Law director has some tips for finding a
Massachusetts Bar Association member David S. Merson is the
associate director of professional and career development at
Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He previously served as a
pre-law advisor at Northeastern University's Career Center. Prior
to his career in higher education, Merson practiced law for about
15 years, starting out as an advocate in the U.S. Navy Judge
Advocate General's Corps, and also serving as an assistant district
counsel and special assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service. Merson has also worked as
an immigration and business lawyer at a large private practice
firm. He later opened a firm with a colleague, before ultimately
starting his own practice focused on business and immigration.
Along with MBA Law Practice Management Section Chair Damian
Turco, Merson was a panelist on the Sept. 9 MBA program, "Your Law
Career: A Panel Discussion." Merson recently spoke with the MBA's
John Blazo about finding a job in today's legal market.
What is the most asked question you get in your role in
career services at a law school?
"How I can find my next job?" They want to know where to look
and what they should be doing.
What are your top three job searching "tools" every job
seeker should be using today?
I think the number one is LinkedIn. It is probably the most
powerful tool you can use to find work. It allows prospective
employers to find out everything about you professionally and
personally in one place. Second is whatever documents you are
using, such as resumes and cover letters. Third, keeping up to date
on what you want to be doing. For example, if you are in
immigration law, be up to date on immigration law. An attorney
doing an interview on campus asked students if they saw what was
going on with Google at the time, and none of them did. Yet all of
them said they were interested in business law.
What skills are in demand in the current legal job
The ability to communicate effectively, both in writing and
orally. The forms of communication change, but effective
communication is definitely the most important one. Also, the
ability to work in teams and appreciation of the field you want to
Are there any areas of law with a particularly hot job
market right now?
Areas of law that are hot depend partially on the area of the
country you are living in. Financial compliance and contract
compliance work is hot right now in Massachusetts. But energy law
might be a hot area in Texas or North Dakota.
What is the most common job-search pitfall new lawyers
fall into today?
The most common pitfall is just looking for postings and
applying for jobs. A lot of people send out virtually same
materials where instead they should customize them to the postings
you see. They need to think more broadly.
What about experienced attorneys?
Getting locked into work. Not that they are complacent, but they
forget about their professional development [or] don't stay active
enough. You should always be moving, even if you think you are
going to be at a job for 10 or 15 years.
What is the best thing lawyers can do to ensure their
networking efforts are meaningful and lasting?
LinkedIn is great. It constantly keeps you connected with your
contacts without having to personally reach out to them. It helps
you maintain professional contacts that you might not need now, but
might down the line.
For a law student or new lawyer, is it important to
Your first year and your first summer are just about skills --
learning how to be a better legal writer [or] researcher, learning
how to better working with attorneys or clients. It doesn't even
matter what the subject matter is. That's even true for second year
and summer, but then at least you should be exploring areas you
think you want to specialize in. Career exploration is very
important to figure out what you like or don't like.
How important is social media in developing a
If you are looking at it from an individual or organizational
perspective it can differ. As an organization it is important to
have a website that is more than just text and provides information
to clients and prospective employees. From an individual
perspective, blogs are important --- having a blog or something
where you are actively engaged and constantly involved in the
What is one piece of advice you give now that you wish
someone had told you when you were starting out in your own legal
When you are a law student and a new lawyer there is always this
expectation that you always need to be climbing this ladder -- that
you are supposed to be doing something for three years then doing
something else. They blindly follow this career progression without
figuring out what they like to be doing. It is fine for your first
couple years, but four or five years out you need to figure out
what you like doing.
How can bar associations, such as the MBA, enhance your
For students especially it can be helpful in a lot of ways. They
can meet new attorneys to not only grow their professional network,
but also their knowledge base.