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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Law is a Personal Profession

by Geoffrey J. Miller

As modern technology accelerates, life has become less personal.  We use ATM’s and Self-Checkout at the grocery store.  Jobs and internships are often filled by emailed and electronically scanned resumes. Law, however, remains a very personal profession.  Employers care about whether you can do the job and fit in at their office.  Because of this, there is an easy way to get on the short list for any job regardless of your grades – apply in person.  Instead of emailing your resume to a perspective employer, show up in person, wearing your best suit, with your credentials neatly presented, and express your enthusiasm for the position.  This proves right off the bat that you have initiative and enthusiasm. 

I really wanted a federal judicial internship in the Spring of my first year and applications were due before grades came out.  Having no transcript technically meant that I could not apply, but I ignored this.  I put on a suit and knocked on about 32 chamber doors.  One clerk threw the application back in my face because I had no grades.  I was rejected either directly or tacitly by more federal judges than my entire class combined, however because of my initiative, I received several interviews and got an amazing internship.  Additionally, two judges on the second circuit court of appeals agreed to meet with me personally, even though they do not hire interns.  Keep in mind that I did this with no grades and while competing with students from higher ranked schools.

The first step is to strengthen your resume, as outlined in my previous article.  Next, pick your best writing sample and ask a professor who you will want a recommendation from to help you perfect it.  You will get a better writing sample and the professor will know you and your writing personally.  Always include a fantastic and personal letter of recommendation regardless of whether or not it is requested.  Compile these in a professional looking folder to give to prospective employers when you apply.

When you find a job or internship that you want, do not simply apply online or send a resume.  Everyone does this, and it is hard to stand out from the crowd. Go in your best suit and deliver your packet in person.  Ask if anyone is available to speak to you briefly about the position. Even if no one is available, you will stand out.  Always be very nice to the administrative assistant as she will decide how far you can go. 

Be prepared to interview on the spot.  Although this did not happen to me, if you show up at a law firm and someone has a few minutes, they may sit down with you right then and there.  Because of this, you must research every place you go to ahead of time.  You do not need to go too far, but you should at least read through the company’s website.

When you are offered an interview, ask questions about who will be interviewing you.  What do they do exactly?  How long have they been there?  Look them up on Google and Linkedin (log out of Linkedin, so they do not see that you are looking them up).  Learn as much about them as you can, including where they went to school. 

The legal profession is a very personal one.  Employers want to know that someone they hire has initiative and is well spoken.  If you show up in person, you can demonstrate these qualities easily and you will stand out as a real person – not just one paper in the stack.  

This is an abridged and adapted version of the published article:
Geoffrey Miller, Law is a Personal Profession, Pro Se, Mar. 2013 at 4.