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Ask the Experts

Q:I just got admitted to the New York State Bar and I am looking for an employment in the New York City. I have an LL.M. in Corporate Law from NYU and an 8-year experience in Accounting/Audit (my last position being an Interim Controller for a mid-size company in the U.S.). I am originally from a very small Eastern European country where I got my primary legal education. I have been searching for a job for a while now, using internet, mailings and networking. I had had both my cover letter and resume re-written professionally, but I still don't seem to get any results. I cannot get any interviews. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions regarding a job search in the NYC area.

A: Congratulations on your admission to the New York State Bar! From your question, it appears you are doing all the right things. First and foremost, understand that these economic times are presenting new and unusual challenges for attorneys across all spectrums. Those with a foreign legal education typically have a bit higher of a hurdle in obtaining legal employment and now, even more so. However, the fact that you have obtained a LL.M. degree from a US law school will only help you in your search for employment.

While I am sure you are already aware that networking is an important job search tool, active networking should be your primary focus. Your inquiry states that you have had a prior career in accounting. A great place to start would be to exhaust all of your contacts from your prior career to see if anyone is aware of an opportunity. While they may not know of a current opening, by making the contact and letting them know you are searching for employment, they will think of you when an opportunity does arise. More importantly, your actions are part and parcel of relationship building which will yield dividends in the years to come.

Your acts of networking should extend far beyond those you have encountered in your prior career and include all family, friends and peers. Everyone who knows you should know that you are searching for employment. You should locate organizations associated with your native country, ethnic origin and religious affiliation (if any), along with any other organizations that reflect hobbies or interests. The more you are involved, the more people you will be able to connect with and the more you increase your chances of learning of an available opportunity.

Having obtained an LL.M. from NYU, your network must include NYU alumni who are practicing here in NYC. Make the initial contact based on your affiliation with NYU and begin the process of relationship building from there. Be aware that active networking does not mean just asking for a job � it is based on cultivating a network over time, one that is unique to you and reflects your character, goals and ambitions. Avail yourself of career placement advice and counseling offered by the career professionals and resources at NYU. NYU will do everything it can to help you secure employment.

In the midst of your networking, remain consistent in mailings to firms that interest you and in responding to openings posted on the internet or various publications. When responding, along with forwarding your cover letter and resume, you may even think about forwarding a writing sample that will demonstrate your proficiency in the English language (if English is not your first language). Additionally, while your inquiry does not state whether you have practiced law in your native country, your resume should reflect a demonstrated commitment to practicing law here in the US. Highlight any pro bono experience, internships, law school clinics and similar activities that show this commitment. If you are not currently involved in pro bono efforts, make the time - however little - to get involved in organizations where you can use your legal skills to demonstrate a commitment to the practice of law (and, quite possibly, expand your network!). A demonstrated commitment to the profession is particularly important given that your most recent career/position was in a different field.

Depending on how quickly you wish to land a position, the more flexible you are with respect to practice area, firm size and geographic location, the more quickly you will find a position. Keep in mind, that your first job out of law school or an LL.M. program will likely not be your last. As such, use this time to secure almost any opportunity in the legal profession and as the situation improves (and it will), you will have enhanced your skills and be an even more marketable candidate. Realistically, the market for attorneys has contracted and is especially competitive. That said, having had a prior career, arguably you have a broader network and a skill set that can be especially valuable to the right employer. I am sure you know what sets you apart.

Good luck!