Survival tips for today’s legal job market

July 17, 2014

What kind of lawyer are youAs you are likely already well aware, the economy of the last six years has not been kind to attorneys.  The unemployment rate for law school graduates remains persistently high, and those who do happen to find employment out of law school are working for $10,000 a year on average less than their contemporaries from six years ago.

To make matters worse, law school tuition rates have never been higher, making the student loan debt of graduates correspondingly higher.

If you happen to be one of the many individuals in this situation, things probably appear bleak.  Believe it or not, however, there’s more than likely a light at the end of the tunnel.  That is, things may seem really bad right now, but they will in all likelihood improve.

The question isn’t so much whether they will improve as much as it is when they will improve.  Lawyers will always be needed, but currently, the supply of new lawyers has completely overtaken the demand.  But law school enrollment is at its lowest levels in 40 years, so the market is currently in the process of correcting itself.

Nevertheless, since it may take a long time for the legal job market to recover – but your bills aren’t going to wait – you may need to figure out how to keep your head above water in the meantime.

To that end, we offer these helpful tips.

Don’t let your legal education collect dust

If you can’t find a law-related job out of law school that can pay the bills, you may find yourself employed in a role that does not require a J.D. nor necessitate the use of the knowledge and skills acquired in law school.

There’s nothing wrong with that; you need to put food on the table regardless of your fortunes in the legal job market.

But no matter what your day job is, you should always find some way, no matter how small, to put your J.D. to use.  This is not only so that your skills remain sharp, but also so that you don’t have a large gap of time on your resume with no legal experience.  It doesn’t even have to be anything that demanding on your time, as long as the activity constitutes a use of your legal skills and training in a professional setting.

Be tenacious

The bad job market means that you will likely go on countless interviews – and receive almost as many rejections.  Don’t let this get you down, though.  The competition is fierce and the candidates aren’t typically selected based on ability alone, but also based on a wide variety of other factors (such as the decision-maker’s personal tastes) that you have little to no control over.

In the face of such a lack of success, you must persevere.  You won’t get a job if you stop applying for them.  As difficult and disheartening as these rejections may be, you can’t let a string of failures, no matter how long, keep you from continuing to apply to jobs.  In most circumstances, there may not be any one thing that you could have done differently to produce a different outcome.

At the same time, make sure that you view each of your failures as a potential learning experience that could help you improve – even if you didn’t make any specific mistakes.

Network

This one may arguably be the most important, and here’s why: who you know is often the most decisive factor in landing a job – yes, even trumping actual qualifications much of the time.

Thus, it is in your best interests to network and network often.  Keep in contact with practicing attorneys that you know.  Attend social attorney functions.  Get to know people in the field.  Do anything else you can to get your name in the minds of as many legal professionals as possible.

You may not see results immediately, but you will more than likely see results at some point.  The important thing is to not give up hope.  You worked hard to earn your license to practice law, and you shouldn’t let your efforts go to waste.

As bad as things seem right now, they are going to turn around.