Op-Ed: How Bar Associations Can Help You Get a Job

by Diane Dauplaise & María Rodriguez

As the job and internship stage creeps up this semester, we know what you are thinking. What do you need to do to stand out? Join a bar association! With the NYC Bar Association (“NYCBA”) as an example, there are three ways that bar associations can help you land the job you want.

First, attending Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) courses hosted by bar associations distinguishes you as an applicant. Mentioning that you attend CLE events regarding specific legal topics shows that you have knowledge in that topic that may surpass your competitors. Additionally, it shows that you have a genuine interest and commitment to a particular area of the law. The NYCBA has multiple CLE events each week on a variety of legal topics from art law to white collar crime.

Second, many bar associations provide students the opportunity to be active by organizing events and recruiting other students. These opportunities build leadership skills that all employers appreciate. The NYCBA has over 150 committees in all areas of the law that are open to student participation. As a committee member, you may be involved in drafting reports, research, and program planning.

Lastly, we all know that it is not what you know, but who you know. Knowing a practicing attorney or judge can lead to discovering legal opportunities before your competitors. Sometimes, it means you have someone vouching for you for a position. So it should be no surprise that bar associations are the best places to network. Not only will attorneys learn about your educational qualifications, they will learn about you as a person.

The NYCBA hosts events for the specific purpose of networking. These events may be targeted to individuals in a specific area of the law, individuals in a specific stage in their legal careers, or just to the legal population generally. Plus, it does not hurt that these events come with free drinks! The next networking event hosted by the NYCBA, “A Holiday Networking Event Celebrating Diversity in the Profession,” will be held on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

So what do you do now? You join a bar association! Joining is easy and usually free for students. Some bar associations, like the NYCBA, offer membership to students at a discounted price. The most important thing to remember is that the amount of time you spend being active in the association will determine the benefits you receive. So join an association, learn, be active, and network!