Your Legal Career Search: An Overview
Landing your the job you want after graduation requires preparation. Learn what you can do during law school to get to where you want to be.
Self-Assessment: This is a continuous process of self-evaluation that should continue throughout your career. At this stage it includes determining your overall career goals, your substantive areas of interest, the types of clients and co-workers you would like to have, the geographic area in which you would prefer to live, the personal and profession support system you would like to have around you, and various other issues. This critical piece of the process can give shape to your entire career path, help you to manage the vast world of information available to you, and help you find satisfaction in your career choices.
Job Search Skills: These include cover letter and resume writing, networking, conducting informational and job interviews, and generally learning about legal practice and marketing yourself to employers.
Legal Skills: In addition to your academic performance, employers will look for practical experience and legal skills development. These skills include research, writing, analysis, communication, and negotiation, among others. (An extensive list of skills valued in legal practice can be found at the end of this section.) Many of these skills can be developed during internships, summer positions, and work in the Law School Clinics, and are transferable between different areas of practice, so don’t be afraid to try something even if you are not sure you will pursue it as a career.
First Year Career Development Steps
- Identify your career goals, personal priorities, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Begin learning about areas of law and identifying your areas of interest. One key resource to learn about practice areas is The Official Guide to Legal Specialties: An Insider's Guide to Every Major Practice Area, copies of which were given to all 1Ls at our first program and which are available from OCS.
- Read the OCS Bulletin, the weekly email from OCS. This is an important resource for learning about specific opportunities, events, and resources.
- Meet and begin to network with people in the fields that interest you.
- Attend OCS and other Law School programming. This is a great way to meet alumni and practitioners and to learn about topics of interest.
Job Search Skills:
- Draft a legal resume and cover letter and have it reviewed by an OCS counselor.
- Meet with an OCS counselor to develop a career plan.
- Attend OCS programming on job options, interviewing, and other job search skills.
- Begin networking.
- Study and learn! Your required courses provide an essential foundation.
- Keep track of the practitioners you meet during the school year and over the summer.
- Keep a log of your assignments and copies of your written work from your summer job.
- Be sure you get a variety of assignments that build different skills.
- Attend functions over the summer outside of your own office (for example, bar association events).
Second and Third Year Career Development Steps
- Review and revise your career plan.
- Consider the positives and negatives of the job environment you were in during the summer. Compare that environment to other work experiences you have had.
- Continue to attend on-campus programs that interest you, and continue to learn about career opportunities to assess how they fit into your overall career plan.
- Maintain and expand your network of attorneys and others who may be helpful in your career development.
Job Search Skills:
- Update your resume and cover letter.
- Choose a writing sample – consider your Bigelow assignments, your summer job work product, and additional options as you do more legal writing.
- Continue to build your network by keeping in touch with former employers and contacts; attending OCS and other Law School programs, conferences, and symposia; and connecting with students, alumni, and practicing lawyers.
- Meet with an OCS counselor to answer your job search questions and to refine your career plan.
- Attend OCS and other Law School programming.
- Study hard and get good grades.
- Participate in one of the University of Chicago Law School Clinics or other skills-based coursework.
- Consider an internship or pro bono project at a local legal organization.
- Take courses that are related to your areas of interest.
- Serve as a research assistant for a professor who writes on an area of law that interests you.