How to Start Working in a Top Law Firm, Immediately
One of the biggest initial concerns of new attorneys is how to get a job in a law firm that you want. After I passed the bar, I did not have a job lined up. I began looking for employment by applying for every attorney position I saw advertised on . I soon realized that I was applying for the same jobs as hundreds, if not thousands, of other young lawyers many of whom were much more qualified than me. After about five months, I was applying for even paralegal and assistants positions. I was willing to do anything and travel great distances to get my foot in the door. After a dozen or so interviews it was painfully evident that I was over qualified for any of the support positions and I was under qualified for the attorney positions. It was the famous problem: you need experience to get a job but you need a job to gain experience. I decided I had to get creative. What I came up with is a sure fire way to start working in a top law firm, immediately.
Here is what I did and here is what you can replicate: I went to an office supply store and purchased the nicest folders I could find…black and glossy. On one side I put my resume and a writing sample of my best graded project in law school. On the other here is the key…I created a flyer which read “The Free Legal Assistant You Never Knew You Needed.” (I do offer a sample of the flyer I created and used through our website but it certainly something you can create yourself.) Underneath, I put in bullet points my passion for the law, a few highlights of my accomplishments, and an offer to work 1 day a week for the law firm preparing briefs, researching, and performing any necessary task in exchange for being able to shadow the attorney to court and ask questions about the practice of law.
Next, I found my ideal area of practice, the best law firms, in the location that was ideal for me and I created a cover letter specifically addressed to each attorney that I would be approaching. I found all of the information I needed through online searches: The attorneys’ names, addresses, and firm websites where I could read attorney profiles and reference some of their specific background information in my customized cover letters. Another great way to find out your top choices is to 1) go to your local courthouse and introduce yourself to the court clerks. Let them know you are just starting out and you figured they would have a great opinion about who the top attorneys to work with are, and 2) You can search the web for your local bar association. Contact the President (who, by the way, is just a local attorney – and I tell you how I became the youngest president of my local bar association in the program offered through our website) but call them up or email them. Let him or her know that you are just starting out and you would really appreciate some referrals of top firms in your practice area so that you may offer to work at their firms for free. You will get some great referrals and you may just get an invite, and possible introduction by the bar president, at their next luncheon! Sky’s the limit and there are so many ways to get creative with your contacts. But I …
Once I had prepared my top 10 folders, with personalized cover letters, I next spent the only $300 I had available on a credit card and purchased the best suit that I could get for my money. I told my boss at the time (working at a computer company) that I needed a personal day off the following Monday. I woke up early, got dressed like the best attorney I could imagine, and I began driving to each and every one of my top 10 law firms.
At the first law firm I walked into, there was a receptionist and, unbeknownst to me, the attorneys were standing nearby listening. I said “hello, I have an offer for the attorneys that I would like to leave with you. I am a new attorney and I would like to work at this law firm for free. Is there anyone available that I may speak with? ” One of the attorneys who had been listening (and clearly trying to avoid acknowledging that I was there at first) turned and introduced herself. I explained exactly what I put in the flyer and, after briefly looking through the folder she said “Okay, how would you like to go with me to court tomorrow?” – I obviously obliged. I called my boss immediately after getting into my car and let her know that I would actually need 2 personal days off this week.
I proceeded to deliver the rest of my folders. Another firm called me the same day and asked me to come in to talk. That firm took me up on my offer as well. Within 2 weeks, I had accompanied attorneys to court twice, and had the opportunity to speak with them at length asking so many questions that I had. At the end of the 2 weeks, I was offered a position with one of the law firms.
In those 2 weeks, I developed relationships and gained knowledge that I could not have ever paid for. Even if it were available, which it is not, I could have never afforded the information and hands on training that was invaluable to launching my I got it for free.
I believe this plan WILL work for anyone. Now, again this is based on my experience and it will likely be different for very large law firms. That being said, confidence, quality work, great presentation and an offer to work for free is a combination few business owners can afford to turn down. You end up with a hands-on interview process without the 30 minute standard question and answer session. As a final a side note, none of the law firms that I applied with were even advertising for associate positions. I was the associate attorney they never knew they needed. I dare you to try it.