Time to share some observations and advice on the market. Caveat being that I don't know whether my own experiences are part of a trend (local or global? industry-specific?), or the product of my own luck-making.
- Salaried positions for entry-level attorneys are scarce and extremely competitive. I applied for an in-house transactions position, and saw that an attorney I know knew someone in HR. He agreed to send my resume in, but informed me that someone else had also asked him to do a resume-pass!
- I don't expect to hear back from any position to which I cold-apply. By cold I mean simply send in my resume and cover letter. The only way to have a chance is to go on LinkedIn, search the company name, and filter by my network (or shout-out on Facebook). If I find someone who's a 2nd degree connection to an employee, I ask if they'd mind forwarding my resume in. If I do that, my odds of being contacted have gone up by about 50-75%.
- There's contract work out there. Maybe the economy is ticking up, or maybe I've been lucky, but companies need help. They're being cautious and they don't want to commit to anyone, but they have work. (And when the economy relaxes, won't they think of you first?) The goal is to meet with attorneys and ask them be part of your army. Treat them right, don't let them forget you, and they will feed you when they hear about contract work.
- I'm actually about to retain my first paying client. The good part is that doing the work myself is an enormous educational experience - you learn so much more when you have to find the answers yourself. The bad part is that it's a little scary and lonely, having nobody to look up to. But I'm realizing that if I'm respectful, my network will mentor me through it.