Job Search 101
To be ready for the job search, you should prepare your “marketing materials,” which consist of your resume, cover letter, writing sample, references, and social network assessment. Even if you have no immediate plans to search for a position, e.g., you are planning on attending summer school; you should have these materials at the ready in case some interesting opportunity presents itself. The sooner you prepare, the more time you have to perfect.
This is your primary marketing tool, and should be conformed to the conventions of the profession. The legal resume is usually fairly staid, reflecting the fact that the law tends to be a rather traditional profession.
If you already have a resume, you need to think strategically about how to integrate in your law school experiences, and that may require you to edit down some of your past experiences. Unless you have significant work experiences, one page is usually sufficient. But a two-page resume is preferable to a one-page resume with zero margins and micro-type.
We highly recommend that you have your resume reviewed by someone in the Career Services Office to provide feedback and check for errors.
Download our PDF guide to creating your resume with example resumes.
Your Cover Letter
Individuals sometimes get so wrapped up in trying to write the “perfect” cover letter, that they never get the job done. Do not transform the cover letter into a work of art. It is a type of business correspondence with two purposes, to introduce you to the prospective employer, and to transmit your other application materials. Any other bells and whistles are nice, but not necessary.
Do not let the fact that you do not have the time to do in-depth research on every employer stop you from applying. Many people have been successful with cover letters that are short, direct and letter perfect.
Like the resume, it is always a good idea to have your cover letter template reviewed by one of the Career Services’ staff.
Download our PDF guide to creating your cover letter with samples.
Your Writing Sample
Some employers (and most judges) will ask for a sample of your legal writing. Most 1Ls use a memo from their Legal Writing class. However, you will need to edit the work for length as well as content.
As a rule of thumb, writing samples are 6 to 10 pages in length, focusing on argument rather than exposition. Consequently, you will want to attach a cover page with a description that explains what you wrote it for and what the writing sample is about or what issues it refers to, e.g., remedies under the NLRB, elements of self-defense, etc.
After you have edited the section and written the cover page, have someone else read it to make sure it makes sense and hangs together as a whole. And then proofread it again.
Gather the names and contact information of 2 to 3 individuals who can speak to your skills, professionalism, maturity, etc. These should be on a separate sheet from your resume, and not submitted unless requested.
When listing references, be sure to include his or her complete title and contact information. Also, if it is not clear from the title, indicate how that individual knows you. Ideally, you will want to have at least one reference from among your law school professors, preferably one who can speak to your legal research, writing, and reasoning.
And do not forget to ask the individual before using him or her as a reference. You want to be sure that the person will be able to provide a positive reference for you.
Your Social Network
The ability to network successfully has emerged as an increasingly important job search skill. This is true whether you want to stay in Arkansas or go elsewhere.
Start by thinking about whom you know and who they might know. For example, you might not know any lawyers, but you (or your parents) might know someone who owns a business who has contacts with a particular firm. Who do you know among the 2Ls and 3Ls who might have contacts with particular firms or other employers? Are there individuals in positions you aspire to that would be available to you for informational interviews? (This is especially important if you are thinking about a so-called “alternative career.”)
If, after doing an assessment, you think you need to expand your network, set up an appointment with a Career Services staff member. We can work on strategies to do so.