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Applying for a job? Here are a few tips.

Jessica Markham

Jessica Markham

I have a Careers page on my website because I try to remain open-minded about hiring the right staff members even if it feels like the wrong time. It seems that the work of a law office is always expanding and contracting and that there is room for more or fewer people depending on what you’re willing to do to accommodate them. Since I don’t formally advertise for positions, maybe this results in more … sort of informal inquiries to my firm. I’d like to talk about that, among other things. If you’re looking to make a move, I believe there are a few ways to get noticed:

1. I suggest that if you are indicating interest in a firm, whether responding to a formal posting or not, err on the side of a more formal approach. I very often receive inquiries that are a bit noncommittal and loosey-goosey and I tend to treat them accordingly. If someone sends a resume in Word, doesn’t include a cover letter or shoots over an informal email, I assume the person is not that serious about the opportunity. This happens a lot.

2. Typos. Don’t make them. Believe me when I tell you that more than 50% of the applications I receive from attorneys contain typos. I’m not saying I won’t consider you. But I probably won’t. Have someone proofread and then proofread again.

3. More is better. When I receive a cover letter along with a resume and also a transcript, reference or writing sample, I really take notice. Sure, I could ask for these things, but I usually don’t. To me this extra step indicates someone who is particularly interested and prepared. Make it easy for the person culling resumes.

4. Asking me to coffee to discuss the opportunity doesn’t really work for me, unless you’ve been practicing for more than 10 years or if we have a relationship already. In such cases I get it. But if you’ve been practicing for less than five years and you’re looking for an associate position, or if you don’t know me, don’t ask me to go to coffee even if your cousin or sister or neighbor suggested it. If you want a job, state that you’re seeking a job. There have been more than a few occasions when I have been asked to coffee and someone has asked me how to get into family law. It was completely unclear to me that they wanted to work at my firm until after coffee or lunch was over. I figure it does not bode well for your negotiation skills in a case if you cannot state clearly what you’re looking for upfront.

You’re an attorney. Your writing and communication should be on point. There’s no excuse to do anything but put your best foot forward.

Jessica Markham is the owner of Markham Law Firm, a family law firm in Bethesda.