References for New Lawyers and Law Students

References for New Lawyers and Law Students


An Essential Tool for Getting a Job in the Early Stages of a Legal Career by Shauna C. Bryce, Esq.

About the Author

Shauna C. Bryce is a graduate of Harvard Law School with 20 years in law and legal careers. She works with lawyers at all levels—from law students to executive-level attorneys in Global 100 law firms and multibillion-dollar businesses in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Her advice column, Ask the Hiring Attorney®, was originally published by Bloomberg Law and is now reprinted by the American Bar Association. She’s the author of several books and Bryce Legal® Career Advice for Lawyers blog, 

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Turn Job Interviews Into Job Offers.

Your references must confirm to the hiring attorneys or hiring director that you’ll be a great hire—in other words, that you can and will do the work the new employer needs you to do, you’ll fit in and prosper, and you’ll stay in the position long enough for their investment in you to pay off. Did you know…

  • 75 to 95% of employers conduct reference checks before hiring?

  • ~ 60% of reference checks reveal inconsistencies?

  • 20+% of job candidates are eliminated from consideration because of reference checks?

Hiring a new lawyer or a law student is an investment for an employer.

There are heavy costs associated with every hire. Writing and placing job ads, shifting through hundreds or thousands of resumes and applications, conducting interviews, paying legal recruiters fees… these are all expenses associated with hiring. But there are other expenses as well—your salary and benefits, providing you with necessary tools and support staff, training you, and more. When your prospective employers call your references, they are trying to make sure that you’re worthy of their significant investment—an investment that can take up to three years to pay off.

References is a concise book that explains how to:

  • Choose top-notch references who will help you land job offers: Read quotes from actual hiring attorneys, who explain why they conduct reference checks and what they want to hear from your references before they give you an offer.

  • Prepare effective and informative reference pages: Move away from the standard list of names and phone numbers, to create an reference dossier that gives context to your references, thereby saving time for prospective employers while also promoting the quality of your references; and

  • Get outstanding reference letters: Learn how and when to ask for reference letters, as well as how to ensure those letters say what you need them to say to get you to the next step in your career. And keep those letters in your career development file so you can use in your job search now, or years from now.

References also contains sample reference pages and letters of reference illustrating critical principles.

Lawyers, particularly junior lawyers, and law students frequently underestimate the critical importance of securing strong, enthusiastic references and letters and recommendation. Ms. Bryce’s easy-to-read guide is both compact and thorough–she adroitly walks you through each step of this often overlooked process. A must read for anyone starting, or thinking about starting, a job search. - Former BigLaw Partner