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Ask the Experts

Q: I am a 56 year old man who has been on disability for the past 18 years.  I hold both a JD from St. John’s and LL.M. in taxation from NYU.   I want to go back to work and am willing to accept entering the job market at any level and in any capacity (including paralegal).  Do I stand a chance?

A: This answer assumes that though you were on disability for 18 years you are now ready to reenter the work force and are able to perform all the necessary work-related tasks.

You are not alone in the challenge of returning to practice after a lengthy absence. To be successful in your search, you will need to be focused in your approach and be diligent in your follow-up.

You should begin by determining where you see yourself, i.e. your "15 second elevator speech". These are the same points that you should delineate in your cover letters and emphasize in your conversations with recruiters, whether at a law firm or a placement agency. Remember that law firms have a reputation of thinking in a traditional lockstep classification based on year of law school, and you will have to take the lead in figuring out where best you would fit in. You should attempt to explain the gap in your resume to the extent that you are able and comfortable in doing so. Be sure that all your professional accreditations are active.

On a practical side, you should try to reach out and network with as many former colleagues and professional and personal contacts as possible and explain what you are looking for. For example, St. John’s University School of Law has an "Alumni Lawyers Network" who assist other alumni with career guidance. You should talk to as many people as possible about potential opportunities, go on informational interviews and seek referrals from others, particularly learning from others who have successfully reentered the legal workforce.

This is process: the more contacts you make, and the clearer you are in your approach, the greater your chances of finding the opportunity that is right for you and right for your future employer.

Good luck with your search