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February 26, 2007

Employer Outreach: New York & Seattle

Earlier this month, Dean Guy Charles and I visited a number of New York law firms as part of our office's on-going effort to develop relationships with employers in legal markets outside of Minnesota. Some of the firms we visited include Davis Polk, Fried Frank, Kaye Scholer, and Paul Hastings. In addition, I met individually with recruiting contacts at Simpson Thatcher and Weill Gotshal. Dean Charles and I used our visits as an opportunity to update these employers about developments at the law school and invite them to consider participating in one of our interview programs, either on or off campus. We were pleased by the reception of these employers, each of whom recognized the strength of the law school and its graduates. One of the issues we heard concerned getting law students from our law school to consider making the leap to New York practice. Later this spring, several of these firms will send representatives to discuss practice in New York City. Check for announcements in the upcoming month. Also, Dean Charles and I, along with alumni relations and development staff, attended an alumni reception at Dewey Ballantine, hosted by some of our recent alumni now practicing at that firm.

Next week, I will travel to Seattle to meet with legal employers in that city. A number of students over the years have expressed interest in Seattle practice and we thought now would be a good time to strengthen our connections. In addition to employer visits, I will be attending a regional alumni reception with Dean Fred Morrison, again, as an opportunity to continue to leverage our good alumni contacts in the area on behalf of our students. Stay tuned for a report later in March.

February 23, 2007

Telephone interviews: how do I prep? what do I wear?

Employers use telephone interviews to identify and recruit candidates, and to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews. They are also used to minimize the expense of screening out-of-town candidates.

While you are actively job searching, it is important to be prepared for a phone interview on a moment’s notice. You never know when a recruiter or a networking contact might call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk.

NOTE: An unscheduled phone interview is an ambush. If you are roused from a deep sleep or are otherwise vaguely indisposed, you may ask to call the interviewer back at a more convenient (but very very soon) time. Even 10 minutes will help you compose yourself. The interviewer will not think ill of you.

Be Prepared

Prepare for a phone interview just as you would for a regular interview. Know the three things about you that an interviewer must know before the end of the interview, and three examples of each of those characteristics that you can weave into your answers so that you can communicate your agenda. Know the answers to “resume? based questions, and be prepared to answer “Why do you want to work for me??

Dress for the interview. At the very least, wear shoes that lace up so that you won’t be tempted to kick them off and get too comfortable. Some even suggest dressing just as you would in a face-to-face interview as it will improve your confidence, poise and posture.
Sit at a desk or at a table. Sit up straight.
Keep your resume in clear view, on top of your desk so it is at your fingertips when you need to answer questions about your experience.
Have a short list of accomplishments available to review. These would be examples of the three things on your agenda.
Re-read your writing sample. “I don’t remember it too clearly? is not a good response to a question about it.
Have pen and paper handy for note taking.
Take the call in a place where you will not be interrupted.
Clear the room - evict the kids and the pets. Turn off the stereo and the TV. Close the door.
Avoid using a cell phone. If you must use one, find a spot with good reception -- the last thing you want is a "dropped call during an important interview. Be certain that yourl phone is fully charged.
Print "SMILE" on your resume -- it will remind you to smile, which comes through in your voice, helping you to project a positive image, and chaning the tone of your voice.
Do not smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.
However, keep a glass of water handy.

Be Professional

Speak slowly and enunciate.
If standing works for you, do it. It gets your blood flowing, improves your posture, and improves your response time. Some people also feel like they think better on their feet.
Use the person's title (Mr. or Ms. and the last name.) Use a first name if asked.
Do not interrupt the interviewer.
If there are multiple interviewers, try to keep track of who is asking the question. Clarify who asked the question so you can direct your response to that person.
Practice with a friend -- it is hard to know how your voice comes across on the phone. Are you a low-talker? Do you talk too fast? Is it easy to understand you? Is your speech littered with “I’m like??
Have questions prepared for the interviewer(s).
Take your time – it is perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts. Note, however, that a phone interview is like radio, and too much "dead air" is unnerving.
Give short – but not one-word -- answers.
Because your goal is to set up a face-to-face interview, after thanking the interviewer, ask if it would be possible to meet in person.
Ask what the next step is in the recruiting process and whether a timeline has been set.
THANK THE INTERVIEWER for taking the time to meet with you.
Follow up with a thank you letter or email.

(Adapted from a compilation by
A. Parks, U of Wyoming Law School on a NALP listserve)

February 19, 2007

Networking is not... (from Kimm Walton)

Having just returned from a 'round the country in three weeks tour of law schools, Kimm Walton has a few stories to share. Here is one of them...

One law student complained bitterly about his job search.

I asked him if he'd contacted anyone about what he wanted to do, and he said, "Yes, but it didn't work. I got the names of five alums from Career Services. I e-mailed all of them telling them I was looking for a job. One of them didn't respond at all. Two told me they weren't hiring. The other two told me they didn't have any openings, but they had some ideas for me."
"Did you call them?"
"No. They didn't have any jobs."

****
Two lessons:

1. "Not hiring today" doesn't mean "not hiring ever."
2. When alumni respond to an email with "I have some ideas for you," the first thing to do is make contact.

February 18, 2007

On-Line Professionalism: Blogging

As employers increase their background checks and look more closely at their applicants, the issue of managing one's on-line persona is more important than ever for job seekers. Remember, the purpose of the interview process is to confirm that you have the experience, skills and abilities listed on your resume. In addition, employers are equally concerned with ensuring that you will be a good fit for their organization.

Like it or not, one of the steps added to the due diligence process is conducting Internet searches to learn more about you and how you ‘behave’ online, i.e. what you are writing about (your opinions), including comments about others (respect and civility), and your overall level of professionalism (self-awareness, responsibility, maturity). These searches include looking at sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster. They also include search engine tools like Google, which often lead an employer directly to a candidate’s blog, which can be a treasure trove of personal (and often damaging) information about the blogger. Do not underestimate the extent to which blogs are explored and the content and tone thoroughly examined by employers, classmates, potential colleagues, mentors, professors, your parents, etc.

Simply stated: Your words can, and most probably will, come back to haunt you in a variety of ways and environments.

That said, I’m not suggesting that you give up your freedom of speech online for, as one U of M student suggests, these mediums are “valuable communication tools and great ways to express oneself to a large network of friends in varied locations.? I am suggesting, however, that one carefully monitor and manage his or her online presence. Many of the responses I received to my e-mail inquiry regarding social networking suggested the following:

• Keep privacy settings high and be careful who has access to your blog.

• Don’t publish anything on your page that you would be embarrassed about having a hiring partner read.

• Make yourself ‘unsearchable’, which means using a name and/or email address that your potential employers won’t know.

• Password protect every page that might have potentially negative or very personal information.

• Keep in mind that even if you have taken every precaution to hide and /or protect your online information, that doesn’t guarantee that someone to whom you have given access won’t pass it along to others.

The bottom line is, as another U of M law student eloquently stated: “Students should keep it classy. Schools and employers should aim for high-quality information in a well-designed format and should resist the urge to be cool and trendy.?

February 15, 2007

Advice from an Alum on Long Distance Job Searching

Our office recently received an e-mail from a law school alumna who practices with a mid-to-large sized law firm in a very in-demand city on the West Coast. She was excited that a recent graduate was joining her firm and wanted to take the time to offer her observations about successful long-distance job searching strategies, Here is the text of her e-mail with all identifying information redacted.

We don't do on campus interviews other than at the [in state] law schools. We typically hire about three summer clerks. We typically do not hire people straight out of law school if they have not clerked with us. We are happy to receive resumes from students of other schools who are interested, but to get any traction, they most likely would have to do as [our grad] did - be interested enough to come out here on their own dime, preferably during the time we are doing our on campus interviews and call backs. [Our grad] met with a couple of us when she was in town, and she came back later at her own expense for a call back during the 2-3 week period we were doing our regular call backs so she could be considered with the rest of them.

February 6, 2007

Reflections on higher salaries

Based on this from the Chicago Tribune and other reports from around the country -- salaries at large law firms are, once again, going up.


*******

I was just interviewed on this very subject for the second time in a decade -- and the question was what impact will increased salaries have on law firms and law practice? This time around, there is general agreement about the consequences -- both good and bad -- and to the eternal credit of managers, a significant part of the discussion balances both effects.

But the short answer is that some lawyers -- often with huge school loans -- will earn more money.

The more nuanced answer is that there will be more billable hours worked to pay for higher salaries; the partners will either earn less (unlikely) or make the associates work more hours. Some firms will crater because they want to pay top dollar but can't "compete." Others will decide that paying top dollar is unsustainable within their business models, and they will fall back onto the tradeoff of time for money, attempting with a range of success, to portray their firms as "lifestyle."

There will be less money on the table for law firm philanthropy and pro bono -- which is extremely sad because law firms are great engines of philanthropy and provide the bulk of the sorely needed pro bono hours.

There will -- again -- be damage to the culture. When new lawyers complain about working more hours than they were promised during recruiting, the partners may reasonably reply "Be quiet, we're paying you a lot of money to sit in the chair."

New lawyers will have an even steeper learning curve than they have had in recent years. While the Olde Training Model was "carry my briefcase for three years -- and don't speak," the new training model gives new associates no more than two chances to demonstrate their legal writing ability before being consigned to the Dreaded Document Review Team because no one trusts them do to their work. No work = no review = no job.*

One positive result in the decade since the last salary increase has been an increased emphasis on professional development and training. Major firms and agencies spend hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars each year on professional development. I suspect that this will happen again, on the theory that "if we are going to pay these salaries, then by golly, these new lawyers had better be able to do darned good work AND become really productive as soon as possible." But that's just a theory.

*Based on interviews conducted at the 2006 NALP ALI-ABA Professional Development Institute. When asked what would happen to a new associate who was perceived to be a "bad writer" after two assignments, every Professional Development Professional except one said "The associate would stop getting work." The dissenter said that the associate would get a writing coach.