Getting Your First Legal Job: What You Need to Know |

Getting Your First Legal Job: What You Need to Know


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Following the bar exam, you must now turn your attention to finding a job after law school. How can you get your first legal job after law school, and how do you find one? The following is an overview of what law graduates can do and how they can land a job.


Entry Level Legal Jobs for Graduates

An associate attorney position at a small to a midsize firm is the most common job out of school law students. Additionally, government attorneys and staff attorneys can find employment with organizations. If you are interested in the public interest or university legal fellowships, you might want to look into them. Judicial clerkships are a common beginning to a legal career. There are other people who choose in-house roles based on their experience or their connections. As a JD student, you may also be able to work on compliance projects.

How to Job Search After Law School

To begin with, leverage your network and expand it as much as possible. ABA specialty groups are open for membership if you want to focus on a specific practice area. In the tax law group, for instance, you can connect online with tax lawyers or participate in special committees. Sign up for CLEs and network with speakers and panel members. Interview alumni from your school or people who have jobs that you wish to have. Your resume should be sent to professors with whom you have worked closely. You never know who will have a good connection for you - just ask everyone and anyone you can think of.

Use the resources offered by your law school at the same time. The career center at your school probably offers services such as mock interviews, resume critiques, and cover letter reviews. Keep an eye on your school's job board every day. Attend alumni programs and events and get involved with the alumni association.

You can find jobs on a number of websites. New lawyer jobs are posted daily on a general job website like Indeed, LinkedIn, Simply Hired, and Glassdoor. Public interest opportunities are available through PSJD. Seek out attorney positions on government websites. There are also sites for those who are looking for work in a specific field, like entertainment. On Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you can even search for keywords such as "legal" and "hiring."

Being flexible is also important. Consider something that gives you a foundation for your dream job, even if it is not your dream job right away. Employers who offer proper supervision and training are more likely to hire you. Other employers outside your geographic location may not require you to pass their state bar (if you are willing to relocate) - some companies may give you time to take it or transfer your score if you have not passed. It is a good idea to apply to as many jobs as possible, even if you are unsure of your qualifications.

While You Are Applying

The search for a job after law school might take more than a year, so finding work in the meantime to build experience could be beneficial. From December to February and from May to July, bar prep courses look for seasonal essay graders. Temporary document review attorneys are sometimes needed for weeks at a time by law firms. Consider doing pro bono work if you are comfortable volunteering your time. Work on legal projects is another possibility. You can easily sign up for Lawyer Exchange and submit proposals for short-term legal projects like reviewing documents and drafting motions.

After law school, there is no shortage of stress and excitement in finding a job. A thorough search and asking around will lead you to a lot of opportunities. Applying for different jobs and asking for help should not be a problem.

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5 Tips For Preparing for Your First Legal Job

It is important to know what to expect before becoming a new associate, as you will be expected to prove yourself, but the level of pressure and the expectation you will face will be enormous.

Understanding Who Can Help You

Although you may have landed your dream job yourself, it is still your first job and you will probably come in as the lowest in the hierarchy. A large company might offer training programs and a mentor to help you, but in a smaller firm, you may be on your own to navigate. What can you do to succeed?

The key to success for a newly minted junior officer is to trust their subordinates, as graduates of service academies know. Junior associates are also affected by this. It is likely that your secretary and the firm's paralegals know more about how the firm operates and how the process works than you do. They can be a valuable source of information from the start that will help you be successful. Knowing how the local legal establishment functions and how to get coffee made, operate the phone system, make copies, and understand what the firm does with billable hours will make your life easier. For example, the staff knows how to interact with local legal establishments. Asking for help and asking questions when you need it is polite and helps get you on the right path. A little politeness and friendliness go a long way and can reap significant rewards.

Key to Billable Hours

It is important to distinguish between billable time and time spent on other tasks. There may be differences between firms when it comes to which services and bills are billed. You need to make sure that clients understand how much time has been billed and not about the process. Examine why you are taking longer for a particular billable activity and perhaps only enter the billable hours normally associated with it. Often, new lawyers do not have enough experience to judge for themselves how long a particular task should take, so firms may tell them upfront how long it should take. The results are what matter; not how hard you worked. Remember, no one wants to be perceived as ineffective or unreliable.

Ask Questions

Ensure your delivery of the assignment is what was expected by asking questions; clarifying what was given to you helps ensure your work is what was expected. Ensure that the assignment is delivered in its entirety. Ensure that your work adheres to the project guidelines and does not need to be formatted or cover sheet-ed in any way. You should never take shortcuts. It is important to pay attention to even seemingly trivial details such as typos (or theirs), grammar errors, and spelling mistakes that can disrupt the quality service of your work. Make sure to proofread, check, and double-check everything.

Manage Your Time, Manage Your Career

Time management is key to success. Choose a time management technique that works for you out of the many available. Be sure you will meet your deadlines by planning your workday. You will be able to carry your habits and processes into your career advancement.

Make Everyone Look Good

Despite your nature as a senior associate, you are still important to the success of your firm and the reputation of its senior lawyers. Everything you do, everything you say, everything you do reflects who you are. Make sure that this job will be the start of a long and fruitful career. Knowing what getting started means will help you manage your expectations long-term, whether you approach law firm recruiters or internal legal staff.

Decide What Kind of Law You Will Practice

Even many new graduates find it difficult to decide on the type of law they would like to practice. In law schools, students might have the impression that they will be working for large corporations or for litigation firms. To be happy in legal career services, you must find a career that is a good match for your personality and interests. If you are having difficulty determining the type of law that would suit your needs, consider these questions:

How Much Do You Enjoy Arguing?

Most litigators do not anticipate the level of conflict they would face on a daily basis. Their arguments in court are obvious, but they underestimate the ongoing animosity they have with opposing counsel. Those who wish to become litigators should enjoy fighting. Litigators who are the happiest love the game and thrive on winning.

A different law job might be a better fit for you if you are more conciliatory. There is the option to switch your litigation firm if you are not satisfied with your choice.

What Motivates You About Money?

The lowest-paid lawyers tend to be the most satisfied, according to studies. There is often a trade-off between meaningful work and high pay in the legal profession. In a job where you have a strong desire to make a lot of money, you are going to be happier than someone who has a weak financial motivation and who cares more about doing meaningful and important work. For lasting happiness, it is important to understand where you fall on this spectrum.

How Much Control Do You Need Over Your Work-Life?

Legal professionals will not necessarily be able to exercise perfect control over their work. The court might require it, your non-profit may have a funding cycle, or your partnerships might demand it. You can gain more control over your work life by starting a solo practice or taking a position at a government agency with more predictable hours and demands. Work environments vary, and everybody thrives in a different type, so consider your own needs. BigLaw is probably not the best choice for you if you want autonomy and control over your time.

How Much Interaction Do You Need With Other People?

Generally speaking, law attracts introverts. It is important to seek out legal jobs where you will have ongoing contact with other people or a legal community. The reality is that lawyers spend most of their time churning out work in their own offices. Whether you want to work in a team or just attend court regularly, you will have to proactively seek out these experiences.

What Do You Like to Do?

Pay attention to the type of work you enjoy as you go through law school or your early legal career. Do you enjoy writing briefs the most? Working with clients? Negotiating deals? Planning an oral argument? Having to work a lot as a lawyer means looking at the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day tasks you will actually be doing. As an attorney, you will be much happier if you enjoy the work you do every day.

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Top 10 Legal Careers

There has almost always been a legal profession in the US on the list of top-ranking and best-paying jobs, making it an attractive career choice for many. The following is a list of the top 10 legal careers in the US, based on factors such as popularity, salary, and job satisfaction.
  1. Litigation and Trial Lawyers- There is high demand for lawyers who represent clients in both civil and criminal cases.  When they are successful in their cases, they get well paid. Legal professionals are the top earners in the legal field. Depending on their location and the litigation process they handle, their salary and experience may vary.
  2. General Counsels- A general counsel oversees the legal department of a corporation. A typical executive earns an executive-level salary and may earn more money through stock options or stock dividends.
  3. Judges- Judges receive health benefits, expense accounts, and retirement contributions on their behalf, which increase their compensation package.
  4. Academia- It can be challenging to land a teaching assistant or faculty position in law schools. Law school teaching in the United States is one of the top-paying jobs in the country because top candidates will need a law degree from top law schools, high grades, work experience, publication in scholarly journals, etc. There is a wide range of salaries that would depend on an individual's educational background, experience, and location.
  5. Arbitrators, Mediators, or Conciliators- Lawyers or industry experts serve as arbitrators. As an impartial third party, they listen to and decide conflicts between opposing parties. Alternatively, mediators assist in resolving disputes. They assist opposing parties in reaching an agreement.
  6. Litigation Support Roles- Computerized litigation support involves organizing, analyzing, and presenting case materials. A litigation support professional is paid well and has a law degree or an advanced degree in technology.  Many law firms are increasingly opting for technology-based roles, such as legal research, database managing, or administrative functions to handle processes and data.
  7. Legal Specialist Roles- Legal specialist roles have specific industry knowledge and are also gaining popularity. Apart from drafting, editing, and updating legal documents and validating their accuracy, a legal specialist may assist with scheduling, obtaining equipment, and editing presentations and notes. The majority of the work involves being a part of the organization's processes and developing, implementing, and validating document management, version management, and discovery processes.
  8. Law Firm Administration: A law firm administrator typically works regular hours and earns good wages. Besides overseeing the business aspect of running a law firm, they also manage non-legal aspects such as business development, human resources, facilities management, technology, marketing, and practice management. People seeking a regular job in the legal industry can find this a great career option.
  9. International Organizations- Candidates often consider a career with an international organization such as the UN, an international charity, or a campaigning organization, although these jobs are not the best-paying ones. A career in international relations is a career option for many students and recent graduates, particularly those with a background in law.  New graduates have few options for employment in this field other than as an intern or volunteer, although it can be rewarding.
  10. Law Firm Consultant/Legal Recruited- Despite the varied work environment, flexibility, travel, and ability to attend meetings, law firm consultants enjoy good working relationships. Legal recruiters play a vital role in linking top law firms with new entrants. Recruitment agencies are capable of identifying law graduates, reviewing their CVs, and conducting interviews. This position is better suited to those who have recruitment experience.

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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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