« April 2006 | Main | June 2006 »

May 24, 2006

What must I do to be admitted to practice?

It depends on the state, and you can find a list of boards of law examiners and state-by-state rules from the ABA Section on Legal Education & Admission to the Bar's Annual Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission.

But really -- what do I have to do?

Bar Review: Bar Reviews are commercial services that instruct their customers on substantive law and test-taking techniques. Study options expand with advances in technology, and there are live, video, audio cassette, podcast, and book-only options. Although BarBri and PMBR are the dominant vendors, there are others in jurisdictions outside of Minnesota. Bar review is expensive, but most people consider it an investment.

Register with the State's Bar Examiners Some states require a registration that is different from signing up to take the bar exam, so check the rules. There is a charge for this process. Minnesota does not require pre-registration.

Apply (and pay the fee) to take the bar exam The application will be long and detailed. You will be asked a series of questions addressing 10+ years of residence, academic, credit and criminal history, and you may be required to produce documents relating to litigation. Get right with your creditors and pay your taxes. Consider each question and respond in the spirit of fullest disclosure. A significant fee will accompany your application.

Apply for a character and fitness review. The character and fitness review may be part of the bar application or, as in the case of California, it may be a separate process with its own significant fee.

Bar Admission Fees Once you have passed the bar exam and the character and fitness review, you will be charged a fee for your license to practice. In some states, the fee increases over time; in others it remains static.

Bar Associations Some state require that licensed attorneys be part of state bar associations (mandatory bars); others have voluntary bar associations. Bar associations often have affiliates that create and sell Continuing Legal Education courses which you will need to do to maintain your license in most -- but not yet all -- states.

May 23, 2006

Don't bring the "pain" to the painful interview

When interviewers believe that a 20-minute interview lasted for two hours, despite how the clock reads, the interview has gone wrong -- really wrong.

Is it possible to devise a contemporaneous repair for an interview meltdown? Probably not, although once you have diagnosed the disaster, you may meet the interviewers later in life and laugh at yourself.

Can you be prepared for the next interview? Yes, if you can answer one question and be prepared to discuss one subject:

ONE QUESTION Why do you want this job? Not "Why do you want a job?" but "Why do you want THIS job?" Interviewers need to know that you have thought about the place in which you will work and the work that you will do.

ONE SUBJECT with three parts What three things do I want them to know about me before I leave the room?* When you have to struggle to name two, and then you sit, clicking your tongue, while trying to puzzle out the third, the interview has gone irretrievably badly.

*For an extended discussion of the three things you need to communicate to interviewers, consult Kimm Walton's Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams.

What to infer from a curt reply...

From my email:

"Just wanted to let you know that I applied for the position at XYZ EMPLOYER yesterday. Today I received an email response that said simply "POSITION FILLED". Not sure if this is proper protocol but it definitely made me have no interest in applying with them again in the future."

When an employer has a large cadre of human resources professionals or when its ongoing hiring needs are supported by a legal recruiting department, candidates may receive ding letters or emails thanking them for applying and wishing them well in their future endeavors. In smaller organizations, where everyone in the "office" is a major-league multi-tasker, a quick email -- however curt -- is far more communication than candidates received when everything was done on paper.

Rude? No -- more likely reflective of a small and busy office. Should you cut this employer from your future life-list of employment options? No. Someday, small and busy may be just what you're looking for.

May 19, 2006

It's all about the team

While you may technically be "The Boss," working in an office is all about teamwork.

They look to you for:
Supervision & Work Assignments

Understanding that your staff probably knows more about what's really going on in the office than you do, that they know it more thoroughly and much sooner than you will, you look to them for:

Who Values Legal Writing and Analysis?

Employers do, and you should, too.

Employers make hiring decisions based on the quality of your writing. You might be everyone's favorite law clerk, but get no offer because of your writing. You might be everyone's favorite lawyer, but with a reputation for poor writing, senior attorneys will stop giving you work. This is a professional kiss of death.

Employers put such a premium on legal writing and analysis that -- often at substantial cost -- they routinely hire outside professionals to teach it to summer associates and new lawyers. One of them, Ross Guberman of Legal Writing Pro, whose clients include national and international law firms, federal and state agencies, bar associations and CLE providers, has generously offered to share his "Ten Tips for Summer Writing Success."

At one of the very few schools with a three-year-writing requirement, you have a series of opportunities to improve your writing before you go to work, beginning with a Legal Writing Program designed by Prof. Brad Clary, who has 25 years of experience hiring, training and supervising new lawyers, and moving through journals, moot courts, clinics and seminars. When you go to work with a clear understanding of the importance of writing and analysis and the good skills that you have begun to develop, you will have improved your chances of being perceived as a "star."

May 18, 2006

Practicing and Job Hunting in a Small City

QUESTION: I am working in a very small city this summer. Last fall I met a lawyer who suggested that I apply to her firm in the Spring. In late December, I accepted a position with another firm in this city. While I like my current firm, and would accept a position if it were offered, there is no guarantee – nor has there been any discussion – of a job for me after graduation. Can I send a resume to the lawyer I met last year?

ANSWER: There is good news and bad news here. Yes, you are working in a very small city, and, in all likelihood, everyone you meet is working with or closely related to everyone else. Without knowing how the lawyers for whom you work would react to your application to another firm, I would strongly advise against sending an a letter out of the blue. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that because the legal market is so small, you are very likely to run into lawyers from the other firm, including the woman you met last year. As a law student, you may very reasonably call the woman you met and ask her to lunch -- as a networking activity to learn about practicing in your city.

When meeting other lawyers from the firm at a bar association event, CLE or other gathering, you could inquire about their hiring plans in general or “on behalf of some of your classmates,? to find out (a) if they are thinking about hiring, and if so, for which practice, and (b) then, decide whether you want to apply. As you work through the summer, you will get a better idea about the culture of your firm and how the partners might react to your “defection.? You should also be able to lead them through conversations about your future.

You should, in any event, keep lines of communication open with the lawyers throughout the city because you will be practicing with them and adverse to them for the foreseeable future.

May 15, 2006

No interviews? Got typos?

An employer reported that he had recently received five resumes from U of MN students with typos in their cover letters. Because the firm values written work product, and its partners believe that applicants' resumes and cover letters are indicative of the work that they will produce for the firm, the first test for a candidate is "zero errors in applications."

Five students, no interviews.

Going to work? Want to keep your (paid or unpaid) job? Get an offer?

Quick tips for a successful summer (and first job)...

1. Summer associates and law clerks do not get to take vacation during their eight to twelve week summer programs. If you have a previously scheduled event (wedding, family reunion) that you have not yet disclosed to your summer employer, do so TODAY, and note that you do not expect to be paid for the two days that you will be away from work.

2. Be extra nice to your legal administrative assistants, to the library staff, to the copy center staff and to anyone else with whom you work. Everyone is watching you, and they will not hesitate to report unprofessional behavior. If, on the other hand, you are perceived as courteous and well-behaved, they will also be extremely supportive of your ultimate candidacy. NOTE: Be friendly, but do not even think about going out for drinks or dating staff when you are a summer clerk.

3. "Give me a rough draft" means "Give me a perfectly researched, impeccably grammatical and 100% spell-checked and thought-checked document."

4. There is no ambiguity in "I need the memo by 9 a.m. on Friday," and missing deadlines will cost you an offer. If, by Wednesday, you know that you can't meet the deadline, notify the assigning attorney and seek guidance.

For more, click https://inside.law.umn.edu/cpdc/careerfiles

May 11, 2006

"I'm like" not employable

This email to the CPDC from an employer speaks for itself:

Ok, so you know when you’re, like, interviewing someone? And like they seem like totally qualified with like great experience and good grades and stuff, but like they’re all “like? this and “like? that in the interview?

It’s like totally annoying and pretty much impossible to hear any like, good points they have, cuz like you just can’t get past all the, you know, verbal ticks and extra words and stuff?

I like totally hate that.

You guys should, like, remind people about that, or do a program or something. There were like TOTALLY people I would have otherwise hired but like I was all “that girl is going to sound like an idiot in court, no matter how well she writes exams.? It’s like totally bumming me out, you know?

For the record, I have been riding this horse for at least a decade.

May 1, 2006

Minnesota Bar Admission Question: How Can I Waive in to Minnesota?

Here is a question that has been raised regarding Minnesota Bar admission from other states:

Can I waive in to the Minnesota Bar with just my MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) score?

Answer: Yes, with qualifications. Depending on the other state’s specific rules, you may be eligible for admission with just your MBE score IF (a) you have been admitted in another state; (b) you have scored 145 or more on a MBE which you took with another state’s essay exam; and (c) you apply to Minnesota within two years of the date of the exam (NOT the date of admission to the other state.)

For the precise language to answer this question, consult the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar’s annual Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions. You’ll find its 80+ pages of dense pdf extremely useful. Of course, you would always check directly with the Board of Law Examiners of any state’s bar to which you might apply – admission requirements change often.

May be eligible for admission without written examination, upon proof of admission in another jurisdiction and proof applicant has received a scaled score of 145 or more on MBE taken as part of and at the same time as essay or other written exam given by other jurisdiction. Evidence of score and completed application must be received within two years of date of exam. (ref: Chart 5 - Application Dates & MBE Requirements page 4)

Note that most of your bar examination questions can be answered at Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions