I Want A Job But Have No Legal Experience


QI’m a “rising” 3L at a T1 university, a journal editor, a “B/B+” student, and a social caterpillar–I haven’t done enough in the way of networking to substantiate “butterfly” status, yet. I’m personable, make friends easily, and have always fared well in face-to-face interviews. Oh, and I’ve completely and utterly pissed away both law-school summers.

My first semester as a 1L (chiefly my torts class) derailed any plans I had that were contingent upon self-confidence; i.e., all of them. That isn’t to say that I didn’t understand the material. I was broad-sided by the final exam–my first law school exam–wherein I mysteriously omitted all discussion of legal duty. This was sufficient to earn me my first “C” since the undergraduate chemistry class that I attended three times. Although my other grades were average-to-respectable, that “C” and it’s four credit hour weight pulled me in to the low-middle third of the class, and sent me on a mental death spiral in to a world of self-loathing.

I only signed up for two on-campus interviews that Spring, and both interviewers gave me the same funny look when they saw the grade sheet. “You want us to pay you instead of that 3.8 standing in the hallway?” I was defeated before I knocked on the door. And I knew it.

So, in an effort to salvage what little appreciation for joy I still retained, I opted to turn my 1L summer in to my last “hoorah” as a free man. It seemed like a questionable idea at the time. Now it seems downright repulsive.

Along comes 2L Fall semester, and I manage to skip right over the opportunity to sign up for 2L on-campus interviews. My grades had substantially improved during the second semester of my first year and I had even received accolades for my performance in a mock appellate trial, but I wasn’t “feeling” any of the firms that were interviewing. As the 2L year progressed, I was interviewed and selected to be an editor of our journal, and my grades were stabilizing within a good range. Things were looking up for me.

So I wasted my 2L summer, too.

That’s right. Zero work experience. No internship. Didn’t even interview. I fired off a few late-in-the-game resumes and cover letters, but the kindest response I got was an apology: “I not only read [your cover letter and resume] all the way through, I wish I had openings to discuss with you.” Maybe I could become a cover-letter drafter?

And now I sit here, approximately one month prior being a full-fledged 3L, wondering what the hell is going to happen. I’ve signed up for interviews beginning in August, but I really question my odds. Would a small firm potentially bring on a newly-graduated JD as a summer associate? Wouldn’t that conflict with bar study-time? What’s a jackass like me supposed to do at this point? Thanks.

AYou got your work cut out for you, brother. Your story sounds a little fishy. Especially your second year summer. You weren’t “feeling” the firms so you didn’t sign up for on campus interviews?  If you had some alternate plan in mind, I get it. If you didn’t, you’re just a douchebag.

I’m all for “last hoorahs” and being a “free man” but your email makes you sound excessively frivolous and irresponsible. Anyway, to the question:

Here’s the good news: The game ain’t over yet. You still have a chance to find a decent job. It won’t be easy, and you’ll need a rational reason for being a 3rd year with no relevant work experience. “I decided to travel through Asia and learn Mandarin.” Or, “I helped build hospitals in Kenya.”

If I were you, I’d find some half-assed legal job the day you get back to school and stick that on my resume. At least you can talk about THAT in your interviews. My only other advice is, focus on small and medium-sized firms. You have no chance at finding a job in BigLaw. None. So don’t even waste your time.

PS: It’s highly unlikely a firm would hire a newly minted JD as a summer associate. To be brutally honest, the fact that you’re even considering that is sort of sad. Suck it up and find a REAL job – not a summer gig.

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.

16 Comments

  1. BL1Y

    August 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

    It’s going to be tough to find a real legal job to work during the school year.  I’d suggest finding a professor who you can work as a research assistant for, and see if your school has any clinics that would set you up with some good experience to make up for your shortfall.  Decent grades + editor of a journal could be the start of a career in legal academia, especially if you find the right professor to do research for and can write an article or two 3L year and get them published.

  2. Tito

    August 3, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Are you sure you even want to be a lawyer?  You don’t like the firms that did on campus interviews, so you decide to do nothing?  Granted almost every firm that does on campus interviewing primarily does corporate transactional work and commercial litigation, but that doesn’t prevent you from finding work in other fields such as family law, personal injury, criminal, etc.  Either start finding a job as a law clerk for some solo practitioner (even for free), or join a clinic.  Right now you come off as a slacker who just went to law school because you didn’t know what you wanted to do with your life.

  3. Kilroy

    August 3, 2010 at 11:51 am

    It is like looking into a mirror of my own law school days.  I didn’t know I was supposed to find a big law job after my first year so even though I was top 5% at T1, I didn’t even interview because I missed the whole OCI thing.  Second year I just didn’t feel like it.  So I ended up taking bar in the wrong state, moving and clerking for a year, deciding that state sucked, moving back and working in a prosecutor’s office. after a few years of working my way from the bottom, I’m now firmly established in shit law.  Kill yourself now.

  4. Anon

    August 3, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    There is actually an easy answer – killself.
    Not only will you never make it, even it shitlaw (after all, you need SOME experience), but you’ll be haunted by a worthless J.D. for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. So why prolong the pain?
    Alternative to killself: flee the country.

  5. Guano Dubango

    August 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    You people are being a bit harsh on this douche.  Yes, he could have been more diligent and in this market, he is not a very good candidate.  But you must give encouragement to this douche.  I was working at Dunkin Donuts before my Aunt Ooona decided to bankroll my education, and now I have a LLM degree and have some new female prospects who do not think I am unpleasant to be around.  So please to keep your chin out and you will have a chance if you do not give up.  It happened for me, so it can happen for you.

  6. prog

    August 3, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    You sound a lot like me.  My grades were kinda low first semester 1Y as I got used to law school.  Then my grades improved.  However, I passed on applying for the law journal even though I probably would’ve got on, and was pretty ambivalent about OCI.
    Basically, I had self-discipline issues and couldn’t get myself to do the leg work necessary to really get ahead.  Why?  Because I am a smart guy and so my whole life I have been able to skate through most things with a minimum of work.  That sounds like what your issue is and trust me, it will screw you when you try to find a job.
    I got legal work experience during 1st summer, both semesters of 2Y, 2nd summer, and both semesters of 2nd year.  Even so, I had a horrible time finding a full time job after graduation.
    If you are like most law students and will have a butt load of student loans when you get out – you need to wake the hell up.  It’s not a joke.  You will have a horrible time trying to find a job if you don’t have experience.  Everyone law firm knows law school doesn’t teach you much in the way of practical experience – so they rely on your previous work experience to gauge if you can offer them anything.
    My suggestion is find a firm, any firm, that will either pay you very little to act as a “legal assistant” or will give you class credit for being an intern during your third year.  Work as many hours as possible and aggressively through yourself into any project they’ll give you, or even projects they won’t give you.
    You really need to suck it up and start busting your butt.  Assuming you can skate through on your smarts like you have your whole life will not work.  If you don’t have that work experience you will be SOL.

  7. Juris Depravis

    August 4, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I’m with Anon.  Get outta town, one way or another.  The legal profession does not need yet another slacker “dude, brah” type like this.

  8. Ace in the Hole

    August 4, 2010 at 7:59 am

    You’re burnt for most jobs – when they hear you partied away both of your summers, they’ll think of you as unmotivated (which sounds about right, IMHO) unless you can come up with some really good BS about what you were doing.  Instead, you should be looking for that special, one off gig that you won’t find by sending out resumes – go hang out around the criminal courts and watching trials and talking to defense (or prosecution) attorneys and maybe you’ll talk your way into something.  Or, pick a field you’re interested in, start researching, going to events, etc., and networking your butt off.  If you’re going to find something in this economy, it’s not going to be by the bulk mail sorts of methods that worked when we were booming.

  9. wtf

    August 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Seriously, you didn’t even bother to do a single clinic in LS?  Anything that would give you practical experience?  What kind of retard is this kid?

  10. Kill Yourself

    August 4, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    I’m TOTALLY on board with the “kill yourself” advice.  You sound like a bona fide piece of trailer trash.  You have no prospects, and no possibility of ever succeeding in life.  Do us all a favor…go out to Radio Shack, get yourself a container of battery acid, and stick your face in it until you DIE.

  11. JR

    August 5, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Dang, I’m in a similar boat.
    I’m not going to make excuses, but here’s my story: I did my first year at a TTT where hardly any firms recruited 2ls in the fall. OCI was such a non-issue that nobody at school, or career services, even talked about it. I got really good grades my first year, and transferred to a lower-level tier-1, which, for a school of its rank, was usually visited by a LOT of big firm recruiters.
    Of course, the day I arrived at orientation for transfer students, I OCI was practically underway…but I didn’t even know what OCI stood for, let alone how big a deal it was. I was having major issues with financial aid, and was on the verge of getting dropped for failure to pay tuition, so I was kind of distracted my first couple weeks of school, during which time OCI came and went with me barely being aware of its existence, let alone its significance.
    Anyway, it wasn’t until fairly late in my second year that I realized how fucked I was. But, I found something. I was not something that was going to lead to a job offer, and it was, in fact, only tangentially related to the law, but it was SOMETHING to put on my resume.
    Throughout the rest of law school, I did judicial externships, and anything else that I could put on my resume. I knew I was at a major disadvantage, going into 3L with no job set up.
    And since then, it’s sucked. I’m graduated and licensed to practice. I still don’t have a real legal job, but I’ve been volunteering at clinics, doing contract work, etc. Again, ANYTHING that can go on my resume.
    I’d be lying if I said my job search was going fabulously, but I’m getting interviews, and I’m confident that something will stick, sooner or later.
    I screwed up. Big time. The difference between you and me? Once I realized how badly I screwed up, I did everything I could to cushion the impact.
    You, on the other hand, seem to have known exactly what you were doing when you passed up 2L OCI, and then failed to do any type of legal work after that. If you really wanted to do legal work over your second summer, you could have. Obviously, you were shut out of BigLaw from day one, but you could have found something.
    TL;DR – thanks for the story. You make me feel like a little less of a fuckup.

  12. Harvey

    August 5, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, fellas. The fact of the matter is the job market bites the big one, even for people that do everything right.
    Just keep on doing what you are doing–trying to get work; eventually something will stick.  Not everyone is going to land a judicial clerkship.  You dont have to be a beauty to get a Supreme Court job either.  So there is hope for all of you.

  13. quado

    August 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    My butt itches.

  14. Gunners = Glorified Law Dorks

    August 6, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Just start pimping yourself out to mid-size/smaller firms. Your T1 degree will go further with them than the kid who went to a T3 with similar grades. It wont’ be the highest paying job, but everyone has to start somewhere and work their way up (usually, that’s what summers are for…) All hope is not lost, but you have to get your ass in gear, open up the yellow pages and start sendng out those resumes. A friend of mine did everything right, had a decent job lined up after law school, the offer was revoked courtesy of the economy, and he spent his first year out sending out resumes. He sent one to every law firm in Atlanta and tried several recruiting resources. It took longer but he found a great job. You’re not out of the game yet, but you might be eating ramen noodles for a while.

  15. Author

    August 23, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Well, the responses were predictable. Fortunately for me, I’m in a field where the average person has the social grace of a dried dog turd (and often the smell and appearance to match). I’m not entirely sure why I sought “advice” from other law-types, unless I was just driven by the subconscious desire to experience this very moment that I’m having right now…
    You see, I had an interview with a reputable firm back in my home city approximately one week ago. It went well because I’m not socially retarded. Just looking at the face of the kid that was following me was priceless…eyes wide, sweat dripping from his nose…I should have given him an autograph.
    Anyhow, I’ve already received a callback.
    No previous legal experience. Two Summer vacations. And I’m on course to steal a job from some schlep that busted his ass to make up for his own lack of personality.
    Hell, I might even toss out a “dude, brah” during the second interview.
    Sorry, chumps.

  16. Lawyer

    December 14, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Old thread, but the dude had to graduate and get work by now.

    Better to be a lawyer that takes a year to find work, then to be in retail or the food industry your whole life.

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