Here's GP's post:
With all the associate lay offs, what is the upcoming law graduate or current law clerk with no law firm employment prospects to do?
Let's first caveat this by say, GP is assuming a lawyer in this position wants to get into a law firm and not be educated on the alternative uses of a JD or the joys of working in a law school alumni office. Thus, the issue here is what is your best springboard to that prestigious law firm job?
First, it does not make sense to wait for that interview you were promised or a response to that letter you sent out. You have got to get a job, any job, out of law school! I have seen smart associates from good law schools think they can delay things until after they take the bar. Wrong. A three or four (or more) month gap from law school graduation to passing the bar will raise questions. "Studying for the bar" won't cut it as a reply to "what have you been doing since you graduated from law school?" [HP editorial note - in current economy, hiring people won't be shocked, but you should show you are doing something in furtherance of career, even an internship].
Second, consider small firms that don't pay as much, contract agencies that can place you in a temporary position or family friends or law school alumni wiling to do favors (trust me, if you think hard enough you will identify at least a handful) and make calls. These are all good options that should be aggressively pursued. [HP note: no stalking!]. (Warning, be prepared for a serious salary cut, but consider it a great investment in your future).
Clerkships are also alternatives to small firms and temporary contract work, but refrain from multiple clerkships (unless extremely prestigious). Law clerk experience is valuable but you don't want to paint yourself as not ready or prepared for firm life and right or wrong, a two to three year stint as a law clerk will do just that. (By the way, if that is what you want, you could also wait. I know an associate who took a two year leave of absence recently to take a clerkship at a federal court of appeals. He is now back and getting plugged right back into life at firm).
Bottom line, you need experience and you need to be able to document that you stayed in the market and did not give up. It is not necessarily common, but I have personally hired at least one attorney who came in as a contract attorney and demonstrated to me her ability to make an outstanding associate. (Some firms, however, do have a policy prohibiting hiring contract attorneys as associates). Working as a contract attorney on a longer term basis can also help you obtain a referral for future employment at a firm.
Ok, I didn't say pursue a government job. First, it is not so easy to quickly obtain employment in the government. The application process itself can take months, and you can't afford months. Second a government job is not an easy springboard to a big firm in most instances. A United States Attorneys Office is one thing, but a GS-11 position at FEMA, DOL or the EEOC, probably not. (Government work is sometimes easier to explore once you are at a firm. I know of at least four associates who left the firm to explore opportunities at the Dept. of Justice, primarily to obtain trial experience. It is not easy to return, and not all former associates want to return. I know one who tried and was welcomed back and is now Counsel.
To sum up:
-- pursue small firm work, temporary contract work, available clerkships
-- contact alumni and friends in the field who can make some calls or introductions
-- review firm web sites - who do you know? who is an alum of your law school or college?
-- be careful of career limiting opportunities like multiple clerkships, certain government jobs.