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Law Firm Application Process

Application Process

As the legal market continues to change, we have learned that students who conduct their job searches in several geographic areas and at different types of employers simultaneously give themselves the best opportunity for finding a summer position that meets their goals. Therefore, we encourage you to cast a wide net during the recruiting process. Our formal recruiting programs are only appropriate to a certain number of employers, most notably those who can predict their hiring needs and recruiting budgets well in advance and those who are likely to see a large enough number of students to justify the attendant expenses. Accordingly, many public interest and government organizations, smaller law firms, and law firms from smaller cities may choose not to participate. We therefore strongly advise that you do not limit your job search to employers participating in OCI, and instead encourage you to reach out to other employers you may be interested in, including those in a geographic area of importance to you or those that specialize in a particular practice area you might enjoy. Identifying and applying to these employers over the summer is an excellent way to position yourself for ultimate success. Below are a few steps we recommend to help you get started:

  1. Check to see if employers from your city of interest are actively recruiting University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School students through OCI, the Regional Interview Program or a formal resume collection. All of this information is available to you through Symplicity: log in, click on the OCI tab and choose the appropriate session from the drop-down menu to view participating employers.
  2. Begin to research otheremployers in your city of interest, and create a list of those you may be interested in applying to. A good place to start is the NALP Directory. For smaller firms, consider using the resources available on Martindale to identify potential employers and review our Tips on Applying to Small Law Firms. We also encourage you to review our compiled lists of firms in various regions across the country.
  3. Network and engage in informational interviews. The best way to learn about the legal community, while at the same time expanding your network of contacts, is to talk to alumni from both the Law School and your undergraduate institution who work there. To start identifying potential contacts, use our resources on finding Law School alumni . Write to these graduates as early in the summer as possible, enclosing your resume. Indicate that you are interested in learning more about the legal community in their city, that you would like to speak with them briefly about their practice. Once you speak with the contact, you can ask about his or her practice, about how he or she got started in that city, about what he or she sees as growth areas in the legal market, and what advice he or she would give to someone just starting out. Consult our networking and informational interviewing page for additional advice.
  4. Learn as much as you can about the legal market in your city. In order to convincingly convey your interest in a particular market, you’ll want to know as much as possible about the city and its legal environment. To gain more information, contact the Chamber of Commerce in that city ; most will send you a wealth of information about the area and its business community. Other great ways to learn about the legal landscape in a particular region are to network with practicing lawyers there, to join the local bar association and/or attend its programs and to read the local business and legal publications (many are available through Biddle Law Library, Lexis or Westlaw).
  5. Now that you have identified potential employers and learned as much as possible about the legal community in your target market, contact the firms of interest to you with a cover letter and a copy of your resume . The ideal time to send these materials is after the 4th of July holiday but before you return to campus; during this time, many employers have settled things down in their current summer programs and are beginning to look ahead to their fall recruiting efforts. Your cover letter should be brief and very clear as to why you are writing. Since your letters will be arriving on the early side of the recruiting season, spell out exactly what it is you are looking for, for example: “I am a rising 2L student at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School interested in joining your organization for the summer of 2019.” Use your cover letter to specifically explain your interest in the particular employer and location. Demonstrate commitment to the area by perhaps discussing your family ties, your knowledge of a particular aspect of the city and/or its legal market, your interest in beginning your career there, or your conversations with contacts. It is also advisable to include in your cover letter information as to when you will be in the employer’s city; notify the firm of the dates of your visit and ask if it would be possible for you to schedule an initial interview during that time. Note that for some small and mid-sized firms, this may be well ahead of their hiring time frame. You may want to express your understanding of this in the cover letter, but ask for a screening interview while you are in town despite the early request. If you are not able to be there in person, ask for a telephone screening interview in your letter. Click here to view sample cover letters.
  6. Follow up with employers. Approximately two weeks after submitting your application, call employers to whom you’ve written to see if they will be able to arrange a screening interview while you are in town.
  7. Be prepared for any interviews you receive.