Tag Archives: young lawyer

Making the Most of Your First Legal Job Search After Law School @thelegalintel

7 Mar

My latest Young Lawyer column for The Legal Intelligencer:

You’ve graduated law school, passed the bar, and are raring and ready to go into practice.  Unfortunately, the job market has not been kind to its newest members.  Recent statistics show that only about half of new law school graduates have secured full time legal employment.  Qualified candidates abound, and it is essential for you to distinguish yourself from the competition.  Now that bar prep is behind you, you can take advantage of some newfound time for your job search as well as complementary activities.

Get Involved in Your Local Bar Association

 Many bar associations offer free memberships to lawyers in their first year of practice, and it is well worth the money (and more) to take advantage of this opportunity.  With far more candidates than there are open positions, networking is key. 

 Most bar associations offer committees and divisions for every possible interest, and all are equally valuable in networking opportunities.  By establishing yourself as a leader within the young lawyers division, you can make friends with other young lawyers who can give you a heads up when their firm is hiring, and maybe put your resume in the right hands.  Becoming involved in practice area focused committees will introduce you to more seasoned practitioners who may personally be making the hiring decisions.

 There is no one division of the bar that is better than any other in terms of networking potential.  Regardless of how you choose to associate yourself, assuming a leadership role is essential.  Show initiative, dedication, diligence and above all, friendliness, and you will stand out when a colleague learns of an open position. 

Pursue Pro Bono Projects

 Pro bono representation provides a valuable community service and is the ethical duty of every attorney.  It can also serve as a teaching ground for the nuts and bolts of basic practice.  Pro bono representation in conjunction with your local bar association is frequently covered through the bar association’s malpractice policy.  There are diverse opportunities for pro bono involvement, including serving as counsel in protection from abuse hearings, drafting estate documents through a local Wills for Heroes project, or preparing expungement petitions.  The pro bono committee or coordinator of your local bar association can point you in the right direction for these engagements.

 Pro bono practice is also a good entre into getting to know other local practitioners.  If you confront a legal issue with which you are unfamiliar, do not be shy about reaching out to more senior practitioners and asking for their thoughts.  Bouncing legal theories off a more experienced practitioner will increase the quality of your representation.  It also will not hurt that a more experienced colleague will get to know you and get a sense for the quality of your legal abilities.

   Publish! Publish! Publish!

 Legal newspapers, blogs, and bar association publications are continuously seeking high quality articles for publication.  Publishing articles on an area of law you are passionate about can help guide your job search.  For example, if you long to be a litigator, a well-worded article on a change in local procedure will catch the attention of attorneys in that field.  Changes in substantive law or procedural rules, new legislation, and noteworthy court decisions all make for useful, attention-grabbing articles.  Do not get hung up on the academic.  An article that makes the reader’s job easier—by concisely identifying the legal issue and giving practical advice for dealing with that issue—will best catch the attention of other practitioners.

 The guidelines for submitting an article are usually easily available in the publication itself or on its website.  You are better off authoring the full article ahead of time instead of just a pitch.  You can always put together a quick abstract later if the publication requires it.  You should only pitch your article to one publication at a time.  However, if the article is not picked up by one publication, feel free to pitch it to another.

 Be aware that local and small industry publications generally do not compensate their contributors.  The value in publishing is developing your own research and communication skills, and attracting the attention of other local attorneys who can help you in your job search, or possibly offer you employment themselves.

  Catch up on your Community

 The world is much larger than the practice of law, and your efforts toward legal employment should not be exclusively focused in the legal community.  Use this time to get involved with your community at large. 

 Nonprofits of all stripes are always seeking volunteers.  Arts organizations and charities need volunteers to solicit contributions for benefit events.  Better yet, most benefit events need volunteers for the event itself.  As a volunteer, you will forego the steep ticket price, help out an organization in need and have an opportunity to mingle.

 With time to spare and elections on the horizon, it is also an ideal time for you to canvass on behalf of your favorite political figure.  Young professionals’ organizations are also ideal for making connections, both in your job search and for long term business-building purposes.  It is hard to go wrong with community involvement– pick an interest and run with it.  You will better your community and make invaluable connections.

Meet People, Make Friends

The best opportunities are often happy coincidences.  “Networking” can be a dirty word, suggesting self-interest and shallowness.  Think of your job search as a time for meeting people and making friends.  While you will hope that they can keep you in mind for employment opportunities, also think about what you can do for them.  Respond “accepted” to as many events as you can and offer to help out the host.  Attend alumni events for your university.  Participate in “town hall” community meetings concerning local issues.  When folks hear you are a lawyer, they may well call you about legal advice that you as a job searching new graduate are not yet capable of giving.  Build up your relationships with other lawyers so that you can provide appropriate referrals, and you will receive thanks from both the lawyer and the client.

 Submitting resumes alone will not find you a job.  You need to approach this search period as a full time commitment to making broad but meaningful connections.  The job market is in employers’ favor right now, and it is in your best interest to set yourself apart as a candidate.  Leadership, enthusiasm, and developing a positive reputation in your community are all positive steps to distinguishing yourself in that next interview.

Reprinted with permission from the March 7, 2013 issue of The Legal Intelligencer.  Copyright 2013 ALM Media Properties, LLC.  Further duplication without permission is prohibited.  All rights reserved.

Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo! Culture Change

27 Feb

I can’t stand Marissa Mayer’s smug little face, which fueled my immediate outrage at her unexpected kibosh on working remotely at Yahoo! (read more about my disdain for her in my earlier post about her squandered opportunity to set a good example for maternity leave policies for working women)

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After a few hours of, you know, working and minding my own business, my disgust at this news somewhat subsided.  I learned that there was a bit more to the situation than the earliest reactionary headlines suggested.  In particular, Yahoo!’s policy change is designed to target employees who have been working solely from home, as opposed to working most of the time in an office environment, but with the flexibility to work from home when needed for family or personal reasons.

As much as I love to hate on Marissa, I can get behind spending the bulk of work time in an office environment when your job duties involve creativity and collaboration.  So it appears that the policy change is not so much about eliminating flexibility options for working families, as to change the work culture of the company.  I only hope that Yahoo! doesn’t eliminate the potential for occasional telecommuting when the need arises.  Because that would be a true jerk move.

Andlthough I haven’t seen nearly as much confirmation on this, I did hear whispers that she has also eliminated flex schedules.  That, my friends, I see as an unnecessary thumb-of-the-nose to working parents.  If true, elimination of flex time is inexcusable.  That deserves true scorn.

Working parents and their supporters so frequently demand, and praise, “flexibility” in the workplace.  But “flexibility” is so ill defined as to practically be meaningless. Similarly with “support” for working families.  We want the work environment to change to “support” working families, but what does that mean?

To me, a “supportive” work environment for working families means:

-The flexibility to work remotely when the need arises.

-Paid parental leave for a reasonable duration at the birth/adoption of a child.

-A workplace culture that trusts you to be a professional and accomplish your work (whether it’s at 3pm or 2am), without hovering over you and tying you to outdated notions of face time.

-Most importantly, a culture of flexibility. That means coworkers and superiors accepting that maybe you’ll be out for an afternoon here or there or sometimes you have to unexpectedly deal with illness or whatever, but not penalizing you for that.

-In an ideal world, employers would offer stopgap “Get Well” childcare.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be paid for by the employer. I’d be happy to pay for it out of pocket. Just if the employer could have a service in place to provide emergency childcare when your kid’s got the flu but you’ve got a deposition that took four reschedulings to find a date where eight attorneys could all show up.

-A change in perspective that these flexible measures are not just for parents/kids.  Everyone can benefit from this kind of supportive work environment.  Everyone needs a little flexibility, whether it’s to care for a child, a parent, your beloved Fido, or a mental health break for yourself.  Flexibility is not a women’s issue, it’s an everybody issue, and it can benefit everybody.

What do workplace “flexibility” and “support” mean for you?

The Attorney at Large’s Guide to Practicing Law: Volume I

26 Feb

The Attorney at Large has been a steady presence on my working-mom-lawyer blogroll for a while. Although she has traded in her traditional law practice for writing/editing/parenting, her observations in The Attorney at Large’s Guide to Practicing Law: Volume I are dead on.

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This is a helpful read for any newly-minted attorney.  I read the whole book in about 2 hours.  It was quick and light to read. The AAL has plenty of helpful insights about client relations and professionalism.  Although the first couple rocky years of practice are (finally) a memory for me, I would have been extremely comforted in knowing I was not alone in feeling lost, overwhelmed and stressed.

The AAL’s tips on professionalism were extremely helpful.  She wisely guides the reader through the often tricky balance between client’s expectations of assertiveness, zealous advocacy on behalf of your client and courtesies towards opposing counsel whom you’ll be working with time and time again.  That’s something you really have to learn through experience, but some helpful pointers may have made that road a little less bumpy along the way.

The book is even priced with starving new lawyers in mind, you can download it for $2.99, or if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for free from the Kindle Lending Library.

A Mixed Bag Monday

18 Feb
  • Baby Beez’ daycare is closed so I am working from home today and looking forward to a dinner out at the HBH with the fam tonight. Hello carbs! Good thing I’ve got a personal training appointment today.
  • We are in the process of doing all the things we need to do to get Baby Beez her passport for our vacation this summer.  Do you KNOW what a pain it is to get a passport for a minor? Getting a passport-appropriate photo of Baby Beez is also on my list for today. I have no idea how that’s going to go. It will likely end in tears.  (You try to get a toddler to stand still in front of a white screen and make a neutral face.)
  • I really want to go on vacation and have sunshine and no-snow. Now. Vacation however is many months away.  What do you do to get through the long winter?

bio_photo-There is no such thing as networking with the “right” people. Everyone is the right person to get to know. Don’t try to network “upwards,” move up, down, left, right, all around.

-It’s all about the follow up!  You’ve wasted your efforts meeting people if you don’t continue beyond the event.

-Send handwritten notes!  They are memorable and effective.  They are the best 46 cent investment!

Trial Day. Better Luck Next Time.

10 Jan

I didn’t post yesterday because I finally reached that point of tiredness where I was too tired for blogging. For me, that’s a big tired.

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Today we had our trial. I lost. I’m not happy about that. I had learned my lesson from day 1 of trial college. I prepared hard for this trial. I worked hard. I practiced. I even took it upon myself to pick to be responsible for the parts of trial that are the most challenging for me (opening, direct exams) and took on those tasks.

The judge who was assigned to my trial had very positive things to say about my partner and I. In fact, the only criticism she had of our our trial performance was that I was a little late with one objection. We put on a darn good trial. But we lost. I guess you just have that sometimes, but it’s extra frustrating when you are being taught and putting into action skills specifically designed to be persuasive (even when the facts are not great), and then you don’t manage to win over 5 brooding high school kids.

I’m definitely glad I went to trial college. I learned so much. The teacher’s pet in me loved hearing that I was on the right track, and even that I had a good handle on several “advanced” trial skills. The eternal student in me loved hearing the constructive criticisms, so I know where I need to work harder and grow more. My only regret in addition to not winning the trial) is that trial does not come up all too frequently, so it will probably be a while before I can put these skills into real life practice. Now it’s back to the real world, back to the writing and thinking, and back to the assignments that have piled up in my absence.

Here’s a gunner, there’s a gunner, everywhere a gunner gunner

8 Jan

We’ve reached the point in the week where I’m too tired to find an appropriate graphic for this post.  We’ll go for the tried and true lolcat. Obviously.

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The only people who willingly spend the first week of the year in trial college are gunners.  There’s no way around it. And I’ve come to admit that I, too, am a gunner.

For those of you smart enough to have foregone law school, this is the definition of “gunner” (courtesy of UrbanDictionary):

A person (usually a medical or law school student) who uses over 3 different colored highlighters, tabs every page in their notebook, and raises their hand after every question asked by their professor, regardless of if they know the correct answer or not. Gunners like to hear themselves speak. They use complicated words to make themselves sound smart even though they have no idea what’s going on in class- they pretend they do. They are trying to intimidate you and eliminate competition.

The foolish thing about being a gunner at trial college is that there really *isn’t* competition. Sure, there’s a mock jury who picks who wins, so I guess there is a win/loss aspect, but the overarching purpose is to improve your trial skills.  That being said, and despite trying to keep my obnoxiousness under control, I admit that at times I totally caved to the “ooh pick me! pick me!” behavior.  But so did everyone else. That’s what you have here.

Most of my colleagues are in study rooms gearing up for their trials.  My trial isn’t until Thursday morning, so I have a little more time to prepare.  I also believe in the law of diminishing returns.  I worked darn hard during class hours from 8:30am-5pm today.  I worked through lunch.  I discussed and focused and gave it my all.  Then instead of spending my evening holed up in a study room with my trial partner, I went to yoga class. Hot hot hot yoga class.  And I think that change of scenery was just enough to enable me to structure my thoughts, so that now I think I have a pretty darn good opening statement prepared.  Sometimes a break really is worth its while.

Trial College Brain Mush

7 Jan

As the days of trial college roll on, I become less and less capable of forming coherent thoughts in the evening time.  I’m so darn tired, my thoughts turn to mush.  Tonight after dinner, I somehow found myself in a shopping center, and blasted through $200 on pants and celebrity magazines.

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MINE! ALL MINE!

We only have one lecture session left, then it’s trial prep and TRIAL. We’re trying a personal injury/insurance coverage dispute. The topic gave me a shot of courage, it is right in my wheelhouse. Now if only we could try this case according to Allegheny County rules, then I’d be golden.

I feel like I’ve made big steps in just 3 days.  On day one, I was a little sheepish and afraid to ask the wrong question, or afraid I’d look foolish by saying the wrong thing.  But now that I’ve been up in front of the class several times, I’m feeling more comfortable.  I’m not so worried about saying the wrong thing.  I’m ready to say something and see if it works.  I’m lucky to be in a great class. We’re all 4-7 years in, we have similar trial experience, and there are no gunners (or, if there is a gunner, it’s probably me, but I’m trying to keep that obnoxiousness in check).

Opening statements were the most difficult part of the class for me, and I wish we had a chance to do them again in a classroom setting.  I guess I’ll just have to study up, take a deep breath, and get ready to open on trial day.  Wish me luck! (and wish me sanity!)

Esteemed counsel shocks and thrills the jury with her brilliant argument!

Esteemed counsel shocks and thrills the jury with her brilliant argument!

Unrelated: (maybe?) I keep trying to make a joke about how someone here is totally Ignatius J. Reilly.  Apparently I am THE ONLY PERSON AT TRIAL COLLEGE who has read a Confederacy of Dunces.  More book nerds at trial college, plz.  At least I think I’m funny.

The theme of the day is THEME THEME THEME!

6 Jan

We’ve focused on the importance of THEME today. Every question you ask, every statement you make at trial must have one purpose: Advancing your theme. And never detracting from it. I do think that I did well with the content and organization of my direct examination. I tried to weed out everything extraneous and get down to brass tacks. My outline consisted of the three points I needed to make, and I made them. I just wish that once I got the feedback, I had an opportunity to try again, so that I could put those comments into practice.

This time I DID prepare. I even volunteered to go first. I was sure I was going to nail it. Well, I didn’t. I didn’t do poorly, but I had trouble controlling my witness, and a few stylistic problems. A lot of the feedback from instructors dealt with very specific word choices, and its hard to make those very specific, fine decisions when you are also specifically trying to question the witness from only a basic outline (instead of reading questions).

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This is a picture of the dinner bells because I couldn’t think of anything else, and because I think it’s funny that they have dinner bells here.

There are two components of trial preparation that we do not have the benefit of, and which make trial college challenging: (1) by the time a case gets to trial, you already have all the facts down cold, because you’ve been working on it for so dang long, and (2) you have more opportunity to practice and practice and practice the components of trial and get feedback on them. The second issue could be remedied in this setting, with keeping a quick pace to instructor feedback, and having the participants each perform examinations of the same witness before the class multiple times. The first one, I guess, would have been addressed if I read and read and read and read the course packet before getting to the CLE, but seeing as (like with most young lawyers) I was spending my time doing work before I got here, it didn’t leave any time to prepare for a CLE. So that’s that.

Terence MacCarthy gave an amazing talk on cross-examination today. His talk is everything a talk should be– he was hilarious, engaging, knowledgeable and challenging. I spend all day reading law, so I don’t usually read law books for fun, but now I absolutely have to read his book on cross examination.

Dinner conversation eased to a halt several times tonight. It wasn’t an awkward halt or an unfriendly halt, just a darn tired halt.   I miss my family, but I am also loving having grown up time. I’m about to go downstairs and work out. Then tonight I’m going to read in bed, and probably fall asleep with all the lights on because that’s how I do.

There is no success without preparation

5 Jan

Trial college went from 7:30am-7pm today, with nary a break in between. Boy am I tired. And I still have homework.

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We focused on opening statements today. I do not like doing openings. I don’t care much for closings either, but openings are my absolute least favorite part of a trial. I’m very much an action/reaction, question/answer, challenge/solution kind of person, and openings are so one sided. It’s a speech, but it’s a speech that you have to make a totally disinterested panel of jurors interested in. It’s super super hard.

Since work has been very busy, I did not do the reading ahead of time and did not prepare my opening ahead of time. I thought “oh heck, it’s a CLE. Who prepares for a CLE?” It’s no defense, but I wasn’t the only one. Out of my class of 8, it was noticeable that only two people prepared ahead of time. And you know what the result of this was? Six less than stellar opening statements.

I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I was cocky. I was sitting in the chair thinking “oh heck, I’ll wing it. It’ll be great. I know how to do trials.” But you know what, that’s not true. I’ll do great if I prepare. And I didn’t prepare, so my opening was bad. I’m glad for the lesson. I needed to be cut down to size. Overconfidence does not win trials. Being prepared wins trials.

The instructor (a distinguished Virginia Circuit Court Judge) remarked that my opening sounded more like an appellate brief than an opening statement. He was completely right. Big words and complex sentence structures doesn’t win over juries. I need to remember my audience.

I’ve learned helpful lessons today. Though I fell flat on my face in my opening, I am proud that I did not get defensive and try to justify my performance. I listed to the instructor’s comments and realized Yes. He’s right. I did it wrong. He’s telling me I did it wrong because he is trying to help me.

I did it wrong today, but I’ll do it right tomorrow. And even if I do it right tomorrow, I still need to listen closely, because there is so much more to learn.

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Greetings from Charlottesville!

4 Jan

I’m at the University of Virginia for the week, attending trial college so that I can kick my trial skills up a notch.  I’ve made a few trips away from Baby Beez before, but she is such a momma’s girl, and she’s so verbal, that I know this trip is going to be a hard one. She’s going to be asking for me a lot, and a toddler doesn’t really understand what it means for mommy to be gone “all week.”

The classes don’t start til tomorrow, so I’ve got tonight to relax. I rolled in around 5:30, and I’ve already chowed down on way too much thai food takeout, am watching a show on vh1 classic about 80s hair bands, and in a few minutes I’m going to go to the workout room and get a little exercise in.

It’s stunning how, now that Baby Beez is a toddler, the day-to-day time and effort of her care and attention has become a regular part of my life.  For example, it takes nearly 2 hours every morning for me to get the both of us ready and out the door.  Tomorrow it’s going to take a whopping 20 minutes for me to get ready.  It’s nice, but so strange.

Ok, that’s all I really have to say today. I need to go get on an elliptical while I’ve got the chance.