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Law school career services offices have a reputation for only offering assistance to the top 10, or 20, or 30 percent of each class. Let's put that frightening idea in perspective.
Imagine if doctors only attempted to save the patients with the best chances of survival. The top 10, or 20, or 30 percent. Sure, the success rate would be high -- when they actually intervened -- but would we tolerate such a cavalier attitude toward the weaker segment of the population? Hell no. Yet this is the status quo for OCS.
If you're not in the top X-percent of your class, and you're waiting for OCS to save you from the awful job market, you're done for. It's time to take control of your job search with these practical tips:
Work Your Network
It doesn't matter if you get a job because your parents make a call. What matters is the work you do when you get there.
And if you B.S. your way into a legal career, then you'd better eat, sleep, and breathe whatever topic you declared as your area of expertise until you're actually an expert. When you finally land a gig, pay it forward: Help another struggling law student.
You have to strike a balance between demonstrating that you want the job more than anyone else, and looking a touch cray cray. (You don't want your resume or cover letter to become a meme.) For a start, Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters has tons of outside-the-box ideas, and is a great jumping off point to get you thinking about novel approaches to approaching employers.
Skip the Non-Traditional Legal Job Books
When I requested OCS guidance into a non-traditional legal job, a staffer looked at me and asked, "If you didn't want to be a lawyer, why did you go to law school?" (Touché, OCS. Touché.) Then the staffer directed me to a book in the resource room that included unhelpful suggestions like, "If you like nature -- and you don't want to be a lawyer -- you could be a lawyer for the Sierra Club. If you really, really don't want to be a lawyer, you could be a wilderness guide." I could be a wilderness guide without a J.D. (Who am I kidding? I could never be a wilderness guide.)
There's no traditional way to find a non-traditional legal job. Skip the books, and start talking to people who have the kind of job that you want.
Force yourself to apply for a set number of jobs daily. Create a spreadsheet including the job, the proposed employer's contact information, the date you submitted your resume, and your proposed follow-up date. Then follow up. Don't wait for someone to call you.
It's scary to graduate without a job; hopefully, you won't experience that first-hand. If you're not at the top of your class, you can't expect OCS to help you. That doesn't mean you won't find work. It simply means that you have to take control of your job search, and fight harder to prove that you're a strong candidate.
Editor's Note, February 18, 2015: This post was first published in February 2013. It has since been updated.