7 Job Search Tips Legal Professionals Can Ignore

By Jamy Sullivan on February 3, 2023 at 2:16pm

By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD, Executive Director, Legal Practice Group, Robert Half

When starting your search for a new job in the legal field, you’ll probably have career advice pouring in from colleagues, friends, family and online sources. But among all the well-meaning recommendations, you’ll certainly hear a few duds.

Robert Half’s legal talent solutions professionals are here to help! For starters, here are seven pervasive myths about the legal job search you can feel free to completely disregard:

1. Openings are always advertised

In fact, some of the most sought-after legal positions never reach job boards. Law firms and corporate law departments often look first to their own professional connections and associations to fill vacancies before turning to job listings. These employers likely also have an employee referral program, which gives priority to friends and outside colleagues because they’re known quantities. So, while job search websites are an integral part of today’s job hunting process, don’t overlook good, old-fashioned networking — both in-person and via social media.

2. Cover letters are just a quaint formality

Quite the opposite. This document is your writing sample, statement of purpose and a window into your personality all rolled into one. Like resumes, cover letters should be concise, typo-free, well written and tailored to the specific position. Even if a job posting or online application system says the cover message is optional, you could improve your chances of impressing hiring managers with an expertly crafted letter.

3. Use a gimmick to stand out from other candidates

Don’t resort to cutesy antics, which usually backfire, but do leave a lasting impression on potential employers. Emphasize and get noticed for your brilliant legal mind, stellar soft skills and keen business acumen — not your cheetah-print suit or colorful resume in Comic Sans and Brush Script fonts.

4. Following up makes you seem pushy

Many professionals have the mentality of being overly solicitous and self-effacing when applying for jobs. They think, If the law firm really wants me, they will call or email, right? Not always.

It’s true some job postings state to not contact the employer. However, when there’s no such prohibition, a polite follow-up — either after you submit the application or a few days after the interview — could be just the extra measure needed to tip the scale in your favor. It also demonstrates your drive, determination and perseverance — three traits legal managers like to see in their staff members.

5. Always say ‘yes’ to a job offer

It’s always tempting to take the first offer that comes along — the “sure thing.” But be fair to yourself: Don’t accept a position out of desperation.

Let’s say you applied for what seemed to be a good job, but during the interview process you had an unsettled feeling about the firm’s ethics, or you’ve determined the workload is the equivalent of two full-time legal specialists. Be sure to evaluate each offer independently on its own merits, and don’t be afraid to decline a job that isn’t a good fit.

6. Don’t waste your time on temporary employment

Whether you’re a new graduate or between jobs, it’s worth your while to look at project-based legal work. Some employers are wary of hiring until they first try out a candidate in real time. Think of this short-term assignment as a test drive. If you pass the test, you might be offered full-time employment.

Even if you are just filling in for an employee on leave, it’s still not a waste of time because that person may not come back, or another job within the firm could open up. In short, temporary legal jobs get your foot in the door and give you valuable work experience.

7. Only top lawyers can discuss compensation

No matter how much or how little legal work experience you have, it never hurts to negotiate salary and benefits before accepting a job offer. If you haven’t yet researched what your labor and work history are worth, consult resources like the Robert Half Salary Guide. Your assertiveness could net you more money and extra perks — as long as your counteroffer is reasonable and you negotiate professionally.

There’s no shortage of legal career tips out there, but here’s one more: Learn to separate myth from bona fide advice. If you’re unsure about something, do some research to get a gauge on it. By leaving the bad ideas behind, you increase your chances of landing that coveted job in the legal profession.

Search our legal jobs page for current opportunities.

Follow Jamy Sullivan on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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