From the Introduction of How to Get a Legal Job: A Guide for New Attorneys and Law School Students:
“There are a billion résumé writing books on the market.
Why should I bother reading this one?”
It certainly seems like there are a billion résumé writing books in print. Yet only a handful of these books are dedicated to attorneys and other legal professionals. Worse, I did not find one that was clearly written by an attorney with experience in law practice and experience in hiring other lawyers.
That means that not one of these authors has:
• Experienced law school and understands the technical field that is law;
• Worked as an attorney in different legal environments;
• Supervised and mentored lawyers and other legal professionals; and
• Participated in the legal hiring process from both the employer’s side and the job applicant’s side.
Necessarily, then, these authors’ advice is usually generalized and based on limited personal experience with law. But generalized résumé writing advice won’t help you get a top legal job. In fact, it can hurt your chances, preventing an otherwise qualified candidate from even getting an interview.
That’s how this Guide is different.
This Guide recognizes that law is not a general field; it is a particular field with its own peculiarities and hiring practices. Applying to work in an international, Manhattan-based law firm as a mid-level litigation associate specializing in white collar defense and corporate investigations is not the same as applying to work as a kindergarten teacher, a graphic designer, a loan officer, a bank teller, a veterinary assistant, a salesperson, a hydraulics engineer, or any other position. This Guide’s goal is not to provide you with generalized advice that will help you get one of these other positions. Instead, this Guide has one simple goal: helping new attorneys and law school students to get legal jobs.
“I’m sure I can find some good advice in those other career advice books.
Why would you go through all the effort of writing another one?”
That’s an even easier question to answer: because I am tired of seeing bad legal résumés that are written by attorneys and law students who follow the guidance of general career advice books. These are job seekers who are frustrated and confounded by résumés they have diligently put together, but which fail to secure them interviews for legal work. These are job seekers who deserve better than general career advice that may be beneficial in most industries, but may be detrimental in the legal field. These are job seekers that deserve advice specifically written for them. These are job seekers like you.
“So what do I get for plunking down my money for this book?”
Well, here are a few things you won’t get by buying this concise Guide:
• A generic book stuffed with information about other industries.
• A book that’s padded with hundreds of pages of identical résumés and cover letters so that you initially feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, but later realize that you’ve been suckered.
• A book that skimps on the nuts and bolts of the “how tos,” leaving you no better prepared to draft your own résumé and other career documents, to walk into an interview, or to advance your career.
• A book that’s a 500-page “feel good,” pseudo-psychology pep talk.
• A book whose sole purpose is to promote its author’s services, either through straight salesmanship or by so thoroughly confusing/frightening/frustrating you about the process that you feel you have no choice but to hire the author to handle it for you.
Instead, I’m assuming that you’re seriously considering making a professional change and that you can find your own motivation to do so when the time is right for you. So this Guide focuses on delivering relevant career information straight from hiring professionals to empower you:
• To better understand the hiring process;
• To think through and create your own stellar career documents;
• To get and ace job interviews;
• To get a job offer; and
• To quit your current position (if you have one) without burning bridges.
“What makes you think you know so much?”
Long story short, after college at The Johns Hopkins University, I attended and graduated from Harvard Law School. Of course, I had to do my own search for my first legal job and HLS’s career center helped quite a bit by providing all sorts of good information on employers and basic résumé writing. I certainly made mistakes and I’ve learned from them—and continue to make and learn from mistakes.
I’ve worked in a boutique firm in Washington, DC, a regional firm in New Jersey, and an international firm in Manhattan. I’ve also served in-house for a company. At that regional New Jersey firm, I not only served on the hiring committee, but I also:
• Participated in determining the firm’s hiring needs, made hiring recommendations, and contributed to hiring decisions;
• Interviewed candidates and attended recruiting events;
• Evaluated applicants’ résumés and credentials; and
• Mentored junior associates and staff with their transition to the firm.
After leaving that firm, I began my own boutique company writing legal résumés and providing job search (and career development) counseling to attorneys and other legal professionals. All in all, I had more than a decade of legal résumés and career development expertise under my belt when I started writing this Guide.
But more importantly, even with all that experience, I didn’t presume that I knew everything about legal résumés and the legal hiring process when I started writing. That’s why I interviewed attorneys in government, non-profits, academia, firms of all sizes and all over the country, companies, regulated businesses, and quasi-legal professions (many listed by name in the Acknowledgments). No matter what their practice area, geography, or type of employer, their comments were amazingly consistent. This book is a compendium not only of my advice, but of theirs.
 If such a book does exist, then please let me know because I sure haven’t found it!
 Of course, I’m not claiming that each person who contributed to this Guide agrees with every line of this Guide. Nor do these views purport to be those of contributors’ employers. Lastly, any errors are mine entirely.
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