How Many Firms and Jobs Should I Apply To?

It’s about striking that perfect balance that lands you in the sweet spot of job search success. 

So, let’s tackle this head-on and figure out how to play your cards right in the legal job market.

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The Legal Job Market Landscape

The legal job market is a mixed bag, with everything from big city corporate giants to small town specialty practices. But what does that mean for your application strategy?

Turns out, there’s a wide range of how many firms lawyers apply to. 

Some shoot their shot with hundreds of applications, while others keep it tight with less than twenty. 

On average, though, it looks like hitting the submit button on about 50 job applications is the sweet spot for most. This isn’t just about personal preference; it’s about where you fit in the grand scheme of things.

An overwhelmed lawyer sleeping on a desk piled high with stacks of applications and a laptop beside him, indicating exhaustion or overwork.

Your area of expertise plays a big role here. 

If you’re into more common practice areas like corporate or commercial litigation, you’re probably going to end up applying to more firms because there are just more jobs out there. But if you’re in a niche area, like intellectual property law, where opportunities are few and far between, you might find yourself on the lower end of the application count.

And let’s not forget about where you’re looking. Big legal markets in cities like New York or LA? You’re likely to apply to more firms, thanks to the sheer volume of opportunities. But if you’re eyeing smaller markets, you might be dialing back on those applications, knowing there are fewer spots to compete for.

So, navigating the legal job market isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. It’s about getting a good read on the market, understanding your specialty, and figuring out the best strategy for where you want to be. 

It's all about finding that balance and making each application count.

Let’s get into it. 

Key Factors Influencing Application Strategy

Think of the legal field like a giant buffet. 

Some dishes are always in demand (hello, criminal law and labor & employment!), meaning if that’s your specialty, you’re going to be filling your plate with a lot of applications because there’s just more appetite for it. 

A catering buffet with a variety of dishes, including roasted meats and vegetables, with people serving themselves in an elegant setting.

But if you’re dishing out something a bit more niche—like maritime law—you might find the crowd around your table a bit thinner. That doesn’t mean you pack up and go home; it just means you’re going to be more selective about where you send those applications.

Perceived Stability and Experience:

Experience in the legal field is a bit of a Goldilocks situation. Too little, and firms might not give you a second glance. Too much, without the portable business to back it up, and you could be seen as overqualified or too expensive to take on. There’s a sweet spot where you’re just right—experienced enough to be valuable, but still moldable into the firm’s way of doing things. 

It's a well-known secret in the legal world that firms favor candidates who show a pattern of stability and commitment. If your resume reflects infrequent job changes, it signals to law firms that you're a keeper, likely to stay put and grow with them. This stability is gold in a market where the cost of turnover is high. 

On the flip side, showcasing significant portable business, especially for those with more than six years of experience, can make you an attractive prospect, as firms often look for attorneys who can bring in revenue. So, whether you're just starting or eyeing that partner track, remember, your history tells a story firms are eager to read.

Economic and Social Cycles:

The legal job market doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

It’s swayed by the same winds that blow through the economy and society at large. When the economy’s booming, corporate law gets hot. When there’s a big shake-up in healthcare laws, healthcare law positions start popping up like daisies. 

Keeping an eye on these trends can help you figure out when to ramp up your applications in your specialty area.

The Markets You're Considering:

Not all markets are created equal. Some are oversaturated with law firms and lawyers, making them ultra-competitive (we’re looking at you, Boston). Others might be smaller but less competitive, giving you a better shot at standing out. 

Two lawyers in suits racing and crossing a finish line on a track field, with one outstretching his arms in victory.

Think about where you want to be and how many people you’re up against. If you’ve got ties to a particular market or you’re looking at less crowded spaces, you might tailor your applications to be more strategic rather than going for volume.

Navigating your legal job search is a lot like being a detective. You’ve got to look at the clues—your practice area, your experience level, the economic landscape, and the market dynamics—to crack the case. 

It’s not just about how many applications you send out, but making sure they’re the right ones. Keep these factors in mind, and you’ll be on your way to solving the mystery of landing your dream job.

Advanced Strategies for Legal Job Applications

Quality Over Quantity:

The key to a successful legal job search isn’t just about how many applications you send out, but the quality of each one. 

Customizing your application to highlight why you’re a perfect fit for each specific firm shows you’re not just looking for any job but the right job. This targeted approach demonstrates your genuine interest and can make your application stand out in a crowded field.

Strategic Timing and Persistence:

Timing your applications can significantly impact your job search success. Applying early when a position opens can give you a competitive advantage. Law firms often act fast on applications they receive first, especially when they're feeling the pressure to fill a position quickly. 

But here's the kicker—persistence pays. 

A close-up of a dictionary page with the word 'Persevere' highlighted in pink, emphasizing determination and endurance.

Sticking with your search, even when it feels endless, increases your odds over time. It's about being in the right place at the right time, with the right firm. And remember, changing perceptions of your career trajectory—whether you're moving up, sideways, or taking a strategic step back—can influence how firms see your potential fit. 

Make every move count, and let your resume tell the story of a lawyer who's going places, literally and figuratively.

Leveraging Recruiters:

Working with a recruiter, especially one specializing in the legal sector, can provide a significant advantage. 

Recruiters like BCG Attorney Search have deep insights into what law firms are looking for and access to opportunities that may not be publicly listed. They can offer personalized advice on your resume and interview tactics, ensuring you present your best self to potential employers. 

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Plus, their expertise can help you navigate the job market more efficiently, saving you time and increasing your chances of success.

These strategies emphasize a thoughtful approach to your job search. It’s about applying where you fit best, understanding the market’s rhythm, and not being afraid to seek professional guidance. 

Remember, the goal isn’t just to find a job but to find a place where your skills and career aspirations align with the firm’s needs and culture.

A jigsaw puzzle almost complete with one piece missing, which glows brightly, symbolizing a final piece or solution needed.

As you move forward, keep these refined strategies in mind. 

They’re not just tips; they’re tools to help you carve out your path in the legal world, ensuring that you find a role that’s not only a job but a stepping stone to your long-term career goals.

Uncommon Insights and Tips for Your Legal Job Search

Navigating the legal job market requires more than just a well-written resume and a law degree; it demands emotional intelligence, networking savvy, a strong digital presence, flexibility, and a commitment to continuous learning. These elements, often overlooked, are pivotal in setting you apart in a competitive job landscape.

Navigating Emotional and Psychological Aspects:

Job searching, especially in the legal sector, is not just a physical task of sending applications; it’s an emotional journey. 

Recognizing and managing the stress, doubt, and sometimes rejection that come with this journey are crucial. Staying mentally resilient and maintaining a positive outlook can significantly impact your persistence and ultimately, your success. 

Remember, each application sent is a step forward, not just a waiting game.

The Power of Networking:

While it’s essential to focus on applications, don’t underestimate the power of networking. 

Engaging with your professional network, attending industry events, and even reaching out to alumni from your law school can uncover opportunities that aren’t advertised. Sometimes, a casual conversation can lead to a job lead or valuable advice. 

A networking event with diverse professionals engaging in conversations while holding drinks and appetizers, in a bright corporate setting.

Networking is about building relationships, not just collecting contacts.


Optimizing Your Digital Presence:

In today’s digital age, your online presence can be as important as your resume. 

Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and reflects your professional image. Consider contributing to legal blogs, forums, or publications in your area of expertise. These activities can showcase your knowledge and passion for the law, making you more attractive to potential employers who often search candidates online before making hiring decisions.


Flexibility and Open-Mindedness:

Be open to exploring positions or practice areas that might not have been your first choice. 

Flexibility can lead to unexpected, rewarding career paths. 

Sometimes, a seemingly lateral or even a step-back move can provide you with invaluable experience and open doors to opportunities you hadn’t considered.

Continuous Learning and Development:

The legal field is constantly evolving, and so should you. 

A man at home studying remotely, wearing headphones while taking notes, with a laptop open in front of him.

Engaging in continuous learning, whether through formal education, online courses, or self-study, can enhance your skill set and make you a more competitive candidate. 

Demonstrating a commitment to professional growth can be a deciding factor for employers looking for adaptable and forward-thinking attorneys.

Armed with these insights, you're not just searching for a job; you're building a career that reflects your goals, values, and aspirations in the legal profession.

Your Professional Identity and Approach

Your journey through the legal landscape is uniquely yours, but how you present that journey matters. 

From the setting you're coming from—be it a law firm, corporate, or public sector—to how quickly you jump on new job openings, every detail adds up. Firms have their preferences, sure, but showing them you've got what it takes to adapt and thrive in their environment can set you apart. 

And let's talk about the elephant in the room—prestige and pay. 

Yes, we all have our ideals, but flexibility can open new doors you never even considered knocking on. 

Whether you're a seasoned attorney or fresh out of law school, embracing where you are and where you could go, without the baggage of titles or past accolades, can redefine your job search. 

It's about finding the right fit, not just any fit. 

So, how committed are you to your search and your practice area? Showing that dedication, that you're not just dabbling but deeply committed to your field, speaks volumes.

After all, firms aren't just hiring your past; they're investing in your future potential.

Two professionals shaking hands across a table in a bright office, symbolizing agreement or the conclusion of a business deal.

Closing Arguments

As we wrap up, let me share a slice of history from my early days in the legal placement world, over a quarter-century ago. 

Back then, patent prosecution attorneys were the hot ticket—law firms were on the hunt for them, eager to tap into their unique blend of legal acumen and scientific knowledge. 

These attorneys, aware of their high demand, didn't hesitate to cast a wide net, applying to numerous firms across various locations. 

And guess what? It paid off, with interview calls and job offers flooding their inboxes.

This approach, embracing both the breadth of opportunities and a resilient mindset unfazed by the potential for rejection, wasn't just effective for patent attorneys; it's a strategy that holds value for legal professionals across all practice areas

Their success story underscores a crucial lesson: broadening your job search horizons and maintaining a positive outlook, regardless of the immediate outcomes, can significantly enhance your career prospects.

So, as you step forward in your legal job search, remember the tale of the patent attorneys. It's a reminder that opportunities abound when you're open to exploring them and that the right attitude can make all the difference. 

Whether you're just starting out or looking for the next big leap in your career, the landscape is rich with possibilities. 

Ready to cast your net with confidence? Reach out to BCG Attorney Search, where we combine expertise with experience to guide you towards opportunities that align with your aspirations.

The only question now is, how wide will you cast your net?