Every young lawyer knows the job market is competitive these days, and the ability to score just an interview with a law firm is a big deal, in and of itself. According to the American Bar Association, nine months after graduation, just 56 percent of the class of 2012 had found full-time employment in law. So how does a young lawyer with little legal experience market himself or herself to law firms? And, if you land that opportunity, how do you quickly establish yourself as an important asset to the firm?
The biggest advantage young attorneys have today is their knowledge of technology of all types in various settings, and you can showcase this knowledge not only in interviews, but in the office itself.
After graduating from law school and taking and passing the bar exam, every young lawyer has experience with either LexisNexis or WestLaw, or both. This is a big starting point, and something that can work to your advantage. Law firms use these resources for legal research; however, platforms such as LexisNexis are changing so rapidly that more experienced attorneys may not be aware of these new benefits or have the time to learn it. Most students in law school are required to attend training for these research websites, where they learn not only basic legal research skills, but other uses the websites have to offer. Some schools even offer the option to become “certified” by these websites. This is a major bonus for a young lawyer’s résumé. You can market yourself to law firms as being up on the latest and newest features of LexisNexis or WestLaw and emphasize how you can save the firm a lot of time and money.
For example, LexisNexis has a new addition to its website that allows attorneys on both sides of a case to research for depositions, trial transcripts and reports of expert witnesses. Although it may appear self-explanatory, this can be a complicated feature to learn, and an untrained attorney may not use it to their advantage like they should. In comes the skills of the young lawyer – not only does the younger generation pick up on technology products quickly, but they will already have knowledge of this LexisNexis feature from law school “training” sessions. Being able to use this time and money-saving tool is crucial to their own personal marketing technique. Many firms still employ researchers, or pay a high price for access to specialized websites for the kind of information that LexisNexis makes available as an add-on feature of its new platform.
Another growing technological resource that many, if not all, young attorneys have is Facebook. You might not think that having a profile on this social networking site is advantageous; however, the ability to research clients and the opposing parties on Facebook can prove very fruitful. Longtime attorneys might not have access to Facebook, but newer additions to the attorney lineup can demonstrate how this seemingly pointless website can actually be very beneficial to research and trial preparation (not to mention business development). Many law firms today are creating pageson Facebook and reaching out to potential clients via status updates and helpful tips. Creating a Facebook page is easy for a young lawyer who has probably been using the website for years, and can help the firm advertise in a new and different way.
Many law schools now offer classes in electronic discovery or e-discovery E-discovery, of course, is not new, but it is a critically important and rapidly changing area of legal practice. Often, young attorneys who have taken e-discovery classes are at an advantage and can assist other attorneys who are not as familiar with the latest developments in complicated ESI and discovery processes. Especially for law firms that are still receiving and sending out mass quantities of paper discovery, a young attorney with up-to-date knowledge of e-discovery processes and techniques can prove to be very helpful in not only cutting costs, but saving valuable time. Additionally, reviewing and organizing discovery results can be very time-consuming, but young lawyers can efficiently help the firm with this task if they already have background knowledge of the procedure.
Young attorneys also can take advantage of memberships with professional organizations. For example, if the attorney works with a firm specializing in civil plaintiff litigation, they more than likely will be a member of a local or national trial lawyers’ association. Many of these organizations have databases that allow an attorney to reach out to every lawyer in the association with questions about research, witnesses, or feedback. With knowledge of these organizations and their databases, young attorneys in a new position can use this to their advantage when they are asked to do research on difficult topics, or to find depositions on an important opposing expert witness. Knowing that these databases exist can be fruitful by allowing the new hire to jump right into various research assignments by reaching out to peers across the city, state, and country.
Young lawyers entering the work force need to learn how to market themselves toward law firms in ways that make them look appealing, especially if they are lacking legal experience. Knowledge of important features of research platforms such as LexisNexis, or what certain professional associations’ databases can provide, allows the young lawyer to help and do things for the seasoned attorney, allowing him or her to focus on other important aspects of cases and clients. Young attorneys who can not only help other lawyers with technology, but also teach them a new thing or two, are instantly more desirable and marketable in this high-tech world.
Sarah A. Filippi is a first-year associate at Duffy Partners in Philadelphia, and a 2012 graduate of Widener University School of Law. She can be reached at 215.238.8700 or email@example.com.