If you’re just finishing your law degree, graduating in any legal field or moving onto the next best thing, you may be wondering what the best way to apply for work is, and find the perfect fit for you. So how many positions do you need to apply for to secure the right future for your legal career? Below Christopher G. Hastings, Professor of Law at WMU Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, US, gives Lawyer Monthly his verdict on applying for law jobs.
If you are the chief editor of the Harvard Law Review, and know exactly what you want to do, and you have excellent interpersonal skills, one ought to do it.
For the rest of us, the number is quite a bit higher. Many graduating law students are unsure what type of law they wish to practice; many more need to hone their interview skills. And graduates with strong credentials will find more opportunity than those who just scraped by.
So, what you need to do is evaluate yourself frankly on each of these three axes and make a plan that works for you. When I was interviewing for my first post-law school job, I realized that I was a much better interviewer after I had a number of interviews under my belt. I gained confidence, and started to feel like I could deploy my personality to get a callback for a second interview on a regular basis. The other thing that happened is that I got a chance to understand that different law firms have different personalities.
Now, I am not saying I handled my initial job hunt in an ideal manner, or made an ideal choice when I accepted my first job—I certainly did neither. But through two decades of hiring lawyers, and a third training law students to be lawyers, I’ve come to think of interviewing as a process, not just a means to an end. The more people you talk to, the more polished you will be when you present yourself. You’ll learn what about you interests others, and perhaps a thing or two about the various personalities of the organizations and lawyers who hire young talent. What you want is a job—how you get there is through demonstrating that you are a “fit” with the persons who will be employing you.
And don’t stop applying for jobs just because you have an offer. Instead, ask your prospective employer when they need to have an answer (be sure to express how interested you are in their offer) and redouble your efforts to get a second or third offer. The more you interview, the more you’ll learn about the possibilities your potential employers offer. And it never hurts to compare.
I can’t tell you how many job applications you’ll need to make. The number is somewhere between one and more than you ever will make. But you can come up with your own number if you answer for yourself these questions, candidly:
How good are my interview skills? How many interviews will I have before I am really good at this task?
How good are my law school and other credentials? Can I expect to convert most or all of my applications into interviews based on the strength of my resume?
How much do I know about what I want to do? How many types of employers do I want to compare?
Even with answers to these questions, you’ll still not have a precise number, of course, but you can more accurately size up the task in front of you.
Christopher G. Hastings is a Professor at WMU Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He had a private law practice from 1987-2006, and has been teaching law since that time.