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Question: I am a tri-lingual attorney in Tampa, Fla., with 10 years of experience in both transactional and corporate law, and litigation. I have excellent recommendations. I’ve had my own practice for about seven years, and have decided to close my practice. I’ve been looking for a job for eight months, and have not received a single job offer. Am I too experienced, or is it because my name is too ethnic sounding? Answer: From your description of the circumstances, it appears that you are a general practice, solo practitioner. It is unclear what sizes and types of clients you have serviced, but I will assume that your clients have been relatively small (individuals and small businesses). It is unclear whether any such clients would follow you to a larger law firm, or whether such a firm would find such clients attractive. From a firm’s perspective, these factors negatively affect your value, even assuming that you are otherwise skillful, experienced and well-regarded. Your 10 years of experience means that a firm will have difficulty treating you as an associate. Yet, it may be difficult to market yourself as a partner-level candidate because you do not seem to have a “book” of transferable business to offer. I tend to discount the theory that your “ethnic sounding” name (and, presumably, your background) has a lot to do with your lack of personal marketing success to date. These days, most law firms have a relatively enlightened view on the need for diversity. Most, at the very least, are keenly aware of anti-discrimination laws and the desirability of avoiding the taint of charges of discrimination. Your unique ethnic status and language capabilities, however, need not be (indeed, perhaps should not be) discounted as an element affecting your job search. These are characteristics that may be prized by some employers (for example, those who are involved with international business related to your background or those with a substantial base of clients with a similar background). A generalized search may not be effective in finding these types of employers. Here are a few suggestions to consider in following a more targeted search. These suggestions should work for purposes of exploiting any parts of your background, education, work experience and social relationships (certainly not limited to your ethnic background): � Do some personal self-assessment. What are your principal strengths as a lawyer? What might potential employers find most attractive? This self-assessment may help you identify employers who might be interested in hiring you. It may also help you refine your essential message (expressed in your resume, your cover letters and interviews) regarding your capabilities. � Try to avoid being all things to all people. I notice you claim both a corporate and litigation background. Which kind of work do you seek? Most larger law firms divide their areas of practice. Thus, except for certain “cross-over” practices, most larger firms hire specialists, especially at your senior level. You need to pick an area of practice and market yourself as a specialist in that area. Telling potential employers you can “do anything” may actually not be very helpful to your cause. � Think connections. Who do you already know in the profession who might help you find appropriate employment? Who do you know in business, social, political, professional, religious or educational groups who might serve as entr�es to appropriate employment? Contact these people, starting with the people who are most likely to be able to help you. In addition to asking directly for help gaining access to employers, ask them for their opinions on how you are conducting your job search. � Develop and refine a list of ideal employers. If you have a list of top-priority targets, place maximum effort into searching for references who might help ease your introduction to the firms. Spend a good deal of time, as well, gathering information about these targets so that you will appear interested and well-informed when you get the chance to interview with some of them. Keep in mind, moreover, that you may well get a job offer from one of them. At that point, you will want to be sure that you are ready to commit to a top target, rather than continue to search. � Never give up. The legal profession has become increasingly competitive, and tough economic conditions have made the profession even more challenging. But there is always room for talented, dedicated lawyers. Eventually, with insight, patience and effort, you will find satisfactory employment. Steven C. Bennett is a partner at Jones Day and author of “The Path to Partnership: A Guide for Junior Associates.” To submit a question to Mr. Bennet, click here.

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