In a Job Search, Should You Follow Your Interests or Trends in the Marketplace? The Answer is Both!

By: Stephen Seckler, President, Seckler Legal Recruiting and Coaching

Years ago, I used to give presentations at law schools on the state of the job market. It is always a subject that interests law students and I didn’t mind weighing in. But after giving a number of these talks, I began to question their utility. Ultimately, I reached the conclusion that focusing on your interests is a much better place to start when looking for a job. Trying to predict what will be hot in the future is difficult at best and it is very hard to distil the entire hiring landscape down into anything useful.

In some ways, it can also be dispiriting to hear about trends in the market. For example, if you know that the demand is high for corporate lawyers with two to five years of large firm M&A and securities experience, it is not going to help you if you don’t have the qualifications to get that job. If you know that bankruptcy litigation is a hot area of practice, how does that help you if you have no interest in litigation or bankruptcy?

On the other hand, if you do have the interest, it does make sense to pursue practice areas that are active. At the very least, if you have curiosity about an area where there seems to be hiring, then go explore. In other words, having a sense of the market can help.

So What are the “Hot” Areas of Practice?

If you are interested in data privacy, there is a lot going on in that space. If you have a general interest in corporate transactional law, it seems reasonable to predict that this will be a busy area of practice over the next 12 months (although as we saw in 2008/2009, that can change quickly). If employment law, trusts and estates or family law interest you, those areas seem to be doing well. In Massachusetts, the life sciences industry is very hot (lots of opportunity for IP lawyers, corporate lawyers and other practices that support the industry).

On the other hand, if you are interested in litigation, be aware that this area of practice is generally down because of court closures (but that may change too as COVID related litigation begins to explode.) Bankruptcy has not yet peaked, but it seems likely that this area will continue to be busy by the second half of the year. Similarly, commercial real estate seems to be a less busy practice area with demand for commercial office space in the city on the decline. The pandemic and changes in the way businesses will structure their work from home policies is making it challenging to predict when commercial real estate will be back. Residential real estate, on the other hand, is booming.

If this all sounds a little wishy washy or not that practical, then we are on the same page. As I said at the outset, it is very hard to predict hiring trends into the future. I believe it is a lot more productive to start exploring where your interests take you.

What if You Aren’t Sure What You Want to Do?

The truth is, until you get some work experience, you won’t really know what it is like to practice in a given area. If you’ve done a summer clerkship, participated in a clinic in law school, or worked as a paralegal prior to law school, you may have some sense of this already. If you haven’t, then start doing informational interviews with lawyers in different practice areas and come up with some educated guesses about where you might be happy. Once you have some clues, then pursue those opportunities.

Doing What You Like Will Advance Your Career More Quickly

If you like what you are doing, you are more likely to put time and energy into doing a good job and getting the training and experience that will help you advance to the next stage of your career. If you chase jobs just because you think you can get hired, you may be less motivated to make that investment.

At the same time, don’t ignore the realities of the marketplace. If you love sports and you are vying for the one available job in Boston where you’ll get to represent professional athletes, make sure to have a Plan B. You may be the lucky one. But you are more likely to be employed after graduation if you also match your interests with market realities.

Careers are really a lot less linear that they may appear. Most of us end up experimenting along the way until we find what we like. For a good podcast on the subject, listen to my interview with Jose Sierra who suggests that careers are more like whitewater rafting than a canoe ride. I also invite you to visit my website for many more career resources. Feel free to reach out to me for in informal career consult. I always enjoy hearing from law student and attorneys who are starting out. See www.counseltocounsel.com.

The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19: Access to Justice

When the 2019-2020 PILP class began their journey as the BBA’s most recent class of leaders, the vision for the program seemed clear and routine. Due to the challenges of this year, however, it became a class unlike any other before it–switching to a virtual format due to the declaration of a state of emergency, adjusting to working from home overnight, welcoming multiple PILP babies, and having to change their service project deep into the class. To their great credit, the class rose to the occasion. 

The BBA is proud to present the PILP 2019-2020 project: The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19, a series of reports that surveyed various legal landscapes and provides reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in each space. Each report will be published through Beyond the Billable. This is the fourth in the series, focused on access to justice.

This piece was written by Associate Counsel, Assistant Vice President at State Street Corporation Naitasia V. Hensey. Her piece provides a detailed analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of marginalized groups to access the justice system in Massachusetts. To read Naitasia’s piece, please click here.

Naitasia V. Hensey is Assistant Vice President, Associate Counsel at State Street Corporation. Naitasia is a graduate of Stetson University where she studied psychology and communications, and then went on to receive an MBA from the University of Phoenix while working full time. After relocating to Massachusetts for the love of seasons, Naitasia pursued a J.D. with a concentration in Intellectual Property law from New England Law | Boston as a Charles Hamilton Houston Scholarship recipient and graduated receiving the President Anna E. Hirsch Award for “dedicated service to fellow students, the law school, and the legal profession.”

The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19: Racial & Ethnic Disparities

When the 2019-2020 PILP class began their journey as the BBA’s most recent class of leaders, the vision for the program seemed clear and routine. Due to the challenges of this year, however, it became a class unlike any other before it–switching to a virtual format due to the declaration of a state of emergency, adjusting to working from home overnight, welcoming multiple PILP babies, and having to change their service project deep into the class. To their great credit, the class rose to the occasion. 

The BBA is proud to present the PILP 2019-2020 project: The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19, a series of reports that surveyed various legal landscapes and provides reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in each space. Each report will be published through Beyond the Billable. This is the third in the series, focused on racial & ethnic disparities.

This piece was written by Equal Opportunity Specialist at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sajid Shahriar. His piece takes a detailed look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on racial & ethnic disparities in criminal justice, labor & employment, child care, housing, and more. To read Sajid’s piece, please click here.

Sajid Shahriar is an Equal Opportunity Specialist at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, where he enforces the Fair Housing Act and related federal civil rights laws in the New England region. He graduated from Boston College Law School in 2016.

American Bar Association Law Student Division Seeking Volunteers for National Appellate Advocacy Competition

The American Bar Association Law Student Division is looking for attorneys, judges, and counselors to volunteer as mock “Supreme Court” Justices for its annual National Appellate Advocacy Competition. This year’s topic is Civil Rights Law, focusing on the First Amendment rights of a public employee and the qualified-immunity doctrine. All attorneys licensed in the US are welcome to judge, and there is no requirement to have previous appellate experience. The ABA Law Student Division will provide a bench memorandum, the problem (record), and instructions on judging. Reviewing these materials is the only preparation needed.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the competition will be held completely virtually, meaning that volunteer judges from all over the United States can help mentor law students participating in this prestigious competition. Competitions will be held via Zoom on the weekends of February 18–20, February 25–27, and March 4–6. Competition rounds last approximately 4 hours. For more details, please go to the NAAC Judges web page or direct questions to competitions@americanbar.org.

The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19: Labor & Employment

When the 2019-2020 PILP class began their journey as the BBA’s most recent class of leaders, the vision for the program seemed clear and routine. Due to the challenges of this year, however, it became a class unlike any other before it–switching to a virtual format due to the declaration of a state of emergency, adjusting to working from home overnight, welcoming multiple PILP babies, and having to change their service project deep into the class. To their great credit, the class rose to the occasion. 

The BBA is proud to present the PILP 2019-2020 project: The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19, a series of reports that surveyed various legal landscapes and provides reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in each space. Each report will be published through Beyond the Billable. This is the second in the series, focused on Labor & Employment. You can view the first in the series focused on decarceration here.

This piece was written by Volunteer Lawyers Project Staff Attorney Tallulah Knopp and Assistant Attorney General with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office Meryum Khan. Their piece takes a detailed look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers across our Commonwealth.

To read Tallulah & Meryum’s piece, please click here.

BBA Now Accepting Applications for the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship Program

Applications are now being accepted for the 2021 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Summer Fellowship Program. This program will provide three outstanding law students with critical work experience through paid summer internships in the public interest. We are seeking applicants who have demonstrated their commitment to advancing diversity, equity & inclusion within the legal profession. The BBA will partner with the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to provide these opportunities for law students to gain practical experience, develop legal research and writing skills, expand their professional networks, and access tailored programming at the BBA.

Each Fellow will receive a $5,000 stipend for the summer. Funding for the position with the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General has been provided by the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF) Beacon Fund. Funding for the position with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts has been provided by the Charles P. Normandin Fund of the BBF, and the position with the MCAD has been sponsored by the law firm Pierce Atwood LLP.

We’re proud to bolster our existing DEI initiatives, and to further support the passion and commitment of law students dedicated to the public interest. Please see written reflections from last year’s participants in the program here.

For information about the program and to download the applications, please click here.

Bar Exam Coaching Program Now Seeking Applicants and Coaches for February 2021

Bar Exam Coaching assists new graduates as they prepare to sit for the bar exam and face all the stresses that come along with studying. The program addresses both test taking preparation and offers support to exam takers.

Coaches assist graduates with study schedules, stress management, and other non-substantive aspects of preparing for the exam. Graduates can also expect supplemental programming from the BBA such as essay writing and attacking the MBE. All training and materials for coaches is provided by the BBA. If you would like to sign up to receive a coach for the February 2021 exam, please complete this survey If you would like to sign up as a coach, please complete this survey. We will begin matching coaches and applicants on January 8th. Please reach out to dnewton@bostonbar.org with any questions.

Join Lawyers Concerned For Lawyers for Yoga and Connection

Making time for exercise and mindfulness can easily slip from busy winter calendars, but Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is starting a new initiative to help. Beginning January 13, 2021, they will be hosting weekly yoga sessions every Wednesday at 2:00pm. Their 20 minute yoga practice is specifically designed for busy legal professionals and is suitable for all experience levels. Each session will be followed by a 10 minute conversation to ask questions and create a connection. If you would like to learn more about the series, please click here. To sign up, please click here.  If you have any questions please contact Ariana Gebauer at agebauer@bostonbar.org

Crafting an Online Presence

By: Christopher Strang, Founding Partner of Strang, Scott, Giroux & Young

It is becoming essential to curate your online presence for prospective employers. During the global pandemic, employers and candidates are unlikely to have an opportunity to form an in-person connection. Hiring partners, now more than ever, are leaning on what they find online about potential employees to help find the right fit for their firm.  

Many posts focus on the things not to do on social media. However, attorneys are well educated enough to not need to be reminded to remove things like frat party pictures from public view. Conversely, new lawyers should look to social media as an asset to showcase their personalities in ways that can’t be done in resumes and cover letters. Many platforms allow for joining groups or expressing interests that are opportunities to make connections with more senior attorneys.

Check the privacy settings on your personal accounts and make sure they are up to par; there are different settings for desktop and mobile versions of social media – so check both versions if this is of concern to you. It is helpful to search yourself online to see what a potential employer can see about you. Log out of your search engine of choice to make sure the results aren’t skewed. Once you are aware of what pops up during a casual search of your name, you can start to curate your online presence.

Use professional social media accounts to connect with former colleagues and bosses, fellow alumni and people you have met in the legal profession. It is key to stay active on the accounts that you choose to use professionally and to be selective about which platforms you use. Make sure to maintain your connections and share expertise and opportunities when you can.

Regularly posting and sharing content to your professional social media feeds brings you to the forefront of the attention of your network and showcases a strong and informed interest in your field of work. Post about breaking news in practice areas of interest to you: court decisions, new regulations, industry publications, etc. Follow local leaders in the profession at firms of interest to you. Engage with other professionals, congratulate lawyers who post about accomplishments, inquire about more detail on substantive legal posts. Show genuine interest in the latest news posted by places you might like to work.

Make sure to use social media platforms that you can commit to updating and that are appropriate for your profession. Have a current picture that looks professional. Build out your profile with job and educational experiences that includes things not on your resume. Join groups that attorneys you aspire to be like are in. List interests that speak to your personality. Small and mid sized firms in particular care about personality fit as much as legal acumen. Being able to show you have interests in common with members of a firm is a huge benefit when interviewing.

Use caution when posting about politics and other potentially controversial topics. You need to balance your desire to express yourself with your goal of establishing connections with people who might disagree with your point of view.

LinkedIn is perhaps the most powerful social media platform for job seekers. It is built for professional networking and has many tools to use to your advantage as a job seeker. Use keywords in your headline to increase the number of searches you appear in. Use LinkedIn’s Alumni Tool to see what graduates of your law school are doing now. Sharing an alma mater is one of the best inroads for making new connections online.

Everything you post is a writing sample to the world. Always carefully review and edit your words before posting online. Write like a lawyer, focusing on brevity and clarity. Ask friends to search your name online and provide some feedback on whether they think your online presence depicts you accurately and professionally.

Finally, remember that professional does not mean boring. All too often, job seekers reduce who they are into a list of experience and skills. What sets you apart? Why are you somebody that people would want to work with? You never know what interest or life experience will connect you with your future employer and make them realize you are the person for the job. It is OK to reveal some of your fun side.

The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19: Decarceration

When the 2019-2020 PILP class began their journey as the BBA’s most recent class of leaders, the vision for the program seemed clear and routine. Due to the challenges of this year, however, it became a class unlike any other before it–switching to a virtual format due to the declaration of a state of emergency, adjusting to working from home overnight, welcoming multiple PILP babies, and having to change their service project deep into the class. To their great credit, the class rose to the occasion. 

The BBA is proud to present the PILP 2019-2020 project: The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19, a series of reports that surveyed various legal landscapes and provides reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in each space. Each report will be published through Beyond the Billable–beginning with today’s first article: Decarceration. 

This piece was written by Committee for Public Counsel Services Staff Attorney David Rangaviz. In addition to working as an appellate attorney for CPCS, David is also a member of the BBA’s Criminal Law Section and co-chair of the amicus committee of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. David’s piece takes a compelling look at decarceration efforts from the onset of the pandemic, of which he has firsthand knowledge as a result of having helped in the litigation efforts, as well as through the multiple interviews he conducted for this report. 

To view David’s article please click here

The Leadership Development Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation provides critical support for the Public Interest Leadership Program. For more information on the BBF or this fund, please contact Erica Southerland at esoutherland@bostonbar.org or (617) 778-1930.

David Rangaviz joined the Appeals Unit of CPCS in 2017.  He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Brown University.