Targeted Job Search Tips: Employment Law
Landing a job on the management/defense side
Because the practice of employment law varies from firm to firm, try to find out as much as you can about an individual firm, including the model its departments follow. For example, if you are interested in employment litigation, find out whether the attorneys in a firm's employment department handle their own litigation or whether that's left to the general litigation department while employment associates spend their time on counseling and corporate support. In general, smaller firms or boutiques are more likely to concentrate on litigation than transactional work, while employment attorneys at large firms will handle a heavy load of corporate support.
Large firms: Buff that resume
Large management-side firms usually recruit heavily on law school campuses across the country. While directly contacting these firms and expressing interest in their employment practices is never a bad idea, the main thrust of their recruiting efforts is through on-campus interviews heading up their summer associate programs. This general pattern applies to large national firms, national employment law firms and larger regional firms.
Simply because these firms may be actively recruiting law students and new attorneys doesn't mean landing a job at a large, respected management firm is an easy task. Such national firms are extremely selective, and scoring good grades at a top law school is often a prerequisite. A mid-level associate at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker suggests that "There is a grade guideline for each school which successful candidates typically meet." The "better the law school, grades, journal/law review and prior work experience, the better the chance of getting hired is." Even though "personality is also very important," you must first have the "right combination of law school and grades."
One tip offered is to publish a scholarly article during school. This, notes the associate, can be "very distinguishing, especially if the student is seeking to target a particular [practice] area."
Employment boutiques: Put on your sneakers
Landing a job at a respected employment boutique may require a bit more footwork than simply showing up at your on-campus interview with a glowing resume. Unlike national or large regional firms, smaller employment firms don't recruit heavily on law school campuses, and they are more likely to require some prior litigation experience. However, with a little research and a lot of legwork you should be able to find opportunities at respected boutiques in your area. Initially you should consult your career services center, employment law professors and any practicing attorneys you know to help you locate smaller firms in your area with well-known employment practices. While you are at the career services center, ask if there are any small or mid-size firm receptions or events that may not be part of the main on-campus recruiting programs, as these are usually dominated by larger firms. Networking becomes especially valuable when seeking a job at these harder-to-find boutique firms, and you should tap into the resources offered by local bar groups.
Once you've located firms that catch your interest, contact them directly and clearly demonstrate your interest in employment law in any communications. In the first paragraph of your cover letter you should bring to their attention any employment classes you've taken, any practical litigation experience you have, like externships or law clerk positions, and any other activities that demonstrate your interest in employment law or litigation. Don't be discouraged if you send out dozens of letters and get no response. If you've done your research and are persistent, the hard work will pay off somewhere down the line. While smaller firms don't usually have the recruiting budgets for lavish summer associate programs, they will likely have some sort of law clerking program that may lead to a permanent position.