Debunking Legal Job Myths #4.1: There Are Only Two Ways to Get a Job…

…by responding to a job ad, or by networking.

True, that’s the way conventional legal job-seekers, who comprise almost 100 percent of the cohort, go about trying to get hired. But those two options don’t always work and are by no means the only way to secure a job. There are a number of other paths you can follow, all of which dramatically reduce the number of competitors you must go against. We’ll discuss the most attractive such paths in this and future LegalCareerView.com blogs.

Identifying Job Opportunities before the Competition

Identifying prospective job opportunities before they become publicly known and attract hundreds of job seekers is an important—nay, essential—job-search strategy that very few law students or practitioners think about, much less employ. That’s a shame, because this out-of-the-box strategy can provide you with an invaluable leg up on the competition. It enables you to get in line in front of your competitors by getting your application into the employer before anyone else and often even before a job ad or vacancy announcement is published.

There are a number of ways to do this. Here’s a real-time example of one of the most effective such strategies:

Say you are interested in practicing Elder Law, one of the up-and-coming 21st century emerging practice areas with a good future, thanks in large part to demographics—10,000 Baby Boomers a day turning age 65 between 2011 and 2029. That’s an incredibly huge and constantly replenishing client pool. Refining your focus further, say you want to become involved in the burgeoning Elder Law subspecialty of elder financial abuse, a field garnering great interest from law firms of all sizes, financial institutions that manage assets, and government regulators.

A very effective way to be first past the post in applying for job opportunities before they gel into public job ads is to monitor relevant bills as they wend their way through Congress or your state legislature. While no one really wants to see how sausages and laws are made, it is important to hold your nose and keep up with the customarily slow and excruciatingly agonizing legislative process when it involves bills that could enhance your legal job prospects.

If you were interested in elder financial abuse, there are two bills that, at this writing, are before Congress. In January 2017, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, reintroduced her Senior $afe Act, S. 223, designed to boost protection of vulnerable adults from financial exploitation. The bill would protect banks, credit unions, investment advisors, broker-dealers, insurance companies and certain supervisory, compliance and legal employees from civil or administrative liability—as long as they receive training in how to identify and report predatory activity and disclose any possible exploitation of senior citizens to state or federal regulatory and law enforcement entities. The bill is currently before the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee.

A second bill, the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act, S. 81, sponsored by Collins and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN),  would help fight scams designed to deprive seniors of their assets by educating seniors about fraud schemes and improving monitoring and response to fraud complaints.

S. 81 would help protect seniors from fraud schemes by strengthening the complaint system to ensure fraud complaints are handled quickly by the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The bill would also require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency responsible for handling consumer complaints, to coordinate with other agencies to monitor the market for fraud schemes targeting seniors. In addition, the bill would require the FTC to distribute information materials to seniors, their families, and their caregivers that explain how to recognize fraud schemes and how to contact law enforcement authorities in the event that a senior is targeted.

S. 81 was passed by the Senate, unanimously, in August 2017. At this writing, it is before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Legislative Due Diligence

Two questions rise to the top of the due diligence you need to do before committing to follow a bill as it makes its way through Congress:

  • First, what is the likelihood that this particular bill will become law?
  • Second, if this bill becomes law, how will it affect my job prospects?

What is the likelihood that this bill will become law? It is important to understand that not every bill introduced has “legs.” You need to analyze each relevant bill in order to understand which might be serious and have decent prospects for enactment, and which do not. In the case of S. 223 and S. 81, you can conclude quickly that both are very serious propositions. The analysis goes like this:

S. 81 passed the Senate without a dissenting vote and has bipartisan co-sponsorship.

S. 223 is similar to a bill that was approved by the House Financial Services Committee in 2016 by a vote of 59-0 and passed the House by voice vote. In the Senate, it was cosponsored by a quarter of the members, balanced nearly evenly on both sides of the aisle, and was discharged out of the Banking Committee. Just one Senator blocked it and prevented it from becoming law.

In both cases, these are indicators that these bills are serious pieces of legislation with a strong chance of becoming law.

If this bill becomes law, how will it affect my job prospects? For example, S. 81 might generate new positions at the FTC and possibly at other federal regulatory agencies as well. It might create prosecutorial jobs with state attorney general and local district attorney offices. Both bills are likely to generate hiring activity by thousands of financial institutions that manage seniors’ assets, plus their outside law firms. Moreover, any increase in prosecutions for senior fraud means business for the defense side as well.

So don’t limit yourself to the myth that there are only two ways to look for jobs. If it turns out that neither Congress nor your state legislature is working on anything germane to your career aspirations, consider another alternative path. In Myth 4.2 of this series, we’ll look at a little-known potential gold mine for legal job hunters: congressional appropriations committee testimony.