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Conducting a Job Search during an Economic Downturn

Job searching during an economic downturn takes perseverance, resilience and creativity. Cuts to recruiting budgets are a primary way employers cut costs, which creates challenging hiring prospects for recent graduates.  In addition, often natural attrition is not back-filled, and lay-offs of seasoned attorneys may occur, creating an increasingly competitive lateral market for experienced attorneys.


It is important to keep in mind that down cycles do end.  Many attorneys will recall the difficult legal market of the early 1990s which rebounded with strong growth in the mid to late 90s.  If you find you are job searching in a challenging market, the following tips will help create the most effective search possible.


Contact CDO

YLS alumni have access to CDO throughout their careers. Whether you are a recent graduate, an experienced hire making a lateral move, or an attorney seeking an alternative legal career, the CDO is available to assist you.  Alumni are encouraged to make an appointment with Anna Leach-Proffer, one of the attorney counselors, who focuses her counseling on alumni.  To schedule a phone or in-person appointment with Anna, please contact the CDO office at 203-432-1676 or cdo.law@yale.edu

Stay Involved

Keep up with your memberships and activities in bar associations. Many bar associations have programs for lawyers in transition, which may be available at a reduced cost. Consider joining a committee and volunteer to work on their events and projects.  Committee membership is mostly seasoned attorneys, and the Committee will present their findings to an even larger group, so this is an ideal opportunity for you to show them your work.


Be Flexible

In a challenging market those who are flexible with regards to geographic area, practice area, and type of employer will have a significant benefit. Take time to evaluate what areas are still doing well, for example healthcare, energy, regulatory, and bankruptcy tend to be areas less affected by economic slowdowns.  Think about the skill set you currently have and how that may transfer to one of these other areas.  Consider CLE courses and bar association activities to help you gain further knowledge of these fields, and be ready to include that additional education in your cover letter and/or resume.


Network, Network, Network

The importance of networking can not be overstated, particularly in a challenging market. Networking isn’t just about attending cocktail events but includes informational interviewing, being active in professional associations, and attending CLE and other educational programs.

Take time to write down your personal network of friends, family and former colleagues, then add to that list by researchingYLS alumni and the alumni of your undergraduate school. Alumni are encouraged to review the tips on conducting an informational interview. Keep current with the activities of these alumni groups in your area. YLS Career Connections offers Yale law students and graduates the opportunity to seek out graduates who have offered to provide career-related advice. The Career Connections' members can be searched by name, area of expertise, employer type, geographic location, and more. Click for more information on Career Connections and login instructions.

Be Very Prepared

During an economic downturn the job search will take longer than during prosperous times, so it is vital to be extremely prepared for every interview and networking opportunity you schedule.  Perform detailed research on the employer you are talking with, including their focal practice areas and current trends in those areas. Before you go on an interview you should also reach out to YLS alumni or alumni of your undergraduate school for informational interviews to learn even more about the company and current trends.


Recommended Resources

Video: NALP and ALI-ABA offered Managing a Legal Career Transition in Tough Times — a 75-minute presentation by Marcia Pennington Shannon and Susan G. Manch of Shannon & Manch LLP