While some students secure their first post-graduate job before graduation, many are still looking after all the pomp and circumstance is over. Although it may feel like you’re the only one in the latter category, this definitely is not the case. The good news is that there are always some students who find employment between graduation and the bar exam. The bad news? If you’re hoping to be one of them, you’ll have to find a way to balance a job search and bar prep. This may seem like a daunting task, but there are several things you can do to manage it successfully.
Get Your Application Materials in Order ASAP
Update your resume to reflect that you’re now a law school graduate and sitting for the July bar exam, and be sure to add any honors you earned in your final semester. Create a strong cover letter draft, a list of current references, and a polished writing sample no longer than ten pages. Having these things ready to go before you’re deeply immersed in bar prep will allow you to make better use of the limited time you have to apply for jobs.
Establish a Routine
Make an effort to include your job search in your bar exam routine in the same way you incorporate eating, sleeping, exercise or leisure activity. Checking job boards is something you may do on a daily basis, while more time-intensive activities like sending out applications or targeted emails and making follow-up phone calls can be reserved for 2-3 days each week. This was a manageable approach for Jordan Reid, a 2017 graduate who, in addition to juggling bar prep and a job search, relocated to Boise, Idaho just a few weeks before taking the Idaho bar exam last summer. “You need a break from constant bar prep,” she said. Jordan also had several interviews and occasionally scheduled coffee or lunch dates with mentors she had in Boise leading up to the bar exam, adjusting her schedule accordingly. “I would have to study in the evening or on weekends to make up that lost time.”
Organization is Key
Once you emerge from the haze of bar prep, it may be difficult to remember where you’ve applied and with whom you’ve talked. Creating an Excel database or a trello board to track job applications and networking contacts will ensure that this information isn’t purged from your brain along with all of the, ahem, incredibly useful information you memorized for the bar exam. Job search agents are another useful tool that are part of many online job boards. You can specify criteria for your job search, and the website will email you job alerts with whatever frequency (e.g. daily, weekly) you desire. This will allow you to stay on top of job openings without having to spend valuable time mining through every job search site.
Remember That No Man (or Woman) Is an Island
A job search support system is something you should have in place throughout the duration of your search, but it’s particularly important to lean on them while studying for the bar. Ask your professional network (alumni, mentors, professors) and the career services office to keep an eye out for jobs that may be a good fit for you. Make sure your family and friends are allies in the cause. Even if their help is indirect – like cooking you a meal – it will allow you more time to focus on your two main tasks at hand. You can also look to your classmates and other bar exam takers for advice on what’s worked for them. It might feel like fellow job seekers are your competition, but it’s unlikely that you’ll all be looking for the same type of work in the same location. Finally, consider enlisting the help of a career coach to help you with your application materials and job search strategy.
Try Not to Get Discouraged
Jordan, who is now an attorney with Perkins, Mitchell, Pope & McAllister in Boise, noted that “the worst part was the anxiety.” Bar prep alone is incredibly stressful, and when you add the worry that comes with not having a job yet, it can be a heavy mental load to carry. As more friends around you are getting jobs, you may feel as though you’re the only one who is unemployed, and that almost certainly isn’t true. The process can be frustrating, but it’s important to remain positive and persistent and engage in self-care. Jordan had a second interview at Perkins Mitchell a week after taking the bar and received an offer the same day. Although the job search took longer for her than others, in the end, she began her career as an attorney at the exact same time as fellow graduates who had secured their jobs a year earlier.