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April 30, 2008

Conflicts Checks for Law Clerks

Lawyers often lose clients or are conflicted out of work because of conflicts of interest.

But what about law clerks?
Can what you do as a law clerk have an impact on the work that you do as a lawyer? Absolutely. Before you are hired -- even as a law clerk -- expect to be asked to produce information about legal and other work that you have done.

Be Prepared As you begin to do both paid and volunteer legal work, keep track of the names of the clients for whom you work and the issues on which you are working. Work as a clerk on one side of any matter -- litigation or transactional -- can keep you from being hired by a firm or agency working on the other side or on collateral issues.

Although rare, in some cases, working as a clerk on completely unrelated matters can preclude you from working at a firm doing work that is adverse to an employers' clients or issues. On occasion, work done before law school -- in a technical setting, for example -- can preclude hiring. Avoid embarrassment by being honest with prospective employers. In addition, your timely candor about potential conflicts can help everyone create a conflict-free place for you in a department or office walled off from potential conflicts.

Remember, the right to waive the conflict belongs to the client, not to the lawyers for whom you worked or those for whom you hope to work

Expect to receive a conflicts request from prospective employers before you accept an offer. You will be asked for a list of clients and matters on which you have worked. Of course, it's easier if you have kept a running list of your work. If you haven't done so, you may ask your previous employers for a client and matter list for a conflicts checks.

April 29, 2008

Make email networking work for you

You are about to graduate or leave school for the summer. Whatever you do, don't neglect your opportunities for networking. Used correctly, email may become one of your best networking tools.

However, email is impersonal and two-dimensional. Attempts to network by e-mail offer no chance for the instant interpersonal click, and plenty of opportunity to miss the connections that begin in face-to-face meetings. You can make e-mail networking work for you, but you must understand and compensate for its limitations.

How can a three-dimensional person make a two-dimensional tool be productive?

(1) Be brief and informative.
(2) Ask direct questions with short answers.
(3) Ask for a phone call or personal meeting.

Typical misguided networking attempts test the limits of e-mail and try the patience of recipients because they ask for things that most people won't do for strangers and may think twice about doing for acquaintances. Wrong-headed emails usually do one or more of the following:

(1) Ask a long and complicated question.
Why would a stranger take 30 minutes out of his busy day to answer a 10-paragraph e-mail that includes the story of your life?
(2) Ask for a job. This is like asking a stranger to marry you at the same time that you are setting up your blind date.
(3) Ask for a referral to a job within the recipient's organization. This is like asking to marry your blind date's sister before the blind date.
(4) Ask for referrals to friends of the recipient. This is like asking to marry your blind date's best friend before the blind date. Recognizing the limits of the medium, smart e-mail networkers write questions that quickly get the recipient to "yes."

Consider this particularly bad example of Attempted Email Networking:

Hello, my name is John Smith. I found you in www.martindale.com. I graduated from the same law school you went to. I am interested in finding an entry level attorney position in Your City and was wondering whether you could help me out. I have read your firm's profile and am very interested in your firm. Please let me know whether your firm has any opening. If not, could you please keep me posted if there is any opening for an entry level position in your firm or other firms in the future. Thank you very much for your time and attention.

Now consider this:

I am a 2006 graduate of the The University of Minnesota Law School interested in relocating to Your City. I am a native of Guatemala, fluent in Spanish and French, and I am completing a clerkship in Minneapolis. Perhaps you will have time to talk to me briefly during the next few weeks. I have a few questions about making the transition to practice in Your City. I have attached my resume in a Word document, so that you will know a bit about my background when we talk. Please let me know when it might be convenient to call, and thank you in advance for your time.

There are three problems with the first message: (1) poor grammar; (2) the writer skipped the crucial step of providing personal information B the third dimension -- that would lead to a connection beyond having graduated from the same school, and (3) it presumes that the recipient is willing to offer job referral services for a complete stranger. Not likely.

The best use of email for networking is a message that asks a direct question that leads to a meeting or a phone conversation:

(1) May I call you next Friday at 2 p.m. to ask about being a tax lawyer in Your City?
(2) I will be in Your City next week. Would it be convenient to meet with me either Monday at 10 a.m. or Wednesday at 3 p.m.?
(3) I heard you speak at a Litigation CLE last week. I have a few questions about [some topic] and would like to meet with you next week. Would it be convenient to meet with me either Monday at 10 a.m. or Wednesday at 3 p.m.?
(4) My [career services professional, favorite faculty member, former boss] suggested that I contact you to discuss [city, practice area, etc.] Are you available for a phone call next Tuesday?

After you have had a face-to-face or telephone conversation and after you have developed a relationship, your email connection may certainly be willing to answer your long question or direct you to a potential job opportunity.

Remember, the best emails are tailored to the situation you are in and are considerate of the needs of the recipient. Final caution: If you don't hear back, remember that email can be spam-blocked and that a busy recipient may look at your message and identify it as "not the fire I have to put out today." Follow up with a phone call or a letter.

April 28, 2008

When Bad Grammar Happens to Good People...

From Ross Guberman's Legal Writing Pro site:

When Bad Grammar Happens to Good People

April 27, 2008

Writing Competitions & Other Vocational Uses for Seminar Papers

As you get ready to hunker down for finals, you may be wrapping up seminar papers and briefs. Before you put those documents in lockdown on your hard drive, do two things:

1. Do a quick search for essay contests in which you might earn Fabulous Prizes. Those prizes can be money and trips to bar conventions where you can meet people who do work that you want to do and who will appreciate your writing. You may, as many of our grads can attest, be forced to sit at the head table with dignitaries, be photographed for the bar section's magazine or website, and your paper might be published.

Google "Law Student Essay Contests" and you will find a number of sites including: Lewis & Clark Law School's Writing Competition Site

ABA Law Student Division Awards, Competitions, Grants & Scholarships Site

American College of Trusts & Estates Counsel

2. Look at your paper as a marketing piece. You may have written something that could be vocationally useful if you can create a version that is accessible, useful, interesting, and -- if you are lucky -- compelling to practitioners. How do you do this?

a. Identify lawyers working in the field (www.martindale.com, professional journals, names attached to reported cases; your professional memberships, etc.);
b. Read your paper carefully and create four short bullet points that will be useful to practitioners. Depending on the structure of your paper, you may have to do some extra work to create these points;
c. Draft a short email explaining how you came to write the paper (which you will attach but not expect the lawyer to read), and then include your four bullet points and an offer to discuss the topic.

I was recently told by a very experienced lawyer that it would be extra compelling if the lawyer had worked on one of the cases that you cite. You won't always be able to do that, but if it happens, go with it.

Of course you will have a professional signature block with your name and address, phone and email, so that your target can contact you.

April 24, 2008

Summer Success from National Consultant Mary Crane

From "Read Mary" -- Mary Crane's blog, Summer Serious

April 9, 2008

Federal Student Loan Legislation Makes Public Service Possible

Last fall, President Bush signed federal legislation dramatically altering the federal student loan program to make it much easer for students with an interest in public service to pursue their career goals. The College Cost Reduction Act (CCRA) altered the kinds of loan repayment options available to graduates with federal loans and provided for a loan forgiveness option for graduates who engage in public service for a ten year period.

Because the legislation is complex, how it will affect your specific circumstance should be the topic of discussion with your financial aid office representative, particularly if you are a graduating student this spring. Equal Justice Works has created a helpful, one-stop resource page on its website:

http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/resource/ccraa

The EJW page provides helpful analysis, the full text of the legislation and links to useful resources. Graduates and recent alumni will want to spend some time exploring how the CCRA can enable them to engage in a public service career.

April 8, 2008

Best Selling Legal Career Guide Updated and Expanded

Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, 2nd Edition, by Kimm Walton, 2008.

* The long-awaited second edition of this bestseller has finally arrived! This essential and very readable handbook is now significantly expanded to over 1,300 pages. Kimm Walton's informal and infectious style, wit, and humor remain, however. She covers every aspect of the job search, from exploring practice areas to conquering the large firm without stellar grades.

Note that we have copies of this comprehensive text in the CPDC.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Secret to Being Happily Employed for the Rest of your life
Chapter 2: Figuring Out What the Heck the Job of Your Dream Is
Chapter 3: Getting the Most Out of Your Career Services Office
Chapter 4: The Most Important Element of Your Image

Chapter 5: Overcoming Rejection...and Turning It into Job Opportunities
Chapter 6: Detective Work: The Prerequisite to Every Employer Contact, From
Cover Letters to Interviews
Chapter 7: Correspondence: Making Your Letters (and E-Mails) to Potential Employers Sing!
Chapter 8: Resumes: Squashing Three-Dimensional You onto Two-Dimensional Paper
Chapter 9: Interviewing: "The Secrets That Turn Interviews Into Offers�?
Chapter 10: The Birds and Bees of Great Jobs: Where Do Great Jobs Come From?
Chapter 11: What the Internet Can - and Can't - Do for You
Chapter 12: After the Offer
Chapter 13: "Help! My Grades Stink!�?
Chapter 14: I Go to Not-Harvard. How Do I make up for My School?
Chapter 15: I Didn't Get an Offer From My Summer Employer
Chapter 16: "I Go to a Distinguished School...�?
Chapter 17: I Want to Be Not here: Advice for Out-of-Town Job Searches
Chapter 18: Small law Firms
Chapter 19: Going Solo From the Start
Chapter 20: Coming to America: Job Search Advice for International LL.M.s
Chapter 21: Students of the Night: How Do I Get a Job When I'm Working Full-Time?
Chapter 22: Second (or Third or Fourth or Fifth) Career People
(Including Returning-to-Paid-Work Moms)
Chapter 23: Large Law Firms: Are They For You?
Chapter 24: Glamour Jobs: How to Nail Jobs in Sports, Entertainment, International
Chapter 25: Approaching the Bench: Judicial Clerkships
Chapter 26: Do the Right Thing: Public Interest
Chapter 27: Talking to Strangers Freaks Me out
Chapter 28: "I'm A 1L. Where Do I Start?�?
Chapter 29: It's 2nd Semester 3rd Year and I Don't Have a Job- What the Heck Am I Supposed to Do Now?
Chapter 30: I Graduated Without an Offer...Where the Hell is My Job?
Chapter 31: I Want to Be a Not-Lawyer: Alternative Careers

* The description above was taken from NALP

April 7, 2008

Thinking of a Career in a Non-Profit Organization?

Making the choice to use your law degree for less traditional reasons requires you to be both strategic and thoughtful about your skills and abilities. Many law students express interest in working in the non-profit sector, either because they see such organizations as places where it is possible to be involved in public service and social change or where the expectations are less driven by bottom-line financial success. However, it is not always apparent to employers in non-profit organizations, particularly non-legal related ones, why a person with a JD degree would be a good match for their needs. This makes it incumbent on the candidate to help explain the connection between his or her background and the work of the non-profit entitiy.

A recent New York Times article provides some helpful advice for non-profit job seekers, "Your True Calling Could Suit a Non-Profit". The article can be found at the following (registration required):

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/jobs/06career.html?ref=jobs

While not specifically addressed to lawyers or law students, I think it presents a good overview of how/why candidates can make the transition to this sector and some successful strategies to use. There are additional resources in print, including "What Can You Do With a Law Degree" and other texts. More information can be found on the NALP website at the following:

http://nalp.org/resources