Self-initiated contact generally requires (1) researching who the contacts are in various organizations, and (2) preparing cover letters to the organizations that match your interests. Despite the fact that an employer may not advertise or engage a recruiter to fill a position, many employers have never advertised openings and simply fill positions and create openings from the people that approach them. In a market as small as Los Angeles, California, for example, there are over 2,000 legal employers and we would estimate that well over 25% are always on the look out for good attorneys. On our end, we use probably in excess of 25 sources to identify employers. Not all firms list themselves in Martindale Hubble due to costs considerations and only a small percentage of legal hiring organizations list themselves with the National Association of Law Placement. Accordingly, the resources of recruiters and job posting boards and others who collect this information and initiate contact with the employers can be extremely beneficial.
Prominent job posting boards and recruiting firms have an incentive to have the best information possible. Good legal recruiters specialize in information gathering and the larger ones even have entire departments that do nothing but gather information. Similarly, good classified ad sections of legal newspapers specialize in information gathering and selling of ads to employers. The larger organizations are usually able to compile the most information.
Due to the sharp downturn in the job market, self-initiated contact with employers may well become even more prominent as legal hiring organizations seek to cope with a decrease in demand for legal services. This is true whether you are seeking a position with a law firm, in-house legal department, or public interest organization. If you have tried other methods to find a job and have not been pleased with them, self-initiated contact may be a good option.