Why December is the Best Time to Search for a Law Firm Job

Harrison Barnes

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Summary: Many will take a break for their law firm job search during the winter holidays but there are many good reasons why you should never do that.

  • Many attorneys put their job searches on hold at the end of the year. Why this is the wrong strategy.
  • December is better than other months to apply to law firms—a lot better—and there are many reasons for that.
  • Law firms like to hire in December form any internal reasons you may not be aware of.
  • You have a better chance of landing an interview in December —there’s a reason for that too.
  • December is a great month for networking.

January is named for the Roman god of beginnings and endings. Wait to look for work in January and your best chances for finding it will also come to an end. If you wait until January to look for a law firm job, you will have waited a month too long.

Everyone is looking to make a change in January—there are tons of new year resolutions, right? If you’re ready to make a career change, then you better make December your jam.

Why December is no month to chill

For law firms, there is often a push to hire in December. Here’s why:

  • Law firms are assessing their needs for the upcoming year in December. They often know of practice groups that will be busy or be taking on significant matters, and they will need attorneys to do that work.
  • After the holidays, the workload at law firms will pick up in January. They want attorneys hire and ready to start at the beginning of the year. The hiring process may take a couple of months. Law firms want to have accepted offers in December so new staff will be ready to start in early January.
  • The hiring budgets at law firms need to be spent before the year’s end. If they want to receive the same amount or more next year, they’ll have to use their entire budget before January.
  • Law firms may have openings that they have been unable to fill for six months or more; maybe they’d made offers that were turned down; or maybe they’d been too picky and rejected too many candidates earlier and now they’re under the gun. They have to move quickly.
  • For recruiters this is their last chance to meet or improve their quotas. They’re willing to work a little harder now.
  • Therefore, in December—and to a lesser extent, November—you’ll find people at law firms tingling with a bit of holiday euphoria—be it meeting with family, ski trips or island retreats. We know that days off for lawyers are a rare and precious condition. Spirits in the offices are elevated and their opinions of you might be more generous. For you, job seeker, this means they’re in a kinder and more giving mood. People are in a hurry to “wrap things up” and hire for that position. The euphoria is distracting in the best possible way. The winter holidays may be the time of year, more than any other, when people are the most gracious and charitable.

And most important of all: Job seekers who are applying in December are more likely to be noticed by law firms. Not everyone will understand why December is a great month to focus on their job search, and law firms may receive fewer applicants. Many will foolishly decide to take the month off from their job searches in order to relax and enjoy the holidays—or they are waiting to receive their bonuses in January. Don’t wait! Get an offer in December and be ready to move the minute your bonus is received.

And more advantages of going where no one else is (temporarily) going

  • While everyone else is sitting it out, you’ll stand out by appearing diligent in comparison. Also, the irony of your hitting the pavement while everyone else is getting holi-dazed won’t be lost on the potential employers you’ll be meeting with either. Two things to remember here: Any opportunity to get an advantage over your competition is something you should always jump at, and when the multitudes return in force in January, your advantage will have vanished. Get while the getting is good.
  • Getting attention is easier: Recruiters often say that law firms, executives, and hiring managers respond more quickly to calls and inquiries in December. They’re anxious. For those whose job it is to place people in those openings, they’re the ones less likely to travel during the holiday season. And even if their support staff is out of the office, you’ll have more luck scheduling an interview.
  • More attorneys will be looking for jobs after they receive their bonuses in January.
  • Law firms generally see more openings, at the present or on the horizon, in December. They are looking at their current staffing levels compared to the work they are expecting, and planning ahead to make sure new associates are hired and trained by the time the work realty ramps up.

Plan ahead: It’s also the season for glad-handing and business card trading

Remember that the holiday season offers unparalleled opportunities for networking. There are many year-end and other holiday events, trade group parties, alumni events, and other community gatherings—there’ll be no shortage of events where you can meet new contacts and reconnect with old friends. You might find that one of them was hired recently and may have some advice to give or experiences to share.

Very important to remember: Keep social interactions social. Whatever you do, don’t hand out résumés at a party. If you do encounter someone or have a conversation with a person who could be helpful to your search or career, ask for their contact information and follow-up later. Don’t come off like a Hollywood agent without business who’s on the make or you can be sure that the résumé you bring will be one that’ll never make it out the door.

Also, prepare to pay it forward: Offer your contacts to colleagues at social events. This could be a kindness that will come back to you one day.
Holiday gatherings are ideal for reconnecting with friends, colleagues and business acquaintances. The holidays also give you a good excuse to keep lines of connection open by sending paper or electronic greeting cards to all who might be able to offer a lead. But don’t make your holiday good wishes sound like a fishing expedition. Keep you message friendly, sincere, and appropriate. You are trying to establish, or reestablish, a relationship. Hopefully, the contact will be valuable sometime in the future.

  • Don’t: Mention your job search in the card.
  • Do: Offer a brief update. If the person already knows that you’re looking for work, that’s okay. It’d seem insincere to withhold that information. You can include your email address, phone number, and maybe even your LinkedIn. Recipients will be able to check you out after the holidays and follow up if they choose.

It’ll do, at least until the real thing comes along…

While it may not be exactly what you’re looking for, seasonal or temporary work assignments can be good steps at networking and, of course, getting paid too. For many of the reasons above, there are openings in law firms and even if they don’t want to hire permanently, they may have assignments and projects they need to get done. Taking advantage of temporary opportunities can help you get a foot in the door. Think of these kinds of temp jobs as steps in a longer job search process.

Some nonprofits also need more help during this time of year. If you can, volunteering can often bring opportunities. Your assistance could lead to a paid full-time job.

The “informational” meeting

“Informational” meetings or interviews are also most likely to happen in December.

What is an “informational meeting?”

This is a meeting that you as a job seeker may arrange to find out more about a law firm you’re interested in. Of course, this is at the same time you’re pretending that you’re not actually interested in a job there. For the firm, it’s an opportunity, on a more intimate level to be able to discover not only what you’re like, but to better understand what it is they’re looking for. The interviewee will have a chance to learn about the firm’s particular chemistry, business style, and organizational culture while the interviewer assesses your skill level, practice area, and experience. The difficult part of this, the part that will require most of your finesse and restraint, is that they may not even have an opening at the moment.

Think of the informational meeting as a more intimate and structured kind of networking, but also one that could have real value: Not today but perhaps one day.

Most important: Keep your momentum going

By keeping your job search going, you keep yourself motivated. If you stop searching now, you may not be motivated to get started again at the beginning of the year. By keeping your search active throughout the holiday season you’ll have a better chance of also keeping it energetic and enthusiastic. And don’t doubt this: You’ll need it for the weeks and maybe months ahead. And employers love to see that in applicants.

Don’t make the mistake of taking December off from your job search. Reach out of firms now, land an interview, get an offer, and be ready to start in January. This will be the best way to not only end your year, but also start the new one.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company, LawCrossing, has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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