“Actions speak louder than words” is a saying that is applicable to almost all areas of our daily lives and looking for a job is no exception.
Action substantiates the truth behind our words, including the words that appear on a resume or in a cover letter that are used to convey your interest in a position to a prospective employer. Navigating the current job market, particularly in search of entry-level legal jobs, is no easy task and often requires more than just an exceptional GPA and high class rank. Therefore, you should actively participate in a variety of activities that will help to make a case of interest in a particular area of law.
Many career advisors laud networking as an effective tool for job searching. However, while it should be utilized in a search, networking can be a very difficult endeavor for people just starting out. Meeting with partners and other more-established attorneys is at times downright intimidating. There are other avenues that can be explored to give credence to qualifications in a cover letter or resume while still allowing a connection with others in a particular field.
A typical cover letter for someone coming right out of law school will introduce the writer and then go on to explain why she is the perfect fit for whatever position she is applying to. The candidate will make this argument by pointing out any relevant course selection and work experience. In making these claims, you should consider pursuing the many other available activities that can really put some truth behind your stated ambition.
If you want to be an environmental lawyer, you probably took relevant environmental classes and interned or clerked for a governmental agency. This action is on the right path but there is one problem: almost all the other people looking for environmental law jobs did the same activities as you. You need to go above and beyond the sales pitch, “I am passionate about environmental law because I took these classes and worked here…”
One enormously beneficial and often under-utilized resource is the Maryland State Bar Association’s website. It is filled with opportunities to really give that whole “truth in action” element to your job pitch. Many sections of the MSBA have blogs or other opportunities to publish work. This requires no networking, just writing, and after law school, you should be fluent in legal prose. Additionally, the MSBA site includes a calendar that sets forth all sorts of events for each section of the bar association. Writing about legal issues that are of interest to you and attending seminars truly conveys that you are “passionate” about a certain area of law; your action in pursuing the subject matter speaks louder than words.
While it is never too late to begin these activities, the sooner the participation the better. Students who contribute to the profession in a positive way by either writing or attending events before they graduate are starting to build the well before they need water. I think you would be surprised at how many people forgo this low-hanging fruit despite a difficult job market.
I am active in the real property section of the MSBA and I know that the lawyer who maintains the section’s blog is always looking for new material. Also, the real property section is holding an event this Saturday and opened the event to a second or third year student to attend free of charge. The only requirement was that applicants write something that could be posted to the section’s blog. Between the University of Maryland School of Law and University of Baltimore Law School, we did not receive one entry.
Being able to point to written scholarship that was not required by your curriculum and attending events put on by whatever MSBA section you are interested in confirms your sincerity about a particular area of law; you have something tangible to point to in an interview or conversation with other attorneys. You put the action behind the words and this action speaks volumes louder than any sentence in a cover letter.