From the monthly archives:

June 2012

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Self-Initiated Employer Contact Works

by A. Harrison Barnes on June 27, 2012

Statistics indicate approximately 85% of all legal employment positions in the United States are filled via self-initiated contact with employers. Self-initiated contact generally requires (1) researching who the contacts are in various organizations, and (2) preparing cover letters to the organizations that match your interests. Despite the fact that an employer may not advertise or engage a recruiter to fill a position, many employers have never advertised openings and simply fill positions and create openings from the people that approach them. In a market as small as Los Angeles, California, for example, there are over 2,000 legal employers and we would estimate that well over 25% are always on the look out for good attorneys. On our end, we use probably in excess of 25 sources to identify employers. Not all firms list themselves in Martindale Hubble due to costs considerations and only a small percentage of legal hiring organizations list themselves with the National Association of Law Placement. Accordingly, the resources of recruiters and job posting boards and others who collect this information and initiate contact with the employers can be extremely beneficial.

Prominent job posting boards and recruiting firms have an incentive to have the best information possible. Good legal recruiters specialize in information gathering and the larger ones even have entire departments that do nothing but gather information. Similarly, good classified ad sections of legal newspapers specialize in information gathering and selling of ads to employers. The larger organizations are usually able to compile the most information.

Due to the sharp downturn in the job market, self-initiated contact with employers may well become even more prominent as legal hiring organizations seek to cope with a decrease in demand for legal services. This is true whether you are seeking a position with a law firm, in-house legal department, or public interest organization. If you have tried other methods to find a job and have not been pleased with them, self-initiated contact may be a good option.


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Getting an In-House Position

by A. Harrison Barnes on June 19, 2012

“Uncluttering the Maze Leading to an In-House Position”

There are several methods for finding an in-house legal position.The most common way that attorneys have traditionally gone in house is to accept a position with one of their clients.We would estimate that throughout history this is the most common way attorneys have gotten positions.Nevertheless, unless a client specifically asks you to come and work for them, the problems with getting a position this way can be quite pronounced.For example, if you ask your clients if you can come work for them, how does that make your current firm look?What’s more, what if word of your inquiry to the client leaks back to your law firm.You would be surprised how many attorneys this has happened.

Another strategy for getting an in-house position is by responding to ads on job posting boards.The problem with this way of looking for a position is that most in-house employers who post positions on job posting boards receive well in excess of 1,000 responses.In addition to often being confused about what to do with all the responses and frustrated with having to respond to them all, in-house employers are flooded with resumes of top attorneys seeking a better lifestyle, more predictable hours and no billable hours.

Probably the least common way for attorneys to get an in-house position is through a legal recruiting firm.The legal recruiting firm typically operates in the following manner in conducting an in-house search:

First, the recruiter cold calls numerous General Counsels or other corporate staff in an attempt to induce them to give them an opening.More often than not, the recruiter demands a meeting and goes to the meeting with a great deal of propoganda about the search firm.The General Counsel then will often speak with other search firms in an effort to negotiate fees and decide whom they believe will provide the best possible service.As you can imagine, it is a great deal of work for recruiters to get in-house positions; however, as discussed below, the benefits of the recruiter getting an in-house position can often pay dividends far greater than simply filling the in-house position.

Second, most of the time the recruiter will demand both an “exclusive” and a “retainer” to perform the in-house search.

By an exclusive, the recruiter will seek to prohibit the company from using any outside sources to fill the position for a minimum length of time (usually six months to a year).When a recruiter is granted an “exclusive” they also require the corporation to forward to them all resumes they receive for the attorney position for the length of the exclusive.Because recruiters want to use the name of the company in advertising the position, this prevents candidates from contacting the company directly (in which event the company would not have to pay the recruiter any fees).

In addition, the recruiter will typically demand that the company pay them a “retainer”.The “retainer” is typically set at a dollar amount which is between 1/3 and ½ of what the placement firm’s expected placement fee will be.Attorney placement firms typically charge corporations and other employers a fee to introduce you to the employer that is typically between 25 and 40% of your annual salary.The “retainer fee” is used by the placement firm to pay for advertising and other incidental expenses associated with finding candidates for the position.

When a placement firm places an ad for an in-house position they typically receive numerous, numerous, numerous inquiries.Out of what is often well in excess of 1,000 inquiries, the placement firm will very quickly whittle down the inquiries to less than 10 candidates and introduce these candidates to the corporation.A placement then, hopefully will be made.

From a recruiter’s standpoint, much of the beauty of doing in-house placements is that it very quickly provides the recruiting firm with hundreds and hundreds of candidates the recruiting firm knows are interested in alternative employment.Accordingly, while the recruiter will very rarely have suitable in-house positions for these attorneys, there are far more potential law firm opportunities than in-house opportunities and the recruiter will attempt to interest the candidates in them.

At Legal Authority we believe that the best method for finding an in-house position is by using our service.The beauty of using Legal Authority is that it counteracts most of the traditional obstacles to you getting an in-house position, which are (1) recruiters and (2) job boards.If you are playing games with these two methods for trying to get a position you may be waiting a very long time indeed.

Legal Authority assists attorneys in contacting every potential in-house employer in the area of the country they are interested in.The benefit of this is that your materials will arrive on the desk of every potential employer you could possibly ever want to work for.In addition, most in-house employers do not use recruiters to fill attorney positions.Using Legal Authority can help you contact the ones you are most interested in regardless of whether or not they use recruiters or typically advertise their openings on job posting boards.

In addition, Legal Authority can help you focus your search in the most appropriate way possible.For example, if you are seeking a position as a General Counsel, it would likely not be the most appropriate to contact the General Counsel about a potential position.Instead, you would be better served contacting a high level executive within a firm.This is something that Legal Authority can assist you in doing.

Legal Authority is the most effective way for getting an in-house position and when an attorney is switching positions it is often the only way that actually makes sense.Are in-house positions easy to get?We are the first to admit that an in-house position is not easy to get.However, using Legal Authority hundreds of attorneys have successfully gotten in-house positions and we believe that we get far, far more attorneys in-house positions each month than any recruiting firm in the United States.


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How Do You Get a Job if You Are Not at the Top of Your Class

by A. Harrison Barnes on June 12, 2012


Q. Dear Legal Eagle,

I am a third-year law student at a second-tier law school. I have found that many of my fellow students who are not in the top 10% of their class are not finding jobs through the on-campus interview process. What is the deal?

Signed . . .Worried 3L

A. Dear Worried 3L

On campus interviewing gives the largest firms their chance to troll for what they consider to be the best candidates, breaking it down by grades, law review, and class ranking. However, you and I know that each person who has made it through law school has skills and knowledge to offer any employer willing to look at them. Many times, a law firm will consider a potential addition to their firm when they receive a resume in their “off-season”, namely, before or after the on-campus interviewing program. Also, there are many firms that don’t want to go through law school’s frustrating on-campus schedule, and will gladly look at candidates who have the initiative to send them a resume.

One of the most interesting statistics from our standpoint are those published by U.S. News and World Report each year. These statistics show that at many law schools 60% of graduates are employed at graduation and, then, 90%+ are employed within six months of graduation. Because we speak with attorneys each day, the reason for this seems quite simple to us: The attorneys who are not employed at the time of graduation get positions later. Unfortunately, this “other 30%” is often getting positions that most often are a last result more than anything—poor paying jobs, or those with little chance of advancement.

The benefit of using Legal Authority is that we help law students and practicing attorneys realize their true market value because we assist them in exposing themselves to the segment of the market they are interested in. While the number of success stories we have is profound, the fact of the matter is that by using Legal Authority you can expose yourself to the segment of the market you want at the point in time you choose.

In your example above about the on-campus interviewing process there is nothing at all surprising occurring. A small cross section of firms even do on-campus interviewing at second tier schools. Out of those firms, an even smaller percentage are even likely to do the type of work you want to do. And, even if the firms do the type of work you want to do, they are generally only seeking attorneys in the tops of most second tier law school classes. As a result, your universe of potential opportunities cannot help but be quite limited.

In contrast to this insanity—excuse the language, but it is “insanity”—Legal Authority can assist you in contacting every single employer that does what you want to do. You will actually be competing for the hundreds, and even thousands of opportunities, if you choose, that are available in the market. By following this route, you can ensure that you have access to each and every opportunity possible and that you realize the greatest return possible in your search from both a financial standpoint and the additional standpoint of finding a firm which is a “good fit” for you.

Each day across the United States, law students are getting positions through Legal Authority and we do not believe there is a more effective means anywhere for them to do so. We have seen so many law students succeed using our service that we often wonder what would have happened to the careers of the law students graduating from school each year if they had used our service. More so than on-campus interviewing, our service assists law students in locating the positions that best match what they are seeking to do.


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by A. Harrison Barnes on June 8, 2012

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We saw that with Sony, and some of the larger retailers, and we’ve seen examples in this industry where accounts have been hacked. This industry as a whole hasn’t opened itself to thinking that way, yet we’re now embracing the technology in mobile and digital really rapidly. Market, could that lead to confusion or cannibalization?.


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Which is Better A Federal or State Clerkship?

by A. Harrison Barnes on June 6, 2012

It depends.As discussed below, a state court clerkship will generally enhance your marketability if you are planning on working in the state where you are clerking.Nevertheless,the value of a clerkship should not necessarily be something that you view as a tool to make you marketable.Most importantly,the skills and insight you will acquire during your clerkship will be something that should help you throughout your career.

A.A State Court Clerkship Will be Most Likely to Make You Marketable if You Are Considering Working in the State Where You Will be Clerking.

It is useful to examine some of the differences between different types of clerkships.Each type of clerkship has its advantages and disadvantages.In order to help you understand the role a clerkship will have in your marketability, I believe it is useful to examine the differences between federal and state clerkships.

1.Federal Clerkships

At the Federal level, the order of prestige of clerkships is typically: (1) the Supreme Court, (2) Circuit (Appellate) clerkships, (3) Federal District Court (trial court) clerkships, (4) clerkships with United States magistrates (who do a lot of the “grunt work” for Federal District Judges).There are also several specialized courts (such as Federal Tax Court) which are of approximately the same prestige level as Federal District Court clerkships.

Appellate clerkships involve mainly research and writing about issues the trial court has already ruled on.This involves reviewing the lower court’s rulings for errors the District Court may have made when it ruled.Appellate clerkships typically involve more arcane and novel issues of law than are typically litigated at the trial level.In an appellate clerkship you are less likely to get to know the lawyers involved.

District Court clerkships involve actual issues being litigated at the trial court level and typically have more in-court action.In a district court clerkship you may see many of the same lawyers in court day in and day out.In a Circuit Court clerkship, you are likely to see the attorneys involved only when they present their appellate arguments in court.

There are also numerous distinctions between clerkships at the Federal level.For example, clerking for the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is generally considered the most prestigious clerkship there is.Similarly, a clerkship with a federal district judge in the Eastern District of New York is more prestigious than a clerkship with a federal district judge in Bay City, Michigan, for example.Attorneys who clerk for the most prestigious judges are typically those whose “marketability” is likely to be increased as a result.

Typically, the most prestigious clerkships have been those with federal judges.At top national law schools, students compete very aggressively for federal clerkships and do so more so than they do for state judicial clerkships.Given the prestige of a federal clerkship, it can often make you marketable far beyond the geographic area where you are clerking.

2.State Court Clerkships

There are different distinctions in the state court system; however, in general, you also have a supreme court, appellate courts and trial courts.The same prestige distinctions are also present at the state level, with a state supreme court clerkship being the most prestigious.Just as certain federal district courts in various geographical locations are considered prestigious places to clerk in, so too are the state courts in different states.In general, if you are clerking for an appellate court in a major state, this will be more prestigious than if you are doing the same thing in a smaller state.

The problem with a state court clerkship is typically something that is also an advantage.While a state court clerkship will not necessarily increase your chances of being marketable anywhere throughout the United States, it can do you a tremendous amount of good in the area where you are clerking.Clerking for a state court will make you a candidate with important local contacts.The fact of the matter is that most litigation is actually conducted in the state courts.Accordingly, a state court clerkship will most likely provide you with a better understanding of state law than you would ever get as a federal clerk.If you are planning on working in the area where you are clerking, the state court clerkship should be enormously valuable.

You need to remember that accepting a clerkship is much like the decision of where you decided to go to law school.There are major national law schools that vary in prestige and there are smaller local law schools that vary in prestige.For example, attending a law school like Yale is going to give you a serious advantage when you are applying to positions throughout the United States.A law school like Yale might be compared to clerking on the Supreme Court. Conversely, a smaller more local law school like the University of Toledo is not going to give you as much an advantage throughout the United States.This school will, however, probably give you good options in Toledo, Ohio.

Accordingly, before you accept your clerkship, I would recommend having a good understanding of whether or not you want to work in the area where you will be clerking.The clerkship is most likely to make you marketable if you are seeking to work in the state where you are clerking.I would also do some research into where the judge’s former clerks ended up working.By learning this you can also get a decent idea of what your marketability might be following the clerkship.

Additionally, you have stated a concern about being “marketable”; nevertheless, you have not told me where you would like to be marketable.Do you want to be marketable in the area you are clerking in?Do you want to be marketable to a law firm, corporation, public interest group, prosecutor’s office?You get the idea.You should also think through the answers to these questions as you are deciding whether or not to clerk.

B. The Value of Your Clerkship Should Not Necessarily be Viewed as a Tool to Make You Marketable

Clerking is something that gives you tools and memories that most clerks carry with them throughout their careers.When you sit on the judge’s side of the bench, you get the feeling that you are really part of the legal process and have the idea of how decisions are made and the implications these decisions have on peoples’ lives.Most clerks describe the year they spent clerking as the most relaxing, intellectually challenging and interesting year of their lives.And this is really the essence of a clerkship.It allows you to see the inner workings of the legal system, work closely with a judge and will provide you with a level of illumination about the legal system itself that you will carry with you throughout your legal career.

My belief is that you should not clerk simply because you think it is something that will get you a better position.A clerkship is something that you should do because it will add depth and meaning to your future legal career.I do not believe that a state court clerkship (especially with an appellate judge) can possible hurt you in your marketability.Indeed, the skills and understanding you pick up during your clerkship will be something you can carry with you throughout your career.


In order to determine whether you should take a state court clerkship, it will be important that you analyze whether or not you want to work in the area of the country where you may be clerking.While a state court clerkship is typically not as prestigious as a federal one, it is something that can provide you with important local contacts and knowledge of state law.More importantly, I seriously doubt that a state court clerkship will hurt you.Instead, a state court clerkship will provide you with tools and an understanding of the legal system you can carry with you throughout your career.

While I have saved this for last, I believe that an important component of your question involves a brief discussion in this conclusion.You are a second year law student and it is only December.If your goal is to be marketable to a law firm, you may be “barking up the wrong tree” at this point by simply seeking a clerkship.Instead, you should accelerate your job search and apply to more law firms and look at more sources of information if working in a law firm is something you want to do.If you are considering accepting a clerkship just to make yourself more marketable, you are not doing yourself, the judge you will be working for, or the justice system itself any favors.


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by A. Harrison Barnes on June 5, 2012

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