Prepared by Joseph E. Ankus, Esq. Ankus Consulting, Inc.
Although it may not seem like it right now, searching for a new position is the beginning of a new and rewarding journey. You can be confident that our information is timely, practical and effective. Collectively my firm has over 20+ years of legal recruiting experience- with a majority of it being in South Florida. We have seen and helped thousands of lawyers successfully go through the search process and this guide will help you in navigating the market as well.
To this end, you need to begin with the following goals in mind:
- Evaluate your career goals, educational background, professional experience, skills and interest in a personal meeting.
- Review and revise, if necessary, your resume and cover letter.
- Review your writing samples.
- Prepare a customized marketing list to use in your own networking efforts.
- Understand the fundamentals of “self-marketing” and networking so you can conduct your own search with the highest possibility of success.
This reference guide will to help you get started on your search as quickly and efficiently as possible with the understanding that YOU are primarily responsible for your success. Getting your next job is a contact sport- you can’t sit on the sidelines and wait to play. You have to get into the game-professionally, confidently and with a positive attitude. It is going to be hard work- some days better than others- but the long term payoff will be worth the effort. You will be better served to think less of the end result (ie: a new job) and better to think of managing the process in increments (since there are many aspects to a well coordinated and focused job search). As you move forward, never forget these two things:
- The job market is always changing- every day someone is joining or leaving a firm. When it comes to your search, yesterday has no bearing on today and today has no bearing on tomorrow. Stay focused on the present.
- You only need to find one job. That’s it. Just one. It’s out there.
The overall search process is fairly simple and has 3 main steps:
- Where am I now (in my life and in my career)?
- Where do I want to go in my career?
- What do I need to do to achieve my career goal?
LET’S GET STARTED
Where am I now in my life?
In order to determine your commitment to the search process, you first have to determine where you are in your life at this time:
Here are some questions to guide you:
- Is my overall personal life in order?
- Am I emotionally healthy?
- Am I physically healthy enough to conduct the search?
- Am I financially secure at the present time?
- Am I fully prepared to commit to a full time career search?
If the answer to any of these questions is “No”…then ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I need to take a break before commencing my career search?
- Do I need to enlist the help of other professionals so I can be fully committed to my job search? Examples include: CPA, financial planner, spiritual advisor, physician, psychologist, personal attorney, etc.
If you are not personally ready to commit to a search, consider waiting until you are.
Where am I now in my career?
- Do I truly enjoy being a lawyer?
- Does being a lawyer satisfy my personal, intellectual, financial and professional career goals?
- Is now the ideal time for me to transition to a new career outside of law entirely?
- Do I want to start my own business- either my own law firm or something more entrepreneurial?
- Do I want an in house job or a law firm job?
- How marketable are my skills in today’s economy?
- Am I pleased with my own legal skills and training to date?
- If I were a potential employer, would I hire me? If not- why not?
- If I were a potential client, would I hire me? If not, why not?
- What are my top three strengths as an attorney?
- What are my top three weaknesses as an attorney?
Assuming that a law firm is the most logical choice for your next career, you now have to determine the type of employer you’d be most interested in- circle each one that applies best for you:
- Large national firm
- Large statewide firm
- Large regional firm
- Large local firm
- Medium national firm
- Medium statewide firm
- Medium regional firm
- Medium local firm
- Small national firm
- Small statewide firm
- Small regional firm
- Small local firm
Do my background, skills and qualifications match with the background, skills and qualifications of the firm sizes I have chosen from the list above?
Top Three Preferred Practice Areas (ranked):
Title: Associate/Partner/Of Counsel-
Most recent compensation: Base, Bonus
Compensation expectations: Base, Bonus
- Health Insurance
- Dental Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Disability Insurance
- Stock Options (in house)
Hours To Bill:
Work Environment Which You Prefer Most:
Top Three Preferred Cities To Work In: (ranked):
Remember the 3 P’s For References:
A Partner who Personally knows your work and who will give you a Positive reference. References from friends, peers and family are not useful. Opposing counsel and judicial references are better but not a complete substitute for the 3 P’s listed above.
Note: References can be a mix of strengths and weaknesses- the best ones are…no one is perfect…your goal is to have an open discussion, if possible, with your references so that the reference, while positive, is an honest and fair appraisal of your work and abilities. Below are some areas that you may want to target with your reference since they are some of the more commonly asked questions asked by someone checking a reference:
I suggest, if at all possible, to review them with your former employer. If doing this is not possible, then you should be prepared to pre-empt any particular question by discussing it with your prospective employer first that you think could be troublesome. Here are some sample questions:
- How are you acquainted with (name of candidate)?
- How long did you and he/she work together?
- During that time, what was your job title? What was his/her job title?
- What were his/her primary responsibilities on the job?
- How would you describe the overall quality of his/her job performance?
- How productive do you think he/she was on the job?
- How would you describe his/her attitude on the job?
- What do you think his/her main strengths were on the job?
- Were there any areas in which you thought he/she could have improved?
- How would you compare his/her overall job performance to that of others with whom you’ve worked doing essentially the same job?
- What do you think motivates him/her to want to do a good job?
- How would you describe his/her overall ability to work effectively with others in a work setting?
- Can you describe his/her communication skills (both verbal and written)?
- What do you think he/she could have done to produce even better results on the job?
- If I were to ask other people he/she worked with, how do you think they would describe him/her on the job?
- What were his/her reasons for leaving? Why do you think he/she is looking for other employment opportunities? Could he/she have stayed if he’d/she’d wanted to? Would you re-hire this person if you had an opening?
- If you were hiring people, would you hire him/her, and if you would, what do you think the ideal job would be for him/her?
- Are you aware of any personal problems that could interfere with his/her ability to do the job for a prospective employer?
- Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about?
THE SEARCH BEGINS:
While a majority of our focus is going to be on your own self marketing and networking campaign, it makes sense to mention the “usual suspects” when conducting a search. We have listed below some of the more common places to look for jobs. The good news is that finding the sites is easy- the bad news is that many other job seekers are also competing for the jobs you may be interested in (since they are open to the public at large). We know, from our own experience, that hundreds of resumes, (most of them unqualified) are submitted for each open position. Compound this with other work on a person’s desk and the odds that your resume will move from the intake pile to an interview call list are stark. Accordingly, while we encourage you to cover all your bases, we don’t want you to feel that submitting resumes to ads is going to automatically lead to a new position. Studies have shown, time and time again, that the best odds for finding a job lie within your own network and marketing efforts.
Places To Look For Jobs That Are In The Public Domain:
www.flabar.org (Career Center)
www.acc.com (In House)
craigslist.com (actually, there have been jobs there)
Florida Bar Journal Classifieds
Daily Business Review Classifieds
Legal Recruiters (use with caveats)
Your law school career service offices website (call to get password)
INTRODUCTION TO NETWORKING 101
People often over-use or misuse the word “networking”. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing inherently evil in networking and there is nothing wrong with reaching out to people you know and people you don’t know in an effort to expand your social and professional contacts. Networking is a skill- it can be learned and applied fairly easily. For some, it comes naturally and for others, it requires practice. Before we actually start to network, we need to do some basic homework to establish your core network.
Ask yourself the following questions and WRITE DOWN the answers in a useable format (ie: list)
Who do I know and respect as a lawyer (or anyone else in the legal profession) that will take my call immediately?
Which firms do I know and respect?
Which firms do I want to potentially work for?
Which firms don’t I want to work for
Which firms have I had dealings with
Where are my friends working?
Where are my classmates working?
Where is my family working?
Where are my opposing counsel working (if I liked them)?
Should I join an organization? (Local Bar Association, Historical Society)
Should I volunteer (Put Something Back, etc.)?
One of the easiest ways to do this is to use the hardbound version of the Martindale Hubbell which is found in many law firms and law libraries or the on line version which also works well. Pick a city and start working through the firms alphabetically and search for names of people you know. You’d be surprised how many names will jump out at you that you would have forgotten about unless you saw them in print.
This list will be known as your BASE LIST. We will use it to begin our networking. For the time being, set it aside because we need to make sure you first are ready for the networking experience.
In order to do this, simply rank yourself on a 1-10 scale….1 is lowest-10 is highest for the following categories:
Speaking To Strangers:
Speaking To Acquaintances:
Speaking To People Who You Don’t Know But Who Know People You Know
Asking for Information:
Asking for Help:
Asking for Guidance:
Networking is not nefarious, grubby or beneath you. Everyone, knowingly or unknowingly, is networking on a daily basis. The key is HOW you network. A definition may help define the concept- the Encarta World English Dictionary defines “networking” as “the practice of gathering contacts, the process of building up r maintaining informal relationships, especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities”. Like most contacts, it can be in person, by email, by telephone over the Internet, or by mail. We feel that in person networking is by far the best way but, in some instances, it simply is not possible.
Networking is NOT ASKING FOR A JOB. It is a process where you want to get information and give information from using referrals. My brother in law, a former Fortune 500 executive, was given a wonderful example about using referrals and the networking process when he was in transition. His top rated outplacement firm, Goodrich & Sherwood Associates, Inc. advised him that “the usage of a referral sets the stage for a positive networking connection and the proper approach to the meeting maintains it. In order to motivate your (referral source) to help you in your process, make sure that “you are asking for directions rather than asking for a ride”. Goodrich & Sherwood went on to explain:
A person with whom you have no relationship asks you to provide directions to a familiar destination five miles away. How do you react? It is very likely that you would tell them how to go, give directions and maybe even draw a map or have them follow you. The person has asked you a question that you know the answer to and you are happy to share the information. It feels good to do good, especially when it is at no risk or major inconvenience to you.
Now, consider this situation. The same person asks you to drive them to their destination. Because you don’t know them, you are not nearly as positive. You are uncomfortable, scared or perhaps angry that someone would presume to take that much of your time and effort. In short, by asking to be driven, the person has asked too much and dampened your desire to help them at all.
Therefore, the lesson coming from the Goodrich & Sherwood example is as follows:
Don’t be afraid to ask a networking contact for information they can comfortably give but always avoid putting them in a position where they feel uncomfortable because you have asked for too much.
CONGRATULATIONS…YOU GOT YOUR INTERVIEW…NOW, PREPARE:
Things employers are going to want to know about you (in one way or another):
- Specific reasons why you have left your previous position.
- If you have been asked to leave, or if your departure was mutual, what precipitated the termination?
- How much are you seeking in compensation? Base, bonus, benefits?
- Do you have any known legal conflicts with their firm?
- Do you have any portable business you can bring with you?
- What are your annual hourly expectations?
- Can you travel?
- Do you have any specific language skills that are relevant to their firm?
- What was your class rank from law school (if it is not on your resume)?
- Are you a member in good standing of all Bars to which you are admitted?
- Do you have any pending or past Bar complaints? If yes, explain.
- Do you have any pending or past malpractice complaints? If yes, explain.
- Can you provide transcripts for all your degrees? (You should order them)
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If yes, explain.
- Have you ever been a defendant in a civil action for an intentional tort? If yes, explain.
- Do you have any pending offers from other employers?.
- Can you provide comprehensive and appropriate references from your past employers?
- Do you have a current writing sample?
- When can you start?