So you have not yet landed your first lawyer job after you graduate and you’re thinking of doing the Bridge-to-Practice program. I hope you do and I am excited to work with you! As you know from my emails, the priority application deadline for the program is April 24 and to complete the application, you need to secure a host organization. So where can you start?
Start making a list of organizations that will get you to your goal long-term job.
Think of what your dream job is after the program ends next January and work backwards from there. That will either land you with a host organization that might potentially hire you full-time when the program ends or land you with a host organization that likely will not hire you but will give you great experience that you need for another organization to hire you. Either way, really take this opportunity to reflect on what you want to do with your career long-term and strategize a path to get there.
Think of this as an exciting opportunity to work just about anywhere you want for five months to set yourself up for your next step. Thing big. Think long-term.
If your dream is to work in-house for a hospital, for example, people don’t typically get hired for those jobs until they have several years of experience. So now is the time to figure out what that typical experience is and how you can get that experience. What experience do hospital GCs typically have before they get hired into those positions? This information is not hidden. Do LinkedIN searches of real people to figure this out. Do a search on indeed.com for General Counsel at a hospital and read job postings that you hope to one day be qualified for. What kind of experience do those job postings want? You will start to see common themes emerge.
Now, figure out the best way to get that experience. If the answer is that you likely need five years of experience at a health law practice of a big law firm, find a host organization that will give you experience which will appeal to a big law firm when you’re applying for big law jobs later. In the context of the example above, you will want to get into a health law practice of a big firm to build the expertise you need. So what organizations can you work for through Bridge-to-Practice that will make you qualified for the health law practice of a big law firm?
- A state department of health
- A public interest organization that litigates health law issues
- The General Counsel’s office of a hospital
- Depending on where you want to build your career, an organization such as the American Dental Association, American Medical Association, or Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- The Health Care Bureau of a State Attorney General’s office
You can look at LinkedIN profiles to get ideas for organizations, use good old google, or ask me. That’s exactly what I am here for. If you want to just call me and say “here’s my goal job in five years so what are some ideas for organizations,” I love having these types of conversations.
So now that you have a list, to figure out the best host organization for you, ask yourself two questions:
- Will any of these organizations possibly hire me after the program is over?
When choosing a host organization, you definitely want to factor that organization’s likelihood of hiring you after the Bridge-to-Practice program ends into the equation. If the likelihood is zero, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the wrong host organization for you but it is definitely something you want to consider. If the state Department of Health never hires people until they have years of experience but the Attorney General very frequently hires bridge fellows, you probably want to put the AG at the top of your list. Not necessarily though. If you are really dedicated to getting into a specific health law practice that focuses on a niche issue and only one organization practices that niche issue, then that would council in favor of going there even if they can’t hire you. Which brings me to #2:
2. Which of these organizations will give me the experience I need to get the job I want after the program ends?
Maybe you have a very clear idea of what you want to do and there are only a few organizations that do it. If you’re really passionate about a very specific area of law and your only goal is getting a job in that area of law no matter what, there might be just a couple of organizations that will give you experience in that niche. In that case, you need to work for one of those organizations, even if they won’t be able to hire you after the program ends.
Weighing these two questions is what I am here for so if you’re trying to decide between an organization that can hire you after the program ends and one that will give you the exact experience you want, let’s talk.
Once you know which organization you want to be your host organization, how do you figure out who to contact about applying?
Many government offices don’t hire entry-level attorneys until they have passed the bar and have become so used to Bridge-to-Practice programs at various law schools that they have built these programs into their hiring structures. If a particular government office operates like this, you can usually tell from their web page. Take a look at the City of Chicago Department of Law’s webpage, for instance. They have a whole section devoted to their “Post-Graduate Fellowship Program” where they clearly outline the application process. To see if a prospective organization has a similar section on their webpage, navigate to the careers section and poke around. Common titles for Bridge fellows are “Volunteer Law Clerk” and “Post-Graduate Fellow.”
Corporations and other non-government, non-profit offices tend to be less familiar with Bridge-to-Practice style programs, and are both more difficult to contact and less likely to take Bridge fellows. They will rarely have a Post-Graduate fellow section of their website and you might have a lot of explaining to do in terms of what this program involves. We can work through that. Contact me.
Regardless of the organization type, if the website doesn’t make the appropriate contact clear, my go to is to reach out to the person who manages law student interns. I tend to find that if someone manages interns, they are a good first point of contact for securing a Bridge fellowship because even if they aren’t responsible for that process (and they usually are), they will know who is. And the internship coordinator email is almost always the easiest email to track down on a website.
If you find an organization you want to be your host organization and have no clue how to reach out to them or track down contact information, reach out to me. That’s what I am here for and I want to help!
And if you’re a 3L interested in Bridge-to-Practice and you haven’t had the chance to talk to me yet, hop on IrishLink and schedule an appointment.