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 (, 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 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

Continue reading "Best Selling Legal Career Guide Updated and Expanded" »

October 31, 2006

A "writing test" may be part of your job application

FROM NALP EMAIL -- We recently asked finalists for one of our divisions to turn around a writing exercise in 48 hours, which we found extremely helpful in distinguishing between several excellent candidates. Having the opportunity to compare and contrast the writing samples knowing that our candidates all had the same timeframe within which to do the work was extraordinarily valuable.


This is part of a (mini) tidal wave from employers who are trying to discover what kind of skills their candidates have before wasting valuable time in interviews. I have heard of this with both law firms and judges.

Law Firms The first law firm to do it was a Chicago litigation boutique which spun out of a Giant Law Firm. The always-helpful-but-extremely-expensive publication OF COUNSEL explained that the firm planned its growth around cherry-picking junior laterals from Giant Law Firm Litigation Departments. The boutique’s managers assumed that laterals with the credentials good enough for Giant Law Firms could actually write. After finding that assumption to be flawed, those managers instituted a writing test before the first face-to-face interview.

Judges Many judges will put their candidates in a room with some documents and a laptop and ask that they write a bench memo that becomes part of their application package.

The main work of most law-trained people is reading, writing, talking on the phone and going to meetings. Most of the reading and writing is done somewhere between in-a-hurry and shriekingly-close-to-the-statute-of-limitations. Asking students to provide a time-limited writing sample that is unambiguously their own work provides employers with good preview of their candidates' skills and provides those of us in career development an opportunity to remind students and alumni of the primacy of legal writing.

February 26, 2006

Writing Samples -- What do I use and what does it look like?

Your writing sample should be your best analytical work. It can be a portion of a 1L brief or journal petition or writing from work or from clinic (with permission and with confidential information redacted) If you use one issue, set it up with a short statement of facts.... Review it before you submit it -- and review it (again) for spelling, grammar, new and better analysis and all-round graceful writing.... Although an employer may be interested in a journal article, the published version is understood to have been edited by others. Submit your draft as a writing sample....12-15 pages, max....Put your name and phone number at the top of every page...ALWAYS read your writing sample before an interview.
For more information, go to CAREERFILES to Writing Sample Rules.