Conducting a successful job search

Some of the greatest hindrances to a successful job search are fear, avoidance, and taking short cuts. A successful search takes adequate preparation, planning, multiple approaches, and a good follow-through system.

Assess your job search arsenal

Time – How much time can you spend on the search?

Required materials – Well-prepared resumes; personalized cover letters; writing samples; notebook or system to keep lists of contacts, dates of interviews, and follow-up actions (See Appendix)

References – Faculty (law school and undergraduate), administrators, employers (legal and nonlegal)

Contact lists – Compile from friends, faculty, mentors, bar members,  professional meetings, educational forums/CLEs, social events, Career Services, reciprocity contacts, family, and potential employers. Your goal should be at least 50 – 100 contacts.

Encouragement – Friends, family, and Career Services can keep you encouraged.

Financial resources – The job search will require money. Some expenses are a phone, transportation, interviewing clothes, postage, and printing.

Develop your list of potential employers

Required usernames and passwords can be obtained from Symplicity. Resources found there include:

  • Bowen Job Postings. On the Symplicity home page, click the Job Postings tab. Employer job announcements sent directly to Bowen are listed here along with other popular sites with actual job postings.
  • Arkansas state jobs website – Every state has a job site
  • Linkedin – This social network site generally attracts professionals from all arenas, including legal.
  • Intercollegiate JobBank – This is a resource with over 175 law schools nationwide sharing alumni jobs. The username and password change regularly. Check in Symplicity under Announcements for updated information.
  • Reciprocity – Law schools share access to their Symplicity with students and graduates of other law schools through a process called reciprocity.  Email Bowen Career Services to have a reciprocity request submitted to another law school on your behalf.  You should not initiate contact with the law school directly.
  • PSJD Your Pathway to Public Service Jobs – A NALP Initiative that is an online clearinghouse for connecting with public interest opportunities and information on how to apply successfully for public interest careers. Contains information on public interest jobs globally and employer profiles.
  • Martindale-Hubbell – This legal directory allows you to research firms and attorneys, including rankings by their peers.
  • NALP Directory of Legal Employers – NALP Directory is one of the most trusted legal career resources available today for mid-sized to large firms. This source provides comprehensive information on hundreds of private practice and public service employers.  The Directory is fully searchable and free to you. Site includes a mail merge function available to students and registered alumni.
  • Government Honors and Internship Handbook – User name and password change each August and is available directly from Career Services staff only. Please contact us. This is a compilation of opportunities that can provide entry to various government agencies across the nation. Some popular honors programs have deadlines in early fall, around mid-September or October. Programs usually include HUD, the Department of Justice Honors Programs and the Presidential Fellowship Management Program. However, many opportunities, including those for 1Ls will have later deadline dates, usually on or around December 1 or early spring.
  • Public Policy Handbook – Username and password change each January 1 and is available directly from Career Services staff only. Please contact us. The Handbook provides students with resources for over 300 internships and after-graduation fellowships with legislatures, nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, and advocacy organizations engaged in policy analysis and implementation. These positions all utilize the skills of a law student – problem identification, policy research, analysis of the decision-making process and end result policies, advocacy, policy implementation, allowing students to develop expertise in specific policy areas such as national security, health care policy, technology and science. The web-based resource uses the Government Honors format, with a “Subject Index” that hyperlinks to individual entries.  Features in the Handbook include expanded geographic opportunities, a Table of Contents that sorts by geographic area, and a new table which provides hyperlinks to organizations’ job postings so that 3Ls can easily locate permanent post-graduate opportunities (sorted alphabetically and by subject).
  • EqualJusticeWorks – EJW offers several fellowship opportunities nationwide. Legal Aid of Arkansas might sponsor the right applicant interested in applying for the EJW Fellowship Program. Contact Career Services for more specific information. This site also is a great source on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, including the Loan Repayment Assistance Program and the Income-Based Repayment Program.
  • OSCAR, the Online System for Clerkship Applications and Review – lists many federal chambers indicating ones which have actual openings and how to apply. Other federal court positions (legal and nonlegal) across the country, from probation officer to judges, are found at
  • Phone directory (local)

The greater the number of contacts and interviews, the greater the number of job offers. Additional resources available online and in the Career Services Office.

Decide which strategies to use

Networking or referral campaign – Research and actual results continue to support networking as the No. 1 search strategy. It is most effective because it enables the job seeker to uncover positions not yet posted or even widely known. Even so, remember, the job search is still a numbers game.

Personal network worksheet

Networking log

Internal campaignSelf-marketing, volunteer positions, volunteering for positions, internships and externships: Remember here, after you find the job, “to be successful, look for work after you get the job!”

Job lists – Bowen  Symplicity job postings, alumni job bulletins from law schools across the nation are available on the Intercollegiate Job Bank, employer and Internet web sites, newspaper ads and professional newsletters

Direct mailing –  See NALP Directory of Legal Employers above. Other resources for local employers include; Rule of thumb: 100 letters means five interviews. Best used for long distance searches in conjunction with a strategic plan. Targeted mailings with customized cover letters are more effective, but also require more effort.

Cold calls and walk-ins – Can be effective for small firms and solo practitioners in smaller, less formal markets including Arkansas.

Head hunters – Several new and recent graduates in larger cities have had success using professional legal job search agencies.  These agencies are fewer in smaller markets like Arkansas.

Telemarketing – Can be effective for small firms and solo practitioners.

Contract work – Offering freelance legal services will allow you to keep your skills sharpened. Contract work also enables you to experience employers who may be of interest to you before a more permanent commitment.

Long distance searches

Many of the same strategies can be used, but you’ll have to convince a potential employer that you are serious about relocating.

  • Join the state and local bar associations in your target state or local community and start becoming familiar with available resources and the market itself.
  • Visit local area during summer and winter breaks; develop network. If you are returning home, it is important to get introduced to and involved in the legal community as soon as you can.  The development of your network is very important for your search
  • Subscribe to major city newspaper
  • Research legal directories for states of interest are accessible online
  • Network through professional and fraternal associations, religious affiliates, former school and classmates, as well as family and friends in the area
  • Attend job fairs and interviewing programs. Specific agencies and large private employers in some markets can only be penetrated via job fairs. More recent survey results report efforts to diversify the profession have resulted in a 2 percent increase in minorities and women in larger law firms, a somewhat disappointing result.

Don’t retreat

  • Try to identify a strategy not used before.
  • Contact old contacts three to four weeks after last contact with them.
  • Review your resume; it may need revising (network contacts may provide helpful input).
  • Analyze competition: What methods are they using?
  • Ask for the job.
  • Avoid taking long breaks. Anxiety builds, and it takes longer to restart!

First-year student timeline

Second-year student timeline

Third-year student timeline

Employment outcomes