Coach's Playbook "Job Search Tip #2 - Start Working for Free"

By Elizabeth Jolliffe

She had left her law job six months earlier. She had intended to make a transition into a different kind of legal practice, but she still did not have a job. He was more than a year out of law school and did not have a job. Another lawyer started worrying about having a gap on her resume immediately after being laid off. Five months later she still did not have a new job.

Since they had nothing but time on their hands, it was surprising that only the first of these lawyers started working for free. The other two did no legal work whatsoever - - a missed opportunity to add legal experience, develop their skills, demonstrate initiative, expand their network, obtain more references, and create a longer track record of success.

You can be like the second two, view your situation as beyond your control and almost give up. Or you can focus on what you can control and use part of your time to work for free to gain legal experience and make valuable contacts.

If You Are Not Working, Start Working For Free.

Following are a few ways you might work for free as a lawyer. It is important to choose areas of law that actually interest you and that you believe will help you in your specific search. It is also important to note that I am not advocating working for free as a lawyer for a law firm or other for-profit entity.

-Do pro bono work for your local legal aid office or bar association.

-Provide legal advice, administrative or other help for non profit organizations.

-Get creative and work on legal initiatives for a community group, city council, school board, the State Bar, etc.

-Research and get involved with relevant legal issues, proposals and potential legislation at the local, state or federal level.

-Work with student clinics in law schools, universities or colleges.

-Write a legal column for your local newspaper.

The bottom line: If you take initiative, you can make something happen in your job search by using your law degree and free time to make things happen for other people and organizations. Choose wisely and you will use your legal skills, enhance your resume, expand your network, make valuable contacts, get more references, and help others at the same time. By doing so, you will better position and distinguish yourself in your job search.

Next time: Job Search Tip # 3: When You Are Not Working, Sell or Learn.

Elizabeth Jolliffe is a certified career management and business development coach for lawyers. She practiced for 19 years as a business litigator, partner and former recruiting committee chair at Clark Hill PLC in Detroit. Elizabeth helps her clients build their practice and take charge of their career.

Published: Mon, May 9, 2011