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Information? Please!

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CONSIDERING THE VALUE OF INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS IN THE CURRENT LEGAL MARKET

A career services counselor is likely to tell you that informational interviews are “essential for an effective job search.” While it’s true that informational interviews can hypothetically help you discover job opportunities that are not publically advertised, it is more likely these days to help you discover that there are no job opportunities, advertised or otherwise. In the months since I graduated last spring, I have had the benefit of many nice conversations with many helpful, experienced attorneys in these informational interviews. While they have been quite clever and supportive in helping me brainstorm to find a job, they have rarely been privy to the kind of concrete leads that could connect me with full-time employment.

Don’t get me wrong – informational interviews are definitely useful and even, as the counselors say, “essential,” but their short-term value lies in utilizing the support of others to generate new and creative approaches to the job market. It leads me to wonder if the time and effort spent seeking out and conversing with employed attorneys is an efficient practice in my jobs search. Of course, nobody can argue with the notion that the more people you know, the more connections you have, the better your odds are of landing a job. I fully agree with this principle. The problem is that as my network grows, job openings have not grown with it.

The legal job market (for those of us not lucky enough to graduate from top-tier law schools) has been tough for a while now – some researchers argue since 2001 – and the recent recession has only exacerbated this. To put this in perspective, consider that over 44,000 students graduated from an accredited law school in 2011, but only a little over a half found full-time legal positions nine months after graduation. And, according to the Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement, “[t]here is nothing to indicate . . . a likely return to pre-recession employment levels any time in the near future.” To make matters worse, the legal market is overly saturated with new lawyers. Faced with an extremely low employment rate, it’s no surprise that informational interviews no longer promise the hope of a job placement.

Regardless of whether or not you’re certain about the kind of law you would like to practice, sitting down with a seasoned attorney to brainstorm potential avenues to consider is both motivating and inspiring. Getting assistance from a knowledgeable lawyer can guide you towards building a particular skill set if you’re unable to pursue your dream job at the present time.

For example, many attorneys I have spoken to suggest volunteering at non-profit organizations a few days a week, especially if you’re interested in pursuing a career as a public interest attorney. Not only does this show that you are active within your community, it also builds up your resume and may even lead to a paid position within that organization. And you continue to grow your network. This kind of advice has been helpful.

That said, law school career counselors remain habitually loyal to a job-seeking paradigm that does not work in this economy. So, as they continue to push informational interviews as an “essential” part of an effective job search,” the legal market does not bear out this advice. The time for traditional methods of landing a job post-graduation have changed, and law schools should change with it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mimi Brown is a recent graduate of the Northeastern University School of Law. She is seeking a job in food policy, and can be reached at allnaturalattorney@gmail.com

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