Treat Your Job Search As a Full-Time Job |

Treat Your Job Search As a Full-Time Job


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Associates are busy people. In fact, many associates approach legal recruiters like me because they would like to be less busy, and are seeking an opportunity to help them meet that goal. Many attorneys have no idea how to conduct a job search, or to get information about law firms that may be a fit for them. Recruiters certainly possess information about firms, but keep in mind that our opinions about which firms are “good,” but these are colored by our own experiences practicing law. Only you can decide if a particular law firm is a fit for you.
Treat Your Job Search As a Full-Time Job

Many associates get their first job by summering at a law firm during law school, and joining that firm upon graduation. Failing that, they search for a job closer to graduation and jump at the first offer. Neither of these methods is a particularly effective way to forge a satisfying career path, as these decisions are often based upon a dearth of information. Now that you have put in several years into your career, what will your next move look like? The approach often taken by practicing attorneys is similar to that of many law students: simply apply for open positions, and choose from among offers. But will this method bring you greater job satisfaction than it did when you chose your first job?

A job search that will yield a more satisfying result takes time and effort on your part. The first step is accepting this, and making a deal with yourself to make the time and put in the work. Recruiters can be great resources when it comes to gathering information on the fiscal health, culture, salary, client base, and lifestyle of certain firms. There is a lot of preliminary work you need to do before you even get to that point. Figuring out what will be the best opportunity for you will help ensure that your next move is your last.

1. What Kind of Practice Do I Want to Have?

First, assess the skills you have and ask yourself what you have enjoyed about the practice areas you have experienced. Think about the work itself, the future of the practice area (is it growing?), the lifestyle it offers (what do I need, as a practical matter?), the partnership and client development potential, and think about how these considerations fit with your own wants and needs. Then you can begin to figure out what types of practices you might want to target.

If you are an attorney who has dabbled in several areas, now might be a good a time to ask yourself what you might like to specialize in. For example, I recently worked with an attorney who was in the litigation group of her firm, but had spent some time practicing in white collar/internal investigations. She loved it, but her firm could not provide her with that type of work full-time, so she sought a firm with a prominent white collar practice. Similarly, I recently placed an attorney who was practicing in both transactional real estate and real estate litigation. He first decided that litigation no longer fit his family-focused lifestyle, then targeted, eventually securing, a position in transactional real estate.

2. How Do I Find the Firms that Practice the Kind of Law I Like?

A recruiter will know many of the firms you will want to target. We tend to know the highest-caliber practices in a particular area. However, if you are not working with a recruiter, or you are targeting the types of law firms that recruiters may not work with, there are resources you can, and should, utilize yourself to find the best firm for you.


Martindale is a great resource for getting the lay of the land in a particular practice area. After accessing the website, click on advanced search under the "Law Firms" tab. You can search by city, firm size, and practice area, among other searches. This initial search will give you a starting point in figuring out which firms might be interesting to you.

Martindale searches are extremely time consuming, as the lists kept on this site are comprehensive. They are also not 100% accurate; just because a firm claims to practice in a particular area does not mean that the practice is robust or thriving. Law firms can choose to include themselves in a particular practice area, and sometimes these self-categorizations are a product of wishful thinking. You should go to the website and of each firm claiming to practice in that area, and research how many attorneys actually practice in that area, and whether they do it full time.

I prefer to use Martindale as a jumping off point for further research. Even with these shortcomings, it is an excellent tool for getting started in your research.

b. Chambers & Partners

This site allows you to research, by practice area, the top practices in a particular practice area. You can search by state (not city), but, for some reason, when you choose a state from the pull-down menu, the practice area search options become limited. For example, "ERISA Litigation," which is an option if you do not select a state, disappears as an option once you do. Therefore, if want to search more specific practice areas, you may need to do so without selecting a state, and you will end up with a national search.

Chambers also allows you to search law firms, so that once you have come up with some firms that appear to practice in your area of interest, you can access the firm's profile. Not all firms have profiles listed. If there is a profile, it will give you basic information on the firm (size, locations, and main areas of practice).

It is also worth noting that Chambers' listings are international, rather than just US firms.

c. Career Services at Your Law School

Even if you have been out of law school for some time, it is worth paying a visit to your career services office at your law school. Many law schools designate a person to work with alumni. Career Services Counselors often have access to many positions that legal recruiters do not have, specifically, smaller firms, government, and non-profit positions in addition to large law firms.

If you are not practicing in the city where you went to law school, call your career services office and ask if they can arrange for you to access the career services office of a local school. This is done quite often, although it can take a couple of months. Still, it is worth having access to local job boards and the knowledge of local career services counselors.

Need an "in" to a great practice within a particular law firm? Law schools sometimes keep lists of alumni who have gone on to certain positions who may be willing to talk to you about their practice. This is where your networking skills come in. Call the person (the school may have a policy of contacting the person for you), ask them to lunch, and discuss their practice with them, as well as other notable practices in town. They will certainly know who the players are, and may well turn out to be your best source of information.

3. How Do I Find In-House Jobs?

One resource that I constantly find myself recommending for in-house job seekers is the Association of Corporate Counsel, They have a job board with in-house positions around the country. It is worth noting that many of these are actually posted by legal recruiters, so you may end up applying to a recruiter and speaking to them about a mystery employer before they will tell you anything about the job. Recruiters can be especially tight-lipped about in-house positions, as they are not always published.

The bad news is that very little published information is available about in-house positions in terms of salary, culture, fiscal health, etc. If you interview for these positions, again, your best bet may be to get ahold of an alumnus from your law school who works or has worked for that company, and get their honest opinion. Again, this is a time-consuming process that will require a long-term approach on your part

See How to Make a Lot of Money Practicing Law​ for more information

4. Conclusion

The bottom line is that there are excellent resources available to help you determine where you might best fit, but a quality job search that will bring you long-term job satisfaction is a big time commitment, and you need to give it the attention it deserves. It well worth putting in the work it will take to ensure the best fit for you.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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