A large percentage of all law-related jobs are part of the "hidden job market." These jobs are never advertised and include vacancies that are about to occur. In order to find out about these jobs, you need to be in the information loop. How do you get into the loop?
Whatever your answer to the question, "What do you want to do with your law degree?" the starting point is excellent academic and, later, clinical performance at UDC-DCSL. With this foundation, the legal world can begin to open for you. And there is plenty you can do in addition to studying hard, learning the law, and zealously and effectively representing your clinic clients.
It's A Small World After All
DC's private law firm, government, legislative and public interest legal worlds are huge, but relatively finite and interlocking. Spouses of professors at public interest law schools are attorneys for big private firms. Deans of public law schools active in Bar Association and other legal/civic affairs rub elbows regularly with every kind of public interest and private law firm practitioner.
Even amid deep recessions, there are always openings somewhere for those who have demonstrated their knowledge, skill and commitment through excellent work for some member of this great informal sorority/fraternity. So doing excellent work is the first step, the next is to make sure that the right people hear about it!
UDC-DCSL has a wonderful set of supporters in and connections to the Washington DC legal community. Over the years, UDC-DCSL students have represented tens of thousands of DC residents and have volunteered or interned at thousands of local and national organizations. The effort to establish the School of Law was very public and supported by an impressive cross-section of the public interest and private bar and the local judiciary. OCPD can help you figure out who within the School of Law community can put you in touch with folks who can help you.
Although we are technically a relatively new law school, our pool of alumni stretches back more than 30 years to the founding class of the Antioch School of Law, which graduated in 1975. Many of these people are at the peak of their legal careers and in positions of power particularly throughout the federal agencies. OCPD can help you search for alumni working in areas and for organizations of interest to you.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
First, if you are a student or alumnus, visit the Career Center, which will include a number of job opportunities not found elsewhere. Next, start telling everyone you meet what you want to do - you just never know who will have a great idea or contact for you. Third, contact everyone you know and ask them if they know anyone who might be able to provide information regarding your interests.
Identify Potential Resource People
Many students think they do not know anyone who can help them. Think again! Last Fall, after speaking with OCPD, a second year student realized that one of her relatives is politically active in the home district of a Member of Congress for whom she was interested in working. This kind of unexplored personal connection comes up again and again in OCPD counseling sessions.
Make a list of your current contacts and use them as a resource for additional contacts. Some potential contacts include:
- Family members
- Family friends
- Social/recreational contacts
- Current and previous work contacts
- Alumni from your undergraduate institution and from ASL and UDC-DCSL (both those who are known to you and those who you discover are doing what you want to do and/or where you want to do it) - contact the Alumni and Career Services Offices for help
- Acquaintances from volunteer activities, professional associations, and religious/civic groups
- Current and former professors
Rules for Networking
- Ask your contact for information, not a job. Your contact will be most helpful if you ask for things she or he can say "yes" to. Ask for information about career opportunities, advice, a critique of your resumé, etc.
- State your purpose early. Since many of your contacts will be to people whom you do not know, remember that unless they specifically allow you more "space," your initial contact should be brief and to the point. If they seem amenable, set up an appointment for a longer discussion.
- Make sure your contact has all relevant information on you. Provide the person with a resumé and update it as necessary.
- You have chosen this person for a good reason - they are in the practice area you want to explore, they are employed by an organization you would love to work for, they live in the area of the country where you want to practice . . . Ask them questions about themselves and soak the information up!
- Give positive feedback. The contact has provided you with a valuable service. Make sure to acknowledge this both in person and in writing.
- Keep good records. Know with whom you spoke, when, and the substance of the conversations. Then, when you contact them for a second or third time, you will not embarrass yourself by asking the same questions.