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Ann Israel is the legal profession’s Dear Abby. A New York legal recruiter since 1979, Ann is a past president of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants. Advice for the Lawlorn is updated every week.

Q: I graduated from Tulane Law School in the middle of my class with a 3.0 GPA. Like a previous reader, I had a terrible first year but mostly made As during 2L & 3L to get to the middle of the class. I took and passed the New York bar on my first try and I am now working in New York, albeit in a non-practicing setting (Lexis-Nexis). After my first year of law school, I took a year off thanks to Hurricane Katrina. I worked personal contacts in Los Angeles and managed to get a job at a boutique firm. I did a lot of paralegal-type work, but I also participated in five trials, wrote motions, briefs, memos, etc. As such, I have some semblance of actual legal experience.

I need your advice on how to transition from a non-legal to a law firm job. My ideal work setting is in the small to midsize firm environment. Do you think my credentials are competitive in the current market? Alternatively, do you think I will be an attractive candidate when the economy returns to normal? I am perfectly willing to weather the bad economy in my non-traditional legal job. However, I came to New York with the intention to practice law and I hope my luck changes when the economy improves.

Do you think my middle-of the road GPA from Tulane together with the non-legal experience I am gathering is going to hurt my chances with small firms? Also, do you think the legal experience that I got while working for the small boutique firm will help, even if it was prior to receiving my J.D.? My job search has left me with a bruised ego and I just want to hear an expert tell me whether I’m in denial or not.

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