Posts Categorized: Committee for New Lawyer Employment

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

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.

Five Tips to Stand Out (in a good way) in Your Job Applications

Jennifer Perrigo, Assistant Dean, Career Services at Boston College Law School

Applicants often ask what they can do to make their application “stand out” from what they perceive to be a pile of applicants for entry level positions. Having had the privilege of sitting at the intersection of law school graduation and the legal job market and talking to countless employers, I have a few tips.

Speed: Being among the first to apply to a job posting or rumored lead. Doing so shows that you are enthusiastic about the opportunity and are highly motivated to get to work. Many jobs are filled on a rolling basis, so if you wait until close to the deadline to apply, it may already have been filled or the employer well into the interview process. Further, a fast (6-12 hours) reply to an employer’s inquiry for follow up information or request to schedule an interview will show your enthusiasm. It may also be perceived as symbolic of your ability to provide strong client service and/or responsiveness to requests from supervisors on the job. You might still be recovering from the experience of taking the bar- maybe even enjoying a much needed road trip or time away. Even if this is the case, check your email.

Quality: Speed, of course, should not come at the expense of submitting quality materials. Your application materials are samples of your written work product, among other things. Proofread your application materials carefully. You learned this in law school after many admonitions from your Career Office, however, there are a few sneaky ways that undermine the quality of your application. For example, a very subtle difference in point size or font that you forgot to change after cutting and pasting text to adapt your cover letter to the employer. Using the salutation, ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or similar phrase shows that you didn’t take the time to look up or call the office to find out the hiring contact.

Remember that it’s not about you: Sentences in your cover letter, introductory email or interview answer that end with “….will allow me to…” should be used sparingly. For example, “A position at XYZ law firm will allow me to hone my litigation skills and gain valuable courtroom experience.” Instead, try to rephrase this in a way that shows how you will contribute to the work/clients/mission of the firm or organization. “I have a strong interest in litigation and believe that my work experience prior to law school and law school coursework related to intellectual property law will allow me to make a strong contribution to your firm.”

Know the Business: Most legal employers have a focus on either a particular type of law, industry or client. For example, a small firm that represents clients in the construction industry, a firm that not only specializes in employment law but that represents universities, an in-house legal department of a pharmaceutical company, a unit within an organization that focuses on housing, a particular client demographic or even region of the Commonwealth. Make it a point in your application materials to show any non legal experience, specialized knowledge, language skills or other ways that you are uniquely situated to serve their clients well.

Create a connection: Nothing draws attention to your application more than a referral from a trusted professional contact. When a former colleague’s name appears in the subject line or first few sentences of an introductory email or cover letter, I will always respond. The legal profession, no matter one’s area of expertise, is strengthened by strong professional relationships. Invoking the name of a trusted friend or colleague with the suggestion that you apply will immediately be noticed and all goodwill between those contacts – even if only for a moment- will be projected onto you. The Hiring Attorney will also likely feel the need to read your materials, make sure they respond and/or provide you with an interview out of professional courtesy to the referring attorney. 

The last tip is one of the BBA’s greatest benefits- a way to create a professional network to support you in your practice and throughout your career. On behalf of the Committee for New Lawyer Employment and other BBA members, we are here to support you as you search for your first legal job. Please join us for our future programs to learn more. If you are interested, you can sign up here to participate in our Law School Graduate Mentoring program as a mentee, and here to participate as a mentor.