7 steps to take before seeking a new job in the legal industry

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Thinking about looking for a new job in the legal industry? As you're beginning your search, build these seven steps into your plan for the best chance at success.

So you’re ready to make your move and look for a new job in the legal industry. Whether you are looking to advance, find a more challenging job, or are simply ready for a change, here are seven things you can do before you start your search.

#1: Conduct a self-assessment

Performing a self-assessment of your skills will help guide your job search and help you land the right position. Some of the things you need to consider include:

  • The positions you are currently qualified for.
  • The skills you want to focus on in your application materials.
  • The skills you will need to develop for certain positions that interest you.

Taking some time to consider the skills you are developing, have mastered, or need to acquire will allow you to assess the positions you are already qualified for but will still allow room for advancement.

Read more: 6 legal support skills to be proud of wherever you go>>

#2: Clarify your values

Understanding your work values will help you find a meaningful and fulfilling job. What matters to you in your career? What is important about your next position? Work values commonly include:

  • Personal achievement
  • Status or prestige
  • Honesty
  • Independence
  • Creativity
  • Quality of work projects
  • Interaction with colleagues

Once you have completed your work value inventory, you will be better equipped to search for jobs that will meet your criteria and increase your chances of long-term job satisfaction.

#3: Identify your preferred work situation

Your next step should be to focus on your preferred practice areas, settings, and geographic location. Never say you’re willing to “take anything,” as a lack of focus can sometimes be mistaken for a lack of passion or even desperation on the part of a job seeker. Instead, be prepared to articulate honest and sincere reasons why you are interested in a certain job, practice area, or setting.

#4: Find out what potential employers are looking for

Do some stealth work to find out what other firms are doing to see what skills you might need to brush up on before you apply. To do this, you will need to:

  • Identify firms that are currently or will soon be hiring.
  • Learn about the potential growth going on in the legal industry in your area.
  • Find out the skills and type of experience a potential employer is looking for.
  • Research any recent news concerning prospective employers.

By pinpointing exactly what potential employers are looking for in employees, you will be better able to emphasize how you will be able to apply your skills in a new setting.

#5: Google yourself

According to recent CareerBuilder research, 70 percent of all employers screen job candidates on social media, and 43 percent use social media to snoop on current employees.

By performing a Google search of your name you’ll see what others see when they search for you. Then follow up and monitor your profile at least once a month during your job search. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, since about 95 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn as a major sourcing tool to find good job candidates, according to U.S. News & World Report.

#6: Prepare your application materials

Once you’ve decided on the types of opportunities you plan to target, it’s time to prepare your application materials, which typically include your cover letter and resume. The best cover letter serves as a bridge between the job description and your resume. It should focus on several key skills that you applied in actual projects. When updating your resume, try to use strong, vivid explanations of accomplishments instead of just general descriptions: Instead of “conducted legal research,” say “conducted research that served as the primary argument in a Motion for Summary Judgment.”

#7: Know where to look

It is well known that at least 70 percent of job openings are never advertised in the traditional manner; therefore, you should use targeted sources to find out about open positions, such as:

  • LinkedIn Jobs, which will allow you to search for potential jobs by keyword and geographic location, while also indicating if you have a connection with a prospective employer.
  • Professional associations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and local paralegal associations often provide job listings for those seeking employment in the industry.
  • National and local bar associations often have a section for paralegal job openings, and can help you connect with hiring managers in the areas you are focusing on.

When you’re looking to make a career move, networking with industry leaders and colleagues will help you cultivate more contacts, which makes getting a referral for a job that much more likely.


What other things do you do when you’re ready to find a new job in the legal industry? Tell us about them in the comments!


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