Clark T. Wisenbaker (J.D. 2010)

Associate at Davis, Pickren, Seydel & Sneed, LLP

Atlanta, GA

I hate to break it to Bob Dylan, but from law students’ perspective, “the times, they ain’t a-changin’.” Job hunting is tough now and has been for many a law school class, particularly in recent years. That said, I am here to tell you from my own experience that landing that coveted job is possible, even in a down economy. On-campus interviews (“OCI”) are a powerful and, indeed, convenient tool one can use toward that goal. But OCI is just that: only one of the tools that can and should be leveraged in your job search.

The truth is, putting those non-OCI tools to work will take hard work and long hours, but that work pays off in important ways beyond the job offer. Most importantly, you will build skills and confidence that you can take with you wherever you go and whatever you do, in addition to freeing yourself of any regret at not having done everything in your power to go after your goal. In the hopes that they will be of equal help to you, what follows is a list of the four main tools that served me well as a job-seeking law student.
Leverage UGA resources: Time is of the essence, so go straight to the career experts to avoid reinventing the wheel. Beth Shackleford and the Legal Career Services (“LCS”) team were integral in making critical resources available to my search. For example, they connected me with UGA Law alumni in a city I was considering, which allowed me to set up meetings with those alumni and fly out to meet them in person, requesting in advance an opportunity to interview during my visit. This approach led to my landing a couple of interviews I would not have had otherwise. Another invaluable resource available in the LCS library is Kimm Walton’s book, Guerrilla Tactics For Getting The Legal Job Of Your Dreams. This book became my bible and, as much as anything else, equipped me with the tools and confidence I needed to land my job offer – indeed, the tools I mention here are largely addressed in significantly greater depth in that valuable guide.
Tap your existing network: Reach out to all attorneys, judges, professors, and other professionals (legal or otherwise) you, your family, and your friends know. Email can be an ideal medium for making the initial contact with those on that (hopefully lengthy) list, especially those you do not personally know so as to avoid what may feel like a “cold call.” In your email, request either an in-person or telephone informational interview. I did dozens of such informational interviews and can attest to their immeasurable value. I am the first to admit that some conversations were awkward and less than successful; others, however, were incredibly productive and inspiring, leading to very important allies in my job search.
Develop a broader network: Regardless of the size of your existing network, make a point of attending seminars and other events on topics of interest. While at such events, introduce yourself to as many people as possible, including event speakers. To be sure, implementing this tool could require going outside of one’s comfort zone. However, making such efforts establishes relationships the value of which one cannot begin to predict. Like above, set up informational interviews with those you meet, or at least with those with whom you particularly connect or whose area of work is of interest to you.
Ask for advice, not a job: Both when setting up and actually doing informational interviews, remember that you are merely asking those with whom you meet for advice. It can be extremely intimidating to go into a conversation thinking you have to figure out a way to ask someone for a job. Instead, you are there to gather as much advice as you can from an expert, and they are, and should be treated as, experts. After all, they have exactly what you want: knowledge on how they went about landing their first job out of law school and how they got from there to where they are now. The aim across your various informational interviews is to collect nuggets of wisdom on job searching, career path options, and on the legal profession. Some conversations may have the added bonus of leading to an interview; one or more may even eventually lead to an offer. In any event, you can be sure that, merely by your reaching out to them, (i) these experts will know you want a job, and (ii) they will be impressed by the initiative and professionalism your approach demonstrates. Of course, the advice you seek should cover a range of topics beyond the expert’s experience on job hunting. For example, it would also be valuable and, indeed, would make a favorable impression to ask why and how the expert chose the area in which she/he now works.
Again, the goal is to absorb wisdom so as to make the journey to your career clearer. Law school is important as the formative pathway to the career you will develop. Given that, I recommend focusing as much of your attention on creating career opportunities as on your studies. In my own case, while in school, I considered being a law student to be my full-time job and my job search to be my second full-time job. Again, it takes a lot of hard work and long hours, but keep your eyes on the payoff.
In the end, you never know when and where opportunity will come. But, please believe me as someone speaking from real experience, it WILL come if you use all the tools at your disposal and go get it. Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.” You CAN do it, so GO GET IT!