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Unsolicited Advice to Get a Legal Job

tendrepoisonrequested some tips on how to get a legal job.  Although it took me a while, I finally did get an articling position.  Here's my perspective on things.

1) Write thank you notes. At the firm where I secured an articling position, the partner kept the thank you note I had written to him from 5 months earlier because I was the only one that did. Make yourself stand out by handwriting thank you cards to everyone that you speak with (including articling students).  If it is during interview week, send a quick email thank you because with the time crunch, partners will not notice their paperwork.

2) Phone or email articling students before the interview week. Often at the big firms, the websites will have the articling student's direct line or email to contact them. Ask them what they like about working for the firm. When you get to interview stage, ask the partners what they like about the firm and see if the answers are consistent. I found that if you got an articling student on the phone, some of them love to give you advice. Remember to take it with a grain of salt though.

3) Apply broadly, including small firms. I wished I had applied at the small firm in the first place, and it would have saved me two months of angst.

4) If you intend to stay in the geographical area that you applying to, state that in your cover letter. Law firms want a long term commitment, and you want to show that you have roots here. At the interviews, I saw that part had either been highlighted or check marked.

5) Personalize your cover letter to the firm. I used the things that articling students said about the firm in the cover letter and why I wanted to apply there. At the interviews, I saw that part had either been highlighted or check marked.  It also shows that you just didn't mail merge and send the same form letter to all the firms. If you don't show effort in your cover letter, firms think you won't show effort in your job.

6) Get academic reference letters ahead of time. I found in classes in which I participated a lot in class discussions, professors had no problem recommending me.

7) Useful resources on questions of what to ask a law firm: http://www.infirmation.com/articles/one-article.tcl?article_id=2466 and http://www.legaltree.ca/node/674. I picked 6 questions from a seminar I went to and from the first article and wrote them on a list. Once interviewers asked if I had questions, I brought out the list. Most interviewers were impressed by my questions because they said, "Good questions." or, "I've never been asked those type of questions before," and they were impressed that I was prepared with a list. Also, go to lexpertstudent.ca to see what associates have to say about the firm (anonymously). Don't know what the US equivalent of lexpert.ca is.

8) If you don't get a 1L or a 2L summer job, don't stress (at least where my school is at). I would say maybe 20% of people have 1L/2L summer jobs but a lot of people that didn't have summer jobs, have an articling position waiting for them upon graduation.

9) Know what classes you will be taking next year. When firms ask me that, I had my list of classes written down with what professors would be teaching each class. At the firm that I got hired at, they even asked me what textbook I was going to be using for a class. Write down your previous professors and the subjects that they taught. I totally blanked out one time on my 1L course, and I felt like it idiot.

10) Another question that kind of threw me was when they asked how would I research a legal question that I had no experience in. The answer is  Always go to the statute first, then cases. Statutes include federal, provincial and regulations.

And since this blog started out as a fashion blog, buy the best suit and shoes you can afford and make sure everything is tailored. I love Theory suits.

I know none of this advice is groundbreaking, but I found these points helpful in the firm picking me.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 31st, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
Thank you for this. I'm bookmarking!
Jul. 31st, 2008 08:47 am (UTC)
Wow, thanks!
Jul. 31st, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
awesome thank you so much! can i ask how far do we have to personalize the cover letter and how much do we have to mention about our geographical ties?

Jul. 31st, 2008 08:53 am (UTC)
I only did one sentence each.

In the first paragraph:

"I am applying for a position of an articling student at Firm X. I chose to apply to Firm X because it...(following are examples that I used) 1) truly stands out as a small firm feel with big firm resources, as the firm is starting out in Edmonton 2) mention any previous interviews or contact with them even if it's just Career Fair 3) specialty area that they are known for

For the geographical area: one sentence is also sufficent. I put it in, "Having lived in Edmonton my whole life, I am committed to staying to Edmonton". It sounds really hokey, so I would rephrase it but I couldn't come up with anything better.

Oh yeah, double check the right cover letter is going to right firm. At a seminar, a recruiter said that she gets wrong cover letters all the time and chucks them out.
Aug. 4th, 2008 08:16 pm (UTC)
I totally agree on the thank you note thing. I wrote thank you notes to the attorneys who were particularly helpful during my summer job and it's amazing how impressed people were by the fact that my pen actually touched paper.

The US equivalent of lexpert.ca would probably be vault.com, although others might have better sights. Of course, if you want the gossipy version, abovethelaw.com is always good for a laugh or a scandal.
Aug. 4th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with abovethelaw.com, it's hilarious.
Sep. 9th, 2008 10:15 am (UTC)
After all that effort you've put in the past two years I'm glad you got a position! :o)
Sorry slow reply but I just got back to australia yesterday! :o)
Sep. 9th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks for catching up and reading!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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