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A letter to a law school graduate (Part Two)

Dear Recent Law School Graduate:

I am sorry it has been such a long time since I last wrote, but the life of a lawyer is not easy. It’s been almost two years since I last wrote and a lot of things have changed and a lot of things are the same.

I made partner this year, which has required more (non-billable) work. The kids are getting older: Braden is almost five and Kyan is a rambunctious two-year-old. Some days, Michelle and I battle to a draw with the kids, but for the most part, they are winning the war at home. I’ve even been able to squeeze in a few marathons since I last wrote, most recently one in New Jersey on Sunday.

But enough about me (and the potential discussion on partnership, family planning and work-life balance). Let’s talk about you.

The legal job market is still fairly tough, especially for new lawyers. Firms are looking for attorneys with some experience, but new attorneys can’t get experience without getting a job. It’s our own legal Catch-22.  There have been reports of a comeback, but that is probably of little solace if you are still looking for a job. My advice on the job search remains the same:

When it comes to the economy and available legal employment opportunities, I do not envy you. We all know that it is a tough market out there. Legal jobs are scarce and the competition is brutal, but keep your head up. The toughest legal job to find will be your first one. All you need is one offer.  I remember the stack of rejection letters that sat on my coffee table years ago. I also remember when I got my first offer (thanks Judge Murdock) and the excitement I felt to start my career. It would do a lot of attorneys good if they remembered how hard it was at the beginning. We forget sometimes, as if we never struggled in court or with a client or to find a job.

(See alsoGetting an Interview and getting a job: Interviewing at law firms” Part One and Part Two.)

Additionally, since the last time I wrote, Shauna Bryce, of Bryce Legal Career Counsel, wrote “How to get a Legal Job: A Guide for New Attorneys and Law School Students.” I have not read the book cover-to-cover, but Shauna lays out some pretty important dos and don’ts for all stages of the legal job search. (Full disclosure: I was one of the people that Shauna interviewed for this book but have no financial interest in the sale of the book. I do have a personal interest since I am hopeful some of my advice will help young lawyers get there first legal job).

The recommendations from my previous letter still hold true: protect your reputation; find mentors; never commingle funds; strive for a work/life balance; and have fun.

I am trying to figure out what has changed over the last couple of years. Technology is a big game-changer in the field of law, but there is a high probability that you know more about how to use an iPad than I do. Just don’t hide behind your technology. Handwritten letters and meeting someone at his or her office usually means a lot more to a client or potential client than a text or an email. The world is getting smaller, so also consider protecting your online reputation. I google candidates that I interview and counsel that I work with and against.

Something I didn’t mention in my last letter, but I should have: take some time to yourself. Being a lawyer (and a grown-up) comes with a crushing sense of responsibility and deadlines. As Ferris Bueller said in a movie that came out in the year that some of you may have been born: “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

In closing, good luck. Good luck with the bar exam in the next few months. Good luck with the job search. And good luck with navigating toward your first legal job.