If you’ve failed the bar exam after your first or even your third try, it’s understood that you may be a bit hopeless on the job hunting front. Maybe you’re already employed at a law firm but you now risk termination due to your exam failure. Maybe you’ve been unsuccessful in receiving an offer because many firms are skeptical about hiring a JD who is not yet barred. Maybe after failing, you’ve decided that you don’t want to practice as a traditional attorney, but you’re uncertain about how to maneuver a legal-related job search without actually being an esquire. Whatever reasoning belies your skepticism of obtaining a legal position, I’m here to calm your nerves, because it’s absolutely possible to still get a legal related job even if you’re not an attorney. Job hunting as an attorney can in and of itself be an extremely difficult process, so I understand that there are bigger hurdles to overcome if you’re not actually barred. However, with the right tools in hand it’s definitely possible to knock down these hurdles.
If you failed the bar exam but you want a legal related job, there are two questions you should keep in mind before beginning the job hunting process: do you plan on taking the bar again or do you want to forego being a licensed attorney? Answering these questions up front should help to shape your job search and could increase your chances of landing a position sooner.
1. Do You Plan on Taking the Bar Again?
If you plan on taking the bar again, landing a position during this interim can be a bit tricky. However, there are a few loopholes that could help you out.
Don’t Give Up on Law Firms Just Yet
If you plan on taking the bar again, don’t give up on finding a position at a traditional law firm just yet. It’s no secret that many law firms are a bit apprehensive to hand out an attorney offer prior to a candidate being licensed, but some law firms are open to this option. Usually if you’re not yet barred, a firm will start you out as a law clerk with a lower salary than that of a first year associate. Additionally, this offer will probably be contingent on passing the bar, but thankfully most firms that provide this option will usually give you two opportunities to pass the bar before considering termination. Therefore, if you’ve failed the bar, plan on re-sitting for the exam, and still have an interest in an attorney position, do your research! Instead of wasting your time and applying to every associate position that comes across your radar, find out whether your firm of choice is open to hiring JD’s who have not yet passed the bar.
- Consider A Short-Term Contract Position/Volunteer Position
If you plan on taking the bar again but want to obtain some legal experience before being barred, how about considering a short term contract position? A lot of firms and corporations offer short term contracts to JD’s to complete discovery work, complete research or assist with major projects. Obtaining such a position can be advantageous because, if you’re on contract with a law firm, you may be eligible to transition into a permanent associate position based on your performance once you’ve passed the bar. Alternatively, if the position is with a corporation you may be able to transition into a permanent in-house role once you pass the bar or even a regulatory or financial role regardless of whether you pass the bar. Therefore, if you plan on sitting for the bar again, keep your eyes open for these opportunities!
Additionally, if you’re unable to grab a contract position, don’t lose sight of volunteer opportunities. These opportunities can help you to develop your legal skills and can easily transition into a legal career, regardless of whether this is at a firm or elsewhere.
2. Do You Want to Forego Being a Licensed Attorney?
If you no longer want to be a licensed attorney, getting a legal related position is absolutely possible. Although you may not have the letters “Esq.” behind your name, don’t disregard the fact that you have obtained your JD and that there are still a plethora of positions that you could apply for and get. As a law school graduate, you would be an excellent candidate for a career in the financial industry completing compliance work or a JD advantage job.
A JD Advantage Job is a legal related position in which knowledge of the law is advantageous but does not require you to be an attorney. A few examples of these position are: Contracts Administrator, Mediator/Arbitrator, Regulatory Analyst and the list goes on. These positions are usually available within corporations, the government, law schools and even law firms. Therefore, as you job hunt, broaden your horizon to other industries.
I highly recommend using a legal recruiter if you wish to embark on a JD advantage career. Since these are not traditional roles, it may be murkier to find these jobs in your general job search. Additionally, many corporations use recruiters/head hunters to pull candidates for these positions. Therefore, don’t miss out on these opportunities by overlooking the benefits of a recruiter.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that you don’t have to give up on your dream of working in the legal industry if you haven’t passed the bar. Good luck with your job hunt!