6 Things to Expect as a Recent Law Grad

By: Carly Jordan

Finding your way after law school can be daunting. Here are 6 things to help you navigate the legal industry after graduation!

  1. You might not get the practice area you want. Some young professionals have a clear picture of what type of law they want to practice, while others struggle to find the right fit. In either case, it is important to be flexible early in your career and have a few options that interest you. This will make you more marketable when looking for you first job. Consider utilizing you law school’s clinic programs to familiarize yourself with different areas of the law and what kinds of cases you should expect to see in each.
  2. Summer intern positions are important and will play a role in your hiring opportunities. “Just having a little time spent in a law firm setting is better than none,” says Sean Macari, CEO of Valiant Search. Internships and clerkships are where you fill out your resume with related experience, and it is exactly what firms are looking for. It shows long-term commitment to your career path, and it’s the perfect time to explore different practice areas. If you weren’t fortunate enough to secure a summer position during law school, be prepared to explain the reason behind your choice or circumstance.
  3. You may not get as much mentorship or training as you want. Some firms advertise mentoring programs for new associates. At others, you may find yourself out of the frying pan and into the fire. Here are some key tips to help you settle into your first associate position if you don’t have a mentor:
    • Paralegals and legal secretaries that have a longer tenure than you will know more about the firm’s functions and processes. Rely on them to help you as you gain your footing.
    • When you need it, ask for help and clarification. Asking a simple question can save time and energy.
    • Learn how to do basic administrative tasks like copying, making coffee, and answering phones.
    • As you meet and get to know your coworkers, find a likeminded individual willing to take you under their wing. Take initiative and seek out your own mentor.
  4. You won’t make a full associate salary until you’ve passed the bar. This is a common misconception among new hires. Recent graduates will start off as law clerks, a pre-associate role. It means the firms is willing to invest in you and train you to move into an associate role, but in return you must study hard and pass the bar exam. There is usually an agreement between both parties regarding these expectations. New associates must understand that as unlicensed attorneys they cannot perform all the duties of a licensed attorney. Thus, they shouldn’t expect to be compensated the same way.
  5. In the wake of the pandemic, work from home has become commonplace, but it’s not the best option for everyone or every employer. At Valiant Search, we’ve seen several young associate attorneys looking for work from home options. Unfortunately, this is a hard sell for most firms. It is difficult to get first-hand experience and assimilate into the workplace culture virtually. Accountability also plays a factor for work from home positions. A lateral partner or senior associate with years of experience and a proven track record are likely to have a work from home request accommodated. For law clerks who have yet to be licensed it’s a different story. Firms want new associates and law clerks in the office.
  6. In-house opportunities aren’t a realistic starting place for recent graduates. In-house legal departments have vast resources and are a great place to position yourself within the legal industry, but most of the time, these departments are looking for an attorney with considerable experience who can step right in. They are less interested in training young associates who need time to learn the ropes. It’s also worth mentioning that moving to an in-house position will limit your options of moving back to a firm setting later in your career.

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