Similarly, if you already have a law career, switching to working for a big law firm opens up tremendous opportunities for specialized training and advancement. It can also mean a sizeable increase in your income.
So, the question is, why sacrifice a productive career in a large law firm by including topics that alienate you from others? Is it worth discussing divisive issues and giving managers reasons to dislike you?
The article discusses several reasons why sexual orientation, politics, religion, and social activism should never be part of your job search. In addition, you will learn how to increase your opportunities in the market.
Why Leave Controversial Issues Out of Your Job Search
Unfortunately, many attorneys make the mistake of bringing up divisive issues with a colleague or in a job interview. In the best cases, they end up creating far fewer job opportunities in the market. In most cases, it does profound damage to their job search. This sort of stuff will doom you.
If you want to make sex, politics, religion, and other controversial issues front and center in your job search, I apologize, but maybe you should consider doing something other than working in a law firm. I'm tired of seeing the people who do this not get jobs.
I am not saying any of this because of my politics—my politics do not matter. I think politics are so ridiculous and a waste of time that I do not even vote. All I care about is people getting and keeping jobs with law firms. But unfortunately, I have seen far too many people blow good opportunities by making the dumbest decisions you can imagine. The terrible mistakes usually revolve around these three areas:
- What they put on their resumes.
- What they talk about during interviews.
- What they prioritize in their jobs.
How to Work in a Large Law Firm — Check What's on Your Resume
Getting your resume is the starting place if you desire to work in a prestigious law firm. Your resume is a chance to showcase your knowledge and skills relevant to a law career. The resume should have your professional skills, credentials, career experiences, and other valuable abilities to your employer.
Although your potential employer is interested in who you are, they are more interested in what you can bring to the organization.
Classic Examples of Resume Mistakes
Here is a perfect example that I saw just the other day of someone messing up their resume and failing to get the law job they wanted.
I was talking to one of the legal placement specialists in our company. She was working with a candidate who had impressive credentials. The candidate had previously worked in a major law firm. He had performed at the top of his class at an Ivy League law school and was currently doing a federal clerkship. The candidate was also looking for a position in a large market with a lot of demand.
Resume mistake #1
This attorney was in their fourth year of practice, which is usually the most marketable year for lateral hires. Despite this, no one was interested in talking to this candidate. The candidate could not even get interviews in smaller law firms, much less in the largest firms.
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A few other attorneys did not have nearly as good qualifications but were getting lots of interviews. So what was it about this "star" candidate that they could not get interviews? The answer became clear when I read the candidate's resume.
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This candidate in question was a white male. He had spent three years at a law firm before his clerkship. However, he only listed the pro bono work he had done. He even bragged that he "averaged" over 500 hours of pro bono work each year. Then he described all the pro bono work he did in great detail. Yet, there was nothing on the resume about his work for paying clients—I could not believe it.
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Resume mistake #2
Forgetting to list experience for paid clients is just one mistake on a resume. Although pro bono work is vital to being a top attorney, there is more to having a successful law career. The employer's bottom line is this: will you make money for the company?
This led to the second mistake on the resume—promoting social activism.
The attorney had clerked for a liberal, Democratic judge. Under his experience, he listed and described a few seemingly trivial opinions. He used these in a lawsuit that penalized some major corporations costing them hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, the candidate's description of his time in law school was similarly littered with all sorts of activist organizations. He was more interested in overturning our capitalist society and empowering people who do not work with money and power.
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Lessons Learned from Resume Mistakes
I learned several lessons from the mistakes on this person's resume. First, I am not political or interested in politics—I just want to help people get jobs. Second, I am sure this attorney thinks all these activities are impressive and important. But should they be on his resume?
Put yourself in the shoes of the owner of a large law firm or a large company spending millions of dollars in legal fees. Now ask yourself these questions:
- Would you want to hire this person?
- Would you want this person to look through your documents and have control over your future if they found something they did not like?
- Where do you think the press gets confidential informants?
- Where do you think whistleblowers come from?
None of this is good. And this type of attorney could become a liability, not an asset to a big law firm. The truth is that it is awful for law firms and clients. This is how people get sued, law firms lose clients, and companies get in significant trouble. People like these can be cancerous for certain groups.
See related: Being Politically Correct on a Job Hunt
How to Make the Grade
Getting excellent grades in law school is the only way to get a rewarding career in the biggest law firms. Therefore, if you have strong political or social views, it can be challenging to get good grades if you stand up for your opinions. However, it is possible to do this and make the grade.
Here is a crucial thing I learned at the University of Chicago. Professors give good grades to students whose opinions they like and make them feel good about themselves. Therefore, you must be out of your mind to write papers against them—even at top-tier schools.
For example, I could not believe how easy it was to get an A in a class. All I had to do was parrot back the politics and beliefs of the professor in your papers. AUTOMATIC A. If you started trying to argue against their politics—whether they were a Republican, Democrat, Socialist, or even a Communist—your grade would go down accordingly.
Read also: How To Gain Acceptance In Law School Of Your Choice
How To Get Excellent Grades in Law School
To ensure you graduate law school with excellent grades, you must align yourself with professors you like. This way, you give yourself the best chance of getting a top job in a large law firm.
Here's what I did to solve the issue of getting good grades. I shopped professors and spent an hour or so in their classes before committing to them. I could quickly figure out where they were coming from and whether they liked me. I was so proficient in figuring out what I needed to say that by my junior year, my grades never dropped below an A in over two years—and only one A-. After that, the school asked me to apply for Rhodes, Fulbright, and other types of scholarships.
Most universities have liberal professors who will reward students for being liberal as well. When I was in college, I remember walking into some classes so far left that I was the only student not wearing a poncho, tie-dye, or sandals in the middle of a Chicago winter.
However, what happens to many law students is this. They start believing that acting liberal is in their best interest. Their logic is that activism got them good grades in school and will make them successful attorneys. Some continue doing this even well into their careers.
What's the lesson to learn? You can be whoever you want to be—feel and act in line with your convictions. But, unfortunately, this mentality will not get you a lucrative job or career with most law firms.
Read also: Why Most Law Firms Expect Their Attorneys to Conform and Act Like Other Attorneys in the Firm
What Law Firms Really Want
The key to getting the law job or career you desire is to realize what larger law firms really want. This doesn't mean you must ignore your convictions, principles, and opinions and put them to one side. Instead, it means understating the basics of how large law firms work.
Big law firms want to bring in huge clients and provide a range of legal services. They want to hire people who will work very hard and bill tons of hours to these huge clients. They want to bring in people who will identify with these huge clients and find new ones as well. They like people who are personable, pleasant to be around, promote a friendly culture, and do not complain or make trouble.
They want smart people. Full stop.
They do not care about anything else. Anything else you bring into the equation of how they evaluate you will harm you. They are not interested.
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How to Write a Resume When Applying to Work for a Large Law Firm
Suppose you want to work for any of the larger firms. In that case, your resume must show your prospective employers you will be an asset to the organization. They will not hire someone if the resume does not show commitment to hard work. Get your resume right, and increase your chance of working for a big law firm.
For example, think about the attorney who had all this pro bono work and other stuff on his resume. That's great if he wants to work for a charitable organization. However, he will not get a position in a big law firm. This is because they see that the work, they give him will take second place.
Basically, his resume gives these signals to the big law firm:
- Pro bono work and doing other things are of primary importance.
- He is not committed to working in a law firm.
- His experience showed he only worked for three years and then decided to work for a judge.
- He has powerful anti-corporate feelings.
- He is a potential liability to any corporate client.
All these messages are evident from his resume. This is dangerous and will not serve him well inside a large law firm. And this is not what the law firm wants.
See other Resume related articles:
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Why Leave Sex, Politics, Religion, and Social Activism Out of Your Job Search and Career
The truth about being an activist on controversial issues is that it damages your law career. So I will say what needs to be said about sex, politics, religion, and social activism in your job search and career. While I hate doing this, I will alienate some in the process. But the reason for this is I want you to get a great job in a large law firm. So I care very deeply about making this happen.
First, however, let me say a few words about diversity.
Read related: Being Against Something – and Your Job Search
The Importance of Diversity in The Legal Field
Diversity is crucial in all corners of society. Diversity is paramount and a vital part of changing opinions to equalize society. I have written a book about diversity in the legal field and believe it is extremely important.
You can see how seriously diversity is taken just by watching television. I love watching various detective movies and dramas. Over the past few years, I have noticed that it is exceedingly rare for the top supervisor in any of these shows not to be a diverse person—either a woman or a man of color.
The makers of these shows are trying to change the perception that supervisors are only white males or females. The idea is that the dominant culture will start to think differently about the races and sexes of supervisors. All of this is a good thing. And overall, perceptions of our society can undoubtedly be affected by this overreaction of Hollywood to address past imbalances.
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Talent Trumps All in Large Law Firms
Diversity is vital in society and the legal field. However, being a talented law graduate or attorney gets you a top job—nothing else. Just because society emphasizes diversity does not mean it will help you advance.
The point is that diversity—whether that be your sexual orientation, race, and so forth—is not something that will make you an excellent attorney. People are still looking for talent.
For example, many Ivy League graduates who got into these schools because of athletic skills or other connections never do much with their careers. The world ultimately rewards your talent and contributions. Where you went to school matters little to your career.
Diversity, such as athletic skills, can and should get you in the door. However, you still need to have other talents that will make you valuable. You cannot reasonably expect to use diversity to help further your career.
Many people make a big deal about where they went to college or law school for their entire career journey. But many never amount to much. You still need talent and drive, regardless of where you were educated.
Similarly, diversity helps balance our society. Still, an employer is likely to resent you rubbing it in their face or continually being reminded of it as a reason to hire, promote, or keep you around.
See more: How Much Does the Law School You Went to Matter?.
When Diversity Backfires
Diversity does not mean "us against them." It does not mean we will not associate with or mingle with others. It does not mean that we expect to be treated as diverse yet want nothing to do with you. It does not mean we will use our diversity for one purpose but not another.
Read more: What is Diversity and How Can It Help Law Firms?
My Experience When Diversity Backfires
When I was in college, I dated a woman who was from a conservative Jewish background. Her family hated me because I was not Jewish. They refused anything to do with me, and every time she saw them, she would dump me for a few weeks because I was not Jewish.
She shared with me the values of her family and other Jewish people she associated with. They believed that Jews were smarter, cleaner, had better values, and so forth than non-Jews. They did not want to marry or associate with gentiles. Most of her friends were Jewish and shared similar values. They had Yiddish words they used to describe blacks and were racist against them as well.
She once invited me to a Jewish Seder, and when I went there. The person hosting it was upset that I was not Jewish and made me feel extremely unwelcome. After the dinner, he called the Hillel Center at the school and told them never to allow a non-Jew to come to Seder again.
Some adults from the center even visited my girlfriend to tell her what a mistake she had made. During my last week of school, my girlfriend broke up with me. She started dating a Jewish boy because she could not bear her family seeing me at graduation.
See also: Law Firm Diversity: How Race, Gender, Age, Social and Economic Divisions Impact the Hiring, Retention and Advancement of Law Firm Attorneys
Diversity Should Not Mean Exclusion
I learned that some people hide behind the cloak of diversity without taking action to promote equality or inclusion.
My experience broke my heart. It was racist. It made me feel—and I was reminded all through college—what it was like to be excluded based on race, ethnicity, or religion. I was not only excluded; I had all sorts of racist beliefs shared with me about how I was inferior because of my race.
Ten years later, after I had started this company and got divorced after a brief 16-month marriage. I then met a Jewish woman and started dating her. I fell in love with her, and the same thing started happening. But unfortunately, I was not Jewish and, therefore, not marriage material.
Thankfully, I was not told master race theories about how Jews were better. However, I did have a lot of stuff shared with me about how Jewish value systems and their culture were better. So, I agreed to convert to Judaism to avoid this relationship ending and having my heart broken again. This took a year.
Efforts To Embrace Diversity
Several Jews told me that the Jewish culture and religion had only survived by not allowing Jews to marry outside their faith. In societies all over the world, Jews are a minority. They come together, reject the dominant culture—and often think negatively of it—and keep their traditions alive by living and socializing among themselves.
Economically and socially, they help each other. But at the same time, they reject the dominant culture and people within it regarding marriage and socializing. Paradoxically, it is for this reason that our world is filled with anti-Semitism. There is a common perception that Jews do not like non-Jews and only want to profit from them economically but not be close to them in other ways.
To my astonishment, after committing to convert, I was not welcomed into being Jewish either. I realized that being a "convert" was something that other Jews looked down upon.
Several Jews—women and men—told me that I could never really be Jewish because it was cultural. One older Jewish woman told me I would never be Jewish because I had not grown up with the "shared suffering." Almost all my wife's Jewish friends made fun of me after converting. I never felt welcome and, in fact, felt more excluded and more like a minority after converting to Judaism than I did before.
I eventually learned that Judaism was something you could never really convert to—or be part of. Non-Jews I knew thought my conversion was crazy, odd, and nonsensical, and so did Jews. Converting to Judaism was about the most unwelcoming and alienating thing imaginable.
I was able to get married because of it. However, her family, friends, and others she knew constantly reminded me that I was not "really" Jewish. I am going through a divorce now. And I have gone back to attending my Episcopal church and being the same person I was before from a religious and cultural standpoint.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have never tried to integrate with a group that was never welcoming and always made me feel like an outsider. I never felt safe in any form of Jewish worship because I never felt entirely at ease. Every Jew I met and spent time with would ask me a few questions to ascertain that "Harrison Barnes" (which does not sound like a Jewish name) was really not Jewish—and, therefore, not part of the tribe.
Read also: Why You Should Find Your "Tribe" and Not Just Focus on Money in Making Law Firm Job Decisions
Why Talent Always Takes Precedence Over Diversity
I know what it is like to be treated as a minority and feel unwelcome because of your "diversity." It is painful to feel a lack of opportunity and acceptance because of something you cannot control. But, on the other hand, I know what it is like to want to be with people who are welcoming and supportive. Ideally, only talent and effort matter in a law firm or any other diverse workplace.
Read also: Hiring Practices Remain Tense with Diversity Efforts
Leave Sexual Orientation out of Your Job Search and Career
Similar to the fact that talent trumps diversity, the same is true with sexual activism. The top large law firms in the country are looking for excellent attorneys who will meet billable hour requirements to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from huge corporate clients. This is what you should focus on, regardless of your sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation seems to dominate resumes. Many are full of men and women listing the various gay, lesbian, and transgender organizations they belong to.
Many gay and lesbian people believe it is imperative that law firms and colleagues are fully aware of their sexuality—whether it is based on how they talk or dress or advertised on their resume. But, of course, you are free to do all this if you know the risks.
For more information, also read: How Critical Is Your Appearance While Hunting For a Law Job
Society has made incredible strides in accepting sexual orientation and treating women better in the workplace. For example, I have worked alongside people of various sexual orientations in two law firms. And from my experience, I honestly do not think society cares anymore.
In my own company, I have had polygamists (I have an office in rural Utah), people in same-sex marriages, and numerous gay women and men—no one cares. I am sure there are pockets of discrimination; however, the overriding feeling today seems to be that welcoming people of diverse orientations into the workplace is not only accepted but expected.
In a career spanning over 25 years, I have honestly never heard anyone make an anti-gay or anti-woman comment.
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Making Sexuality an Issue Can Damage Your Law Career
Unfortunately, problems often arise when people make sexuality an issue in their job searches and careers. People think that a bunch of information and statements about their sexual orientation on their resume is a positive thing. They think this will help land them a top law job in a prestigious firm.
Some applicants who have diverse sexuality expect there will be more jobs and they will be more welcome because they share this personal information on their resumes. They want to be able to aggressively advertise their sexuality either on their resumes or in person and have doors open because of it.
Why Making Sexuality an Issue Can Negatively Affect Your Law Career
Every law graduate deserves a rewarding legal career based on their talents, skills, abilities, and experience. However, aggressively pushing sexuality is not going to further your career. On the other hand, it is more likely to hold you back.
Let me tell you why.
Say you identified yourself on your resume as a lesbian for some reason. Then let's say a single woman who enjoys being around other single women is reviewing your resume. Now, suppose she sees one resume of another woman who is like her. Then she checks your resume. You and the other candidate both have similar educations and backgrounds. Who will she likely choose?
I hate to say this, but people are social animals and are more likely to hire people like themselves. That is how it works.
Suppose the woman reviewing your resume is also a lesbian. In that case, she might be more likely to bring you in—but statistically speaking, it is more probable that she is not. Therefore, putting your sexual orientation on your resume will likely do you more harm than good.
- Do I think this is fair? No.
- Do I approve of this? No.
- Is this how the world works? Yes.
- Can I change it? No.
- Can you change it? No.
- Do I want you to get a job? Yes.
Sexuality Is Only Your Business
A lot occurs in the thinking processes of people who interview and hire inside law firms. For example, an attractive woman with nothing on her resume about her sexuality is more likely to be hired. The same is true for a man. I'm not going to get into the specific reasons why this is true but think about it.
Use your head and leave your sexuality off your resume. Revealing your sexuality will help you 10% of the time and hurt you 90% of the time. I honestly do not think it will matter once you are hired. I have not seen people hurt by their sexuality once they are hired, but it can happen.
You are not joining a law firm to hook up, have sex, or marry people there. Leave that part of your life out of your career. It is no one's business who you sleep with. You are there to do a job.
What Happens When Sexuality Becomes an Issue
Unfortunately, I have worked with far too many men and women who made an issue out of their sexuality during interviews at a law firm. This even happens if it is not on their resume. The result? They do not get positions.
I hate seeing this happen because it is avoidable. Just put yourself in the shoes of the law firm. Suppose they have two equivalent candidates to hire. One who makes everyone they interview feel comfortable and another who does not. Who do you think they will hire? Who would best represent the law firm, and who would they be most comfortable sending out to see a client?
Enjoying a lucrative career in a large law firm has nothing to do with whether you are gay or not.
A straight woman who dresses provocatively for an interview will not get hired any more than a gay man who dresses effeminate. I am not being anti-gay or discriminatory here. Your sexuality is not and should not be an issue for getting hired. You are there to work and not show people how attractive and available you are to the same or opposite sex. Leave it all at home.
Read related: Practicing How to Dress and Present Yourself for a Formal Professional Life
Leave Politics out of Your Job Search and Career
Being a political activist will not further your law career. On the contrary, spouting political views and opinions during interviews will likely cost you the job. Law firms don't want attorneys who cause divisions in the workplace.
I work with a bunch of brilliant people. I honestly do not know whether anyone working for me is Republican, Democrat, or anything else. This is precisely how it should be. It does not matter, nor do I care. I have never even asked them because I do not want to know. I love working on what we work on without worrying about any of this crap—and to me, it is crap.
Politics do not belong in the hiring stage, nor do they belong in the office. It just does not matter. Probably, I would not have hired most of the people working for me if they had made their politics an issue when I interviewed them.
What Politics Can Do to Your Law Job Search or Career
I worked in my office a few years ago with a couple of women who were extremely political. They were angry about everything going on at that time. And they continuously made remarks about this or that. Was it a nice place to be? Certainly not.
For example, we had a big screen TV in our waiting room tuned to a news channel. They would walk by it, get angry, and then talk about it for some time. Then, at night, they went to political party rallies and were vehemently against anyone who did not share their political persuasion.
Not surprisingly, they were also suspicious of others who had no political persuasion, like me. At first, they thought I was a far-left liberal. They would then say the most outrageous things to me but get no reaction. When I did not react, they decided I must be a severe conservative, upsetting them.
I have no idea why they wanted to make politics part of where they were working. It did not matter to me and should not have concerned them either.
But it did matter to them—a lot. They wanted to believe they were working for a flaming liberal, which was important to them. When they realized I was not sharing any liberal views, they assumed I must be the enemy, and they were furious about it. So being mad at me was also important to them.
It made very little sense to me since I have nothing to do with politics, but I did not explain this or think it was necessary.
The Odds Aren't in Your Favor If You Bring Politics to The Office
There are serious risks to making politics part of your job search or career. For example, statistically, identifying and acting as a Republican or Democrat will alienate at least 50% of the people who do not share your politics. You will be popular with some people but not others.
Of course, you are much more likely to run into other Republicans or Democrats in certain parts of the country. However, the chances are still too great that you will miss out on jobs and opportunities. You will alienate the following people:
- Half of the employers
- Half of your potential clients
- Half of your colleagues at work
The result is that you will be wasting a lot of time and effort on stuff that has nothing to do with your job.
If you want to be a politician and participating in the political world is essential to you, then go ahead and do it. However, if you want to be an attorney and represent clients, make this job and your client's matters your passion. Political leanings will not help you get a job or keep a job.
Why Politics Is Bad for A Law Career in A Large Law Firm
I regularly see attorneys in large cities unable to get jobs because they include organizations like the Federalist Society, NRA, and so forth on their resumes. Think about it—how will listing these on a resume get you a law job in a place like New York City or San Francisco?
Filling resumes with political viewpoints and opinions will not get you a job. People hire people who are like them. Even if you get through the door into an interview, your interviewers may find reasons not to like you based on politics alone.
But suppose you get hired despite a list of political ramblings on a resume. The people you work with will find reasons not to like your work product. They will not assign you any work and dislike you if you are loud enough about political issues they do not like.
The world is a complicated place. Countries go to war, and people kill each other—sometimes in the millions—over unshared political points of view. Therefore, you cannot reasonably make politics an issue in your job search and career and expect to get and stay ahead in most law firms (unless most people are like you).
Suppose being a political activist and attorney is important to you. In that case, it's best to find and work with a group of like-minded people who serve like-minded clients. However, this severely limits your job opportunities if you want to work in a large law firm. And I have no idea why anyone would want to complicate their job search and career this way.
Leave Religion out of Your Job Search and Career
Bringing your religious beliefs to the interview room or the law office is another thing that hinders careers. Like politics, religion can be a divisive influence among colleagues. And an interviewer is more interested in your abilities as an attorney, not a zealot.
Of course, you may be very proud of your religion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You may be very proud of being Christian, Jewish, Muslim—or whatever religion you are. But it is essential to realize that many people may not share your enthusiasm.
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Real-Life Experiences When Religion Impact Job Searches and Law Careers
You take uncalculated risks when advertising your religion or making it an issue in your job search and career. Here are two cases highlighting why this is so.
After the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, I had an experience with a candidate in New York City that I can only attribute to fear and racism. The applicant was Muslim and graduated from a top law school. He also came from a top law firm in a practice area that was high in demand.
As you probably guessed, he could not get a single interview, and firms were utterly silent about him. Not only would they not interview him, but they also would not even respond to his candidacy.
In contrast, other attorneys I was working with who were not Muslims were getting numerous interviews. I am 100% confident this guy was discriminated against because of his Muslim faith. None of that information should have been on his resume.
Being Jewish in certain parts of the United States can hurt you. Being Muslim in certain parts of the United States can hurt you. Being a conservative Christian in certain parts of the United States can hurt you. Advertising that you are a Scientologist will freak out employers in most parts of the United States.
Sorry, folks! Religious discrimination exists and can hurt you if you are seeking a job—and it can hurt you if you are trying to keep one as well.
Suppose I was in a major law firm and suddenly announced that I was part of a controversial religion and following its dictates. Do you think my law firm would welcome this? What if I announced that I was a fundamentalist Mormon with multiple wives? How would that go over?
When I converted to Judaism, I visited some working-class step-relatives in rural Ohio for the Fourth of July. As I walked around, I saw a bunch of them whispering, smiling, and laughing while looking at me and my exotic Jewish then-fiancé from Los Angeles. Finally, after witnessing this for some time, I walked up to them and asked what they were laughing at—I honestly had no idea.
"Your secret is out!" one of the men said. "We all know you are Jewish."
This made me uncomfortable because I had grown up with them and knew their thinking process. I realized they just thought I was an idiot for converting to Judaism. It is highly unlikely they knew any Jews in this rural Ohio farming community. But it still made me feel uneasy and like I needed to get out of there.
Do you think advertising my religion would be a good idea if I were trying to get a job in a law firm in that Ohio town? Absolutely not. I would have to be crazy to do so.
Lessons Learned from Bringing Religion to Your Law Career and Job Search
If you are seeking a position in a major law firm in New York City, advertising that you are a conservative Christian will not help—although it might be in the South. You just do not want to make your religion an issue. Every time you put your faith on your resume, you will alienate some people you would not alienate if you left it off. Why risk it?
Why make an issue out of it when you are working, either? If you want to work with people who share your religion, you can probably find a law firm where you can do this. But in general, you will always risk alienating others when religion is involved.
Read also: Strategies for Success in Law Firm Interviews
Leave Social Activism out of Your Job Search and Career
Social activism has the potential to limit your job search severely. You may find that even if you get a job, voicing the causes of various social issues will alienate you from your law colleagues. Typically, large law firms don't have social activism as a priority and will not hire attorneys based on their extreme viewpoints.
Many people are very proud that they support various organizations that aim to resolve serious problems. For example, organizations against pollution, sexual exploitation of minors, child labor in China, people eating meat, and more. They advertise this on their resume and try to convert people everywhere they go to believe in their cause.
This is not a good idea unless the cause is closely related to what the attorney does for a living—or wants to be doing for a living.
What Social Activism Does to Law Jobs Searches and Legal Careers
Years ago, I represented a woman who had graduated from Stanford Law School. She included on her resume that she had been raped and was actively involved with organizations for rape victims. She was not getting interviews.
I pointed out to her that the subject of rape might make people uncomfortable. She then accused me of being a misogynist. She told me that it was important for people to know who she was and that being raped was part of her identity.
So, I asked her if this was something she wanted to discuss in her interviews. She said it would be "inappropriate" for people to bring it up. I then asked her why she had this all over her resume and if it was inappropriate for people to talk about it. While I was sympathetic, I also believe she was creating an impediment to getting a job.
If someone has strong feelings about being a vegetarian, does it make sense for them to talk about it in interviews?
Suppose someone has formidable anti-immigrant or pro-immigrant sentiments. Does it make sense to make an issue out of them?
Of course, you are entitled to have feelings about social justice and other issues. However, pushing or publicizing these issues is more likely to disqualify you from getting a job—or keeping one—than ever helping you. You can fight these battles on your own time.
See related: The #1 Thing Attorneys and Law Students Need to Say in Law Firm Interviews to Get Hired
Do you Want to Work in a Large Law Firm? Here is What You Should Do
To ensure you get a top legal job in a large law firm, stay away from anything with the potential to alienate you. The rule is to keep sex, politics, religion, and social justice out of conversations. Even though they are components of you, these are the most divisive issues in society.
They will get in the way of you getting hired. And they may even mean losing your job.
To be a successful attorney in the largest law firms, you must avoid giving people reasons to dislike and not hire you. In your interviews, never make things about you—an attorney's job is to put other peoples' needs first. Your employer expects your work to be a top priority. Your clients expect the same.
The best advice is to always make it about them and never about you. If you want to do something that emphasizes your sexual orientation, politics, religion, or social activism, maybe you should be in another profession. Or limit yourself to a part of the legal profession where that is important.
That way, you will maximize your chances of getting an excellent law job in some of the largest firms in the country.
Read more: Seven Things the Best Legal Recruiters Do That You Cannot Do Yourself
For more motivational job and career-related posts, read also:
- The Power of Gratitude: Getting and Keeping a Job by Being Thankful
- Avoid the Dangers of Getting Jobs Through Friends and Family
- Focus on Doing – and Stop Talking about Those Who Are Doing
- The Kick-Ass Marketing Secret of the Most Successful Job Applicants and Employees
- Why You Need to Love Yourself and When You Need to Change Your Friends, Job and Life
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, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, 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 www.BCGSearch.com.
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.