In a competitive job market, real-world experience trumps book smarts for newly minted lawyers, a new survey from legal staffing firm Robert Half Legal suggests. More than four in 10 (44 percent) of lawyers interviewed cited training or experience in a high-demand practice area as the most marketable attribute for law school graduates. Law school or class ranking came in second, with 19 percent of the response.
The survey was developed by Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in lawyers, paralegals and other highly skilled legal professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with 100 lawyers at law firms with 20 or more employees and 100 corporate lawyers at companies with 1,000 or more employees in the United States.
Lawyers were asked, “In your opinion, which one of the following criteria makes recent law school graduates most marketable?” Their responses:
|Training or experience in a high-demand practice area||44%|
|Law school or class ranking||19%|
|Project management skills||8%|
|Joint J.D. and MBA degree||5%|
“Although the economy is improving, recent law school graduates are facing the most difficult job market in decades because they are competing with more experienced lawyers who also are looking for work,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “While academic performance and law school ranking remain important, candidates who can add immediate value to revenue-generating practice groups are taking precedence.”
Volkert added that new graduates must also show that they are well rounded. “Firms want junior associates who have a strong work ethic, are self-motivated and possess exceptional research, analytical, communication and organizational skills.”
To land legal jobs in a competitive environment, candidates must be able to demonstrate their value to employers, Volkert noted. He offered the following five job-search tips to law school graduates:
- Make the most of your time. Hiring managers look favorably on candidates who have used their post-graduation period wisely. Use this opportunity to secure informational meetings with potential employers. Also sign up for additional training, including certified legal education, and business development and technology classes.
- Consider pro bono or project work. These short-term assignments can help you make valuable contacts and develop skills future clients will seek, and may even lead to a full-time role.
- Rethink the firm route. Consider clerkships that offer one to two years of formal training and can serve as an entree into a long-term position. Also, don’t overlook mediation or alternative dispute resolution, and public interest roles.
- Network heavily. Use social media sites to expand your contact list but also make an effort to meet people face to face by attending alumni networking events or bar association meetings.
- Look beyond your legal circle. Friends, neighbors, former colleagues and college classmates outside your field could have connections or information that can lead you to your next position.