Job search dos and don’ts

Issue October 2010

In a challenging job market, new lawyers should be aware of things they can do - or avoid doing - to help in both the short and long term.

Stephen Seckler

"Entry-level law is very soft. Competition is high," says Seckler, president of Seckler Legal coaching in Newtonville. "There are a number of things to do and a number of things to avoid."

Seckler has 20 years' experience in legal job consulting and recruiting in the Boston area, and is now a legal coach - which, in today's economy, is a growth area. His tips include:

DO find a non-job-search activity you enjoy, and practice it regularly. Not only does this reinforce the positive - it also provides a potential topic of conversation with people you meet in your job search who may have mutual interests.

DO network. And when you do, focus your requests for job-search information. Job offers are more likely to come from friends of friends than friends, so the more specific you are, the easier it is for your network contacts to give you information that is targeted and useful.

DO listen. Talk 20 percent of the time and listen the other 80 percent.

DO find ways to be productive that continue to demonstrate that you are interested in whatever discipline in which you're seeking a job. Write, do pro bono work or serve on legal committees.

DO revisit the career center at your law school. Many have posted extensive information on their Web sites. Those who complain that their career center didn't do anything for them probably didn't take responsibility for their own career success.

DON'T say to a prospective employer, "I'll do anything." It sounds as if you don't know what you want.

DON'T ask an interviewer questions about the firm or company for which you could have gotten an answer online.

DON'T take on work in an area in which you have no interest, if you can avoid it. Keep in mind that any non-career-focused job choice will have to be explained to potential employers later.

Gina Walcott

As executive director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, Walcott urges job-seekers to use their time wisely - to reflect on what they want to do and those areas of discipline for which they are well-suited.

DO steer clear of doomsayers.

DO get out into the legal community. Yes, you'll have to answer a few questions about your current circumstances, but you'll have to do that anyway. Get the 'practice' out of the way, so you're not answering those questions for the first time in a job interview.

DO utilize support groups such as those run by LCL, a free, confidential, independent private corporation.

DO ask for discounts on programs, seminars and memberships. Update your contact information with the Massachusetts Bar Association. If you are among the newly laid-off, notify the MBA, or your communications will keep being sent to your former workplace. Unemployed members can receive significant dues discounts that will allow them to keep current on developments in the profession.

DON'T isolate yourself. When you are no longer volunteering and you are letting go of relationships you had from before, you're making yourself feel worse.

DON'T be so proud that you turn away offers of assistance and opportunities.