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What can I do as a law graduate struggling to find a job

This is the number one question plaguing fresh law graduates and this isn’t surprising.

Just look around and check how many of your batchmates actually found a job after their graduation.

Check how many from among those who got the jobs were earning at least Rs. 25000.

The figures are likely to be discouragingly low.

This is the case even for students from good law colleges.

The problem is so severe, that even vacancies which were likely to attract barely twenty applications are now resulting in hundreds of applications. 

Why is this the case?

Why are law graduates struggling to find a job in the current times?

Before we get into analysing what has happened to the legal job market, let us get into the root of the employment market in the first place and understand the mechanics.

The two kinds of markets

Based on the mechanics of demand and suppy, there are two kinds of markets – a buyers’ market and a sellers’ market. 

In a sellers’ market, there is higher demand and low supply. The product or skills are scarce. The buyers of the product or the employers of skills are therefore willing to pay any amount of premium for availing of the product or skills. 

If there is a sellers’ market for jobs, employers would be attempting to hire more and more people by paying any amount of money. Not only that, they would even be willing to hire people without skills and train them so as to grow within the organisation. This is because many firms may find qualified lawyers unaffordable. 

For example there was a sellers’ market somewhere in 2016 when law firms were willing to hire a lot of people. Experienced and qualified lawyers could command a very high salary and they could even choose from a lot of different offers.

The current situation however, is that of a buyers’ market.

In a buyers’ market, there is very low demand and high supply.

This means that there are very few jobs available for lawyers. The industry itself is in an economic recession and therefore, the ability to pay for legal services has also been hit, thus drawing the income for the law firms down, resulting in cutting down the jobs. 

In a buyers’ market, fresh lawyers can particularly be hit, because most jobs are not advertised. Since there could be many qualified lawyers who have lost their jobs, if the employers reach out to their connections and request them to refer someone, even then, they can get many applications. This route works for the employers also because they can now get someone whose work is known.

In addition, even qualified and experienced lawyers can be willing to work at fresher salaries and therefore, it becomes difficult for the freshers to compete with them. Just think – if an employer can hire someone who is a lawyer with five years of experience at the same salary as a fresher, why would they want to hire a fresher and train them?

Now that we have understood that it’s a buyers’ market, let’s look at what we can do to deal with this situation.

What do people do when it is hard to find a job

It’s very easy to panic in such a situation and react without thinking things through. 

Most people end up doing the following:

Blasting mass mails

Since there aren’t many jobs around and people aren’t receiving responses from employers, they end up sending mass mails in the same template and attaching the same CV to all job advertisements. 

Often, people end up sending mails bearing the name of one employer by mistake to another and this makes it very clear to the employer that they are a part of mass mailing. 

Mass mailing never results in a response because the employer can see that you did not make any effort to find out about how they work and their business or even what they are looking for and whether you fit that requirement.

Commodify themselves 

Do you know why salt is an item that costs so low, despite being an essential ingredient in any dish?

Restaurant dishes cost a lot and yet, the salt, without which that dish would not have tasted good at all, sells for very cheap. 

The reason for this is that salt is more or less the same, irrespective from wherever you buy it. It is a commodity. All salt is at the end of the day, salt. There is nothing special, nothing different. It is such a commonly available ingredient that most people are indifferent as to which brand of salt is being used by them. 

However, look up the price of Single Source Himalayan Pink Salt on Amazon. You will find that it sells for 7 to 10 times the price of other salt. 

Why is this the case?

It is because this salt has distinguished itself as not just being salt, but being something that provides health benefits or aids in weight loss. 

Consider this: what do you have in you that will distinguish you from other law graduates? If all you have got is a degree or some certificate, this is what many others will have also and therefore, you do not have anything in you to distinguish yourself from them. 

What should you do so that you can look like the Himalayan Pink Salt from among others which look like a commodity? 

Do you have some skills which others do not have? Can you display an unusual combination of talents or abilities which other people cannot?

It is when you can do this that you will start getting noticed. 

Applying for jobs that they cannot do

The desperation to secure an employment leads people to applying for jobs that people cannot do. 

They do not look properly at the job description and consider whether they have skills to do the job. They simply send in the applications to whichever job they can find being advertised. 

This actually irritates someone who is hiring because they have to spend time opening up and looking at your application, only to find that it is totally irrelevant.

All of these are things that you should not do. Let us now look at what is the approach you should take.

The scalpel and hammer approach

The hammer hits everything equally with the same force and cannot change its impact on anything. 

The scalpel on the other hand is skillfully used by the surgeon carefully to be applied to specific areas on the body in order to cure the ailment. 

If you are sending the same response for all jobs, you are actually taking the hammer approach – no difference in terms of application.

But if you want to see results, you need to use the scalpel approach – selecting skillfully where you need to apply yourself and how.

How should you use the scalpel approach?

First, look at your own skill sets. Start gaining skills.

You will most likely have some existing skill for which someone will be willing to pay. Some people can network very well. Some other people can inspire and make other people think good even about an adverse event such as being fired. (Remember George Clooney in “Up in the Air”?) You just have to locate this skill.

If you have no skills, you have to go for a no-skill or low-skill job that pays less. This can become difficult in a situation where skilled people are competing against you, but you can upskill yourself.

With every new skill you can get the next level of success and better jobs.

This situation can sometimes work in your favour because already skilled and experienced people can be seeking higher salaries. On the other hand, if you have thoroughly skilled yourself in doing the work, you will be able to do it at a much lower cost. 

In addition to new positions, in a buyers’ market, even the existing employees are replaceable. 

If the employers can find someone who is able to do the same work, but costing less, they will even fire the existing employees and hire you.

The only antidote to not being hired or being fired is to start a continuous learning process. If you are constantly learning new skills and adding talents to your armour, this is difficult for anyone to beat unless they are also learning and learning faster than you. 

The holy law of market economy, which states that in a buyers’ market, the employers can choose what they want can actually become your saviour if you are rapidly gaining skills, because 

Secondly, when you have skill, you need to prove that you have it

In  a desperate situation, everyone says they have a skill when they apply. It is very difficult for an employer to actually verify this. 

Have you ever been on a dating app?

It is very difficult to decide which one is a more interesting profile because everyone is showing off. Almost everyone will be exaggerating their wealth or talents or even how they look.

Most people are not good enough though they claim to be amazing.

It’s a similar position for someone who is hiring because it is hard to decide while shortlisting or interviewing.

In such a situation, someone who can back up what they are stating with clear proof will be able to differentiate themselves. What can you write in your CV, so that it will be evident that you can do the job?

What will be undeniable proof that you are the right candidate?

The answer is your track record.

If you do not have a track record, build one first. Then you can demand the top money and people will still want you, because you are not a commodity anymore.

You have differentiated yourself with skills and track record. If you can show that you reached out to someone and did some work for them, maybe for free, you can still demonstrate a track record. 

In fact, it is a great market to be a young job seeker right now. Guess why?

Now employers are firing people with 10 years of experience and high salary package if they can find someone who can do that job and take less money. 

The equation is on your side if you have the skills and the track record.

Look for opportunities that others are not looking for

There are some areas where lawyers can work, but no one is looking to work in that area. Everyone wants to move into lawyering and working in law firms, but this space is overcrowded.

Some areas which are not overcrowded and in which there is existing demand are:

Legal journalism

Nobody wants to be in the area of legal journalism although there is a lot of demand for this. This can involve research and writing about contemporary events or recent rulings or interviewing someone or analysing a pending legislation and a lot of other things. 

This does not meet the definition of a typical lawyer, but this can be very rewarding, both intellectually and financially, if people are willing to take it. 

Paralegal

You could be acting as a paralegal and working with a senior Indian lawyer or for that matter, even lawyers out of India. The necessity is only to be able to find out what they need and acquire the skills to do it. 

If you can handle paralegal work for lawyers outside India, you can actually be earning far more than you would, by working with a tier-1 or tier-2 law firm. 

Law firm marketing and client acquisition

Remember that it is a buyers’ market for law firms also. They are doing all they can in order to gain clients. If you are capable to pick up their marketing and increase the number of their clients by increasing their visibility or reduce their client acquisition costs by fully using free mediums such as social media, you are a very useful person to have, for them.

Legal events / Legal PR

Both of these are a part of marketing and are undertaken largely to increase visibility to clients. However, there are not many who possess a combination of event management skills or public relations skills together with legal skills. If you have this combination, you will be able to find employment.

Writing and blogging / Legal videos

Most law firms maintain blogs. Smaller law firms and individual practitioners may not be able to manage blogs because it is time consuming and requires really good writing skills. If you can write beautifully to increase the footfall of people on the blogs or even create or help the lawyer create the videos which can go viral, they will find you to be very useful. 

These jobs are easier to land in the current scenario due to less competition.

Demand and supply, remember?

What are the legal jobs with high demand and low supply?

In addition to the ‘not a typical lawyer’ opportunities that we discussed, there are also certain areas which are upcoming, considering the current markets and these are likely to have jobs in the coming period. 

Technology law

It’s now imperative for any business to be online and also have as many processes moved online and facilitated by remote work as possible. Considering this requirement, there is bound to be a surge in entities going online, facing problems in taking their processes online and businesses cropping up which can solve such problems. This surge in moving online will stay for a while and as a result, there is likely to be an increase in the demand for technology lawyers. Since there will now be a lot of business activities carried online, there is likely to be a surge in cyber crime also and lawyers who can help deal with this will also be in demand.

M&A, Investment Law

M&A lawyers will find work in any kind or markets, and the current market is no exception. There will always be bigger entities looking to acquire smaller entities which can increase their outreach in the upcoming areas such as medical / pharmaceutical entities, media and entertainment entities and technology companies. Just check out all the famed acquisitions in 2020 and you will see this. 

Also, where credit streams dry up, businesses will look to private equity and venture capital investment and thus, investment transactions can abound too. If you understand and can strategise investment transactions, you will be needed. 

Contract drafting

Although this is one of the most basic skills for lawyers, there are actually very few lawyers who can draft contracts skillfully and understand the implications of different clauses. It is not something that you can learn from colleges. It needs to be improved and perfected over a period of time. But before that, you need to understand how each clause of a contract can affect your client and how you can draft it in your client’s favour. 

Further, since now the contracts can be drafted for clients way out of your geographical area because of the tilt towards remote working, it is possible to get a lot of work here.

These are high demand skills with really low supply in the current market.

Steps which you can take towards gaining employment

Securing a job is not just a matter of sending an application. It is a process. You have to plan it and move things towards a direction where you will be in a better situation to apply, not to zap your CVs to multiple places as we already saw.

If you are a law graduate, before even applying, you need to consider how you will build a track record to distinguish yourself, so that your CV gets more attention than a few seconds which most other applications will get.

You can acquire skills from undertaking the following LawSikho courses in the upcoming areas that we looked at:

Diploma in Cyber Law, FinTech Regulations and Technology Contracts

Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws

Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution

In the next three months, build great skills by availing these courses. Use this period fully to write articles on your area of expertise also. The LawSikho team is always there to help you and guide you how to write great articles. Get these articles published on blogs which have good traffic and visibility. 

Also learn now to network effectively and extensively by building relationships with the right lawyers and law firms. 

Once you have done this, you can then work for startups, apply to smaller law firms and build a track record. You can also do freelance work with foreign lawyers. You can take up research assistantship, legal PR and law firm marketing work for small law firms and principal associates. 

The LawSikho placement cell will help to connect you with opportunities when you are ready.

Once you have established the right kind of track record and built relationships for the place where you want to land, you must start giving something to them first. Offer to take care of some of their work for free. Offer to solve an existing problem for free. Offer to develop a system or a process for them for free. If you do this, when they start hiring next, you will be their top choice.

In this manner, you need to keep creating and building a track record for the next 1-2 years, even if you earn less. If you do good work for the next 2 years, you can get into any top law firm you want, because you will have already distinguished yourself by gaining multiple useful skills and creating a track record.

We are here to help you all the way through this journey.

On 16th December, I will be doing a workshop.

The topic is ‘Inside the workings of a 1Cr/year corporate law practice and how to set it up’.

You should join this webinar, in order to get an idea of what happens within a law firm of this size.

You can also join this whatsapp group:

https://chat.whatsapp.com/KVqum4PWePFCst7r8zOcBP

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