Targeting Employers and Roles
The active approach to a search involves networking, both to explore what the position entails and potentially to create an ally who can help your materials get noticed. This can be blended with a more passive approach of reviewing job sites/postings for open positions.
Networking as a Job Applicant
There are estimates that 70+% of jobs are secured through networking . . . not through formal job postings. Employers may not take the time to curate postings; even when they do, they may not have the bandwidth to process all applicants who respond to the posting, and/or may have candidates in mind already via internal or external referrals.
As an applicant, here’s the bottom line: the front door is crowded for many positions, so use the side door where possible. Use your network to tailor your application materials and generate internal allies who can usher your materials along.
For more information on networking – including resources for how to find contacts, arrange meetings, and put your best foot forward – see our resources on this related alumni advising page.
Finding and Evaluating Law Firms
Law firms of all sizes tend to represent a large portion of the job market for attorneys seeking a change. Some may work with headhunters (See “Legal Recruiters/’Headhunters'” section, below) to source talent; others rely on job postings and networking/direct applications. Small firms, boutiques, and mid-sized firms may prefer not to work with headhunters, as placement fees may represent an unsustainable cost. For these employers, a more pro-active approach — using a healthy dollop of networking — may be essential.
No matter the recruiting channel, an important first step for those interested in this setting is to determine which firms are out there and whether they may align with what you’re seeking in a new role.
|Georgetown Small and Mid-Size Firm Database (2024)
|Chambers and Partners (geography + practice area tiers)
|NALP Directory (typically for larger firms)
|Chambers-Associate (survey-based firm intel; mainly biglaw)
|Firsthand (formerly Vault) – Best Law Firms to Work For
|Martindale (extensive directory of firms; sortable by size + location)
|FirstHand (formerly Vault) – Top 150 Law Firms to Work for Under 150 [Attorneys]
|ALM Mid-Market Pro 50 (ranking of mid-sized firms by revenue)
|FirstHand (formerly Vault) – Best Midsize Law Firm Rankings
NEW RESOURCE (2023) – Firm Prospects
Use your Georgetown Law ID to register for Firm Prospects, a comprehensive and user-friendly site that provides market intelligence, a contact database, and job search functions for law firms and in-house roles. Job seekers can use the platform to:
- facilitate a biglaw search
- facilitate a search at mid-sized firms
- facilitate an in-house search
- find job postings
- research market trends (including by practice, location, and seniority)
- locate contacts for networking
Here are training videos to orient new users:
- Getting Started
- Researching Large Law Firms
- Researching Small and Mid-sized Firms
- Tracking Lateral Moves
Job Sites/Postings (Private/Public/”Alternative”)
Job seekers have found the below websites helpful in searching for positions. It’s important to remember that not all available jobs are posting, so a search process that uses only jobs boards is likely not going to uncover as many positions as networking would generate; but using the boards can be a great supplement to a more active search.
Common search terms for databases might include, “attorney,” “counsel,” “lawyer” for conventional legal roles. Non-traditional roles may involve different terms depending on the type of role sought. Many sites will allow users to set up automated searches that send alerts to your inbox.
State and local bar associations may have jobs boards as well (e.g., New York State Bar). The below lists are hardly exhaustive!
Law Firms and In-House
A successful strategy in these sectors may involve partnering with a legal recruiter (“headhunter”). For additional information on this feature of the search, see below on the Resources page.
Georgetown hosting in late summer 2023 a panel on seeking in-house roles. Pair this resource with some of the strategies above and below.
|Association of Corporate Counsel (in-house jobs board)
|Association of Corporate Counsel (Guide to In-House)
|GoBigLaw (includes smaller/mid-sized firms)
|Go In House
|Lateral Hub (law firms)
|Indeed (including temporary/contract attorney positions)
|Robert Half (including temporary/contract attorney positions)
|National Legal Aid & Defender Association
|Idealist (legal/non-legal nonprofits)
|MIE Job Listings (legal services)
|Department of Justice
Many postings here will offer administrative roles in schools. For faculty-track guidance, see our page on Exploring legal careers (“Introduction to the Legal Academy” resource).
|Chronicle of Higher Education
Law Firm Administration
|Professional Development Consortium
|Association of Legal Administrators
To re-establish work experience and add to your resume, you might look to project work as you conduct a search for more permanent employment. Below are some organizations that work with attorneys to find shorter-term, project-based placements.
- Robert Half (alums seems to have had success here in the past)
- Montage Legal Group
- Lawyer Exchange
- Ontra Legal
- Axiom (usually longer-term projects)
- Assigned Counsel Incorporated
- Special Counsel
- Beacon Hill Staffing
Resume, Cover Letter, and Supporting Materials
Make sure your application materials help market your candidacy as effectively as possible.
Still the core of your application for many employers, the resume should give the reader a quick sense of what skills and experiences you have accumulated. The touchstone for the content of the resume is not recency or even prestige – it is relevance. The document should communicate relevant employment and/or personal information in a succinct, error-free manner. In communicating that information, adopt a neutral tone; the places for adding color to your experiences are in your cover letter, networking conversations, and in any interviews with the employer.
It’s important to stress that the document should tell the reader what they need to know in a succinct way: employers spend a vanishingly small amount of time on the initial review of a resume, often far less than one minute. Think about what you want to emphasize in marketing your work.
See below for a template that you might use in formatting the document, as well as some resources that will guide your creation/refinement of your resume.
Here are some points to keep in mind as you work on the document:
- If you’re three-five years out from graduation (or less) you can lead with the Education section. Beyond that, Experience generally should come first.
- For private sector resumes, try to keep to one page if you have five or fewer years of legal experience. Those with more experience – and/or those who have significant pre-law experience – can range onto two pages.
- Those applying for public sector opportunities can expand into a two-page resume as long as the content on the second page is relevant to your path. Finally, specialized resumes, like those submitted for government positions and through the USAJobs portal, may need to be many pages long to include the level of detail required for successful application.
- Be sure to include bar admissions. If admission is pending or you are waiting to take the exam, you can communicate that information (e.g., New York, say for July 2022 exam, admission pending; California, registered for July 2022 exam).
- Listing interests in your “Personal” section is optional. That said, showing passion and engagement outside of work pursuits can be attractive to employers, while providing fodder for interview conversations.
- Consider using an addendum to describe in more detail “Representative Matters” or “Representative Transactions.” See below, under “Supporting Materials,” for guidance on such addenda.
If the resume is the factual record supporting your candidacy, the cover letter should serve as the brief that makes the argument for your candidacy as clearly and
persuasively as possible. At its most effective the cover letter is a piece of advocacy, not just a narrative version of your resume bullets.
Cover letters tend to resonate most when they:
- Highlight how you can help the employer (i.e., note how your skills and experiences will allow you to add value to in the specific role)
- Tell the employer why you want to work there specifically (i.e., make a specific connection between your interests/passions and what the role/employer offers)
In doing so, of course, they should be error-free. Additionally, they should be kept to one page. Pursuant to the two points above, most cover letters may follow the following format:
- Brief introductory paragraph
- Skills paragraph
- Interests/passion paragraph
- Brief closing paragraph
Once you are comfortable with organization and content, have someone do a final proofread.
Cover Letter Resources
Attorneys may be asked to – or may wish to of their own accord – supplement a resume and/or cover letter with a more detailed list of matters they have worked on to date. Called “deal sheets” (often for transactional attorneys) or “representative matters lists” (often for litigators), this document tells the target employer that you have the desired relevant experience to hit the ground running in the new role. It may be more common to include this document in a private-sector job search.
There is no uniform format for this document (though guidance is provided below to reflect possible ways to format). The key is that the material is tailored to the role you are applying for, is consistent and error-free, and maintains client confidentiality for non-public matters. If you are working with a recruiter, this is a document that should undergo a few rounds of edits before finalizing and submitting as a PDF.
Deal/Matter Sheet Resources and Samples
- Five Tips for Your Deal Sheet or Matters List (general advice/sample)
- 10 Tips for Compiling a Deal Sheet (LateralLink)
- Deal Sheet – Transactional/Corporate Associate
- Matters List – Litigation Associate
- Matters List – Litigation Partner
- Deal Sheet – Transactional/Corporate Partner (“Experience”)
- Deal Sheet – Transactional/Corporate Partner (“Selected Client Representations”)
We recommend having a list of three to four references. They can be a combination of law school professors and/or employers; those with more seniority may lean more heavily on employment rather than academic references. Indeed, for many practitioners, your current employer may be the best reference for you on your post-law school experiences. However it could pose risk to some individuals to alert current employers to the fact that they are seeking a new position. If possible, consider using a reference that is not your direct supervisor but who can speak to your work ethic, work quality, and experience. Alternatively, you may include a note in your reference list that says something like: “I will happily provide a reference from my current employer if helpful during the process, but have not yet notified them that I am seeking other employment.” Most employers will understand.
Make sure that you ask each individual to serve as a reference and keep them apprised of your job search activity. In addition, it is helpful to provide each reference with:
- an updated copy of your resume
- a representative cover letter or personal statement
- a brief description of the projects you performed while employed at his/her organization
Here is an example for how to format your reference list.
Preparing for Interviews
This is the stage in the process when all the work and deliberation from your search have to be marshaled to convince the employer that you are the right fit for them. Interviewing is best approached as a skill that can be improved upon – not an innate ability. Some will have attributes that make them feel confident at elements of interviewing, but without preparation and practice just about any candidate will leave the interview feeling like they could have done better.
Try to think of the interview as a presentation that often takes the form of a conversation. (Note: there may be more non-conversational formats to the interview, though many interviews in the legal field tend adopt a conversational, resume-based tone.)
Like any presentation, you’ll want to think about which points you want to make, as well as how to make them.
- The first task asks that you review your resume and the job posting to determine the skills, experiences, and personal attributes that represent your best case for doing the job well. Consider what three things you’d want the interviewer to remember about your candidacy; those three things become the agenda that you want to get across during your time with the interviewer.
- The second task – how to make the points – asks you to think of examples and in some cases narratives to support your case. Take time to think of clear, compelling examples of core agenda points as well as other topics you would expect to be asked about in the interview.
To help with your preparation, schedule an appointment with an alumni advisor to conduct a mock interview.
|Vault Guide to Behavioral Interviews
|Questions You May Be Asked
|Interview Prep Worksheet
Support for Your Search
(Coming Winter 2022: Additional guidance for working with headhunters)
An invaluable resource for the process is Garrison & Sisson’s manual, The Attorney’s Guide to Using (or Not Using) Legal Recruiters (pdf). For partners considering other firms, Lateral Partners provides helpful step-by-step guidance.
Here is a list of organizations and contacts who have worked with Georgetown and/or peer schools:
|Dan Binstock, Matt Schwartz, Gary McGinnis
Garrison & Sisson
|New York City
Major, Lindsey & Africa
|New York City
Cardinal Search Partners
|New York City
Gridline Search + Consulting
Legal Staffing Solutions
HR Legal Search
ELR Legal Search
Catamount Search Partners
Harris Legal Search
Major, Lindsey & Africa
Bunt Legal Search
Major, Lindsey & Africa
Major, Lindsey & Africa
|April Stockfleet (London, Europe, and Asia)
Major, Lindsey & Africa
Major, Lindsey & Africa
Career coaches can help you strategize your search, workshop your materials and networking strategy, and serve as an accountability buddy to allow you to maintain momentum. They’re a champion in your corner and a sounding board; many may also be experts in a given industry.
For more information on partnering with a coach – including considerations for vetting coaches and basic information about costs – see our “Working With Career Coaches” resources on this related alumni advising page.
Salary and Compensation
Salary may vary widely by region. And – outside of salaries for associates at large firms – may vary depending on the role as well as the individual’s background and experience.
Consult the below websites and resources to help understand potential salary ranges as well as position yourself for any compensation negotiations that may be part of the search process.
|NALP (general resources)
|NALP (2021 associate salary data)
|Navigating In-House Salaries (GULC resource)
|Navigating Small/Mid-Sized Firm Salaries (GULC resource)
|Barker Gilmore In-House Salary Guide
|Career Nuggets: Salary Negotiation (Georgetown SCS; video)
|The Lawyer Whisperer (in-house advice)