The delicate balance between persistence and letting go/moving on when applying for a legal job

June 30, 2014

Handshake 2Many law students and associates have asked the question of how do you know when to move on after rejection or even no response.  This post offers some guidance in the form of helpful steps to consider throughout the (learning) process.

1)         Have no attachment.  This tip is of course easier said than done.  The key is not to hold any attachment to whether you get the position because if you are crushed then you may not apply to the next one with the same vigor.  And the next one may be the perfect position for you.  Also, if you hold attachment, you may not have the energy to take the steps below which could be helpful.

2)         Learn from adversity.  Use feedback from the rejections to make you a stronger candidate for the next job (or the current one if you reapply).

a)         Seek feedback as to why the answer is no.  Listen carefully to objections and determine whether the objections resonate with you.  For example, an objection may be that you are too excitable.  Perhaps you do not want to change that.  Or perhaps you feel you can benefit from toning done.

i)          Is it something you can change/improve?   Grades and experience?  Low grade point average; low grades in relevant law courses; no relevant courses taken in practice area; not enough relevant courses taken; no legal experience; no relevant legal experience; not enough heavy lifting in previous legal job; no demonstrated commitment to practice area; anxious or nervous during interview; or flat interviewer.

ii)         Is it something you cannot change?  Where you went to school, your major, etc.

b)         If you can change, keep at it.  If not move on to another opportunity.  If it something you can change such as items in the list above, then address the items.   Take the classes, get good grades (at least in the area for which you want to practice), and show some focus.  If it something you cannot change, be prepared to explain (in future interviews) why it does not matter or how you can make up for the perceived (or real) deficiency.

3)         Channel your inner entrepreneur.  Think about ideas that could help the firm (or other legal employer) that rejected you.  Be creative here.  Perhaps you can help a specific partner that you talked with by providing him or her an idea to write or speak about or some helpful advice regarding the clients or industry he or she represents (i.e., what to advise client if a pending case comes out adverse to the client’s or the industry’s interests).  The idea is to demonstrate that you are a thoughtful person with good ideas and to dig deep such that you can provide some useful ideas to the person.

4)         Try again with your new tools.  Contact (probably by e-mail) the person for whom you have the idea and explain a couple of your idea(s) upfront.  Request a short meeting to discuss the ideas and how you have addressed the opportunity areas mentioned.  That type of e-mail (which involves a benefit exchange) should at least get you a response from the person (if not more facetime).