News broke this week that despite shrinking law school enrollment and bar passage rates, it’s become harder and harder for law grads to get a job. At the same time, law schools are doing every thing they can to demonstrate that a law degree remains a valuable investment.

Law schools and law students would be well served in looking at how recent college grads and young professionals are gaining employment. They’re doing it online via social media and social networks.

Lisa Katz reports for Crains Detroit Business that pursuant to recent studies:

  • 73 percent of 18-34 year olds report finding their last job through a social network.
  • 72.1 percent of college graduates and current college seniors indicated they use online profiles to showcase their experience and search for work.
  • The closer a student is to graduation, the more likely they are to be professionally active online: 47.9 percent of freshman in 2014 indicated they had a professional social media account, compared to 80 percent of seniors, and 89.6 percent of graduate students who did.

A little dated, but in 2013 the top three social media sites used to gain employment were Facebook with over 18 million respondents indicating finding their job on the social network, 10 million on LinkedIn, and over 8 million on Twitter. Those numbers, especially in the case of Facebook, have jumped markedly since.

Employers are taking notice of these trends, per Katz, and responding by taking action.

  • In 2013, only 39 percent of employers said they used social media to research job candidates.
  • In 2015, the number was up to 52 percent.
  • 35 percent of employers are less likely to interview someone if they did not have a digital footprint.
  • 93 percent of recruiters plan to use social media in the coming years.

How many law grads and young lawyers looking for a job use social media to build their reputation and relationships?

Sure, LinkedIn is a layup. It’s a dressed up resume for most. But how many get out and really work the net?

  • Use Twitter lists to listen to and network with the firms and lawyers they’d like to work with?
  • Listen, via a news aggregator, to influential sources, subjects, areas of the law and companies?
  • Share items on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with their quick take?
  • Blog, not just in the form of writing an article but sharing what they have read and offering their take?
  • Connect with friends, influencers and potential employers via social networks – all of them, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?

Darn few.

It’s been a couple years since I had Pat Ellis, then a law student at Michigan State, reference my blogging in his own blog, engage me on Twitter and reach out to me at LegalTech in New York City. No coincidence that Ellis is now working in the Office of the General Counsel at General Motors. He’ll tell you he got that job via social media.

Social media and social networking isn’t just a method of getting a job, being skilled in social networking gets one hired. Law firms aren’t looking for ordinary lawyers, they’re a dime a dozen.

Firms are looking for those lawyers willing to go the extra yard. Self starters. Innovators. Career and business builders. Demonstrating that you’ve harnessed the Intetrnet like no other applicant makes you a shining star.

Not all of the blame lies with law grads and young lawyers when it comes to their not using social media to get a job. Very few law schools have programs on blogging and social media for professional development. Law schools such as Michigan State, Emory and Fordam are unforunately the exception, not the rule.

Law school deans and assistant deans in charge of career development are largely clueless when it comes to using the net to learn, grow influence and build relationships.  Most law professors are the same way.

Go to law firms and it doesn’t get much better. Though law firms talk a good game when it comes to mentoring and leading young lawyers, leadership comes by example.

Law grads and young lawyers are left to presume that blogging, social media and social networks are not that important in getting a job.

We have a real crisis when it comes to law grads and young lawyers getting jobs and law schools getting quality applicants. Social media and social networking are not “the” answer, but they can go a long way in making a difference.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Tim Moore 

  • Mike Rivera

    Use FB and Twitter