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August 28, 2008

Callbacks and other in-office interviews: all the same

THE SET UP Be confident. Getting a callback or in-office interview indicates that the employer presumes
that you are qualified. You are going to
(1) let your personality and interests distinguish you from everyone else,
(2) get some of your questions answered;
(3) get some of their questions answered,
(4) to see if you "fit" with them, and
(5) to see if they "fit" with your idea of an employer you would trust with the beginning of the next stage of your career.

This also applies to the letter that reads "If you are in town we would love to meet you." Go! They mean it.

YOUR PREPARATION If you haven't done so before, do comprehensive research on the employer (and on the city, if it is a new location for you). Check http://martindale.com/, the employer's website, Nexus for newspaper clippings and W est or Lexis for important cases they have litigated. Some -- but not all -- firms have NALP forms and firm resumes. You may be winging this part of your prep with an employer without a website and just a small martindale presence.

YOUR ARRIVAL Never arrive too early, and never, ever show up late without a good excuse. Carry a cell phone so that you can notify the employer of your delay. Turn it off when you enter the building. Fifteen minutes before your interview is the earliest time to arrive. Any earlier makes your interviewer nervous or annoyed; any later and you risk making yourself crazy worrying that you might be late. If you are very early, walk around the block, have a cup of coffee or just sit somewhere other than the employer's lobby.

YOUR ITINERARY AT THE CALLBACK OR IN OFFICE INTERVIEW You will usually meet the recruiting administrator first, spending between 10 and 20 minutes with someone who is Professionally Nice, and who will make you feel as comfortable as possible. Do not be too informal or familiar. This person can vaporize your candidacy by raising an eyebrow, and your meeting is part of the interview. Be friendly, but always be professional. After meeting the recruiter, you may then go from office to office, meeting one or more attorneys at a time, or you may sit in a conference room and attorneys may come to you. You may be taken to lunch or to dinner on the day of your interview. You may be taken to dinner the night before your early morning interview. Expect anything. For a first-and-only-in-office interview, your greeter may be the Hiring Partner or the Office Manager.

AVOID CAREER-ENDING GAFFES When touring the office, you may encounter artwork or architectural features that make you ask "What were they thinking when they bought that?" Know that you are probably looking at (a) the work of a partner or spouse or one of the firm's treasured clients, (b) the work of a beloved local artist or (c) the culmination of the work of an incredibly proud and sensitive Partner's Art Committee. Your sole comment, if asked, should be "Interesting."

YOUR FOOD Nothing you eat during an interview has anything to do with nutrition. The lunch or dinner let interviewers see how you behave in a semi-social setting, and check you over for observable anti-social
habits. You are still in the interview. The Food Rules are:

1. Ideal lunch: Catch of the Day - broiled. No red food: given the chance, red sauce will leap onto your white shirt.
2. No salad dressing. Bleu cheese looks awful on gray flannel.
3. Do no spear the partner's last piece of steak.
4. No finger food and especially, no greasy finger food. No chicken wings, lobster, egg rolls or crabs unless you are on Maryland's Eastern Shore and someone hands you a crab mallet.
5. No alcohol, or, at the very least, no more drinks than you have noses. Even if the people with you are drinking, don't do it. They have jobs and you don't. If they get maudlin or silly, they will still have jobs. If you get maudlin or silly -- or worse yet, drunk and belligerent -- you won't have a job.
6. Never, ever berate the wait staff.
7. If you are still hungry, get a pizza on the way home.

THE BILL While you should expect to cover travel and other expenses for interviews with judges and most public sector employers, most large law firms pay for travel and reasonable* expenses for callbacks, and
occasionally for screening interviews. If you have multiple callbacks in the same city, say to the recruiting
administrators, "I am also meeting with X, Y & Z. How will you handle the expenses?"

*Reasonable expenses Cab to and from the airport; airport parking; meals while in transit; cab to the hotel; hotel room expenses. Never bill an employer for any of the following: a cable movie that would embarrass your parents (the titles appear on the bill); alcohol, lobster or caviar from room service; baby sitting or pet sitting; a new dress or suit from the hotel boutique because you lost a button; a limo from the airport to the hotel; an upgrade on an economy rental car to a Jaguar.

YOUR LUGGAGE If your interviews are near enough to your hotel for you to retrieve them and get to the airport on time, check your bags with the bell captain. If not, stash them with the employer's receptionist. There is always a coat closet near the receptionist's desk.

(1) You may find yourself answering the same questions again and again. Your challenge is to be as interested in your answer the eighth time as you were the first time. Your answers and your demeanor are new to Interviewer #8.
(2) If you are meeting with a firm that does not routinely interview here, take a copy of "Standards, Grades, Honors, Ranks & Writing Requirements" and be prepared to explain the grading system in a positive and up-beat manner. The system was instituted to avoid grade inflation.
(3) The Law School's second year writing requirement is unique: all 2Ls serve on either a law review-caliber journal or on a moot court.
(4) Minnesota's Student Practice Rule that allows 2Ls and 3Ls in Clinic to represent live clients is unusual (not unique). Be prepared to explain that -- especially to lawyers who have been out of school for decades and only vaguely familiar with clinic activities.

THEIR QUESTIONS #2You may be asked behavioral questions, such as "Describe a time when you were challenged and had to lead a group to a solution," "W hen did you last put your life in jeopardy?" or "Who in history would you most like to invite to dinner?" Breathe deeply and answer truthfully. Don't try to psych out the question -- everyone's answers are different.

THEIR QUESTIONS #3 In a small-to-medium size first-and-only-in-office interview, you may be quizzed closely on your practical and technical skills. Be prepared to discuss your legal writing projects, clinic activities, Trial Practice, Externship, and other practical classes, your undergrad writing experiences and any office work you have done.

YOUR QUESTIONS Prepare five or six good questions that address issues that matter to you. They must not sound self-serving. Instead of "Do you work 80 hours a week?" you might ask "What do you and your partners do outside of work?" You may ask the same questions of each interviewer. Be prepared to get the same answer or wildly different answers to your questions about the firm, its culture, its governance, its commitment to public service, the outside-of-work lives of its partners and associates, etc.

CLUTCHED IN YOUR HAND A leather or other professional looking portfolio is useful to keep an extra resume, cover letter, writing sample, and "Standards, etc." It also gives you a place to write down your interviewers names, as well as giving you something to hold in your hands if you are nervous. Do not drag a purse and briefcase AND a backpack around. Leave extra loads with the receptionist.

YOUR CHANCES (MATHEMATICAL) Employers do not have a formula that calculates "W screening interviews generate X callbacks yielding Y offers that guarantee Z acceptances." They (and you) wish there were such a formula.

YOUR CHANCES (PHILOSOPHICAL) For most employers, a big part of the decision the "FIT" question: "Is this a person I would want to work with for 10 weeks or 10 years?" Your positive attitude, your personality (including some of your quirkiness), your intelligent questions including the ones that show that you've
done some research about the employer and the work you might do; your sophistication about the business of law (public or private), and your genuine interest in the work that the lawyers do are the things that will affect your chances. Forget about everyone else the employer is interviewing, and do the best you can for yourself.

MANAGING OFFERS IN THE FALL NALP has guidelines for the timing of offers and acceptances. During the fall of 2008, NALP instituted a 45-day rule. At the discretion of an employer, your offer will be extinguished after 45 days. Offer letters will be clear about the date of the end of the offer. There are, in addition, rules which control the number of offers you may hold open at one time. All of the rules appear at NALP's website.

MANAGING OFFERS OUTSIDE OF OCI AND WITH NON-NALP MEMBERS Ideally you will be able to negotiate for as much time as you need to complete your interviewing and come to a rational decision based on your options. Often, however, a prospective employer wants an answer much sooner, requiring you to weigh
the choices you have and the opportunities that are unknown. If you have questions, contact the CPDC.

August 15, 2008

Career Services Online Workshops

Check out these 10-minute workshops offered by the University of Minnesota. Although the legal job search as well as the legal profession as a whole have many nuances, you will be able to glean useful, universal career and professional development advice.

* Topics include

Resumes, CVs, & Cover Letters
Job Search Strategies
Job Fair Tips
Graduate/Professional School
Job Offers & Salary Negotiation
Transition to Employment
Transitioning from Student to Professional

* Please consult the Career & Professional Development Center (CPDC) for specific advice regarding your legal job search and career development strategies, documents, salary negotiation, etc.

August 14, 2008

100 Tips and Resources to be a Happy, Successful Lawyer

Check out this action-packed resource written by Laura Milligan: "100 Tips and Resources to be a Happy, Successful Lawyer". Milligan provides a wide-array of material to help you in your professional and personal development.

"Lawyers and law students are under lots of stress tracking billable hours, attracting new clients, landing the right summer program and researching, networking and managing cases after hours. To keep you grounded and focused on elevating your career, we've generated this list of job boards, quick reference guides, tips for avoiding the burnout and advice for finding time for yourself. The rest is up to you."

Topics in this article include:

Lawyer Associations
Lawyer Blogs
Social Media and Networking
Continuing Education
Avoiding the Burn Out
Articles on Work-Life Balance
Job Boards
Law References and Research Tools
Lawyer Humor
Resources for New Lawyers and Law Students
Fighting Discrimination
Getting out of Debt


August 12, 2008

10 Skills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything

I thought you'd find this posting from Stepcase Lifehack useful:

"What does it take to succeed? A positive attitude? Well, sure, but that’s hardly enough. The Law of Attraction? The Secret? These ideas might act as spurs to action, but without the action itself, they don’t do much.

Success, however it’s defined, takes action, and taking good and appropriate action takes skills. Some of these skills (not enough, though) are taught in school (not well enough, either), others are taught on the job, and still others we learn from general life experience.

Click here for the 10 Skills.


August 8, 2008

Three Things Employers Want to Know About You

There are basically three things employers are looking for and it is your job to express that you have all of them clearly.

1) Can do the work? Employers are considering if you have the skills, abilities, talent, and potential to get the job done? Your resume and interactions with employer are excellent tools that give the employer a sense if you can or can't be successful.

2) You need to convey what it will be like to work with you - are you a good 'fit'. Employers will be creating a mental picture of what working with you will be like. "What will we talk about?" "Can I trust this person with a senior partner or a client?" "What will we talk about at a luncheon?" Don't be afraid to share a bit of your interests and personality during your interaction with employers. Just remember to be your 'professional self'.

3) Employers want to know that you are sincerely interested in them. Your job is to express your enthusiasm about the opportunity to work for them. Many employers I've talked with express concern about how little some candidates know about their firm or organization; interviewees seem to have neglected to do their homework. Do your research before writing your cover letter and before the interview. It will certainly impress your interviewer(s). Also, be prepared to ask a lot of questions and ask yourself: "Is this opportunity a good for you too?"


August 4, 2008

Interface is EVERYTHING

Kimm Walton writes that "Interface is everything" when looking for a job. She breaks this down and suggests you manage two things: Your image and your message. Here are three ways to review and craft your image and message:

1) Make sure you have a professional (or at lest neutral) email address and voice mail message. Hotdude99@aol or yournumber1lawyer@hotmail.com are not appropriate nor is a voice mail message that says "Hey dude, I've fallen and can't reach the phone."

2) Crafting an image requires that you figure out what you want. Self-awareness is extremely important when promoting yourself, and if you don't know who you are and what you want, how is an employer to know? Consider taking an assessment such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or Strengths finder to gain greater self-knowledge.

3) Think before you speak. This will not only reflect your thoughtfulness but will also help you manage your 'umms,' 'ahhs', 'you knows', 'likes', etc.

From Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams.

August 2, 2008

Font Picky Picky -- with consequences

From a thread about correct citations on a law professors' blog (not the lawprofessorblog -- a private one) comes the following:

...Am I off in terms of the importance to these details? I will tell you that this summer I worked on an amicus brief for a state Supreme Court that was rejected the first time it was filed because it was in the wrong font -- Times Roman instead of Courier. A mere detail? The attorney doing the filing didn't check the rule.