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February 28, 2008

How to find the "hot" practices?

FAQ from email: How do I find the "hot" practices? A question for another time is whether, having found the "hot practice," you would rather sort lint than do the work...

Identifying “hot? or “hottening up? practices isn’t rocket science. Students and lawyers must pay attention to the news – not just Britney and sports – but the actual news that covers the economy or politics or human rights or whatever you care about. Pay attention to the economy in the city or state in which you hope or plan to work. Finally, abandon all magical thinking about how law practice works. For example:

1. Real Estate Development If you want to work for real estate developers in 2008, you must create Plan B. If it isn’t clear why this is so, Google "Subprime Mortgage," read the last 10 weeks of the Wall Street Journal or The Economist and then listen to NPR for a week.

2. Structured Finance With some layoffs already appearing, early 2008 may not be the best time to have Structured Finance as a first career goal. Certainly the work will continue, but at a sharply reduced rate. If a summer or a first year associate is picking practice groups, there are many others which will last through and beyond any recession that may happen. (litigation, tax, ERISA, intellectual property)

3. Subprine Practice - Alternative Energy - Technology Careful readers of legal newspapers, newsletters or other materials, might find reference to firms that have created “Subprime Practices Groups,? Alternative Energy and/or Technology groups. Why? Because smart lawyers are always trying to see around the corner in the economy. Getting in on the ground floor is a good idea, and smart law students always look carefully at where the economy is heading and they try to get to the front of the line. Smart law students express interest (based on some research) in these areas.

Holding on to a practice area that is in a steep decline, either because the business has gone or the partner who was generating 90% of your work has departed without associates is nothing but magical thinking. From my headhunter days: A wonderful firm (and I call it wonderful because of what its management did) lost an international trade partner who left with his book of business and none of his five associates. The firm, to its eternal credit, and offered them oil and gas regulation work. Four of the five said “Gosh. I’ve been waiting all my life for oil and gas regs to appear on my desk.? The fifth, who had just bought a condo and had a new wife who had just quit her job, was the lone holdout. “I want to do international trade and only international trade,? he insisted. He was out of the firm in three months and was unemployed for a period of time.

In a shaky economy, students and lawyers should be focused in professional development, skill building and networking and paying obsessive attention to the economy, to new businesses and new industries.

February 22, 2008

Need to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills?

If you are interested in further developing your communication skills, I have just the resource for you. Consider joining a Toast Masters group where you will

* Learn to communicate more effectively
* Become a better listener.
* Improve your presentation skills
* Increase your leadership potential
* Become more successful in your career
* Build your ability to motivate and persuade
* Reach your professional and personal goals
* Increase your self confidence.

I would be happy to talk with you about my experiences with this organization. I learned a lot, and it has served me well.

Check out this link for a club near you with their contact information.


February 18, 2008

How to make sure that your phone calls are returned: Make the best use of the phone

FAQ from email: Why won't they call me back?

The question you are really asking is -- why call instead of sending email?

FASTER There are times when the phone is quicker -- and if you use hundreds of cell phone minutes a month, you can't argue with that.

BIG IMPACT There are also times when you want a bigger impact than the one dimensional impression that comes from email. If you are beginning a chain of networking, you want the contact to hear your enthusiasm or commitment. The beginning of a networking chain is most effective when you call to briefly introduce yourself and your purpose and then follow up with an email. (Yes! You do get to send an email!)

DOUBLE DIP Phone followed by email is a "double," but if you are trying to connect with really busy people whose email inboxes are deluged everyday, you will want to make your email one that gets opened. Most serious business people clear out their voicemail boxes everyday. Daily email cleanup is an aspirational goal. If you use the phone to signal your serious purpose, your followup email will likely be opened.


1. Speak slowly and distinctly. Spell your name.

2. Repeat your phone number. Say it once at the beginnng of the message and once at the end.

Hello, this is Jane Smythe (J-A-N-E S-M-Y-T-H-E) from the University of Minnesota Law Schoool. My number is 612-222-2222. I am calling to ask you to xxxxxxx. Again, this Jane Smythe at 612-222-2222. I will follow up this message with an email.

February 6, 2008

Why work with a bar association committee? Reason 5,473.2

From my email:

As you know, I've been working with an ABA committee. I've worked a fair amount with one of the attorneys on model legislation and we are "work friendly." I've never met him in person. At any rate, in an email conversation (he had just congratulated me on my externship this semester), I mentioned my upcoming interview with Prof.
XXX, a little about her, and why I was excited about it. Purely conversational, I expected nothing more than a "good luck" from him.

Well. During my interview, Prof. XXX mentioned she had received a really nice letter of recommendation from someone who knew me. Turns out "Bob" took it upon himself to find her email and write apparently quite a wonderful letter to her. I had no idea. Of course, I thanked him after the interview.

The lesson: A little bit of your time can go a long way. When you work with lawyers on their projects, they see you as a competent professional, not just as a "student." You earn the Rebuttable Presumption of Competence in All Things, which can generate a recommendation or, depending on your circumstances, an offer of employment.

February 5, 2008

Opportunities for Millenials..."Federal Human Capital: The Perfect Storm"

The Partnership for Public Service (PPS) has compiled a report outlining the compelling need for Federal hiring driven by the fact tht half of all federal employees will be eligible to retire during the next ten years.

Federal Human Capital: The Perfect Storm. is a summary and analysis of federal human capital issues and needs as expressed by Chief Human Capital Officers across government.

This 28-page report may be downloaded from the PPS site. A paper copy is available in the CPDC.

February 4, 2008

Five Biggest Barriers to a Job Search

The following are five of the most common reasons why people get frustrated with their job search and as well as don't spend enough time and effort on their search:

1. The Rejection Syndrome: A job search can often involve frequent rejection for a variety of reasons (known and unknown). These reasons range from being underqualified or overqualified to just not fitting into the organization at that time.

2. Emotional Stress: Law school is exhausting enough and searching for employment obviously adds more stress and fatigue. Typically over time, job candidates will express negative behavior in their communications (i.e. content, rhetoric, and/or their body language). Interviewers pick up on this negativity immediately.

3. Working Solo: A job search can often be an extremely lonely activity and people often feel that they are their own and seclude them don't invite others to aid and support them.

4. Lowered Self-Esteem & Confidence: Or as I call it: The 'Is it Me? Syndrome. Feelings of rejection make it difficult to maintain self-confidence. This also makes for poor interviewing. The interview is the time you are to tell people how competent you are and how you fit into the organization. Low self-esteem and confidence make it extremely difficult to stay focused on a search.

5. No Plan or the Wrong Plan: Many people approach their job search by just 'winging it' and/or will only use one strategy (the most popular is just to answer job ads online). Having no direction leads to unproductive time and a sense of 'going nowhere fast'.

Tips to Overcome These Barriers

* Be aware of these barriers to begin with and as well as be proactive. Remember, the first step to solving a problem is to identify the problem what the problem is. Here are some thought as to how to reduce these barriers from the start.

* Practice good health habits (diet/exercise/rest/etc.).

* Establish a routine using a variety of job search strategies (see more strategies on this blog or at https://inside.law.umn.edu/cpdc This will reduce the stress of uncertainty and of the unknown and increase your likelihood of employment.

* Talk to supportive people (family/friends/classmates/dean of students/CPDC staff/etc.). Stay away from people who spark negativity.

* Seek out counseling for severe stress.

* Measure your progress - with tracking progress overtime, you can have a sense of accomplishment every day. Instead of focusing on rejection, you can concentrate on the progress you make.

* Consider teaming up with one or more people while you are in search-mode. They'll help keep you objective and focused.

Adapted from The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search by Orville Pierson

February 3, 2008

The Hiring "Year" Deconstructed


THE HIRING “YEAR?There is more than one “Hiring Year.? All but one contain more than 12 months and they all have their own characteristics and casts of characters. Because these “years? overlap, there is absolutely no time when it is “too late? to begin or revive a job search.


“Fall? recruiting for 2L summer and 3L permanent positions with large law firms and agencies begins for 1Ls and 2Ls in February with applications for the Loyola Patent Law Interview Program which is usually scheduled for the first weekend of August. The CPDC’s “Fall Interview Kickoff? program is set for early April.

“Fall? recruiting for employers participating in on or off campus interviews begins in early July when applications are due for off campus programs. “Fall? recruiting for large state and federal agencies begins with applications in late July or early August. Some government employers participate in on and off campus interviews; others can be found in the Arizona Government & Honors Handbook (password protected on the CPDC website), which you may search by class year for available agencies and deadlines.

For Fall 2008, the U of MN on and off campus interview schedule is as follows:
August 15 – West Coast
August 18 – Chicago
August 20 – Washington DC
August 22 – New York
Week of August 25 – 100+ interview schedules during the week before school starts)
These interviews are conducted before school start to keep students competitive with other early-interviewing schools, and to minimize disruption of fall classes. When the market shows signs of strength, 3Ls may find that large law firms continue to hire through the spring and into the following fall (yes, after graduation).

The “fall? ends – more or less – in December. For Fall 2008, the NALP Guidelines for the Timing of Offers and Acceptances will have a rolling offer system, which will give students 45 days from the day they receive an offer to accept, decline or negotiate for more time. The CPDC will provide updates when the NALP rules change.


Spring recruiting includes both on campus interviews and a set of public interest job fairs including Minnesota Justice Foundation clerkship interviews and the Midwest Public Interest Law Career Conference. Unlike fall OCI, when the employers come to interview within a concentrated time frame, spring campus interviews take place throughout the semester. Interview schedules are posted in the OCI section of Symplicity, and required credentials should be uploaded 10 days before the interview date.

Local and national employers recruiting in the spring post jobs for the private sector (small and medium sized law firms), the public sector (Minnesota prosecutors, public defenders, government offices, Legal Services and other non-profits), work-study positions, and others. During the Spring, some public sector employers recruit for post JD fellowship positions.

THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT & PUBLIC SERVICE “YEAR?Local prosecutors, defenders, legal services agencies and other non-profits hire 1Ls for the summer after first year and may have them continue through second and third years. They also hire 2Ls and 3Ls, except when their budget shortfalls mandate a hiring freeze.

Non-Minnesota agencies accept resumes for summer employment during the fall or spring, depending on their budgets. Some state and local agencies do not consider applicants for permanent employment until candidates have passed the bar exam (prosecutors and public defenders in California). The University of Arizona’s Government & Honors Internship Handbook password-protected on the CPDC website), the CPDC’s Public Interest webpage, and Symplicity are good starting points for research.

The Equal Justice Works Conference allows students to interview for national public service employers in October. Later programs include the Midwest Public Interest Law Career Conference, Minnesota Justice Foundation clerkship interviews and other, smaller programs.


One of law students’ consistent concerns is that there appears to be no direct connection to small and mid-sized firms because they do not participate in structured interview programs.

It is true: there is no “season? for these employers, because hiring on a regular, annual basis is not part of their business model. Small firms are like small businesses everywhere – they hire when they have a need and a budget line to do the hire. Lawyers often think about hiring about two weeks after a staffing crisis overtakes the office. In terms of summer work, they may not begin to think about summer hires until summer looms large in their personal lives – for example, when the snow melts and they start booking summer vacations or April and May.

An oddity of the law school hiring: law students are focused on jobs for the summer of 2008 in August of 2007 with large law firms and agencies. The rest of the legal marketplace (and the rest of the business world) hires based on need and usually no more than six to eight weeks before a start date.

How do you create a “door? when there no opening? Broadly speaking, there are two ways to connect to lawyers at small and mid-sized firms who are not hiring right now.

1. Be where lawyers are. Without a “season,? there is no consistent, open door for summer hires. There are, however, many opportunities to meet and to work with lawyers in all practice areas with whom you may create those doors. Your participation in bar association activities – especially in committee work – allows you to make a good impression on a group of people who are active in bar work, and who are often similarly active and influential with their employers. Your contribution to a project – however small, helps to create A Rebuttable Presumption of Excellence in All Things, making it acceptable for your new colleagues to recommend you to others or to hire you directly. You know how this works: with even tangential interactions with people, you make judgments. If a person is smart, contributes to the project, and is pleasant to deal with, you are willing to work with her again, and to say good things about her. This can work for you, too.

You should also attend relevant Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs. Your willingness to invest in your own career by learning practical, substantive information and skills helps lawyers “see? you as worthy of hire. List the CLE programs you attend on your resume under EDUCATION heading or under PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS and ACTIVITIES.

2. Understand job postings that these employers offer throughout the year.

(a) “Part time now, full time summer,? which often leads to permanent offers or to recommendations for you that read “While we are not expanding our office now, if we were, we would hire this student whose work, work product, and work ethic have been exemplary;?

(b) “Part-time now,? which might lead to full time summer or permanent employment; or

(c) “project work? which often becomes a regular part time schedule and then leads to summer or permanent employment.

There is not a moment during the year when small firms might not hire students or lawyers. The school calendar – including school and bar exam schedules – is of no consequence to an office full of busy lawyers needing help NOW.

THE VOLUNTEER “YEAR?This “year? can begin during the first week of your 1L year and continue for the rest of your life. The choices are unlimited:

(1) Follow your dream toward a particular kind of practice. This may be the hardest but most rewarding work that you ever do because you need to decide what you want, to reach out to the people who are doing the work here or around the world and to make yourself known to them for your dedication and interest. Doing research projects – even long distance – can make you indispensible. For your particular individual strategy, consult your CPDC counselor.

(2) Explore the vast array of opportunities available through MJF and PSLawNet;

(3) Take volunteer work that you performed as an undergrad and add law student expertise to work that matters to you;

(4) Connect to organizations around the country or around the world. Know which agencies do specific kinds of work; target your volunteer efforts toward work that interests you. Understand your target organization’s management and funding sources.

(5) Be where the lawyers are: The best approach to these employers when they are NOT hiring, is to get yourself into the room and at the table where they are sitting. How? When lawyers are not hiring, and not working on client files, they are in Bar Committee Meetings, in Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs, and working on Pro Bono Projects. Once you have done good work on a project with a group of lawyers you will acquire have acquired “The Rebuttable Presumption of Excellence in All Things,? paving the way for your new colleagues to recommend you for employment or to hire you outright. (See #1, above).

Many of these paths might lead to a post-JD fellowship or to summer or permanent post-JD employment. Many post-JD public sector opportunities often come with loan repayment.

THE CLERKSHIP “YEAR?The recruiting process for judicial clerkships begins for 2Ls with programs in the Spring and Fall. Learn more about the application process at the CPDC Clerkships Page. While the majority of federal judges adhere to the Federal Clerkship Hiring Guidelines by recruiting 3Ls in the very early fall, some will also hire post JD clerks on their own timelines. Some, but not all, state appellate courts recruit during the spring of 2nd year. The Minnesota Supreme Court and Court of Appeals now review resumes in the summer and interview in late August and early September of 3rd year. A handful of Minnesota trial courts (3rd Judicial District) hire during 3L OCI. By contrast, most Minnesota trial courts hire when their clerks move on to new jobs, which can be anytime during the year. There are also additional opportunities to apply for clerkships when new judges are appointed or when a current clerk leaves before his or her term is complete.

THE 1L “YEAR?The only “year? with fewer than 12 months is the 1L “year,? which begins on November 1. Employers will not look at 1L resumes until December 1, which is not a deadline but the beginning of 1L hiring. December 1st employers are, for the most part, Large Firms and Major Agencies which made tentative plans to hire 1Ls when they published hiring goals in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers the previous February. Most employers hiring 1Ls begin to post jobs between late February and early May. The 1L “year? ends in mid-July when students begin to apply for interview programs and government honors programs for the following summer.


For traditional law clerk jobs, students write letters ("I am a second year law student interested in a summer clerkship with your firm/agency...") which are covered by the assumption that law students should be law clerks in legal settings. Other than discussing your particular interest in the employer and one or more of its practice areas, explaining your commitment to public service or outlining your history as a writer and researcher, nothing more is required because law students are expected to become lawyers.

An Alternative Career search is entirely different and unique to each individual. Finding the path requires self-assessment and traditional career researching, hard-charging networking, and willingness to understand other industries and other processes.

To find a way on a different path – one that isn’t covered by that basic assumption that a law student is the natural applicant for a particular position -- law students (in collaboration with the CPDC) need to create both a plan and a strategy to determine:

1. What is the hiring procedure for this job?

2. What does a resume look like for this industry?

3. Is there a "hiring season" for this category or industry? When is it?

4. Who is the primary target hire? What training is the employer looking for?

5. Why should a non-traditional employer hire a law-trained candidate? Integrated Healthcare Strategies (formerly Clark Consulting), a health-care compensation group, hires our graduates because of their ability to face a mountain of data, to analyze it, and then to write a coherent narrative.

6. If a law-trained person isn't the primary recruiting target, what would a law student need to do to become a primary target?
For example:

a. When an employer is recruiting an MBA in Finance, is it reasonable or possible to imagine that anything other than some finance training or coursework would suffice? If so, how do get the training or present the case for whatever might substitute?
b. Can law school classes, clinics and law firm or agency law clerk work substitute for an advanced degree in Human Resources? How do you explain this experience to someone who has no experience with a law school clinic in which a student operating under the Student Practice Rule represents a client in court?

In addition, Alternative Career Search also requires:

1. Significant amounts of networking and information gathering so that you can create documents that will help an employer "see" you as a primary target;
2. Serious reconfiguration of your resume and cover letter so that you are not "leading with your law foot."
3. Willingness to discreetly disavow your intention to be a practicing lawyer and to explain to a reluctant employer why a law-trained person with your energy, enthusiasm and curiosity is a standout candidate for the position.

The CPDC is ready to help you with all facets of your searches.

Susan Gainen, 2/3/08