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Everyone who tries to enter a specialized industry is faced with the same dilemma: You need industry specific job experience to get jobs in most specialized industries. It's no different than that age old saying: You need money to make money.
For law students, there's a certain art to landing the highly coveted legal summer jobs to build up your resume, as landing a summer job at a law firm or legal non-profit is as competitive as it has ever been. This means more and more law students may need to find alternative routes to getting legal experience before graduating and entering the lawyer job market.
Here are three tips to help set yourself ahead of your competition.
1. Highlight Soft Skills and Coursework
If you've never worked a day in your life, you may have more difficulty showing off transferable skills. But if you know how to use industry specific software, or even the current (and/or former) Microsoft Office Suite (or WordPerfect), these are skills that can get you hired.
Notably, law students don't need to work to get experience with industry specific software. Like the major legal research platforms (which if you know how to use, should be highlighted as well), many ediscovery platforms offer free trainings online that you can take and add to your resume.
Also, your coursework could help you get hired if you've taken relevant courses for a specific position. For example, if you are applying at an employment law firm, don't forget to prominently list your employment law coursework. If you're applying for any sort of law clerk position, highlighting coursework that involved performing legal research, and even the type or subject of the research, could be a deciding factor.
2. Be Enthusiastic
Never underestimate the power of enthusiasm. While coming off overly enthusiastic should be avoided, there is nothing wrong with expressing a genuine interest in what a potential employer does. Think about it: If it comes down to two candidates who are equally qualified (and all other things being equal), the employer is more likely to hire the one that expressed more enthusiasm for the work.
Unfortunately for many law students (and lawyers too), this is where networking can also play a large part. If you've been actively networking (which, yes, we know it's the bane of every lawyer and law student's existence, but it's definitely changed thanks to modern tech), a connection you make could make all the difference.
3. Start Volunteering ASAP
Experience is really important after you graduate. It's so important that if you can't find a summer legal job while you're in law school, you need to consider giving your time away for free to any legal organization that will take you (within reason). You are not required to put non-legal jobs on your resume, and there is no shame in taking a non-legal job to make ends meet. But, if you do, you need to spread yourself a little thinner and volunteer for a legal organization that will get you some real legal experience.