLUTE BEST – WITHOUT COMPLAINING.

        Mr Kevin OKeefe is not your FATHER and he is definetly not your MOTHER. So stop whining you silly little babies and get out there and HUSTLE!

        Well done Kevin for trying to install some positivity into these worthless people posting negative replies.

        Although i have no experience in law I clearly now know why none of these people have jobs.

        Kind Regards, Leon V

  • BlytheSurvived

    I’ll agree that candidates have to use those tools that you are recommending. That generally they will open otherwise closed doors. The assumption you are making is that there is a door to open. Law firms just are not hiring post-graduate first year associates. Period! I’ve personally gone to every law firm in my area and introduced myself. I’ve had coffee or lunch with partners at a lot of those firms by using LinkedIn, Facebook, even Instagram. Everybody is happy to wish you well but nobody has any openings for inexperienced first years. So before blaming the law student, hire a few.
    We can have a debate on whether the work is there or whether the model could be improved. The fact that so many people can’t find jobs while big firms overpay and overwork first year associates suggests that a compromise could be made. My best-friend has highlighted that, that he would gladly cut his pay in half and hire me if he and I could both work only 10 hour days. His day would go down by five hours and the firm would get five more hours of productivity at the same rate (minus benefits), but firms aren’t doing that.

    • http://kevin.lexblog.com/ Kevin OKeefe

      Some law grads are getting jobs. I admit that far fewer are than years gone by. That doesn’t mean you quit trying. My point is that there are things at your disposal that can advance the cause significantly – especially when everyone else is not using social effectively.

      It’s much the same with lawyers. It’s probably less than 1% of lawyers using social effectively, yet a good number of lawyers are concerned they do not have enough work.

      Don’t get me wrong, times are tough.

  • Mr. Success

    People who whine about the things they don’t have instead of doing everything in their power to make things happen, will never be great at anything. Will live in a pragmatic economy. You are not automatically entitled to a law job with big cash just because you went to university! Are you crazy!!! wake up people! Its supply and demand, and you need to put “yourself” in a position of demand if you want to loosen that noose around your neck!!!

  • Mr. Success

    It might not be a “good time”, but this is not the time to give up either!! If you tell yourself that you will fail, guess what, you will fail.

  • AlohaNicole

    Great article. I interviewed for a job after my 1L year, and the partner said, “It’s a tough time for getting a job. Does that worry you?” I didn’t blink an eye, “not for me.” He said, “I like your confidence.” He offered me a job. Anyway, I don’t let my average grades or the job climate bring me down one bit. I have what it takes to be an awesome litigator, and that I know. I am very confident! Kevin love this article, and love your attitude!

  • B

    This is ludicrous. You say a lot whilst saying nothing at all. You know nothing. Keep your speculative nonsense to yourself.

    • http://kevin.lexblog.com/ Kevin OKeefe

      Just met on an unrelated matter with a business development executive with one of the leading universities and law schools in our country.

      He feels bad that their law students are not being made aware of how to use the Internet for networking, reputation building and building relationships. He acknowledged that if the students were and learned how to network through the net during law school, their law grads would have a huge leg up over grads from other law schools.

      That’s him, not me.

      I wrote this post a couple years ago and law grads are no more equipped to use the Internet to get a job than they were then. That’s a terrible shame.