Getting A Job After Law School

As you prepare to apply for law school, the last thing on your mind might be getting a job as a lawyer. However, if you’re about to invest three years of your life and many thousands of dollars on tuition, you would be wise to start thinking about what you’ll need to do in order to land a great job after law school. Here are some things to start thinking about now.

ab18The Field is Saturated, and There Are Lots of Jobs

You’ve heard horror stories of newly-graduated attorneys struggling to find work, and experienced ones being laid off from their firms. On the other hand, some seem to be thriving, and some firms can’t hire fast enough. What’s going on?

  • Certain specialities typically have plenty of jobs. For instance, family law attorneys always have a steady stream of work, no matter what else is going on in the world. There are always plenty of folks who want a divorce!
  • Some specialities do well during tough times. In a down economy, bankruptcy attorneys thrive. Criminal attorneys and may do well, also.
  • Some specialties do well during good times. When the economy is thriving, contract lawyers can do a booming business.
  • New fields open up or add jobs. Environmental law has seen a recent upsurge in jobs as more people become aware of environmental issues affecting the planet, and businesses. As gay rights and same-sex marriage issues dominate the news, more attorneys are finding lucrative work with clients from that demographic.

Be Prepared to Be Flexible

ab24You might have your heart set on working as a public defender, but if you happen to graduate during a spate of local government budget cuts, you’ll be jobless. What to do? Be flexible.

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Explore several areas of law during school and be prepared to undertake a career in more than one field.

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Complete internships at firms that offer more than one type of law service.

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Use your undergraduate education to explore more fields.

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Correlate your experience in extra-curricular activities with different fields of law.

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Learn everything you can in order to work as a general practitioner. You can adjust your practice as necessary to fit current needs.

Be Prepared to Sell Yourself

In an economy where law jobs might be scarce, you’ll need to sell yourself.

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During your undergraduate and law school years, start thinking about your resume and add relevant activities, part-time jobs and references to it.

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Do volunteer work that fits within your career goals.

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Work part-time jobs in fields that you’re interested in, even if the job doesn’t directly apply. For instance, working as a receptionist at a non-profit adoption center still gives you contacts and access to the world of adoptions. If you want to go into family law, you’ll have an advantage.

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Seek out mentors early on. Find mentors working in the field in which you’re interested. These might be attorneys, or they could be social workers, CEOs, accountants, police officers, etc.

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Work hard in school. The more impressive your undergraduate transcript and LSAT score, the higher ranked school you’ll attend. The higher your GPA and the more diverse your activities in law school, the better your job offer prospects.

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Immigration Law Work

ab4If you’re interested in a field that is very challenging, but also rewarding, immigration law might be a good fit for you. It’s an area of law with plenty of clients and business available, too.

Immigration Law Work Tasks

Lawyers who work in immigration law help people in many ways, including helping them to:

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  • Get green cards
  • Secure visas
  • Extend visas
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  • Arrange immigration to the U.S. from other countries
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  • Apply for political asylum
  • Apply for citizenship
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  • Bring relatives into the U.S.
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  • Avoid deportation
  • Appeal deportation decisions
  • Decide the best process toward citizenship
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  • Find study aids and classes for citizenship tests
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  • Obtain necessary identification and paperwork
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  • Understand immigration regulations

Immigration Law Work Skills

As an immigration lawyer, you’ll need many skills.

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1) You’ll need to dedicate yourself to learning complicated laws. Immigration law is complex and the statutes are lengthy. It takes dedication and intelligence to learn and understand all the many laws related to immigration.

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2) You’ll need to stay abreast of new legislation. Immigration law is constantly changing. As an immigration lawyer, you’ll need to be well aware of newly passed legislation (and its effective dates), as well as proposed legislation that may affect your clients.

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3) You’ll need great communication skills. Most immigration lawyers are at least bi-lingual. Many of your clients will not speak English, or will have limited English skills. If you can speak their language effectively, they will be much more comfortable.

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4) You’ll need great organizational skills. Immigration paperwork is complex and often has various deadlines or other specifications that must be followed carefully. You should be able to pay close attention to detail and be highly organized so that you don’t miss something important.

ab17Where You’ll Find Immigration Law Work

You might find immigration law work in a number of places.

  • Some private law firms specialize in immigration law (some even specialize in immigration for clients from one or two countries in particular).
  • General practice law firms offer immigration law work in addition to handling family law, bankruptcy, etc. Immigration law clients can become lifelong clients in a general practice firm, because you establish trust with them early on.
  • Lawyers who do pro bono work often take on immigration law cases.
  • Lawyers who work for non-profits may help clients with immigration issues.

How to Prepare for an Immigration Law Career

If you think that immigration law might be a good fit for you, there are several things you can do before graduating that can help set you up for a career in the field:

1) Learn at least one additional language and become proficient in speaking and writing it.

2) Take immigration law electives during law school.

3) Do a summer internship with a law firm that handles immigration cases, or with a legal aid society that helps immigrants.

4) Start following immigration law news and happenings in your state legislature and the U.S. House and Senate.

5) Study U.S. immigration law history.

6) Find a mentor who is practicing in the field of immigration law.

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Alternative Jobs for Lawyers

ac111Are you worried that you might spend three years and thousands of dollars on law school and then decide you don’t enjoy practicing law? After all, you’ve never done it... how will you know it’s the right career for you? While you can do some research in advance to see if you think it’s a good fit, there’s just no way to know for sure until you’re actually out there, working in the field. It’s not as big a risk as you might think, however. Law school provides a solid foundation for many other careers and a law degree is attractive to many employers. Here are a few alternative jobs for lawyers:

ac112CEO (For Yourself)

Lawyers are smart. They tend to be driven, analytical and focused. All are great qualities for entrerpreneurs. You might open your own business doing anything under the sun—from a dry cleaning business to a landscape design company. You may be able to translate a favorite hobby or other talent into satisfying, rewarding work. And, as someone with a law degree, you’ve got experience negotiating contracts and keeping an eye on your hourly earnings.

Non-Profit Work

Some people go into law hoping that they’ll be able to make a difference in their community by helping the indigent or unfortunate. Translating a law degree into non-profit advocacy work can be a great fit for burnt-out attorneys. Non-profits will be thrilled to have your expertise and knowledge of the law, too.

ac113Teacher

You’re organized and have great verbal skills. In law school, you’ve learned to speak in front of large groups of people while being both convincing and engaging. Sound a little like teaching in a classroom? Lawyers transition to teaching careers in a number of venues—from elementary schools to business schools to law departments at universities.

ac114Public Speaker/Motivational Coach

Speaking of speaking in public... you might consider a career as a motivational speaker or personal coach. Working with law clients requires patience and often a nurturing, encouraging manner. Translate that into working with clients who need motivation to help them in their businesses and you might have found the perfect new gig. Affect larger groups of people at once with a career as a public speaker.

ac115Writer

Lawyers’ written communication skills come in handy in many careers, including writing. Patent attorneys are well-situated to work as technical writers, and have many contact in the field already. You might write textbooks about law or your specialized field. You could even write novels—John Grisham made the switch, which has seemed to work out well for him!

The Career Your Clients Have

Many lawyers decide that their clients’ careers sound better, and make the switch. If you’re an attorney who’s specialized in tax law or real estate law, for instance, you might decide that working as an accountant or Realtor makes sense. You’ll already possess a wealth of knowledge about the field, and you’ll have a long list of contacts from the very beginning. Translating your law degree into a career that’s specialized like this might require you to obtain licensing or additional training.

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