Legal Job Search: Two Essential “Pre-Requisites”

If you’re in the market for a new position in the legal field, there’s no shortage of career advice available. If you do a search, you’ll find suggestions along the lines of “refresh and customize your resume"; “re-engage your legal network"; “find a recruiter for specialized job placement"; and “search for job ads by key words.”

These are great suggestions and essential tactics. However, my initial advice to legal job seekers? After more than 20 years in the staffing industry, I find that too often, legal professionals ignore what I consider are two important “pre-requisites” -- steps that need to be addressed before thinking about launching into legal job search tactics.

Essential Steps to Take Before Conducting a Legal Job Search

First, identify what’s absolutely most important to you in a job. Before you do anything else related to your legal job search, take time to list various factors that are critical to your “ideal” position. This is paramount to your job search success. If you don’t flush out all the elements important to you in a job at the front end, you’ll likely end up making some poor career choices down the road.

A legal job search isn’t just a routine transaction. Instead, you should approach it as you would tackle any major purchasing decision. If you’re looking to buy a new house, for example, you don’t just explore all homes for sale in a particular town. You refine your search by “must have” factors -- perhaps a particular neighborhood with good schools, number of bedrooms, price range; and “like to have” criteria, such as a fireplace, hardwood floors and three-car garage.

Take the same approach before you begin your legal job hunt. Do some soul-searching -- ask yourself what motivates you in your work; what job functions do you want to do on a daily or weekly basis, do you want to work independently or in a practice group or team setting? And then create a list of the "mandatory" and "preferred" characteristics of your next career position, placing a value on how important each factor is.

Secondly, ask yourself if you’re mentally prepared to commit to a new role. A new position may be one of the biggest professional challenges you’ll face in your career. So it’s important to determine if you’re at a place in your life – professionally and personally -- to make such a significant change.

Too often, I’ve seen legal professionals take on a new and exciting job only to later regret the huge learning curve involved and the extra hours required during the initial months. So take stock and realistically evaluate if the timing is right for a job change and all it may demand.

You may also be interested in reading other blog posts we've prepared -- “Top 5 Hiring Trends for the Legal Profession in 2014” and “Client Service, Changing Demographics Among Top Trends Affecting Legal Profession" -- for more information on recent developments impacting legal hiring and careers.


Do you have a legal job search tip or a best practice that you'd like to share? We'd like to hear from you.