For young lawyers, gaining access to the legal profession is especially challenging because we are still growing in our knowledge and skills. Not to mention there is now a surplus of new lawyers in the market. We have demonstrated our abilities to learn the law, but we desperately seek the opportunities to apply this knowledge. And because of our enthusiasm to relate, grow, and help, the profession needs us now more than ever to continue changing and improving. But how? The answer around the world is to start building genuine relationships – based on the foundation of acquired legal knowledge and skills – as soon as possible.
USA – Melanie Glover
Access to the profession should begin in those three years of law school. In the US, law students can take on leadership and volunteer roles to increase visibility among professors, peers, and experienced lawyers in their communities. Involvement does not have to be exclusively local. Law students can take advantage of discounted rates to become student members of professional, legal, and other community organizations. Law students can seek out scholarships to help finance trips to networking and leadership events (i.e. the ABA’s Young Lawyers’ Division’s Scholars Program). But signing up for an opportunity should reflect a genuine interest to become involved in a cause or subject matter. Joining a committee and then never doing anything reflects poorly on you. Asking law professors for help connecting to those they may know in a particular area of interest and being willing to help when a need arises are good ways to stand out. Even dedicating a small portion of time may help a law student get attention early on that can help to keep a law student top-of-mind to a more experienced lawyer later on.
Internships and clerkships within the US and abroad are important stepping-stones to practice for law students and recent graduates. The following list of websites can help connect law students and young lawyers to internship opportunities. Search functions allow for locating a place to obtain experience depending on size, location, practice areas, language, etc. While the competition for these positions is fierce, they can be obtained.
In the US, several law graduates struggle with access to the profession especially while waiting for bar exam results. Some productive ways to get started in the profession post-bar exam are by attending continuing legal education events, local or state bar association gatherings or conferences, and other legal and community organizations’ events. Early interaction is key.
For young lawyers, opportunities continue to abound. Seek out volunteer opportunities or leadership positions within the ABA (i.e. the ABA’s leadership portal), local and state bar associations (i.e. Young Lawyers Associations), and other community-based organizations (i.e. Spain-Texas Chamber of Commerce). Opportunities to increase visibility for young lawyers include organizing and presenting on panels, assisting a senior lawyer with a law-review article or other research, volunteering at a local legal clinic, etc. The opportunities exist, you just need to get out there and do something.
SPAIN – Montse Pujol
The issue of access to the profession for law students, recent graduates, and young lawyers in Spain is also experiencing a critical moment. A Spanish law degree requires about four or five years of studying, and most universities only teach the law in a very theoretical way. Thus, several graduates in Spain cannot find a way to begin to practice law in professional firms earning a fixed salary because they do not yet have the necessary skills. Because of this, the 2011 Spanish Law of Access to the Legal Profession set out the regulations for a Master’s degree focused on practical-skills training. The degree addresses the gap in preparedness by allowing students the opportunities to gain practice in courts as prosecutors or working in professional offices, prisons, or in the health or social services sectors.
For young lawyers in Spain, access to the profession also requires more than just acquiring legal education and skills. It is also very important to develop a good social network – not only of potential clients but also of other colleagues. In many Spanish Bar Associations (organized by region), there exists a young lawyers group. These groups focus on providing young- and new-lawyer participants with relevant courses, interactive meetings, and social engagements to promote positive relationships among young lawyers just beginning to practice law. The links below highlight some of these opportunities.
Both in the USA and Spain, those reaching the end of law school must confront the uncertainty of the current legal market with a serious attitude toward personal and professional development. Now is the moment to start building genuine relationships as soon as possible and to take advantage of new technologies that allow us to create better, wider networks. As the future of the legal profession, we need to recognize our critical position and look for opportunities to contribute our talents in the forms of knowledge, skills, and relationships like never before.