“Dear LiL: Can you give some advice for an articled student who wasn’t kept on as an associate in a large law firm environment during COVID and how to navigate this? I am feeling imposter syndrome and burnout from networking.” Signed ~ What Now?
Dear What Now:
I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert in the art of “what to do when you’re not hired back” – not because part of my job is managing our firm’s student program, but because I wasn’t hired back after articles either. Like you, I articled at a large firm during a tumultuous time. For me, it was the 2008 financial crisis. Despite making connections with lawyers at the firm, working hard, and, by all accounts, doing good work, I was not offered an associate position.
Not getting hired back was a big blow to my confidence. The fact that I logically knew we were in the midst of a global financial crisis did not cushion the blow. Neither did the fact that so many of my classmates also were not hired back that year. Like you, I was exhausted. I was also scared because I had a mountain of student loan debt. So I know from experience that there is not much I can say that will alleviate those feelings for you and others who were not hired back this year. However, I can offer you some hope and some practical next steps.
First, the hope.
Based on my experience, and the experiences of so many of my classmates, I can confidently tell you that things are going to work out. Every one of my friends who did not get hired back has gone on to have an interesting and successful career – careers that they would not necessarily have had if they had stayed at the firms where they articled.
After articles, I was hired at a boutique litigation firm where I was able to work directly with very senior counsel on interesting and high profile cases. My new bosses were old school in the very best of ways: they were serious about mentorship and professionalism, and had high expectations. They gave me a lot of responsibility early on in my career drafting complex arguments and facta. Those opportunities – and the example those lawyers set – laid the foundation for my career and prepared me for the job I have now (which I love).
So now, the practical next steps. Here’s my advice for those who were not hired back this year:
If you are still at the firm, be your best, professional self. Have a good attitude. Show up. Do work. The legal community is small. Don’t burn bridges.
I agree that networking can be exhausting, so be strategic about it. Reach out to the lawyers at your firm for whom you did your best work. They will know lawyers across the city, and may be willing to make a few calls for you or keep an ear to the ground for opportunities. This is how I got my interviews after articles.
Reach out to classmates. Networking with your peers is “low impact” in terms of effort, but can turn up surprising leads. You never know whose firm might be looking for new associates, or who has heard of opportunities.
This might sound basic, but it is important: update your cover letter and resume. You are now looking for a lawyer job, not a student job. Highlight the experience you gained over the past year. Have a good friend (or better, two or three) proofread it for you.
Subscribe to the CBA News + Jobs email, and any alumni job posting emails that your law school career services office may publish.
I know a job search can be challenging, particularly when you are exhausted and deflated, but hang in there. From where I sit now, I am truly grateful I was not hired back. I suspect that sometime in the not so distant future, you may be too.
About the Author
Emilie LeDuc is a Research Associate and Professional Development Coordinator with Harper Grey LLP. She supports the firm’s senior lawyers with legal research, analysis, and drafting, and oversees the firm’s student program. Emilie is also an Adjunct Professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, teaching Law 430: Advanced Legal Research.