Lawyers call or email almost daily to ask what they can do to make themselves more marketable. Some are looking to go in-house from either a law firm or a government position, others to move up the corporate ranks. But the advice is generally quite similar.
First, an up-to-date resume is the basic currency of the recruiting economy. Your resume should be concise and easy to read. Nonetheless, we frequently see multiple fonts and colors, turgid paragraphs describing routine tasks, and quirky hobbies rather than critical skills. The ideal resume contains carefully curated bullet points highlighting the scope of work you have done, the number of people you have managed, and the success you have achieved in the roles you have performed. The colleges and universities you have attended should be set out chronologically. As a general rule, GPAs are utterly irrelevant after your first job, but for most of the people for whom it is relevant, they already have distinctions with their degree that carry far more weight than the grades themselves.
Resumes should also be thought of as templates. While the basics may stay the same, if you are interested in a company marketing heavy industrial goods, then you should tailor your resume so that deals, cases, or investigations that most closely align with that kind of business are highlighted. Conversely, if you are applying to a service-oriented company (software or human resources management), then an entirely different set of achievements should be emphasized.
Your LinkedIn profile should also be current. While not the sole way that recruiters identify and contact potential candidates, LinkedIn is certainly highly visible and an easy way to keep a public presence.
Second, employers are rarely looking for someone just interested in a change of career. Many attorneys see a change of employer as a “change in lifestyle,” and for a person dissatisfied with the number of hours billed at their firm, or the culture or growth potential at a particular company, a lifestyle change makes sense. But a lawyer who’s done eight years of solely personal-injury defense before deciding to become a mergers and acquisitions attorney cannot reasonably hope to find a company that wants to underwrite that training.
Many attorneys who want to move outside their expertise into burgeoning practice areas like ESG or privacy do so quite adeptly, but they invariably develop those additional specialties at their current employer or on their own first. Becoming an expert in a subject sometimes just means attending – and then presenting – at continuing legal education or client-engagement seminars. Often, it’s simply a matter of volunteering to take over a new area of responsibility or working on questions that others have eschewed.
Finally, finding a different position is a grueling process for many people. There is always a small segment – in any profession – for whom the perfect position virtually lands in their laps. But for most people, job searches take a patient combination of deep introspection about your goals and priorities and active, sincere networking. We see many candidates who quickly become frustrated or overwhelmed by the sluggish pace that most companies take to effect hiring decisions and even more who are disappointed by the application process that so frequently yields only a pro forma email response. It’s worth noting that any position that seems attractive to one lawyer is probably so to many others, and that the number of candidates for most positions is generally high.
Keeping a positive attitude, continually improving your resume and credentials, and maintaining a sufficiently high profile in the recruiting community remain the best ways to obtain the job you are looking for.