I Got No Offered. What Do I Do Now?

So you started your summer optimistically working for a big law firm, ended your career search, and planned to have an offer for after graduation only to get no offered at the end of it. You’re not the first person this has happened to.

As a recent above the law post stated:

“So a no-offer is bad, but you can recover. Sonia Sotomayor got no-offered after summering at Paul Weiss, and her legal career turned out pretty well in the end. Her wonderful memoir is aptly titled My Beloved World (affiliate link), not ‘I Got No-Offered And Now I Live In A Van Down By The River.'”[2]

I graduated from law school in 2010 and many of my classmates, including me, and several above me in the class of 2009 got no offered because of the economy. Everyone now has a job that they like and is doing fine.

The #1 thing to do is to stay positive. Your career is not doomed forever because you got no offered. It feels bad to get no offered, to be sure, but wallowing in negative feelings does nothing to advance your job search.

Practice your explanation for why you are seeking a job. Your summer firm job will be evident to any employer that you apply to going forward and that is OK. You can’t erase it from your resume, misstate facts, or change the fact that you worked there. So put together a good answer for why you are not working there after graduation.

If you’re applying to work for a DA’s office or public interest organization, the answer is easy. You can talk about how you enjoyed working for the firm but it was not a good fit and you feel called to public service. If you’re applying for other firms, be honest about the fact that the firm was not a good fit. Never say anything negative about your summer firm or anyone working there. Own up to the fact that it just wasn’t the right fit for you and then immediately turn the conversation in a positive direction and talk about projects you enjoyed working on in your legal jobs and how eager you are to start your career doing real estate work in Philadelphia or whatever practice area you are pursuing in whatever city you are pursuing.

You don’t have to come out and say that you were no offered unless the firm directly asks. Saying that it “wasn’t a good fit” is enough. Don’t stay negative and move on from the topic quickly, getting back to your commitment to building your career in the firm with which you are interviewing.

Think about clerkships. A clerkship is an excellent way to embed yourself in your market and firms love clerkship experience. After a year-long clerkship, future employers will be much more interested in asking you about your clerkship than about your 2L summer job. If you are looking to apply to clerkships, contact Chris Kozelichki in the CDO soon.

Apply to government honors jobs, JAG, and 3L OCI. 3L OCI is not as robust as 2L OCI, not even close. But firms, government offices, and companies do interview on campus so pay close attention to Career Connections emails, the weekly docket, and IrishLink and be sure to jump on opportunities as they arise. If you have any inclination to work for the government or as a JAG officer, get going on those applications. The Air Force, Army, and Navy applications are all due very soon, with the Army and Navy coming on campus to interview.  The Government Honors Handbook (password GoIrish) lists the government honors programs and application deadlines and there are many, many programs. Apply for them.

Apply for a public interest fellowship. Notre Dame Law offers 4 guaranteed public interest jobs available only to Notre Dame Law Students. Even if you worked for a big law firm last summer, you can still be a great candidate. There have been successful fellowship candidates who worked for a big law firm their second summer. If you are interested, reach out to me as soon as possible. The applications are due September 18th.

Stop and think about your personal brand. What is your personal brand? Do you know the answer? If not, reflect on it and make sure you have written down an answer for how you’re going to pitch yourself. Specificity=hireability. If you know you want to be a tax lawyer in Cleveland, you can take specific steps to achieve that goal. You can network with tax attorneys in Cleveland, do the Notre Dame tax clinic or work with the Illinois Department of Revenue through the Chicago program, blog about tax issues, and attend tax conferences. If you don’t have that level of specificity nailed down, try and work on that. The CDO is here to help.

Getting no offered feels bad and certainly is not the ideal way you want your summer to end but it isn’t the end of your career and things will turn out just fine. If you got no offered, talk to the CDO and we can help formulate a game plan for next steps.


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