Finding Success in a Tough Legal Market

The Office of Career and Professional Development presented a program for law students discussing the effect of the economy on various legal employment settings on Sept. 11. Richard L. Hermann,  a professor, speaker, and author of “From Lemons to Lemonade in the New Legal Job Market: Winning Job Search Strategies for Entry-Level Attorneys”,  offered a variety of suggestions on how to achieve success in the job search.

“Think outside the box, so that you don’t destroy the box,” Hermann urged. “If you consider this job market bad, consider yourself fortunate not to be in law school in the 1930s. In those days, if you wanted a job with a firm, you paid the firm to take you on an upfront fee.”

Indeed, a key component of Hermann’s talk was concerned with finding areas of the market not in a serious downturn. In other words, debunking the “no jobs myth.” And adjusting how you market yourself, accordingly.

Hermann pointed to Medicare and Veterans Appeals as two areas just-graduated hopefuls should look to.

“These things are at the nexus of medicine and law,” Hermann said. “And human bodies don’t change from state to state.”

Hermann also cited administrative litigation as an area ideal for prospective lawyers coming out of law school. With 130 different federal agencies in hundreds of areas around the country, there is significant opportunity for valuable experience presenting a case according to a fixed set of rules with no opposing counsel.

Other areas of interest according to Hermann included elder law, trusts and estates, business succession, and even real estate.

“We are aging up to 65 years old at a rate of 10,000 a day, and 10,000 new clients a day,” Hermann maintained. “That means a lot of jobs.”

Hermann went on to urge young lawyers to remember the benefits of working as a start-up in the law profession today.

“Never has the cost of entry been lower than it is now,” he said. “And more then 50 percent of American small businesses fail in the first 3-5 years. The comparable rate is 10 percent for small or solo firms.”

Furthermore, Hermann reminded students of the upside of working in a relatively stable field.

“[Working in technology], technology is lightening fast. Law is slow as molasses, and that means that gap creates opportunities for lawyers.”

The “no jobs myth” sucessfully debunked, Hermann went on to offer students strategies on how to snag the existing positions.

“The name of the game is separation,” said Hermann. “You have to find out what makes you unique and distinguishable from the competition. Seperation is the key to getting a job, and getting a rewarding and satisfying job.”

And it’s not just the grades.

First, Hermann insisted that the number one characteristic law firms look for is likability. If they loathe you, they aren’t going to hire you.

Next on Hermann’s list was fit. In other words, is a candidate congruent with everyone else in the office?

Finally, Hermann pointed to the importance of intelligence, and not just the academic variety. While law review, grades, and LSAT scores are critical, it is essential to promote both creative and situational intelligence. Hermann told his audience to realize that despite a struggling economy, there is ample opportunity for fresh lawyers seeking employment. The key, of course, is appropriate self-marketing and a positive attitude.

“Attitude is very important, and if you affect a negative one, you won’t get a job,” he said.