5 tips for the 3L marathon

The third year of law school is many things: lots of work, not enough work,  practical clinical experience working with actual clients with real problems, complicated decision-making about where to practice, a frantic scramble for a job,  and a constant concern that you are forgetting something. One thing that it is not is a sprint.

Here are 5 tips for the 3L marathon.

1.  Job search skills are life skills: don’t put them in separate boxes.

The skills that you develop that lead you to a job are the skills that will help build your law practice (public or private), fundraise for your kids’ kindergarten, run a political campaign, and manage projects at work.

2.  Look at all of your experience and acknowledge what you have learned.

Review your work (paid, volunteer, clinic, probono). Consider how the people with whom you have worked have demonstrated professionalism, ethics, excellent client service, and top-notch management and mentoring skills. Do not ignore the flip side. Every time you have been poorly supervised, badly managed and not mentored at all, you should have said to yourself, “I’ll never do that.”

3.  Evaluate each experience.

Each experience helps you answer “Do you have any questions?” so that you can continue to find good work sites and to avoid what you know will make you miserable.

4.  Your network: Find it. Work it. Give Back to it.

  • Get out of your house. Dust bunnies under the bed are not hiring.
  • Tell everyone you know that you are hunting for a job and give them meaningful specific information about what you are looking for. Telepathy is not a job search tool.

5.  Become an expert.

Interview lawyers who are doing what you want to do. Research. Blog. It is easier to hire someone who is on her way to becoming an expert on her on dime and in her own time than it is to hire someone who says “Train me. I’m yours.”

You may change your focus.  If you have met with 10 lawyers who describe work that sounds like the 7th Level of Hell, explore another practice.

Bonus tips

  1. Join a bar association that is relevant to your interests. Find a committee and contribute.
  2. Volunteer. Build skills. Decide in real time whether you want to work for individual clients, to do policy work, or to do something else, entirely.
  3. Keep up your part-time job. Always do your best work. You will need glowing references. You may find that this job becomes full time.
  4. Review your resume. Write it for the job you want, not for the one you have. Having met with multiple lawyers in your goal area, you will be able to do this correctly.
  5. Polish your presentation skills. Banish “ummmm” and “I’m like, you know” from your vocabulary. You won’t know when they keep you from getting a second interview.
  6. Actively manage your electronic profile. Use LinkedIn and other tools wisely and well.
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101 travel tips that I wish I’d collected

framed business travelReading “101 travel tips” will save you time, money, and embarrassment. Thank you, Josh Roberts, from Smarter Travel for this collection of solutions to problems that you hope that you’ll never have.

My personal faves: carry some duct tape and avoid airport junk food.

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Five tips for returning students

Back at school? Regardless of your reason for taking a break from school (short or long career, caring for children or parents, travel, previous disconnect to academics), you are ready to go. Congratulations.

Five Tips for Returning Students

Follow these tips which will help to make your time in school a success.

  1. Find your cohort.  

Although it may seem that you are alone among a group of 20-somethings, you are not the only “older” student. Find others, share your stories, and bond over coffee and laughter. Can’t find them? Ask the Dean of Students for guidance.

2.   Read the instructions. 

Make your own road map:  Read the catalog. Learn your institution’s rules. Find the Dean of Students’ office. Know where the Registrar works. Find the Library and make friends with the Reference staff. Read and re-read the syllabus for every class. Enter all of the relevant dates onto your calendar.

3.    Identify your strengths.

You have chosen this course of study for a reason. Your life and work experience will enhance your ability to participate in discussions and to do good work.

4.    Know your limitations.

Just because you are “older” does not mean that you have all the answers. In addition to learning from professors, you will be learning from younger classmates. They have a wealth of knowledge that you don’t know. Listen and learn.

5.  Be prepared to learn (or re-learn) how to learn.  

If your previous academic experiences are more than five years old, you have come to a new teaching and learning environment. Pencil? Paper? Maybe not as efficient as they used to be. Tablet? Hyperlinks? Group projects? All part of the new world of learning.

Should you find yourself struggling, ask for help right away.

****Susan Gainen has created a suite of programs for law students that can be sponsored by student groups, career or alumni offices or deans of students: Alternative Careers, Second Career Law Students, Professionalism Has Attached, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, Job Search Outside of OCI: The Forever Skill (unless you are a Ground-Hog-Day-2L). Her program, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th careers: Concrete steps for a life-changing process, is designed for returning students at any college level.  In addition to 25 years of career development activity (headhunter, law school career development, consultant), she is an artist. Her creativity workshops include “Open Your Heart and Close Your Wallet: Watercolor Postcards for Thrifty Travelers,””Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun: A conversation about creativity,” and “The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul: Create your cave with gesso.”
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Employers’ & clerks’ end of summer concerns

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The end of summer brings a host of concerns for employers and clerks.

Not surprisingly, some of the employers’ and clerks’ end of summer concerns are similar, covering issues related to work product and how or whether professional relationships developed. Employers have practical concerns about whether their businesses will be able to support new employees in 18 months; clerks need to know whether (and why) they would accept a job if it were offered.

Employers’ practical concerns

  • Business of law. Can we project that there will be enough work 18 months from now to support all of the 2L clerks to whom we want to make offers?
  • Recruiting strategies. Can we afford to take a hit to our campus reputation by “no-offering” someone from an important school for us?
  • A helpful “no.” If we must “no-offer” a clerk, are we prepared to provide true and helpful reasons, and help (including some kind of references) for the clerk’s upcoming job search.
  • Relationships with CSO. Will we provide the clerk’s career office with timely notification of the “no-offer?” We know that CSOs want some notice so that they can help no-offered students. We also know that there may be privacy issues that may need a legal opinion about how to proceed.).

Employers’ technical concerns

  • Have we given each clerk enough opportunities to do work that can be reviewed?
  • Have we given each clerk sufficient feedback so that early problems might be resolved?
  • Have the problems been addressed or resolved to the reviewers’satisfaction?
  • If asked, has the clerk volunteered to pitch in when needed to work on an emergency project?
  • Has each clerk had opportunities to connect with formal and informal mentors?
  • Have we been able to see each clerk interacting with a range of future colleagues (lawyers, clients, staff, vendors, etc.) to get a sense of her level of professionalism?
  • Do we have a collective belief that he wants to work here? If not, why not?

For law clerks

  • Have I completed all of the projects that I have been given?
  • Have I received feedback that I have been able to act on?
  • Have I participated in some (not necessarily all) of the events and activities that the employer has sponsored?
  • If I had the opportunity to pitch in and work on an emergency project, did I say “yes” or, if I had to decline, did I provide a satisfactory explanation (not “I have to go to the theater.”)
  • Have I connected with formal and informal mentors, as well as other lawyers and staff so that if asked, that they might give positive reports about me?
  • Have I told someone (at least one person) that I really want to work here?
  • Would I accept a job if it were offered? Why or why not? If not, be prepared to say “no” with grace and dignity. Talk to your career services professionals for guidance.
  • If I get no offer, I will breathe deeply and contact my career office right away for appropriate strategies to deal with rejection, and to get started on a new search.
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15 steps for an out-of-town job search

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Regardless of your law school’s geographic reach, an out-of-town job search requires diligent preparation, strategic planning, and willingness to create a network to support your plan. Review these 15 steps and get going.

First Stop: Career Services

If you do not tell your career services professionals that you want/need to go to Kansas City after graduation, do not dare to whine about getting no help. Telepathy is not a job search tool. If you don’t tell your CSO staff, your alumni and development professionals, and every faculty member and the Dean, you are wasting precious dollars of your tuition. You have no idea what kinds of personal or professional connections these people have. If you don’t let them know, they can’t possibly help you.

Long-Distance Job Search Reality Check

1.      Fall Interview Footprint. Your school’s fall interview program may not reach your target town. Even if it does, fall interview programs have their limitations.

2.      Who Hires 2Ls in the Fall for post-JD jobs? The majority of employers do not hire 2Ls for summer jobs leading to permanent post-JD employment. What’s that you say? Hiring a 2L in October for a permanent job nearly two years later requires a superb business plan, a well-tuned crystal ball, and/or a huge dose of magical thinking. Large law firms do it, but they are not the majority of employers.

Most employers hire when they have money and when they have work that needs to be done NOW or in the foreseeable future. Some of these practical employers are public sector (government and non-profits), small and medium-size law firms, JAG, post-JD fellowships, post-JD clerkships, and corporate.

3.     Who knows about your law school? Legal employers in your target city may know nothing about your school, so your application must include meaningful, specific information. Consult your CSO staff for guidelines and do not include your school’s printed brochures.

    • Programs’ rankings. Although rankings are universally despised, if you have participated in a well-ranked program (clinic, etc.), include the ranking information in the description of the program and the work that you have done.
    • Practical training programs. Small and medium size law firms and litigation-oriented public sector employers will be interested in live-client clinics, trial practice, the details of your moot court, and simulation courses that you have taken. For example:

As you may know, Moot Court at (your law school) is a year-long, academically supervised and graded appellate practice requiring multiple drafts of briefs and multiple judged rounds of oral argument. It meets the school’s second year writing requirement.

4.    Do not count on alumni to be up-to-date on curriculum changes. “Out of sight, out of mind,” applies. As you reach out to alumni, spreading the word about new programs becomes your responsibility. Dig into the work of the curriculum committee to find out about changes made during the past 10 years. These meaningful details will help you connect with alumni, making the research worth your time.

Limitations of large or small fall interview programs

5.    Employers in your target city may not participate in your school’s interview or resume collect programs. You will have to do research to find the employers, and then introduce them to your school (#3 and #4)

Make your resume “sticky”

6.    If you have access to a legitimate “local” address, use it and your law school address on your resume and cover letter. “Legitimate” includes relatives and best-best friends who won’t compromise your job search.

7.    Your genuine reason to move to your target city may include spouse/partner’s school or employment, family and friends, or climate (weather and business). Do not create a fiancée who cannot be produced at a moment’s notice.

8.    If you are from the area, include your high school‘s name on your resume.

Make a credible commitment and build a network

9.    Join the state and local bar associations. Engage with bar leaders who are eager to recruit you for meaningful participation.

10.   Use your alumni and career offices to help you contact alumni of your law and undergraduate schools who live in your target area. Connect by phone and email, and arrange to visit during school breaks.

11.   This is NOT the time to say “I will do this myself.” Enlist your family and friends and their friends, as well. There is a group of people who will be hurt if you fail to ask for their help. Do not squander these relationships.

Practical considerations

12.  If you have a specific practice interest, be sure that there is an active practice in your target city before you include that desire in your applications. Nothing says “clueless” louder than stating a preference for a maritime law in a land-locked city.

13.   Read the local newspapers and keep up with the active businesses and industries. How are they doing? What needs are going unfilled? Use that information to create a practice profile and a set of networking targets for your job search campaign.

14.   If you are applying to the public sector, pay close attention to funding sources. Some public defender offices have had years-long hiring freezes. Don’t be the student who applies only to PD offices with no ability to hire. Even if your strong preference is for the public sector, develop a private sector Plan B.

15.   Use social media wisely. Consult Amanda Ellis’ 6 Ps of the Big 3 for guidance.

 Susan Gainen has created a suite of programs for law students that can be sponsored by student groups, career or alumni offices or deans of students: Alternative Careers, Second Career Law Students, Professionalism, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, Job Search Outside of OCI: The Forever Skill (unless you are a Ground-Hog-Day-2L). In addition to 25 years of legal career development activity (headhunter, law school career development, consultant), she is an artist. Her creativity workshops include “Open Your Heart and Close Your Wallet: Watercolor Postcards for Thrifty Travelers,””Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun: A conversation about creativity,” and “The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul: Create your cave with gesso.”

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Honey, can you type?

Old Technology: Can You Identify It?

“Honey, can you type?” was once a gender-specific question. Now, typing as part of technology competence, is a gender-neutral requirement for employment.

Mass. Moves to Require Technology Competence for Lawyers · Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites

A Short History of “Honey, can you type?”

When I was in high school, “Honey, can you type?” was a question that girls of all ages were asked in interviews.

After the 10-year break between my 7th and 8th semesters of college, one of my classmates was insulted when she was asked “Honey, can you type?”

One of my headhunter clients bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t hire a senior male attorney into his (then) very technologically advanced law firm where everyone had a desktop computer. “The guy needs an infrastructure, and we don’t have secretaries to take dictation.”

Massachusetts opens the door (finally) to requiring technology competence for lawyers.

“Honey can you type?” has changed from a from gender-specific question to gender-neutral assumption of technical competence.

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Finding feedback: an ongoing challenge

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An ongoing challenge

Finding feedback can be challenging because it comes in a variety of settings and from some unexpected sources.  It may be formal, informal, unheralded, unscheduled, and delivered by anyone from the most senior attorney to the most junior clerical assistant. Finding feedback may be challenging because delivering it is not part of an an employer’s culture. If lawyers in private practice get no billing credit for training and evaluation, persuading someone to commit otherwise billable time to it may be tough. Failing to provide feedback shows a supreme lack of professionalism, and an ill-placed faith in the performance of otherwise untrained subordinates. Take heart: A wise man once told me that he could always tell if he was doing all right at work if no one was yelling at him.

Finding feedback: decoding & deconstructing

Whether it is formal or informal, review is on-going and people are making judgments. Your ultimate success may be measured by your ability to identify issues and take corrective action even when no one sits down with you to discuss problems. Listen carefully to all conversations with anyone who reviews your work or with whom you interact.

Finding feedback: sourcing

Although you may work for splendid lawyers who provide sound advice and impeccable service, they may not be particularly good teachers. They may be reluctant to be critical and unwilling to deliver useful, detailed reviews of your work. If they won’t talk to you, pay particular attention to their mark-ups. Get a copy of the document as filed and compare it with what you submitted. After your review, go back with specific questions.

Finding feedback: A really soft skill

If this sounds as if you may be managed by telepathy, you are correct. Management by Telepathy or by the Power of Unexpressed Suggestion is rampant in most organizations. Don’t expect lawyers to have well-honed management skills: they went to law school where the “M” word is rarely spoken.

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Mid-summer review: critical critique

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Mid-summer review.

The late New York Mayor Ed Koch famously asked “How Am I Doing?” as often as he could. Mid-summer is time for law clerks to ask the same question.

What might review look like?

The range of behavior that might be labeled “feedback” is on a continuum from detailed contemporaneous review of individual projects to the assumption that all is well if you are not being yelled at.

Few employers provide the former, and, I hope that you never encounter the latter.

Mid-summer review: Where to find it

If your employer lacks a rigorous formal review structure, make your own. Make short-but-scheduled appointments with assigning attorneys noting that you have specific questions about one or more assignments.

Mid-summer review: What to ask for

You want meaningful, specific information about what you have done well and where you have fallen down. Do yourself and the lawyer a favor: send a memo with specific questions about parts of your work.

  • Did I provide the information that you requested?
  • Does it appear to you that I understand the client’s problem?
  • Was the piece well-organized?
  • Was the point that I was trying to make clear?
  • Did I miss a critical resource?
  • Were my introduction and conclusion clear and strong?

Your memo opens the door for the lawyer to be critical, perhaps severely critical, so be prepared for a rigorous review session. You many not like what you hear, but it’s better to know by mid-summer than to be surprised at the end to learn that your work was sub-par.

Bring coffee.

Other reading: Finding FeedbacK: an ongoing challenge

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3 Rules for Protecting Confidential Information and Your Career

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3 Rules for Protecting Confidential Information & Your Career

Whistleblower and Super-Leaker Edward Snowden changed his career trajectory purposely and forever when he revealed details of a National Security Agency data collection project. He is now unemployed, possibly in the middle of his 15 minutes of fame, marooned somewhere in Russia, and, perhaps, on his way to jail someday.> Very few people have either the opportunity or the desire to betray their employers, their colleagues, and their country in one singular act of mind-blowing bravado. Hero? Villain? Ego-maniac? The airwaves, the blogosphere, the courts, and the dissertation factories will chew on this for decades.

3 Rules for Protecting Confidential Information should keep you out of the headlines.

  1. Treat your employer’s and your clients’ private information as if it were your own.  This is Professionalism Rule #1. Don’t chat about work in restaurants, airports, elevators or in the gym. Be afraid. The person at the next table knows who you are and is listening, and possibly recording your conversation. He may be your clients’ brother-in-law or the opposing attorney on the matter that you are blabbing about.
  2. Keep an iron grip on your laptop, tablet, and phone. Unless you have Super-Double-Special-Grade-A-Absolutely-Top-Notch encryption software on your devices, they can be hacked. Back up everything in a secure place. You do not want to say:  “Sorry Ms. Client. The only copy of your very expensive super secret due diligence report was on my lost laptop, and not backed up.”
  3. Know that you have a public electronic footprint. Just because you don’t engage in anything that could damage national security and have no substantive fear of terrorist-hunting data mining, doesn’t mean that everything that you write or tweet isn’t discoverable and subject to wild misinterpretation. During World War II, people said “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” For the 21st century, perhaps a version of “Tiny Tweets Torpedo Promising Career” is apt.

Other resources:
6 Rules for Protecting Confidential Information

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