Happy Graduation! Now What?

By William Peacock, Esq. on May 13, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Got a couch?

If you weren't one of the lucky few to land a gig before graduation, well, that's probably not going to change any time soon. Over the next year, much like a groundhog headed for hibernation, you'll need to burrow in for the cold winter summer of post-graduation bar review and unemployment.

Find a Place to Live

We call the next six months of your life “limbo.” You can probably find a job as a barista or bartender, but as an attorney? Think about it: if you were a small firm, would you bank a job, salary, and benefits on someone who might not pass the bar?

During bar study, you’ll likely be unemployed, or at most, working a part-time job. You’re going to need to cut expenses. Moving in with a sibling or a parent is probably necessary for survival. Though it hurts to move home (either because you have overly-obnoxious parents, or because you feel like a total mooch), it’s worth a few months of shame if it means passing the bar.

The Bar

Speaking of the bar, guess what you’ll be doing for the next few months? And you thought graduation was some sort of milestone, didn’t you? Silly grad, the real milestone, if you plan on practicing law, is the word “passed” showing up on your state bar’s website at 2 a.m. (refresh, refresh, DAMNIT INTERNET, REFRESH!)

There are a number of bar review providers, from the long-time leader (BarBri), to the #1 contender (Kaplan), to the online test prep up-and-comers (Themis). I took the company-formerly-known-as Kaplan PMBR, while everyone else I knew took BarBri. The review materials were substantially the same, as were the horror stories and pass rates.

One thing that really helps is having friends in your class. They keep you motivated, make sure you show up to class (instead of watching the recorded videos), and are a ready-made study group.

Apply Early, Apply Often

Many public and private jobs will require bar passage before applying. For example, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office won’t even allow you to apply until you have been issued a bar number, which means waiting seven months post-graduation to apply.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking. Some document review farms and other “until you find something better” jobs only require a J.D. Others will make your continued employment contingent on passing the bar. With tens of thousands of jobless grads hitting the market every year, snagging an interview is a numbers game. Apply to everything.


Need to step away from bar review boredom? Attend local bar association and alumni mixers. The old truism is especially true now: it really isn’t what you know, it’s who you know. You don’t know a damn thing about practicing law. You are a recent grad, as are about 50,000 other people. Meet someone at a bar event. Impress them with your knowledge of recent SCOTUS decisions on class-action law. Maybe it leads to an interview or an introduction.

Or a job.

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