I Need a Job, or I’ll Start Punching People in the Face


QI’m a super-bitter laid-off lawyer. I worked my ass off to put myself through law school at night while holding down a full-time job. I graduated at the top 10% of my class, did moot court and worked on one of the Journals. I didn’t think this course of action would land me in BigLaw, but I thought I would at least be employable. I’ve been job searching for eight—count em, eight—months with no success.

Meanwhile, all my friends who drank beer, floated without direction and generally had fun over the past four years are all gainfully employed with no student loan debt. Some even own their own homes, etc.

I want to punch these people in the face. Or, better yet, I want to just get a job—any job—and try to move on with my life. Any suggestions?

AMy name is Ex-Bitter for a reason. While I saw and did it all during my years inside the confines of big firms across America, I haven’t looked for a legal job in years. I’ve chocked my columns full of suggestions in the past from the perspective of the higher ups, but what response to someone who was recently in your shoes would offer?

So, given that my loyal readers have great insights they fortunately love to share—and given that you guys are a lot more dialed into the job-hunt scene—let’s turn it over to you.  What the hell can a (supposedly) qualified job candidate do these days to find a gig and not go postal?

Seriously. I’m interested myself.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

25 Comments

  1. Guano Dubango

    April 16, 2010 at 4:40 am

    You must keep your conscience up.  I too had much difficulty when I first came to the USA.  No one would hire me, as a non-US law degree was worthless.  So I took a job at the Giant markets while working for a graduate law degree, With help from my Aunt OOONA, I was able to secure my LLM, had a little money in the bank, a law degree from the USA, and had begun to learn about your social ways.  Now it has been more than a few years, and even though I still have not yet secured a bride who is interested in returning with me to my home country, I keep trying.  I too have had my setbacks, mostly related to women.  I need a steady girlfriend, not women who only have sex with me for the novelty element.  I am a complete person, not just a sex machine.  Once I can find a steady woman, I will marry her.  In the mean time, I too am tryng not to be bitter, and to “go with the flow”.  So keep your chin up, and you will have a job.  At least you do not have woman troubles.

  2. BL1Y

    April 16, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Some of this sounds familiar.

  3. Employed Home Owner with No Debt

    April 16, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Lower your expectations.  Send a resume to all prosecutor’s offices, public defenders’ offices, and small firms within driving distance. Work a couple years in the little leagues to gain experience and build a reputation, then make the jump to where ever you expected to be during law school.

  4. Smurf

    April 16, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Proofread.

  5. Craig

    April 16, 2010 at 6:28 am

    There is nothing you can do.  I would say your best bet is to try to network.  All of the lazy alcoholics who have jobs probably knew someone.  That is what you need to do.  Get to know the right people.  Good luck.

  6. Steve

    April 16, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I get it…I went to a New England law school full of spoiled brats in BMW’s…Only a handful of us had jobs and drove Honda’s, etc…I finally hung a shingle because the only other jobs I could find were with morons.  The priviledged brats all got fat jobs paying six figures to do work a competent paralegal can do.  Meanwhile, I’m doing it all and still don’t make enough to make all of the ends meet.  If you figure out a better way then please, do tell.

  7. KateLaw

    April 16, 2010 at 7:39 am

    I suggest working on your personality (I mean that in the least insulting way possible).  I think getting a job is just as much about your social qualities as it is about your academic achievements -if not more.  I don’t care what you’ve accomplished, if you annoy the hell out of me in just the interview, you’re not getting the job.  People hire those that they would like to work with.  I hire people that like to drink beer/have a good time.  Im a huge advocate of work/life balance.  Do well, but also know when to enjoy your life.  You’ll be a better & more likeable person for it.  That being said (and assuming you’re not a complete social ra-tard), I suggest the networking route; join a professional association that is not law-related (Im in the Young Professional Association in my city), start your own practice (several of my friends, including my boyfriend, have done this and are doing quite well).  The public defender/prosecutor/small firm route is also solid.  Don’t be picky and get off your high-horse about your law school extracurriculars.  They may help you get your foot in the door, but your personality is going to determine whether you’re invited to stay for good.

  8. DHD

    April 16, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Smurf you are a smurf.

  9. Mr. X

    April 16, 2010 at 11:55 am

    JAG Corp.

  10. BL1Y

    April 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Employed and Kate: I can’t speak for Bitter K, but I think I know a bit about looking for a job in this market.  Smaller offices and the government aren’t hiring any more than big firms.  The few openings I’ve seen are for people with far more experience than I have.  And, these positions get swamped with applications. (A recent job at the Georgia Law library got 20+ apps from students in less than 2 hours; it was minimum wage book moving.) Getting so much as a rejection letter is rare; interviews are a whole lot harder, so I doubt her personality is really holding her back.

  11. Pacific Reporter

    April 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    What can a job candidate do these days to find a gig?

    Bend over and I’ll show you.

  12. NOLA Lawyer

    April 16, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I wish I knew too.
    I find it scary that I can identify with people who’ve made the news by just shooting their co-workers, plowing their cars into their p.o.e. or just randomly start bitch slapping folks.  Fortunately I have an appt with a therapist soon.
    I totally understand.  It’s unfair and nepotism reigns supreme. Working for the government doesn’t pay but the benefits are good and when 4:30 hits, them folks shut it down promptly, which sllows me free time to work on my private cases (cha-ching).
    Um…I didn’t necessarily rack up $80k in loans for that but that’s the hand I’ve been dealt.  Unless I solo it, which is scary as hell.
    Ultimately, you’ve got to push it all to the limits.  Honestly.  Social networking (outside of lawyer groups), sending your resume EVERYWHERE, literally.  Hell, you don’t need 5 jobs, you just need one…so why not flood the market with your resume.
    Point is, is to get in somewhere…anywhere and be the best at what you do, then use it as a springboard for the next gig.

  13. r smith

    April 16, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    if you have enough cash to eke out a living for a bit, forget law firms.  Go work for dry bread with a Plaintiffs law firm, learn how its done and after a year, break off and form your own firm. You’ll be a millionaire ten times over before you”re 35.  I am sorry the economy sucks, but i swear its better to be in a bad cycle when you’re young.  All the best,

  14. Don't lower your expectations

    April 17, 2010 at 5:47 am

    Back to “Employed Home Owner with No Debt:”
    It isn’t lowering your expectations to go work in offices like the prosecutor’s, public defenders’, legal aid, or small firms.  Those offices provide valuable services to a range of people important to our society.  Get over yourself.

  15. Ace in the Hole

    April 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Go work the bar at Club Med or on a Cruise Ship.  You’ll be much happier than most BigLaw kids, I promise.

  16. BL1Y

    April 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Ace, I’ve actually been trying to find a job bar tending.  I drink a wide variety of things, so I’ve learned a lot of recipes and can talk somewhat intelligently about beer.  And, I get really annoyed with bad service, so I probably would be Johnny on the spot with getting drinks out.  But, there just aren’t any openings here.  I haven’t looked at cruise ships though.  Last week I checked out the classified ads to see what sort of jobs were being listed.  …There were only 6 total, for a city of 400,000.  Not 6 bar tending jobs, just 6 jobs.  Fuck this economy in the ass.

  17. Bill

    April 17, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I just attended reunion weekend at NYU and there were lots of unemployed lawyers there.  Even pretty women lawyers were looking for jobs.  So it’s tough out there.

  18. Employed Home Owner with No Debt

    April 19, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Get over myself? I worked three years in a prosecutor’s office making a name for myself. As soon as I had enough trial experience, I started looking for civil work and a job was easy to find. I chose a small firm because quality of life is so much better.  So nothing to get over, I’m leading that life.

  19. Prom Queen

    April 19, 2010 at 8:00 am

    I feel like right now over all other time the adage “its not what you know but who you know” rings true. I think more of your (our) time can better be spent networking over pumping out resumes. Maybe that is why the guys who drank themselves silly at the bar have jobs? Attorneys drink. Go to the bars they go to. And learn golf.

  20. prog

    April 19, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Let me take a wild guess: You live in New York City and are not willing to move out of the area.  Either that or you live in some other major metropolitan area that has way more legal graduates then jobs.  Either way, you need to broaden your job horizons.  I lived in San Francisco and could not find anything for about a year after I was admitted.  Drove up and down the state looking for work.  Finally, I find a job in a small rural town about 2.5 hours from LA.  Aside from it being boring as hell in this town, I am pretty happy with the job.  The only other advice I can give is I actually got a fair amount of job interviews of off “lawcrossing.com”, including the one I ended up getting.

  21. Magic Circle Jerk

    April 19, 2010 at 8:59 am

    You went to night school PT?

    That’s why you don’t have a job. HTH

  22. BL1Y

    April 19, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    prog: If you’re a young attorney it’s not easy to look at a lot of other cities because you can only practice within your state; you can’t get reciprocity yet.  The vast majority of jobs in NY are going to be in NYC, so it makes sense to focus a search there.  In states like Texas and California it makes sense to look at other cities because the states have several large cities.  If you’re in NY you can’t really look for jobs in Boston or Philly, even if you were willing to move because you can’t practice there.  I’d look at jobs in Atlanta, Nashville, NOLA and Miami, but I’d need a different bar for each one.

  23. DOMP

    April 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I could give one the younger, prettier lawyers a job if she is competent, work’s 8 billables a day, won’t gain weight or get a boyfriend that will intefere with my efforts to effect a Richardson-like relationship. Travel ability would be a plus. I suspect may women partners are of the same mind. Like somone once said, money, experience and guile beat youth, innocence and a bad haircut.

  24. Christine

    April 24, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Agree with the folks below that suggested networking outside the legal sphere. This includes going out with friends as much as you can and just meeting new people. I got an in-house job right out of law school because I met someone in a bar. I have been there over 3 years.

    Have you tried sending resumes to in-house legal departments? Almost every company has one. Good luck!

  25. Curtis

    July 1, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Just wondering if bitter K found any opportunity yet. I am about 2 months into my search for a job after barring, and have found the jobhunt completely abysmal. I have applied to over 200 positions, without hearing nearly any response, except emails saying “ I have received over 70 resumes per day, I will be contacting the top candidates in the near future” or some variation thereof, if i get any response at all. I have applied to a range of jobs too, not just private firms, including: DA, PD, corporate licensing offices, IP firms, JAG programs, state attorney, city attorney. My family has military contacts pushing the JAG program, but even that is only taking 20% of applicants at best according to the stats, and they have been inundated with thousands of resumes according to the news. According to the USNews magazine, the job market will soften by 2012, but I am not willing to wait 2 more years to find a starter law job.

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