I went to law school with the intention and understanding that when I came out, I’d be working for a family company as their in-house counsel. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I had to take the bar exam, failed the bar exam, and had to face taking it a second time. I couldn’t figure out how to look for a job while studying for the exam because there just wasn’t enough time in the day to do it all and rest.
About three weeks into studying, I realized I needed to do something or my chances of landing a role after passing the bar would be even slimmer. I’m going to share the following steps I took to search for a job while studying for the bar. And I know it may seem overwhelming to fit this into your already overwhelming bar prep, but searching for a job may also provide a necessary distraction – even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day – that will enable you to get back into bar prep with fresh eyes.
Make a Schedule
If you’ve read any of my other articles for the Bar Exam Toolbox, you’ll probably see a trend: I love time management, day planners, and sticking to a schedule. I don’t know why or where this passion for checking things off a to-do list comes from, but for me there is no greater high. So, when I decided to study for the bar and search for a job, I knew that if I put the job searching into my schedule, in pen, I’d stick to it.
Make a plan. Write out your schedule for the week and then break it down into what you want to accomplish each day. If you know what field of law you’d like to focus on, then start by updating your resume and coming up with a sample cover letter. Sample cover letters are my go-to when I don’t have enough time to write a fresh one. And let’s be honest, doesn’t everyone hack up old cover letters to create new ones anyway?
If you don’t have a specific area of interest, spend those 15-30 minutes a day you’d be job searching, to decide on a few areas that do interest you. Mock up a couple of different types of sample cover letters for those types of jobs. The important part of cover letter writing is making sure the letter matches the job description. If you have a few samples, it’s a lot easier to throw in specific job requirements and match them to skills you already have.
After you’ve got your resume revamped and sample cover letters completed, pick a career board and start searching. I find that, even now, if I try to fix my resume, write cover letters, and apply to all the jobs at once, I burn out. Looking for a job while studying isn’t about putting studying on the back burner. Instead, it’s about incorporating the job search into your already busy schedule – and that doesn’t need to take up a chunk of your day. Do a little every day of bar prep, and it will feel a lot less overwhelming.
I just started to do this, and I really wish I had during my bar prep. Recruiters could be your best friend during bar prep. Contact them, set up a quick introductory interview, send over your resume, and they should be able to point you in the direction of a position you’re interested in. It’s like having a personal assistant for job searching. If you do this early enough, you could be sending out applications without really doing much of the digging for the positions. Further, recruiters are being paid to place people – so they have an incentive to help you find the right role.
Post Bar Temp Work
After the bar, both times, I worked as a communications liaison for a laboratory in Florida. It was temporary work, but allowed me to be a bit more creative between bar preps. I found that position by reaching out to temp agencies during bar prep and seeing what kind of short-term contracts were available.
There are a lot of reputable legal temp agencies consistently looking for recent law grads, or prospective bar candidates to do document review or paralegal work. It may not be glamorous or full-time, but you never know what doors it might open. In fact, I had a number of classmates who found full-time work where they temped after the bar.
In this day and age, not being online is nearly impossible and many employers avidly search for your online presence (mostly to make sure you haven’t done anything embarrassing). But LinkedIn has taken over as a place for professional individuals to come together and network. One of the easiest ways you can search for a job while studying for the bar is to revamp (or create) your LinkedIn profile. Tell the world what kind of role you’re looking for and what your experience is. This way, when you do apply to a position, the employer will be able to do a little research on you.
Job searching while studying for the bar is time consuming and can be difficult at times. But I find that when something isn’t your main focus, better results occur because you are not as stressed about it. If you find that searching for a position while studying is too overwhelming, I invite you to take a breath, pick one small task (like writing down the kind of job you want), and then doing the above steps slowly. Remember, finding employment is the end goal, but for those nine weeks you study for the bar, it shouldn’t be your main goal. Focus on studying for the bar and incorporating these steps a little each day. One foot in front of the other. Just keep swimming.