PSJD’s 10-Step Program to Keep Your Job Search Warm This Winter

Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Thank you to American University Washington College of Law Office of Career and Professional Development for contributing these tips.

Penguins on an Interview
Whether you’re looking forward to finishing your first semester of law school or looking forward to starting your last one, the best holiday spirit is the one that puts you in the mood for career planning. We here at PSJD hope you’re able to take a well-deserved rest from classes, but you can’t afford to let your job search efforts freeze over. To help your job search stay warm through winter without burning you out, we’ve come up with ten concrete activities you can take on between now and New Year’s to be ready to impress your future employers in 2015.

The gist of our ten-step program is below, but stay tuned: We’ll be covering each of these tips in greater detail in upcoming installments of PSJDblog over the weeks between now and the end of the semester.

Tip 1: Review Your Resume & Cover Letter

Perhaps the most important task you can do, especially with limited time. All too often, strong candidates undermine their own candidacy with resumes and cover letters that contain typos and/or are simply not compelling. Review your materials carefully before they are sent, ask a friend to proofread them, and, of course, meet with an OCPD career counselor to review your documents.

Tip 2: Take Advantage of Holiday Gatherings and Festivities

Holiday mixers are an opportunity to let people know:

  1. Who you are;
  2. The kinds of employers and opportunities you are targeting; and
  3. What you are looking to accomplish in your legal career.

This is especially true if you’re job searching in a geographic area different than your law school. You need to get out into the legal community and meet people so that when you’re applying for internships or postgraduate positions, you have some connection to the market. Additionally, many firms and non-profits have their end of the year celebrations. This is a great time to talk with people in a more informal (read less stressful) way. But remember, you’re trying to make professional connections, so act accordingly.

Tip 3: Craft Your Pitch

Speaking of making connections, you need to have your “pitch” created so that you don’t look like a deer caught in the headlights when someone asks you: “So, what do you want to do?” No matter which legal sector you target, being able to quickly and convincingly articulate your skills, interests, and accomplishments is key to presenting yourself in a compelling and focused manner. We will be discussing how to craft your pitch in an upcoming installment of the Holiday Job Search Tips series.

Tip 4: Take Time to Review Your Online Presence

Consider what you are viewing, downloading or linking to on your social media. Be mindful of your connections and public image — As you know, the Internet has a long memory and footprints can be indelible.

Tip 5: Set Up Informational Meetings

We used to call these informational interviews. The point is, you ask the questions to gather information and make connections. Since people may have more time during the holidays, request informational meetings with college and law school alumni who practice in the areas you wish to pursue. Make sure you have clear and cogent questions, and express thanks for their time with a prompt thank you note follow up. You will find this practice especially important if you wish to expand your job search beyond the geographic confines of your law school or home town. Once you’ve had these meetings, make sure you record the information you’ve gathered and periodically follow up with relevant contacts as you continue job searching and beyond.

Tip 6: Visit the Courthouse

Consider observing a judicial proceeding overseen by a judge or in a court you are targeting for a clerkship or internship. Not only will this provide a compelling opener to your cover letter, but it could possibly create an opportunity to speak with the Judge’s law clerk about your interest. While you’re at it, reach out to any lawyers you observe arguing a case of interest to you.

Tip 7: Offer Seasonal Help to a Local Legal Aid Office, or…

another public sector employer who might welcome a lending hand with some legal research or project-based work. Volunteering is always an excellent way to gain experience and demonstrate interest in a particular organization or client base.

Tip 8: Write an Article, or at least…

consider a topic that might be interesting to you. We’re not talking law review here; there are many professional associations, bar organizations, periodicals and trade publications that are content-starved. Publishing opportunities abound and are relatively easy to leverage. For instance, PSJDblog is always looking for guest bloggers. Consider getting yourself out there early and establishing yourself as knowledgeable in a particular area.

Tip 9: Join a Relevant Bar Organization

Many students get scholarships, summer funding, awards, and recognition from national and local bar associations. In addition, full- and part-time job opportunities may arise though meaningful bar association contacts and involvement. Attending their CLE programs is another great way to make contacts and gain valuable resume experience.

Tip 10: Update your Professional References

Too many times to count, I’ve checked references with someone who had no idea what job the candidate was applying to and even that they were being used as a reference. The end of the year is a great time to check back in with the people who’ve offered to be your reference in the past. Let them know what you’re up to and at least give them a general sense of where your job search is taking you now. Also, evaluate your references. Are they still relevant for the types of legal positions you’re now seeking? If not, determine who else could potentially be a reference and make that connection.


  1. The PSJD Blog » You Need a Montage: PSJD Career Search Tips in Practice said,

    November 25, 2014 at 10:14 am

    […] regular readers already know, between now and the end of the semester we will be blogging about how to make the most of the […]

  2. The PSJD Blog » You Need a Montage: Cover Letter Makeover Scene said,

    December 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    […] be putting me through my paces for your benefit from now until next semester so you can see how PSJD’s 10-Step Program for keeping your job search warm over the holidays works in […]

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