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June 27, 2008

Stop before you say this

8 ways to kill an opportunity in an interview. You have been warned.

June 22, 2008

What he found on the copier...

Pay attention to your surroundings... You have a duty to report ethics violations.

Interview Prep: Real Estate for the Near Future

STOP! Before you enter an interview room this fall prepared to say “I want to do real estate because I liked my property class,� come down from the clouds.

While you were in school: This is not 2007. The Real Estate market has been roiled by the collapse of subprime mortgages. Lenders are no longer making low-doc or no-doc Liar Loans with Irrational Exuberance. Borrowers with good credit are having trouble getting financing. The Developers you might have wanted to work for are not necessarily building new developments. Some cities have double-digit vacancies in commercial real estate. These are troubled times.

Still interested? Create your own Plan A and Plan B.

Plan A. You want to be able to intelligently discuss trends and troubles. There should be no “deer –in-the-headlight� conversations in your interviews because you will have done extensive research. You have the rest of the summer to talk to realtors, brokers, bankers, and real estate lawyers, to read the Wall Street Journal and the local regular and business newspapers in the city in which you hope to practice so that you know the state of the marketplace.

Sound like a star in the interview. If real estate in your target city is troubled, find out if the employers that you are meeting are going after work in the industry. (For example, Ballard Spahr has formed a Distressed Real Estate Team). When asked about your interest, explain that you know that real estate is in trouble, and that you took time during the summer to explore the issues by talking to realtors, bankers, brokers and others in the industry. If the firm is hiring in that group, you are ready to roll up your sleeves and go to work during troubled times so that you can be prepared to work in the good times.

Plan B.
If the firm isn’t hiring for Real Estate, you can use your real estate research to show your initiative by explaining that you are ready to apply that same energy to work in any business group. People will be impressed by your willingness to explore a practice on your own time and on your own dime. You will also have created an opportunity to show your flexibility -- an ideal characteristic in troubled economic times.

June 19, 2008

Communication alert: use the employer's correct name

When you apply to ANY employer or you write to a networking connection, be very careful about how you write the employer's name. In law firms, blood is (metaphorically) spilled in management committee meetings when partner names are added or deleted, and when the committee decides to use a "comma," it is purposeful. Also "periods" in L.L.P, LLP, LLC, L.L.C., P.A. and PA matter. Using an agency's correct name matters, too.

This is the first detail that you can miss in your very first writing sample, and everyone who sees your documents will notice.

For example:

Arnold & Porter LLP is NOT:

Arnold and Porter
Arnold and Porter L.L.P.
Arnold & Porter
Arnold and Porter, L.L.P

June 17, 2008

Clerkship Notification Blog and link to CPDC Clerkship page

The Clerkship Notification Blog is a clearinghouse for information about clerkship opportunities for the 2009-10 hiring season with posts for six categories of judges: (1) SCOTUS Justices; (2) Circuit judges; (3) U.S. District Court judges; (4) State court judges (focusing mainly on state supreme courts, but intermediate appellate courts are welcome as well); (5) U.S. Magistrate and Bankruptcy Court judges; and (6) miscellaneous federal courts not falling into any of the above categories (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, etc.).

Also Federal Appellate Judicial Clerks 2009, is a blog that provides information about which law schools send clerks to feeder or other federal circuit court of appeals judges.

Thanks to Brian Leiter's Law School Reports.

For more information about the clerkship application process, check out the CPDC Clerkship Page.

From MN Lawyer: Corporate M&A takes a nosedive on local and national level

June 13, 2008, Minnesota Lawyer reports that Corporate M&A takes a nosedive on local, national levels

But the news in this article is not entirely grim -- the Twin Cities legal community has a history of managing ups and downs in the economy, and -- no surprise to anyone who has watched the law biz for a while -- when one practice appears to tank, others come on strong.

Research: Lawyer Satisfaction in the Process of Structuring Legal Careers

Lawyer Satisfaction in the Process of Structuring Legal Careers

University of Toronto
Southwestern Law School; American Bar Foundation Law & Society Review, Forthcoming

This paper proposes a new approach to the study of job satisfaction in the legal profession. Drawing on a Bourdieusian understanding of the relationship between social class and dispositions, we argue that job satisfaction depends in part on social origins and the credentials related to these origins, with social hierarchies helping to define the expectations and possibilities that produce professional careers. Through this lens, job satisfaction is understood as a mechanism through which social and professional hierarchies are produced and reproduced. Relying on the first national data set on lawyer careers (including both survey data and in-depth interviews), we find that lawyers' social background, as reflected in the ranking of their law school, decreases career satisfaction and increases the odds of a job search for the most successful new lawyers. When combined with the interview data, we find that social class is an important component of a stratification system that tends to lead individuals into hierarchically arranged positions.

June 15, 2008

Daddy at work; Stanford Drops Letter Grades; In-House Counsel & Generations

From NY Lawyer -- The Daddy Track (requires registration, but it is free)

Stanford Drops Letter Grades

In-House Counsel In House Counsel Discuss the Generation Gap

June 11, 2008

Networking or Information Interview Alert!!

Advice from an alum: Although you are not expected to be a subject specialist when you go for a networking or information meeting, you owe it to yourself and to your host to be more than minimally prepared. You, after all, called the meeting.

Bad Beginning: "Hi. I'm interested in construction litigation. Can you tell me all about it?"

If your meeting is based on your interest in the lawyer's practice area and she has been working in the field for a decade, you ought to have reviewed her martindale.com listing, Googled her and be able to name the topic areas of her recent reported cases. And yes, it would be excellent if you noted that she had litigated one of the really notable cases in her field.

June 7, 2008

Your "Summer Job" is neither the time nor the place for the "Summer of Love"

Unless your employer specifically allows or encourages office romances, be very careful about the relationships that you develop or that you allow to develop around you.

If you are a Summer Associate, improving your legal skills and doing the excellent work that you need to get an offer by the end of the summer are two activities and a full-time job. Balancing your Public Professional Self and your Private Office Affair is a time-and-reputation-consuming distraction. Yes, there have been summers of "affairs," and sometimes people get offers in spite of their public behavior, but the surrounding buzz rarely accrues to the benefit of Participating Summer Associates. The three-word fallout can include more than random heartbreak: sexual harassment litigation.

Office Romances, Legal Style gives more than a hint of the trouble you may be in...(From the NY Lawyer site -- registration is required, but it is free.)

June 5, 2008

Troubled economy? Pay attention...

As the economy is now in what might politely be called a "troubled" state, it isn't clear whether the immediate future (next two years) of legal recruiting will hark back to the early 1980s, the early 1990s or to the time just after 9/11. Each of these times were grim for new lawyers and tough for experienced attorneys, as well.

Now is the time to pay attention.

1. Pay attention to the economy. If you are a law student or a relatively new lawyer, do not hitch your wagon to a troubled industry. The CEO of Declining Widgets, Inc. will not call you -- she will call the most senior partner in your group, and that phone call may not generate work for junior lawyers.

2. Pay attention to your work product. No "drafts." No free-lance grammar. Perfect citations. Answer the questions that you are asked to address AND think about the client's whole problem.

3. Pay attention to your behavior. Let's take for granted that you won't be drinking and carousing on the job. What you must pay attention to are the professional cues that you get from senior attorneys. If you are given the choice of a social event or helping the partner who took you to an all-day closing who says that he will be in the office until later this evening wrapping up the deal documents, offer to help. He may say "No, go on to the event." But if you don't offer, he will remember, mark you as unprofessionally disconnected to the client's work, and this may cost you an offer.

Great advice about excellent writing; news about law firm staffing

From New York Lawyer -- You have to register, but it is free.
Ross Guberman is a writing consultant whose advice is sound and "Summer Associates: Write Better, go farther" is great advice.

From New York Lawyer
Today's news: Layoffs at BigLaw

From Legal Times
A not-completely-grim view of summer associates’ future.

June 4, 2008

Trial Court Clerkship Applications -- a tip from a former clerk

FROM A FORMER MINNESOTA TRIAL COURT CLERK ... As we have been sorting through piles and piles of resumes here in chambers, I have noticed that many people either fail to include their bar admission in their cover letter and resume, or bar admission is buried deep in the resume. (It appears to me that many people are still using the same cover letter and resume they prepared immediately after graduation.)

Even though bar admission is not required for most judicial clerkships, judges are interested in whether an applicant is already admitted to the bar or whether that applicant plans to work and study for the bar at the same time.

The first three things I look for in the cover letter and resume are:

1) where the applicant went to law school;
2) when the applicant graduated from law school; and
3) whether the applicant has passed the bar.

Networking Resources

Check out Networking Resources from the Career & Professional Development blog at lawprofessorblogs

June 3, 2008

When may I apply for jobs requiring more experience than I have right now?


It depends. When applying for a job for which you lack the precise qualifications, do two things:

1. Acknowledge what you lack and point out skills and experience that might substitute for what the employer is seeking. Use the precise language in the posting, because the first "screener" might be an electronic scanner searching for key words.

2. Be reasonable. You should always apply for jobs asking for 0-3 or 1-3 years of experience. Beyond that, what you really want to develop is a networking connection to the person who gets hired into the job that you want.

Why apply if you don't have the precise qualifications? From the employer's perspectve a job posting from is a search for the "perfect candidate" who isn't always available. You, on the other hand, are available.

June 2, 2008

Annual career check-up?

Every year you change your car's oil, visit the dentist, clean the chimney flu, and get a flu shot. Add an Annual Career Check-up to your list.

1. Revise your resume to reflect new skills, accomplishments, professional memberships, and board or other public service.

2. Review your work with professional organizations and make sure that you are connected to the most sophisticated and current sources of information about business and practice trends, including compensation and training.

3. Review your compensation and benefits with information gleaned from professional publications and members of professional organizations. Gather the information that will help you make a persuasive case with your employer for a change in your pay and benefits.

4. Call the CPDC for the most current compensation and training information from NALP.

5. If you want or need a change in your work arrangements (i.e. reduced hours, work from home, change in duties), gather the information that will help you make a persuasive and culturally appropriate case with your employer.

6. Connect with close law school classmates by phone, e-mail, holiday letter, linkedIn or myfacebookspace.com. Have breakfast, lunch or drinks with them when you can.

7. Make it a point to attend holiday gatherings of your professional colleagues from outside your office. Do not waste these events by spending 95% of the time with people you see every day. Use the time to re-connect with people outside of your daily circle.

8. Stay connected to high school and college pals, supporting their lives and career moves. Why? While it is disingenuous to call and ask for favors 15 years after high school when you haven't spoken a word to someone, it is good to be able to call your pals and say:

Hi! I'm about to be a law firm partner and I'd like to continue to be your lawyer;
Hi! I'm running for office and I'd like your money and your vote; and/or
I remember that you liked theater in high school and now that I'm on the Board of A Local Theater Company, I'd like your contribution.

June 1, 2008

May recommenders call employers directly?

Yes. Whether your reference knows someone in the organization or is willing to call a stranger, you should count yourself fortunate to have such a zealous advocate. In most situations, unsolicited reference calls are appreciated.

What does the recommender need? This depends on how close you are with your recommender. Be willing to provide your current resume, a job description and a very detailed explanation of your reasons for applying for the job.

When should they make the calls? Calls may be made just before or just after the interview.

CAVEAT Federal Clerkships This process is now governed by strict timelines, so before you unleash your recommenders on the Federal judiciary, strategize with the Clerkships Committee and the CPDC.

What do I do about a bad reference?

If you know that your former boss may be less than glowing about you and your work, preparing the interviewer can often remove the sting. Whether the bad reference is linked to a long-ago former employer or to your 1L or 2L summer from whom you received no offer, preparing yourself by knowing the actual, articulated reasons for the bad reference is crucial to the enterprise.

Attempting to run your jobs search on the premise that "they were jerks," "they were unfair," or anything harsher is self-defeating. You must determine exactly who will speak for your former employer and what will be said about you. Some employers keep a tight reign on potential recommenders; others allow you to recruit recommenders beyond the Hiring Committee. Work closely with your career office every step of the way.

Five reasons for bad references -- and what to do about them:

1. A weak performance review from one lawyer about a single project. You can often inoculate yourself against a weak performance review by explaining (not whining) about the single event that caused it.

If there was one terrible misunderstanding from which you have learned the importance of getting clear and unambiguous instructions, you may strike a chord. Most people have been in this situation at least once. Make clear that you understand your employer’s frustration, and that you know how a single event can color an otherwise favorable impression of your work. Be very sure that the incident you believe caused the problem will be the incident that the reference will discuss. This explanation dies a painful death if there is more than one incident to discuss.

2. Not a good fit. Sometimes the office or the practice was just not right for you. It might have been the practice, or the pace or the people. You might have been unhappy in the city where you worked. If you made your unhappiness known, you probably created a bad situation for yourself because you were perceived as having a bad attitude, for which the code words are "bad fit."

If you can articulate the problem and you are not applying to an employer with a similar culture, you may be able to overcome the “fit� issue. If you were perceived as a whiner or complainer and there is any connection between your former employer and your future employers (including classmates), you may have created a roadblock. Ask the CPDC for help. In an uncertain economy, anyone who hints that he doesn’t want to be hired won’t get an offer.

3. Offers to fewer than 100% of the summer associates. If a large number of summer associates did not receive offers, a prospective employer may be persuaded that the firm had financial problems which should not reflect on you. You may need to drill down to the department level, but if your first choice group is a drag in a troubled economy because it has lost business, and shed partners and associates, your “no offer" may be explained. Note that employers may be curious, if not skeptical if they learn that you had an option to join a viable and growing practice group.

4. Offers to everyone but you in the summer program. This is not good, but it is not the end of the world. Find lawyers who will say good things about your work and who will agree to serve as references for you. Ideally, at least one person will say that if it were up to her, you would have been hired. Establish in your own mind whether the office was really not a good fit for you because of its culture or style, or whether there were geographic or other factors involved. You must be calm and professional in your conversations with your employer to get the very best spin put on this immediately.

5. Your work was utterly unsatisfactory. If you have had poor reviews throughout your employment, and your supervisors were adamant that your work product did not meet the firm’s standards, a bad reference and not receiving an offer should not be a surprise. Whether the firm wanted a more scholarly approach to research, wanted you to work at an uncomfortably fast pace or adhered to grammatical and stylistic standards that you were unable or unwilling to master, you need to know why your performance was unacceptable. Then, you must do two things. Identify and put a good spin on the reason for the mismatch, and find lawyers who will say how much they liked you as a person. It does not hurt to have been the “favorite� law clerk who everyone liked, and whose “no offer� caused great pain.

STRATEGY Consult the CPDC within 24 hours of learning that you have not received a summer offer or that you will get a bad reference from a previous employer. You need to work out a strategy for your job search, and you must start right away.

CAVEAT Summer 2008 The summer of 2008 is not the time to whine, complain or to make clear that you don’t like the city, the work, the practice or the people with whom you work. Tell your friends, don’t tell your colleagues, and, please don’t whine about your employer on your blog. (Don’t laugh, it’s been done.) In an uncertain economy, anyone who hints that he doesn’t want to be hired won’t get an offer.