On the job hunt? How to pick a state bar exam in line with your search?

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As the chatter around summer jobs begins, you may be wondering what your options are if you haven’t received an offer quite yet. The 3L job hunt can be stressful, especially when people around you have already secured employment. Rather than get discouraged, know that you have the ability to take back control as you map out a plan.

The state bar exam you decide to take will undoubtedly have some bearing on the direction in which you go in your search. So, as you dive into the next steps, here are some things to consider on both fronts in the process.

Take a deep breath, and remember it’ll be fine

Really, it will be. Law school is demanding and that includes your classes, the job hunt and everything in between. But you’ve shown that you’re up to the challenge. With the time you have remaining, make sure your plan is solid or prepare to tweak what hasn’t been successful in your current job search strategy.

Select your state bar exam wisely

You may have already determined your state bar exam selection, but if not, remember that this is an important part of your job hunt analysis. Choosing a state bar exam is a deeply personal decision. It may involve input from family, friends, your law professors and law school career counselors, but it may feel daunting when you don’t have a job already lined up. That’s okay!

There are a few things to consider to help narrow your job search while you also plan for the bar exam.

  • Location— When considering state bar exams, target and research where you would most like to live.
  • Bar admission requirements— Examine the state bar exam subjects tested, the exam’s format, CLE requirements and any fees associated with maintaining good standing. You can download the free BARBRI Bar Exam Digest here to see the specific requirements for each U.S. state.
  • Legal industry— Is the market in that state saturated with attorneys? Is the legal industry of your choice available in that region of the country?
  • Professional network— What professional contacts have you made? Does your law school have an alumni network that would allow you to pursue your goals? Do you have access to mentors in that state?
  • Family and friends— Do you have the support you may need or want (nearby) to help in pursuing your goals?
  • Reciprocity— Most states allow admission on motion after practicing for a number of years. You may also want to look at targeting states (which is most of them) that utilize the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which allows some flexibility with UBE score transferability.

Use your school resources

Contact your school counselor or employment office. They have connections and experience that can be extremely valuable for your job search. Whether you make an appointment or drop into the office, go with a goal in mind (i.e., what sectors of law you’re most interested in, geographical target areas, where you’re flexible and where you’re not).

Draft a firm application plan

Research a wide range of law firms in your desired geographic areas. Keep in mind that some areas may hire more associates, such as New York, but other areas may have a more specific niche that you can fill. Consider big firms, medium firms, small firms and boutique or specialty firms. The wider the net you can cast, the better. Document the firm names, practice areas, strengths, recruiting contact information and application deadlines. Most importantly, set a timeline for applying and stick to it.

Think beyond law firms

It’s a numbers game. The deeper the talent pool, the more challenging to stand out and snatch an offer. However, there are many jobs beyond the law firm that are worth considering. Begin compiling a list of governmental agencies, businesses and public interest entities that hire new graduates, even if just for a fellowship year.

Email recruiters, apply to clerkships

The Chancery Courts and Supreme Court clerkships may be gone, however, lower courts and courts in smaller states may still be hiring. When applying, keep in mind most judges prefer snail mail to email. It’s understandable that you want a quick response, but when possible, send a physical letter or supplement your email with one. Learn more about clerkships.

When to go for non-traditional options

If, at this point, you’ve applied to every traditional law job you can think of and you’re still not getting favorable responses, it may be time to consider non-traditional job options.

Some ideas include: lawyers without borders; in-house representation at a small startup; legal administrative positions; legal recruiting positions; local bar administration positions; arbitrator or union jobs; university jobs such as a legal librarian or legal counselor; research positions and fellowships; and legal database representative.

You are resilient, so try to tune the noise out and focus on your own strengths and goals. Utilize the connections you’ve made thus far in law school and don’t be scared to step outside the box. You never know what you’ll find. We’re here for you every step of The BARBRI Way.

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