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March 26, 2008

What do I do at a reception?

It's that time of year that there will be a flurry of receptions for 1Ls and a large flock of receptions and parties for lawyers and other professionals. Take full advantage of these events!

HOW THE HECK do I do that? You want me to walk into a room full of strangers and not feel like an idiot. If you have been invited, it is for a reason. Law firms want to meet you. Bar association sections want to grow their memberships. Black tie fund raisers are for a good cause and you can meet like-minded people there with whom you would naturally have something to talk about.

Do I have to walk up to a stranger, reach out my hand and say "Damned glad to met 'ya!" No. Really, you don't. If you are very shy, you can hover around an interesting conversation and, unless the people are really jerks or really drunk, the circle will naturally widen to include you and all you need to do is smile. Then, ask a question. All of a sudden, you'll find yourself in the conversation.

How to you extract yourself from conversations that are going on and on and on and on?

1. Say that you need to refresh your drink.
2. Say that you need to thank the host or hostess.

A past issue of the AMERICAN LAWYER STUDENT EDITION has a great article by Elisabeth Pries, Cracking the Cocktail Party: How to network, impress future colleagues, avoid dry-cleaning mishaps-- and have fun. It's not on line yet, but it has some good tips.

1. Pay attention to the invite and RSVP.

2. Dress for your audience. Don't be too casual.

3. Come prepared to network. This is the point, after all. This is your chance to learn about the firm, to meet some lawyers and administrators and to show your interest in the institution and its people. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO hang onto the punchbowl or to make up for lost meals.

4. Interesting doesn't mean offensive. These events are designed to allow the firms to observe your behavior in an oddly awkward social situation. This is where you may -- or may not -- pass the "could I trust this person alone in a room with a client" test. Don't be drawn into debates about religion and politics. Ask the questions you might not want to ask in an interview: tell me what you do outside of work? How do you engage in pro bono?

5. Field food and drinks with care. The CPDC rule of "No more alcoholic drinks than you have noses" applies here.

Originally posted by Susan Gainen

Dress code for receptions, alumni visits and other networking meetings

From email FAQs:

What should I wear to a law firm reception or for a networking meeting?

If you are meeting in an office, wear a suit.

But what if they say "wear business casual?" What is "business casual, anyway?"

"Business casual" is a concept that is fraught with peril for interview candidates and other visitors. It was designed to make people more "comfortable" at work. Instead, it has created a new title for for administrators who, acting as "Clothes Police," must remind people that flip-flops and belly shirts, or ripped jeans and gardening clothes are not work clothes. It has forced people to add another layer to their wardrobes -- on top of Fancy Dress, Business Suits, Grubbing in the Back Yard, Running to the Gym, and Dashing to the Grocery Store.

The most awkward part of "Business Casual" is that it can cover a lot of territory: Is it Dockers and a button-down shirt or an Armani sweater and cashmere socks? This is defined firm-by-firm, office-by-office and supervisor-by-supervisor.

Bottom line for you: wear a suit.

Originally posted by Susan Gainen

March 18, 2008

Break Into Your Career By Breaking a Sweat: Hobbies Make A Difference

We often tell students to follow their passions outside of law, even if it takes time away from the daily work of law school. Not only does that make for a balanced life, it also can be a hidden job search strategy. I recently was contacted by a second year law student who discussed the unconventional way she located her summer employment:

I will be working at XYZ law firm (a mid-sized Minneapolis law firm) this summer. I did not interview with them through OCI. I was able to get an interview with them because I run with one of the partners. I trained for the TCM [Twin Cities Marathon] with him all summer. He forwarded my resume to the hiring team. He did not interview me and did not tell any of the interviewers that he knew me.

This student also had the following advice:

[I]f you do have a 1L who says that they are interested in running, encourage them to join a running club in the cities. The group that I run with is not a club per se, just a bunch of people who have picked each other up around the lake. But there are lots of attorneys who run and train for the marathon. I met the guys I run with on my morning runs, however, I am sure a more formalized running group would have some great connections as well.

So there you have it -- having hobbies in law school can be good for your career development. In all seriousness, you never know how you will connect with people and the more you follow your passions, the better the possibility that someone will see how much you can accomplish when you are engaged and committed to an activity or project. Even if you don't run, people get hired through volunteer work with community groups, political activity, artistic/creative endeavors, etc. The most important thing is that your interest be genuine -- people can easily tell when you are doing something purely for the networking prospects.

Employer Research Resources

In addition to preparing for questions you may be asked and practicing your tone, eye contact and posture, etc., an extremely important part of getting ready for an interview is conducting research on the firm or company. Sharing your knowledge of the firm or company shows you are really interested and enthused to work for them. In addition to looking at the potential employer's website, take a look at some of these resources:

and of course, www.google.com

Professional organizations are also a great resource to learn about an employer and to find like-minded people.


Ref: Job Interview by Joyce Lain Kennedy

March 14, 2008

Conflicts Checks -- required for all candidates

Sometime during the recruiting process you will be asked to complete a Conflicts Check. Employers need to know whether you have worked on matters which have created conflicts that need to be waived or otherwise resolved before you come to work.

BUT I'VE ONLY DONE PRO BONO WORK! The anti-sweatshop or landlord-tenant work that you did may involve one of your prospective employers' clients.

I WAS A PARALEGAL -- THAT DOESN'T COUNT! Yes, it does. You know everything about cases the you've worked on. You can be conflicted out.

I WAS JUST A LAW CLERK! There is no waiver for "just a law clerk." You must track your work and disclose it.


1. Full legal name of client and of all involved parties;
2. Case caption if applicable;
3. Basic nature of the matter or case;
4. Date case/matter started/ended;
5. Amount of time you spent on the file and basic nature of your responsibilities

I FORGOT WHAT I WORKED ON AS A 1L. HOW DO I GET THE DOCUMENTS? Ask your former employer for a case list.

IF MY EMPLOYER FINDS OUT THAT I'M INTERVIEWING, I'LL GET FIRED. HOW DO I HANDLE THIS? You may be able to generate this list from your billing records. If not, you may have to disclose your job search to someone you trust at your current employer so that you can get these records. NEVER, ever resign before your conflicts have been cleared!

SOME OF MY WORK WAS INVESTIGATIONS AND IT IS UNDER SEAL. THOSE RECORDS WOULD NOT SHOW UP IN A CASE LIST. HOW DO I SIGNAL TO A PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER THAT THIS MIGHT BE A PROBLEM? Your employer will ask if the list is complete and if you say no, most employers have routine probing language that can help wall you off from clients and industries which may cause conflicts.

WHAT IF A CLIENT WON'T WAIVE THE CONFLICT? Only the client can waive the conflict. Because the most senior billing partner is responsible, clearing a conflict will require that you disclose that you are in a job search. Never resign before the conflict is cleared.

HISTORY LESSON: The "Chron File" In the Dark Ages, which included typewriters, carbon paper and something called "Onion Skin," lawyers had secretaries (individuals who worked only for them), who created "Chron Files" for each lawer. A "Chron File" contained a copy of every document that the lawyer ever drafted, mailed or filed. With a "Chron File," there was never a question of what you did and when you did it.

QUESTIONS? Contact the CPDC at 612/625=1866.

Thanks to Martha Capper of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P., and the Minnesota Legal Career Professionals, the Twin Cities NALP City Group.

March 10, 2008

From a new book: Solo By Choice

An excerpt from the new book, Solo by Choice: How to be the lawyer you always wanted to be, by Carolyn Elefant (Decision Books, Seattle, WA, 2008).

If you are considering solo practice, this excellent resource will help you through The Decision, Planning the Great Escape, The Practice, Marketing, and FAQs -- not surprisingly, they are all chapter headings.

The first section, "Six Reasons to Solo," will either inspire you to follow your dream, or settle your mind that solo isn't for you. The six reasons are:

1. Autonomy (freedom to chose cases; freedom in handling a case; freedom over the smallest matters);
2. Practical experience;
3. To feel like a lawyer;
4. Work flexibility;
5. To own, not loan, your talent;
6. Career satisfaction.

You may borrow a copy from the CPDC or you may purchase this from the publisher Decision Books.

March 3, 2008

Now that it is "reference and recommendation season..."

Review the rules of asking for references and recommendations.

1. Letters of recommendation -- actual, written, paper or email letters -- are rarely required of law students except for applications for judicial clerkships and for fellowships.

2. Reference calls -- make sure that your recommenders expect phone calls and that they are prepared to answer questions about you and about why you are well-suited to the job for which you are applying. Ideally, you will provide a copy of your resume and a job description, if one exists.

You may also find info about recommendations in CAREER FILES under the heading "References and Recommendations"