The bar exam serves as the proverbial last hurdle for any young scholar looking to become an attorney. After countless years of law school and late nights studying, you finally finished the bar exam and are ready to banish your studying materials and textbooks away for good as you try to regain some sanity while you wait for the results.
While passing the bar is certainly one of the most important things to think about when it comes to becoming an attorney, there is often very little said about what happens after you pass.
With so much emphasis on the test, many young lawyers often find themselves stuck in the awkward transition from graduating law school to practicing law.
It may seem tempting to take your foot completely off the gas after all of the work you put in, but there is still plenty more that goes on after you pass that can help make that transition into becoming a lawyer quicker and easier.
It’s a common misconception among young lawyers that they cannot start working in a law firm until they’ve been admitted to the bar. While not as a lawyer, becoming a law clerk is a great way for young attorneys to bridge the gap during the transitory phase between graduating from law school, taking the bar exam, and getting admitted to actually practice law. Plus, clerkships usually provide plenty of mentorship, professional development, and learning opportunities. This is a great way to start getting real-world experience before getting admitted.
Considering it usually takes at least 4 months after the exam to get your results and then another 3–4 months to be admitted to that bar if you pass, getting right into the workforce keeps all of that knowledge you learned in law school fresh and applicable. Additionally, law clerks are usually hired with a contingency in their contract that, after passing the bar exam, they will get a bump in salary up to associate attorney level.
While the last thing you might want to think about after taking the bar exam is more work, clerkships serve as a nice way to get your foot in the door at many law firms and help you network with established professionals in the legal field.
Network, Network, Network
Regardless of whether you have a job lined up after passing the bar, don’t disregard networking and building up a professional persona, as sowing seeds early can make it easier to transition jobs in the future or set yourself up for more career advancement opportunities.
If you are not already employed, continue to send out resumes and follow up with firms you may have approached previously. Perhaps consider scheduling a quick coffee with someone in the firm or area of law you are interested in to see if they can give you leads on job opportunities or advice on transitioning from graduate to associate.
With so much recruiting and hiring done online nowadays, in-person conversations are a great way to make an excellent first impression and establish meaningful connections with those already established in the legal industry. Plus, with the pandemic ending, many more in-person networking opportunities should start resuming, making this the best time to get out there and show everyone why you are the perfect candidate for their open position.
A good first step is to gather applications and documentation for your local state and bar associations and attend meetings. Along with bringing business cards with your credentials and contact information, many associations have young lawyer divisions, which can put you in contact with many other lawyers who are also looking to expand their networks.
However, don’t completely neglect online networking, as sites like LinkedIn continue to be an invaluable resource for connecting with individuals who might not be in your physical area. To start, consider connecting with alumni from your law school and undergraduate college and building from there.
Bar Dues and CLE Courses
Some states require attorneys to pay dues in order to get sworn into the bar. Coupled with any potential travel fees, this could serve as another financial hurdle for young attorneys looking to officially practice law.
Additionally, your days of law school studying aren’t over either. In some states, after you are sworn into the bar, you have to complete several hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits targeted towards newer attorneys transitioning into the actual practice of law. While you will generally have around a year to complete these courses, it’s best not to leave things until the last minute since these classes can fill up quickly. The worst way to start your legal career is by getting in trouble with the bar for being negligent with your CLE credits.
Becoming the Lawyer You Always Dreamed Of
Very few people take and pass the bar exam, and that is a huge accomplishment you should enjoy, especially with those that helped you along the way. While it is certainly important to celebrate and look at how far you have come, know that this is just the beginning of your legal journey.
It may be tempting to take a break and relax for a few months while you await your exam results, but expect to explain that break when it comes time to apply. By chipping away at what was listed above, you can explain any gaps in your resume, and your proactive approach to handling these matters will speak volumes about your character to any future employer.
By getting ahead of what comes next, you can ensure that you position yourself best to meet your future career goals, and budget enough time to enjoy the fruits of your labor too.
Valiant Search is an executive search firm headquartered in Albany, New York that recruits and places attorneys and legal support for law firms and legal departments. We can be reached at (518) 732-7848 or email@example.com. For more information on Valiant Search, please visit www.valiantsearch.com.