I have written before about how the path in-house is not a single path, and that in reality, there are many ways to get your foot in the door.
But for those who want some tangible suggestions because in-house experience is one of your career goals, here are some things you could do to try to increase your opportunities.
1. Get A Lay Of The Land
This may seem like it’s putting the cart before the horse, but it’s a good idea to do a search of the market in your area and get a sense of what companies are looking for. For example, I feel like, in my local area, the market is hot for labor and employment (but maybe this is what the algorithm shows me because I am an employment lawyer), intellectual property, privacy, and for transaction generalists. As you find opportunities, take the time to review the job descriptions because they can tell you important information like the tenure sought (how many years of practice desired) or specific experiences desired such as Biglaw or government experience. If you have a friend who is a legal recruiter, now’s the time to take them to coffee and pick their brains. If you don’t, make one (or more). See number three below.
Now that you get a sense for what’s out there, how do the skills desired match up to your resume? Do you have the experience that the positions are looking for? If so, do you use the words that the job descriptions use? For some companies that may use artificial intelligence to comb through applications, it might be worth your time to change your resume accordingly so that the algorithms choose yours. If you don’t have the experience sought, what can you do to level up? It may be implausible (although not impossible) that you would change your practice completely (I did!), but it may be an opportunity to seek out more cases, projects, or continuing legal education to beef up your practical experience.
I may get some pushback on this one because the idea of “networking” can be icky to some, but candidly, this is how many people find out about opportunities organically. Even though most openings are posted, the way people learn about postings is usually informal — through conversations over lunch, over text or email to a group or listserve, or over social media. Of course, you can look on your own, but if your “network” knows that you are looking, they can help look for you. If it helps, replace the word “network” with “friends.” And if that’s still too scary, know that you really only need to make at least one friend who is really good at networking, who knows the scoop and can share with you, or knows the market (like a recruiter).
And while this is not necessarily a tip, know that landing your first in-house job may be challenging (because most postings want in-house experience) but stay encouraged. Trust me — the right in-house opportunity is worth the effort.