Scott Morris, assistant director of employer outreach and communication in the career services department at University of San Diego School of Law, offered these insights on the current job market for law school graduates.
What kind of job market are you seeing for new graduates of USD School of Law and how does this year's job market compare to previous years?
Employment opportunities in the legal market have been on the upswing since 2009. Between 2010 and 2011, USD School of Law’s online job board postings increased 27 percent and we are on pace to increase again in 2012. In the last week alone, eight full-time, San Diego-based associate/clerk recent graduate or May 2012 graduate positions have been posted on our job board.
Where are you seeing demand from law firms? Are they seeking particular specialties or positions more than others?
The most prevalent hiring need we have seen recently is in the litigation field. Employers from large class-action firms, to securities litigators and personal injury sole practitioners, have been stepping up their hiring efforts in the past year. Intellectual property litigation and patent prosecution are hot practice areas, particularly here in San Diego with our strong biotech and science community.
We have also seen an increased need for attorneys in areas such as tax, bankruptcy, immigration, and wills and trusts. It is hard to predict what practice areas will flourish in the future, which is another reason jobseekers need to stay vigilant.
How can a law school student best prepare for the job market? What kind of programs does USD offer to help students in the job hunt?
USD School of Law Dean Stephen Ferruolo, in conjunction with the school’s career services department, recently hosted a series of roundtables with prominent local attorneys to discuss trends in legal training and hiring. One of the recurring comments from employers has been that, in addition to traditional coursework, new graduates need to be able to demonstrate practical legal skills.
Practical skills training offered at USD School of Law — interning with judges, law firm work experience, agency internships with government and public interest employers or corporate counsel internships — are invaluable building blocks for students to sharpen their skills and make themselves more marketable upon graduation.
One law firm managing partner put it best by saying, if a recent graduate comes to me looking for a job in my corporate practice group, nothing will be more impressive than an entry on her resume showing the in-house transactional experience she had while interning at Sony during her second year of law school.
Understanding transactions from a real, client-side perspective is incredibly valuable to me as a hiring attorney and certainly will give her a major leg up.
What advice do you give to graduates who aren't finding jobs? Are there nontraditional paths to employment in the law field?
First, make sure all your application materials are flawless so that you can apply to any open positions quickly. It is often the first responders that get the interviews. Your school’s career services department should be able to review your resume and cover letters to make sure they are application-ready.
I always tell our new graduates how important it is to be patient and diligent in their job searches. Beyond this, there is no substitute for effective networking. Eighty percent of all legal jobs are never advertised. The reality is that most employers want to hire via referral, not job boards. USD School of Law’s career services department recommends that students network in the legal community by going to the many networking events hosted at their law school, attending local bar events, searching for local attorneys through alumni network databases and inviting them to coffee, or using their professional LinkedIn account to find contacts and employers in their preferred market.
In terms of non-traditional paths to employment, those opportunities certainly do exist. A J.D. is a powerful degree: the analytical, critical thinking, research and writing skills students develop cross over to many non-attorney jobs. Over the past six months, the USD School of Law career services office has enticed non-attorney employers to recruit our students for industries as diverse as publishing, professional sports, banks, insurance and linguistics.