2016’s Best Places for Law School Graduates

After a rough few years, it seems like the job outlook for law school grads may finally be hitting its stride. While there’s still no guarantee that today’s law school grads will find a high-paying job in the legal field, their chances are better than in years past – due in part to declining law school enrollment.

According to Above the Law, 86.7% of the class of 2014 had jobs ten months after graduation – the first increase in employment since 2007. 60.3% of those were full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage. Experts expect to see similar increases for the classes of 2015 and 2016. And, while traditional legal jobs may not be on the rise, solo and small firm practices are, in areas like corporate and real estate law, litigation, patent law, tax law and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects law jobs to grow 6% by 2024, an average growth rate compared to other jobs.

So – where are the jobs for recent law school grads, and what areas provide a good environment for recent grads to start their careers? GoodCall analyzed 900+ cities on the following criteria to find the best places for law school graduates:

  • Average lawyer salary
  • Job availability and competition
  • Housing prices
  • Area amenities

See our full rankings and methodology, plus expert advice, below:

Expert Advice

GoodCall asked career development experts and professors at top law schools across the country for their best advice for recent graduates looking to start their careers in law. Scroll through to see their responses.

Sean Clagett
Jennifer Zwagerman
Karen Eisen
Brad Morgan
Allison Belnap
Lori McMaster
Brian Lewis
Fiona Hornblower
Heather Harrigan
Jeremy Paul
Cliff Jarrett
Diane Quick
Daniel Attridge
Jayne Schreiber
Craig Compton
Claudia Melo
Victoria Huber
Amber Brugnoli
Neil Dennis
Rob Birrenkott
Christy Caves
Michael Horn
Jessica Gabel
Michael Keller
Mina Jones
Kenny Tatum
Libby Davis
Kim Fields
Laurel Hajek
Stephanie Richman
Mary Beth Moore
Eric Bono
Anne-Marie Fulfer
Lisa Bossetti Barash
Dana Morris
Maria Saez
Sean Clagett

Sean Clagett

Adjunct Professor, University of Nevada Las Vegas William Boyd School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Passing the bar exam is only the first step. Now you need to really learn your craft by engaging in meaningful Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses. Can you imagine a golfer who practices for eight years and finally gets his PGA card, and then immediately stops practicing? He or she would not last long on tour. You are no different - if you are not getting better, you are being passed up by all the lawyers that are. There is nothing that can replace or make up for a great reputation in your industry. One way you can increase your knowledge is to spend more time learning from experienced trial lawyers. That’s something I wish I would have learned earlier in my career. In fact, I have spent thousands of hours over the past five years going to trial colleges to become the best I can possibly be. While the training has cost a bit of money, the return on the investment has been priceless, and our practice has flourished over the past five years because of my commitment to the practice of law. Our firm has now implemented a program where every one of the attorneys in my office has graduated from the top trial college in the United States, The Keenan Ball Trial College. The results speak for themselves, and our practice has increased our gross and net profits year over year for five consecutive years. 2016 will make it six years. So my advice to all attorneys/business owners is to invest in your skill set before you invest in advertising.

Jennifer Zwagerman

Jennifer Williams Zwagerman

Director of Career Development, Drake University Law School

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

The competitiveness of the job market can vary greatly depending on area of the country or practice area focus. Here at Drake University Law School, we’ve found that students who are proactive about their job search and willing to think broadly help contribute to our strong employment numbers, which recently have been 7-8 percent higher than the national average.

One piece of advice that I often give to our recent graduates: Don’t count yourself out before you even apply or interview. Too often when the job market is competitive, I see students who don’t apply for a position because they think they are not qualified or not as qualified as others applying. You never know what skill set or unique attributes you bring to the table that will catch a potential employer’s eye. Work with your career development office (even as an alumna or alumnus) to craft cover letters and resumes that target your position, and don’t remove yourself from consideration for a job you are really interested in by not even submitting the application.

Thinking more broadly: For recent graduates looking for that first position, I always encourage them to 1) make themselves available and 2) think broadly. Networking events through a local bar association, young professionals organization or other industry group can be a great way to make and build connections that can help you build a network of contacts and potential referrals. In addition, graduates often think (and apply) very narrowly to only a specific type of law or type of organization. When the job market is tough, it is important to focus on finding a job that will help you build skills and contacts, ones that will be an asset should you decide to make a move in the future. And most importantly, don’t forget the resources available to you as an alumni through your law school. Many professors, staff and the career development office are happy to continue to work with you and provide support in the job search process, even after you graduate

Karen Eisen

Karen Eisen

Dean of Career & Professional Development, Brooklyn Law School

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Be prepared. Law school graduates today likely will encounter career-long trajectories and moves.

Be nimble. We’ve seen many students enter law school with a “perfect job” in mind; by the time they graduate, that dream job often changes to something else entirely.

Be resilient. It’s a competitive playing field, so always show up bringing your best self.

Be professional. From how you dress to how you carry yourself to how you approach problem-solving, you will earn the respect of your peers by being attentive to the details of how you present yourself and conduct yourself as a colleague.

Brad Morgan

Brad Morgan

Interim Director of Career Services, University of Tennessee College of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

It’s important to keep in mind that the demand for legal services—just like all markets—is evolving. Agility and transferable skills are incredibly important, and the benefits of purposefully networking and gaining experience cannot be overstated. Seeking out occasions to get to know professionals—not so they will hire you, but so you can learn from them—and looking for opportunities that will give you transferable experience should be paramount in everyone’s career management strategy. We see more opportunities come from referrals than any other single source, and those referrals generally come from purposeful relationship development and skills acquisition.

Allison Belnap

Allison Belnap

Assistant Dean, Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

First, I don't think I would categorize the legal market as a "tough" market. It has been improving along with the rest of the economy and we are finding that students who apply themselves diligently to their professional development and career exploration while in school and throughout their summers do very well once they have graduated.

If a student has made the decision to attend a quality law school where the student will receive top-level training in the theory and practice of law, they will be well-positioned to get started on a successful career. The key to employment and career development in the legal field is not that much different than it is in any other field--work hard, do great work, build strong professional relationships with those around you, and build a reputation for integrity and commitment. Any student or graduate who conscientiously works in all of those areas will land well.

Lori McMaster

Lori McMaster

Office of Professional and Career Development, University of Pittsburgh School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

For recent law school graduates seeking to find their first job, the top priority should be establishing a professional reputation within the legal community—or “building their brand.” While pursuing relevant practical experience that will develop an area of expertise in a body of law, it is essential to establish one’s reputation for trustworthiness, diligence, and client service. Recent graduates can and should display these foundational skills while expanding their network of professional contacts within a local bar association and/or their state bar association, and by leveraging their existing contacts, which include classmates, their prior law professors and law school employers, and the career services counselors of their law school. Every professional interaction presents an opportunity to be introduced, and recommended to, another attorney, who may in turn know of a job opening or valuable informational resource. Recent law school graduates must leverage these networking opportunities to demonstrate that they possess the professionalism, trustworthiness and diligence that every legal employer is seeking in a new employee.

Brian Lewis

Brian Lewis

Assistant Dean for Career Development, University of North Carolina School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

My #1 best piece of advice is when you apply for a job, make sure your written application materials are absolutely perfect. Your cover letter needs to be targeted to a specific person (never send one addressed “To Whom It May Concern”) and needs to demonstrate that you have done your homework and know something about the employer. Both your resume and your cover letter need to be 100% error-free, or you are wasting your time. Employers receive literally hundreds of applications, and in order to whittle the stack down to a manageable number of good prospects, they are looking for any reason to put as many as they can on the “No” pile. Your resume and cover letter are examples of your written “work product,” and if employers find typos or grammatical errors, they will assume that your work for their clients will have similar flaws. If you were the only applicant, they might be willing to overlook a small typo or two, but when there are dozens and dozens of applications, chances are they will be quick to move on to someone else’s application. The good news is that since the majority of applications are mediocre at best, with some thought and attention to detail, it’s relatively easy to make your application stand out – in a positive way!

Fiona Hornblower

Fiona Hornblower

Assistant Dean for Career Development and Public Service, Boston University School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Focus on your building your network. Although networking conjures up visions of awkward cocktail conversations, it actually just means being willing to share with people with whom you connect where your career interests lie – so while this certainly means actively seeking out situations where lawyers congregate, such as bar association events and alumni events, it also means being willing to share your career aspirations with folks at your Aunt Julia’s backyard barbecue, and to actively engage when they suggest others with whom they could connect you. And then follow-up with the connections!

Heather Harrigan

Heather Harrigan

Assistant Dean of Student and Career Services, University of New Mexico School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Even in the age of social media, nothing beats face-to-face encounters, which offer opportunities to make a bold, positive first impression. This can be challenging for law graduates, many of whom are introverts, but it is essential to finding the hidden gems in the job market. Remember, it is not about quantity as much as it is about the quality of the relationships. Development of your professional network should be a career-long goal, as it will result in unforeseen opportunities, job security, and career satisfaction. Not sure how to approach this? Get in touch with your law school’s Career Services office; they would love to work with you.

It is also important for recent grads to remember that those in the job market who are flexible with regards to the type of work and/or the location of the work are always at an advantage. They will consider opportunities that others might not and this means they are competing against a smaller pool of candidates. The smart grad remembers that it is unlikely you will start at your dream job but rather you will work your way up to your dream job by developing your skills and your network in your entry-level jobs.

Jeremy Paul

Jeremy Paul

Dean and Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

1. Leave your comfort zone behind. You are a talented person with legal skills and perhaps a license. You should see this as adding to your ability to do work that excites you, not as a pigeonhole that requires you to perform only certain kinds of tasks allegedly worthy of a lawyer. Find people engaged in work in the world that you believe needs doing and dive in to help. Sooner or later you will be well paid for it.

2. Make yourself an expert. Pick something that excites you. Read everything you can about it. Join groups that focus on this and attend meetings. Subscribe to all relevant blogs. Miss no chance to link with the cutting edge people in the field. Tell everyone you know, including your Facebook friends and LinkedIn contacts, that this is your passion. Identify the places where people are working in your newly chosen arena. Before you know it, your ability to ace interviews in the field will skyrocket and you'll land something great.

Cliff Jarrett

Cliff Jarrett

Assistant Dean, Office of Career Strategy, Washington and Lee University School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

My answer to your question about the best piece of advice to recent law graduates to jump start their careers is a slight deviation from the line in the classic movie Glengarry Glen Ross. In that movie, Alec Baldwin goes on a rant to a group of salesman and uses the acronym A-B-C which he says stands for “Always Be Closing.”

My advice to new law grads is also A-B-C, which in this context stands for Always Be Connecting. Building relationships, networking and making connections is the best way to find a job and to excel in a job once you have one. There are many surveys that have been done over the last few years that conclude that the majority of jobs are secured by networking (ABC News reported as many as 80%) and if a recent law graduate has the mindset that he or she will affirmatively reach out and make connections, they will find a job. It is also important to be making connections in many different ways - it could be building relationships in the specific area of law in which a graduate wants to practice or it could be meeting people in a group sports activity, going to a chamber of commerce event, connecting via social media or volunteering with a charity. If a law grad has the Always Be Connecting mindset, it will lead to even more connections and eventually to the start of a successful career.

Diane Quick

Diane Quick

Director of the Career Development Office, University of Miami School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

When advising our students and alumni, we counsel that a successful job search will be multifaceted in its approach. It is impossible to identify one resource or strategy that will work best as each job search is different and should be designed to fit the individual’s career goals. We recommend that job hunters work with their law school’s career services office to develop a job search plan that incorporates the following resources and recommendations:

  • Develop a clear vision of your career goals.
  • Be flexible and willing to think outside the box with regard to opportunities.
  • Expand your network. Attend networking events and conduct informational interviews with attorneys.
  • Seize any opportunity to gain more experience by taking on pro bono projects or other short-term opportunities.
  • Attitude is everything. Stay positive and know that your career services office is there to support you through the process.

Daniel Attridge

Daniel Attridge

Dean and Knights of Columbus Professor of Law, The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

To begin with, the job market for new lawyers may not be quite as tough as one might imagine. NALP recently reported that 86.7% of the 2015 graduating class of J.D. students had obtained employment by March 15, 2016 (the date used to compile the data). NALP noted that in the past year the largest law firms hired more law school graduates than at any time since the recession, and that the Government has been a remarkably steady source of jobs for law school graduates before, during, and after the recession.

But regardless of the "toughness" of the market, our advice to our new graduates remains the same: They should be open-minded about pursuing employment in areas of potential interest but focus their search on opportunities about which they are the most passionate; they should work very hard to articulate a record (with references) of outstanding performance in the classroom, clinics, externships, and prior employment; they should seek help from our supportive network of faculty, staff, alumni, and friends; and they should follow up aggressively with potential employers about opportunities.

Jayne Schreiber

Jayne Schreiber

Assistant Dean for Career Services, Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Network early and often in law school and continue networking when you graduate. Build relationships. Take ownership of your career path. And always be professional. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Finally, work with your law school's career services office. They are there to help and guide you as you embark on your job search.

Craig Compton

Craig Compton

Assistant Dean of Career Services, UC Davis School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Graduates who get outside their comfort zone both in meeting people and the types of positions that they will consider have great success. The legal profession still requires a lot of personal interaction with supervisors and clients; those who have networked with attorneys in their desired field during and after law school will have advocates to inform them about potential openings and serve as recommenders. I also regularly counsel that your first job in the legal field will likely not be your last. Getting that first job is important, as it makes the graduate more marketable. I teach graduates to look at every job as a building block. It may be a building block that will allow you to excel with your current firm or employer, or it may be a building block that will help you land your next position.

Claudia Melo

Claudia Melo

Director of the Career Center, University of Minnesota Law School

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

While it may feel psychologically rewarding to sit at your computer and dash off countless applications to job openings, this approach is not the most effective, nor should it be your only job search strategy. The best way to distinguish yourself in a competitive job market is to tap into your network for referrals and insight into employers of interest. It is very effective to conduct an informational meeting with someone who works at or has knowledge about an employer you're targeting. Not only can you learn key information about an employer's hiring practices but you demonstrate the kind of initiative and drive that employers want to see in a recent graduate. Chances are you have a solid network already through your law school and undergraduate alumni base. Also tap into contacts from professional associations, your religious institution, and any other extra curricular group you're involved in such as sports, arts, or theater. If setting up an informational meeting makes you anxious, reach out to your law school's career center for resources on how to initiate it.

Victoria Huber

Victoria Huber

Associate Dean for Career and Academic Services, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

We have an expression at Mason Law: "Earn your future.” Our graduates take that advice literally when it comes to career development. They do not sit back waiting for their careers to come to them. They develop extensive field work in the private and public sectors, fine-tune their workplace so-called “soft” skills, apply early and often, keep the big picture in mind, and cultivate their professional network.

Amber Brugnoli

Amber Brugnoli

Assistant Dean for Career Services, West Virginia University College of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

The market may be a little more challenging than it was 10 years ago, but law school graduates can still be successful if they plan ahead and are willing to reach outside their comfort zone a little. Most of the job loss in the legal market post-2008 was in large firms in huge metro areas, and that’s actually not where the majority of lawyers practice. Most find jobs in firms that have only between 10-25 lawyers, and these types pf practices are still going strong.

Graduation is actually a little late to “jump start” a career. The preparation should start during the first year of law school, as students work to build a professional network and identify individuals who work in fields that interest them. The legal profession is actually quite broad, and unless students narrow their focus somewhat, the universe can be overwhelming. Most students are uncomfortable reaching out to attorneys or school alumni to ask for advice or mentorship, but this is absolutely crucial to success. Up to 70% of law jobs are never posted—hiring is done almost completely by word-of-mouth. So those who are simply scouring websites for jobs are only seeing about one-third of them. So the best thing law student should do is start interacting with lawyers as soon as they begin school—speak with them about their work and their career paths, and don’t be afraid to let them know your own goals and interests.

Neil Dennis

Neil Dennis

Assistant Dean of Career Services, Howard University School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Understand first that there is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy for unemployed recent grads. Everyone has different priorities and goals. For example, some may be dedicated to becoming public servants in “any capacity” as long as it involves a particular issue (e.g., racial justice, homelessness, prisoners’ rights), others may be more focused on developing their legal skills in “any setting” whether private or public (e.g., small law firms, state government attorneys), and still others might just need to put food on the table and pay bills. The best way to figure out these goals and priorities is to speak with mentors, alumni, and especially your law school’s careers office. In that same vein, have someone (ideally in your career office) take a second look at the application materials you are submitting; often times a disorganized resume or weak-worded cover letter is what is preventing you from getting to the interview stage. The idea is to construct a job search strategy and materials that will maximize your strengths and be narrow (or broad) enough to get you to where you ultimately want to be.

Putting aside the subjective nature of a job search, some general advice would be to build up one’s resilience and to develop a reliable routine for finding opportunities. With respect to the latter, start with “live leads” (e.g., job databases, listservs, word of mouth), and once those are exhausted look into networking opportunities through alumni or events. The more people you have looking for you, while you look yourself, the better your chances are of staying on top of opportunities. Regarding resilience, do your best to remain positive and active. This will not be an easy process, but if you stick to it, you will succeed.

Rob Birrenkott

Rob Birrenkott

Assistant Dean for Career Development, University of Florida Levin College of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

I think the best piece of advice for law graduates who have not found work yet is be proactive and implement strategies to distinguish yourself. This can be accomplished in three specific ways: 1) apply broadly 2) build relationships and 3) continue to gain experience.

Recent graduates can get ahead of the curve by applying to law firms before they advertise a position. Once a position is advertised, it will attract more applicants, and the probability of successfully obtaining the position decreases. Also, becoming active in professional legal organizations and building relationships with members of the legal community is a great way to discover opportunities that are “hidden” to most job seekers. Additionally, while most legal employers want to hire someone with legal experience, fewer offer opportunities to gain it. Recent graduates can overcome this hurdle by looking for ways to continue to gain legal experience while job searching: volunteer with a judge; partner with a lawyer on a pro bono case through a legal aid organization; or consider helping firms with legal research on a project basis.

I realize this advice is hard to implement, but that is precisely why it works. If it were easy, then everyone would do it, and if that is the case, it does not distinguish you.

Christy Caves

Christy Caves

Associate Dean Director of Professional Development, University of Tulsa College of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

We encourage our recent graduates to network and get as much practical experience as possible. Networking is a very powerful tool for creating potential employment relationships and it has also been our experience that employers are more interested in recent graduates who can really “hit the ground running.”

Michael Hom

Michael Hom

Assistant Dean of Career Development, Pepperdine University School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

New law school graduates should take a longer-term approach to their career and not be too picky when seeking their first job after law school. Oftentimes, graduates will hold out for their dream job instead of building valuable experience elsewhere. Graduates should understand that nothing they do for a year or two will pigeon-hole them into a particular practice area, and that it is always easier to find a new job when they already have one. Many entry-level attorney positions will allow graduates to build transferable skills and experiences that will help them land their dream job, in time.

Jessica Gabel

Jessica Gabel Cino

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

There’s a lot to try to boil down to one piece, so here are four things to start with:

  1. Meet people. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Things just don’t fall into your lap, so you have to create and cultivate opportunities. Make connections and be responsive. If someone makes an introduction for you, follow up.
  2. Excuses won’t get you anywhere. But motivation and drive will.
  3. Say yes when someone asks you to help with something—and yes, you might have to give away some free labor. Saying “I’m not sure if I can” or “I don’t know if I have time” automatically labels you as someone who won’t be given a second opportunity.
  4. Attend CLEs and volunteer to help with programs. There is a reason that we call it the practice of law. Because we are constantly working to improve our skills and you meet a lot of great lawyers while you do it.

Michael Keller

Michael Keller

Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Development, University of Wisconsin Law School

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Build your connections. By now you should have a network of professionals working in areas in which you are focusing or have an interest. If you have been building your electronic rolodex, reach out to them to provide an update – i.e. you just finished taking the bar exam; your family moved to a new city so you could begin your job search; or you recently started volunteering for a legal aid organization to gain more experience and professional affiliations. Whenever possible, take time to reconnect in person over breakfast, coffee, lunch, or for 20 minutes in their office to get them up to speed on your status. Your contacts will be happy to hear your news and will look for ways to help. That may be as simple as providing you with encouragement, but could also include additional connections, valuable advice, and unpublicized job opportunities.

If you don’t think you already have a network, there is no better time to start than now. You most likely have one in your friends and faculty from law school and employers you worked for during your last three years. Now is the time to get serious about expanding upon it. You can start by talking to your current contacts and asking them for the names of individuals they think you should meet, and then reaching out to those people. The next step is to tap into your law school and undergraduate institution alumni databases or search LinkedIn for connections from employer in which you have an interest or for grads from your alma mater. You can build an amazing support structure from only a few contacts!

No matter what the state of your current network, building upon it and taking full advantage of the benefits it can reap will be the best action you can take as a recent graduate. These are the folks who, after getting to know you, will not only be able to provide advice, guidance and leads, they can also be the ones to put in a good word when your application is in a stack of many or recommend you when that final push is needed.

Mina Jones

Mina Jones Jefferson

Senior Assistant Dean, Chief of Staff, and Director of the Center for Professional Development, University of Cincinnati College of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Show up. Law is a relationship business. Networking is the primary source of entry-level employment for law grads. The more people you meet the sooner you will meet someone that can hire you. Recent grads should participate in bar association activities as well as civic opportunities in their local area, but mere attendance is not enough. Get involved, volunteer to write articles, serve as a guest blogger on a topic of substantive interest and create value along the way. Anything that keeps recent grads top of mind is a worthwhile investment of time.

Kenny Tatum

Kenny Tatum

Senior Director of Career Development, The University of Georgia School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

My best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career is set and achieve professional relationship goals. Example goals are to make 10 new contacts a week, follow up on 10 contacts a week and do 3 in-person meetings a week. That’s outreach to over 85 people a month. A recent grad may initially set lower goals, but as long as they set and consistently reach their goals, the recent graduate will unquestionably grow their professional network which is essential to long-term career success.

Libby Davis

Libby Davis

Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Lewis & Clark Law School

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

My key piece of advice is to be extremely active and engaged in your job search. That may seem obvious but I have found that often recent grads hope they will find an amazing job by keeping a close eye on posted jobs and tend to focus on applying to posted opportunities. My advice is to not rely on postings and, for most job seekers, to take a step outside their comfort zone by focusing on building relationships and experience. "Networking" is usually viewed very negatively by job seekers, who are hesitant to build and utilize professional relationships but, for most graduates, the relationships they build are key to their job search. They need to learn about unadvertised opportunities and the best way to do that is through professional contacts. In addition, I strongly believe recent graduates are benefited by continuing to build experience while they job search. They can do that through volunteer work, clerking, or a short-term project/contract positions. Working gives job seekers something besides their job search to focus on, it hones practical skills, it shows employers something about work ethic and commitment, and, in some cases, it feels good to be doing good for a client or cause.

Kim Fields

Kim Fields

Director of the Office of Career & Professional Development, Wake Forest University School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

My best piece of advice for recent unemployed law grads looking to jump start your legal career is to put yourself out there. Continue to build relationships and obtain practice-related experience in the city where you have an interest in working long-term, even if you have to volunteer. You can do this by offering your services to an attorney on a pro bono project, volunteering for a judge, reconnecting with past employers, and joining, and taking an active role in, law-related associations and non-profits related to the legal field.

For some grads it might mean taking a job with an employer that isn’t your first choice. In that case, use it as a means to gain general legal experience, sharpen your skills and help build your larger network. The first job you take will not be your only job; it is just one stepping stone along your career journey.

Whatever you feel you don’t have to offer employers, like top grades or an Ivy-league pedigree, remember that those things don’t determine who you are. Your resilience, adaptability and drive are the most important factors that will set you apart from others on your same path.

Laurel Hajek

Laurel Hajek

Assistant Dean for Professional Development, University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

A big mistake new attorneys make is not understanding how valuable reviews and constructive feedback can be for their career. None of us like hearing we could have done a job or assignment better. It can often be a humbling experience. However, as new attorneys, it is important not only for you to embrace feedback and work to improve your skills but also for those to whom you report to see you are able to accept input and advice and incorporate it. Even better, don’t wait until your supervisor comes to you at the end of the year to give you a review. Be proactive. Make sure you understand the criteria on which you will be evaluated, keep a list of accomplishments and new skills gained over the year and regularly seek feedback on your assignments. As a new attorney, it is important to keep pushing yourself to improve. The best way to do this is to get out of your comfort zone and ask others to give you honest feedback.

When many new graduates start their new jobs, they put on "blinders" for the first few year and tend to just focus on the task at hand. They can forget the importance of networking, continuously working to broaden their skills and always growing as a professional. The key to a successful career is always growing with your career and creating opportunities for yourself at every point in your career. You don’t just network when you are looking for a job. You also network when you have a job — to build relationships within your organization, to get work assignments, to get clients and to become active in bar and community organizations. Don’t just show up every day. Meet people, ask questions and get engaged in what your group/department/organization does. Try to find mentors both inside and outside your organization. It doesn’t have to be someone with exactly the same practice area and/or career interests. In fact, sometimes it is better if they have differing interests as that forces you to stretch and think outside your comfort zone.

Stephanie Richman

Stephanie Richman

Assistant Dean, Center for Career Development, Rutgers Law School

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Be flexible and open to opportunities. A job search is often not a simple, linear process. Reaching your goal may mean taking an indirect route to your ultimate job. Gaining experience is critical, so look for ways to start building your resume even if it is in a different work setting or geographic area than the one in which you hoped to start your career. Apply broadly and consider a variety of positions that will provide you with skills and knowledge needed to succeed in your “dream job.” Building marketable skills will make you a stronger candidate for those positions down the road. Use your existing contacts to find out about opportunities and work on developing other professional relationships by attending bar association events and CLE programs, conducting informational interviews and utilizing social media such as LinkedIn. Tell everyone you know that you are looking – you never know where the lead to your first job will come from. Networking is an important part of any job search and can play a key role when you are first starting out. If your job search becomes extended, volunteer. Doing pro bono work will give you hands-on, practical training to add to your resume and to talk about in interviews, while also allowing you to build your list of professional contacts and potential mentors and references.

Mary Beth Moore

Mary Beth Moore

Assistant Dean of Career Development, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

In this tough job climate for law graduates, our best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jumpstart their career is to begin making professional connections and build professional relationships out of the gate. Nurturing one's professional network is an important aspect to any successful job search. Moreover, endurance and resilience are paramount, as a successful job search is more marathon than sprint. Lastly, new grads need to look (and apply) to opportunities broadly to be successful. At this point in their legal careers, they have already looked deeply at what types of jobs make them happy and, when in doubt, we encourage them to err on the side of including opportunities and not excluding them. So now they must apply to every opportunity of interest with the confidence that they will succeed.

Eric Bono

Eric Bono

Assistant Dean for Career Opportunities, University of Denver Sturm College of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Treat your job search like it is your full time job—literally put that amount of time and energy into it. But, recognize that you are not in this alone. Your law school, and especially its career services office, is eager to help you find a great position. Use your career services office to help you identify opportunities, craft your applications, prepare for interviews, and most of all to help you develop a comprehensive job search strategy that connects you with lawyers and legal organizations on a daily basis.

Anne-Marie Fulfer

Anne-Marie Fulfer

Assistant Dean for Career Development, University of Idaho College of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

There is really not one best piece of advice, but if pressed, I would say use, or develop, your initiative in order to get involved with attorneys who are where you want to be, both geographically and in practice areas. You can find attorneys through your local bar sections, by attending CLEs, and from your career services office. Talk to them and ask questions, but, steer away from asking Google questions. For example, a Google question is “How do I become a judge?” or “How do I open a successful practice?” Begin a conversation with questions such as, “What were the steps you took to be where you are today, and what might you have done differently?” Listen, listen, listen to the person with whom you are speaking. While you are listening to an attorney’s story, be on the lookout for common ground you share, and use your initiative to act on opportunities that arise from your conversation (new contacts, job leads).

Lisa Bossetti Barash

Lisa Bossetti Barash

Assistant Director, Office of Career Services, UCLA School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Networking is a powerful tool in the recent graduate job search. It is especially important in a tough market, where many jobs are filled by word of mouth before being formally advertised. Recent graduates can leverage the alumni network of their law schools and undergraduate schools through networking. Through lists or directories available from one's alma mater, or via an advanced search on LinkedIn, one can identify alumni in a particular geographic market and practice area. After identifying a list of target alumni, a grad should request a brief in person informational interview with each alum. The grad should come to the informational interview with questions that demonstrate knowledge and a genuine desire to learn more. The grad should not offer a resume, as the purpose of the informational interview is to ask for advice and not a job. By asking great questions, the recent grad can impress the practicing attorneys, potentially leading to job offers, or other networking leads. In addition, networking helps graduates learn more about the industry and thus perform better in interviews and write better cover letters.

Dana Morris

Dana Morris

Assistant Dean for Career Development, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

Hustle! Don’t just apply to online job boards. Take the initiative to contact directly employers in your areas of interest that aren’t advertising openings but have the potential to hire. Dive into the “hidden” job market.

Second: consult frequently with your “team” of supporters – this should include your career services office, school alumni and faculty, and others in your professional networks who can recommend you and connect you with people who are in positions to hear about emerging jobs.

Finally: be responsive. If one of your “team” contacts you, respond promptly—it might be a job lead! And when you apply for a position, follow up afterwards with the employer to confirm the hiring timeline and reiterate your interest. It shows that you really want the job. What employer doesn’t want to hire a highly motivated candidate?

Maria Saez

Maria Sáez-Tatman

Assistant Dean for Career Planning and Professional Development, University of Oregon School of Law

In this tough job climate for law graduates, what is your best piece of advice for recent grads looking to jump start their career?

The entry-level job market is tough for many disciplines, including law. In tough markets, it is really important for the job search to begin as soon as possible. For the legal profession, this means the job search begins in the first year of law school.

The legal profession is small and interconnected. The connections students build with practitioners can make a tough market much more manageable and accessible long term. It is also important for students to get as much practical experience as possible while they are in law school. That experience can sometimes be enough to encourage an employer to take a chance on them after graduation.

Lastly, the best thing a new graduate can do to help jump start their job search is to ask for help. Too often, new graduates are hesitant to ask for help or let people know they are seeking employment. People cannot help if they do not know help is needed. Finding employment can be tough, but trying to do it by yourself makes it much more difficult.

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