April 14, 2006
Alternative Career Paths
Will Work for Favorable Dicta recently hosted a discussion about alternatives to traditional law jobs and how best to find and secure such alternative employment. The discussion continues here.
I can second one of the suggestions a reader made there and recommend What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer's Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law by Deborah Arron. I first looked at this book in the fall before I applied to law school as a way of making sure there were career paths available in the law that I would enjoy. I still highly recommend it for that purpose—it can be a big help in letting you know what you're getting into before you take on all the debt of law school. But it also has a chapter devoted to finding alternative opportunities—jobs outside the legal mainstream—and how to spin your experience into something that those alternative employers will like. I think the book is well worth its price for any law student who is not certain he/she wants to go the usual “biglaw” or firm route, but if you're not convinced I'm sure you can find a copy in your school or local library.
March 04, 2006
1L Summer: Judicial Externship or Firm?
An enquiring mind wants to know:
Which job should I chose? I am a first year and have been put in the very lucky situation of accepting between a firm and a judicial externship for my first summer job. But I am not sure which one I should take. I really like both offices. The ppl were really friendly in both cases. I met with the judge and with the managing partner in both situations and they were very likable and seemed like they'd give me lots of substantive work... any advice? Honestly I am really dumbstruck.
Hm. Like you say, yours is a good problem to have, but I don't see any clear way to resolve the dilemma. Your answer may depend on what you hope to do long-term (after you graduate from law school) and what sort of judge and firm we're talking about. If this is a prestigious federal judge you'd be working for, that makes the externship more attractive. If this is exactly the firm (or the exact type of firm) you'd eventually like to work for, the firm might be the best choice.
If you don't know what you want to do long-term, I'd personally lean toward the externship b/c you might get a better introduction to a wider variety of law there. On the other hand, odds are high that the firm is going to be more fun in terms of having a good time w/other summer interns, getting free lunches, etc.
So that's not much help, eh? Can anyone else offer some perspective?
February 20, 2006
Are you experienced?
I have this friend... no seriously! Not only do I have friends, but this is actually a post seeking advice for one of them who, like me, is a non-traditional law student. I have a bit of an edge: my wife is an attorney, so I've been able to get some experience from her firm and they've been more flexible about it. My friend has a bit of a harder situation, though. She works full-time, takes classes in the evening (four nights a week) and last year, her husband had a very horrible accident. As a result, she cannot quit her job (the insurance is absolutely necessary) which leaves her in a bit of a quandary for gaining legal work experience.
Now, typically, a law student would either do a summer associate position, or maybe clerk for a firm, etc. Or perhaps a judicial externship, or maybe even work in one of the school's clinics. However, nearly all of those options require some minimal time commitment of 20+ hours per week. When you're a non-traditional student, who has no choice but to work full-time and attend classes in the evening, that means you actually don't have enough hours in the week to participate in many of those options.
So what are some creative ways you've encountered to put some legal experience on the ol' resume that are practical and, more importantly, flexible?
February 10, 2006
How to: Submit a writing sample
Many legal employers (both full-time and temporary) will ask applicants to include a writing sample in their application packets along with a resume and cover letter. But is it enough to just print out some memo or brief you've written and drop it in the envelope?
For answers to that question, check out the last paragraph of this post from Kristine and the comments that follow. Here's the money bit:
Each writing sample should be accompanied by a cover page explaining (a) the sample's original purpose (e.g., a legal writing class assignments; a moot court brief; an internal memorandum for an employer; a court pleading); (b) when and for whom the sample was written; (c) the extent of editing by any third party; and (d) if the writing sample is an excerpt from a larger document, the nature of that larger document, including issues addressed. If an applicant chooses to submit a writing sample containing confidential or privileged information, the applicant must identify the steps taken (e.g., redactions; changed names; consent obtained from a client or an employer) to preserve the confidential or privileged nature of the document.
So now you know, and as GI Joe always told me, “knowing is half the battle.”
October 11, 2005
Does School Matter for IP?
A reader writes:
I've heard that the quality of the law school matters less when it comes to hiring IP/patent attorneys. I even heard once that it doesn't matter at all where you go to law school, because the demand for such specialized attorneys is so high. Is this true?
Hmm. My impression would be no, this is not true. When I was looking at schools I remember some were singled out as good primarily if you wanted to do IP—some schools have a reputation for being strong in this area. That suggests to me that those schools will give a you a leg up in the IP job search, even if just a small one.
As far as which schools are better for IP and whether demand for IP attorneys is high, I'm not so sure. Does anyone know more?
October 04, 2005
Advice for New Associates
Although new associates probably aren't going to visit this site for advice, readers who aspire to be new associates someday soon might learn a thing or two from Blonde Justice and Fresh Pepper (no permalinks; scroll to Sept. 29) about starting that job. A selection of my favorite tips includes:
- Your life is supposed to suck. Get used to it.
- Save as much money as you can. Don't get caught up in the swanky attorney lifestyle, it's just fancy-looking slavery.
- You don't have to kiss ass. Just be friendly.
- Start studying for the GMAT.
October 03, 2005
International Job Hunting
Reader “Shoortie” writes with two questions about his job search:
First, do Canadian and European (England in particular) firms hire US law students for their summer programs? Second, can I practice law in Canada or England with a JD? Any response is greatly appreciated! Thank you!
Good questions! Anyone have any ideas?
August 28, 2005
The Suburban Ecstasies: Like Lambs To...
On a more serious note, public defender Seth Abramson of The Suburban Ecstasies offers more blunt talk about the career options available to law students. This might be especially relevant to 2Ls participating in their on-campus interview program (sometimes known as OCI or FIP) where the options are typically firms, firms, and more firms. Mr. Abramson says:
One comment I keep seeing is, “I like [insert corporate sweatshop here], but they just don't do anything I'm interested in.”
Newsflash, friends: none of the firms do anything you're interested in.
For instance, help people, solve problems, work on behalf of the interests of justice, or, say, do just about anything your parents told you to try and do with your life when you were younger. You know, things that matter.
Posted by mowabb at 05:57 PM
June 28, 2005
Career Services Myths and Realities
A reader who is currently writing an article on the subject is looking for your help:
I would love to hear from law students who have had positive experiences with their Career Services Office, address the following questions:
- What are the biggest misconceptions and/or complaints that law students have about their Career Services Office and/or the job search in general?
- What is the reality behind these misconceptions? To what extent do these complaints have any merit?
- What can law students do to make the best use of their CSO's resources and counselors, and conduct an effective job search?
If you've had positive experiences with your CSO, please share! And if you haven't, your responses to these questions could still be helpful (and definitely interesting)—especially the last one about how to make your CSO work for you. The floor, as usual, is completely open.
June 27, 2005
Use Blogs to Find A Job
It certainly won't work for everyone, but Lucia Apollo Shaw suggests you might be able to use a blog to get a job. The piece contains some interesting ideas, both about its titular topic and about blogging basics more generally.
How about you? Do you think you'd ever refer potential employers to your blog?
[link via TechLawAdvisor Legal Jobs Blog]
June 06, 2005
Big Firm or Small Firm?
Relatively new blogger Lawgirl at On Firm Ground recently started what she hopes will be an ongoing series of posts on the differences between working in a big firm vs. working in a small firm. The first installment covers the most obvious difference—you'll make more money at the big firm. But Lawgirl also mentions some smaller details about differences between the two types of workplaces that could be very helpful to those faced with a choice between them.
May 03, 2005
Resources to Prepare You for Your First Days as a Lawyer, and for the Days that Follow
Hey all you recent or soon-to-be graduates: Check out Dennis Kennedy's advice for “every law student and young lawyer”, by which he means all associates and all new partners. In short, Kennedy recommends working with a career coach to help you make good career decisions from the start, and reading What Law School Doesn't Teach You: But You Really Need to Know by Kim Walton. He also recommends some online resources for new lawyers, including materials from the ABA, Findlaw, and Vault. Not surprisingly, he also recommends reading blawgs:
If you listen carefully, you will start to hear talk about the way that the lawyer bloggers are helping change the image of lawyers for the better with their helpfulness and generosity. Although there are many examples, I want to single out three blogs that often have useful advice, tips and discussion for young lawyers: Evan Schaeffer's Notes from the (Legal) Underground, Scheherezade Fowler's Stay of Execution, and Arnie Herz's Legal Sanity.
I'm sure he just decided not to mention his own blawg because he assumed everyone was reading it regularly already.
[link via Notes from the (Legal) Underground]
March 20, 2005
How to Become A Law ProfProfessor Kerr also recently collected links to some of the recent discussion about how to become a law professor. [link via JD2B] And since I don't see these links mentioned in that collection, see also “Something is rank here, all right,” and “More on law professors” at Preaching to the Perverted. Dave provides some balance to the typical law-prof rhetoric.
March 09, 2005
1L BigLaw InterviewingWonL offers a detailed account of her recent interview at a BigFirm as she attempts to land a job for her first law school summer. Check it out for tips on preparation (along with links to research sources), as well as an inside look at the process.
February 13, 2005
Summary of the Law Clerk Hiring PlanAlso from JD2B: The Summary of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan for 2005-2006 is up. If you're a 2L hoping for a judicial clerkship when you graduate in 2006, this is for you. Plan to have your applications in the mail on September 6, 2005. See also the FAQ. If you're a 1L or 0L and don't know if you'll ever want to apply for a clerkship, you still might want to file this in the back of your head for future reference. The 2006 dates are up on the above site, as well, for those of you who really like planning ahead.
January 22, 2005
3L Seeks Transaction PositionThe New York Lawyer offers some advice to a 3L seeking a “mid- to large-firm position doing transactional work before it's too late.” The advice-seeker has a rich background and has switched to law after first pursuing a career in philosophy, so the advice is aimed at the “career-changer”:
Whenever changing careers or career goals, you must show that you are not still clinging to your former life and that you are not going to be hopping from one career to the next. You must reassure employers that you have settled on a career path. In your situation, you have to indicate that you are a law student who has an interesting background in philosophy and policy work, as opposed to a philosophy student and academic who happens to be in law school. The way that you talk about yourself is the way that employers will view you.Sounds like good advice. The advisor goes on to basically give a little lesson in what those in the “business communication” field call “positive emphasis”—always say only positive things in an interview and/or cover letter. (The negative way to say the same thing: Never talk about negative things in an interview and/or cover letter. See the difference?) The advisor also discusses how a 3L seeking law firm work might handle a situation where he/she didn't work at a firm after his/her first or second year of law school. [Link via JD2B]
December 17, 2004
Career PlanningJD Bliss interviews Dennis Kennedy about how he developed a career that made him “TechnoLawyer of the Year.” The interview might be helpful for anyone who would like to combine interests in technology and law, but Kennedy also offers more general career advice, including:
Based on my own experience, I’m a strong advocate of seeking guidance from a knowledgeable third party – a career coach, or someone similar, perhaps even a group of trusted advisors – who can help you decide what you really want to do and develop a strategy for doing it. I acknowledge that it is a very difficult step for any lawyer to leave a firm, but I've met too many unhappy lawyers who feel they are trapped and “can't leave” their firms. I've also learned that if you’re so unhappy at what you’re doing that it negatively affects your health, it’s time to leave. However, it's far better to recognize that you need to make a change before you see health or other consequences. When you decide to make a change, you have to ask for help.
November 30, 2004
Seeking: A public interest jobAustin, TX legal aid attorney Kelli Dunn Howard offers suggestions on how to get the public interest job you want, including: start looking early, apply for grants and fellowships, demonstrate dedication to the work, and remember that it's not about the money.
How to Land A Prestigious ClerkshipJudge William Norris offers tips on landing a prestigious judicial clerkship, including: get good grades at a good school, be a good communicator, be a generalist who is good at many things, be flexible, and be yourself. Sounds like good advice for getting any legal job.
November 26, 2004
Request: 1L Looking for WorkA reader wrote in a couple of weeks ago with the following request:
Nov. 1 is officially behind us. I can now start looking for work. The question is where? I go to a regional school in a major metropolitan area. I have no idea what kind of law I'd like to practice but personal bias suggests that criminal law and insurance defense are probably out. How do I find out about superior court judges who will accept my free labor? Any other ideas?One easy answer is to talk to your school's career office — they should be able to tell you about good best for judges to talk to and that sort of thing. They should also be able to help you go through the options for your particular region. You probably knew that, though, so two books I'd recommend:
- The Official Guide to Legal Specialties:: “A fast-paced guide to what it is like to practice law in 30 major specialty areas, from tax to entertainment. Also offers an inside look at the different environments lawyers work in, from government agencies to blue chip firms. Includes listings the best classes to take and activities to be in for each type of law. ”
- What Can You Do With A Law Degree? A Lawyer's Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law: “Do you know: how to tell if you're better suited to the law or to some other field? how to determine when to make the big break? how to analyze and overcome your barriers to change? how to transfer your legal skills to other professions? how to implement an effective job-finding campaign? You must be able to answer these five questions if you want to develop a satisfying, long-lasting career, in or beyond the law. Here's the best resource to help you. ”
October 17, 2004
Brilliant Career Advice for 2LsNotes from the (Legal) Underground opens the floor for responses to a reader's question about making career choices as a 2L. The comments also link to another NftLU post about Career Opportunities, which you might also find helpful.
October 10, 2004
Biting InterviewsBiting Tongue takes a moment to spew 5 observations/bits-of-advice from the middle of the fall 2L interviewing storm. According to BT: 1. Moot Court is good. 2. A mini-career between undergrad and law school is good. 3. Journal is not so good. 4. Taking the patent bar before interviewing is good. 5. Relaxing in interviews is required. BT also recommends future 2L job-seekers schedule one day with no classes. Preferably not friday.
September 29, 2004
Don't Sweat the Job SearchRufus of Running for Lawyers, guest-posting on Notes from the (Legal) Underground, has some advice for law students on career planning. He says:
"Careers like lives have twists in them. You really shouldn't plan too much beyond doing the best job you can and being alert to opportunities and open to possibilities."Rufus advises law students to "calm down" about their job search. And once you've found a job, realize that "a job is not a marriage . . . If you don't like your first job, or if it turns out to be the wrong practice area for you, then look for another one." That, and much more, in Rufus's post.
September 28, 2004
Want to be A Law Professor or Judicial Clerk?University of Wisconsin law professor Gordon Smith has begun a series of posts on faculty recruitment. It promises to be filled with good information for all you aspiring law professors, so be sure to check back at his blog to follow along. I'll try to catch the installments as they come out and post them here. Part II discusses the AALS Faculty Appointments Register, revealing that over 1,000 people apply to become law professors each year, as well as many more interesting details about the applicant pool. (Note: " a PhD does not punch your ticket into law teaching." Part III discusses more of the details about the candidate pool and how various factors may be weighed by hiring committees. This includes some comments on judicial clerkships, and it's followed up with some insider's perspective from a Wisconsin appellate judge. More to come, I expect...
September 21, 2004
Firm SummersFor those 2Ls (like Serious Law Student) currently in the midst of interviewing for summer positions at firms, Professor Yin offers his thoughts on his own interview experiences. His important point—"getting one really good offer may be better than getting two or more good offers"—seems to echo a similar point made by Yeoman Lawyer (as noted here the other day).
September 19, 2004
If they only knew then...Although not a direct response to CP's request, lawgeekgurl recently posted some thoughts for those considering whether to go to law school. An excerpt:
So you want to be a lawyer? Are you insane? Check that, you ARE insane if you are thinking of a law career. Have you sought treatment? If you've already decided treatment is not the answer, well, okay, here are my tips on what to expect upon entering law school, and some websites that might be of use to a newbie law student.The rest includes links to some other helpful sites (including Blawg Wisdom—thanks!) and lots of tips that really seem geared more toward those who have already decided to go to law school and want some attack strategies for the first year. Speaking of attack strategies for the first year, don't miss If I only knew then... by the Uncivil Litigator. Great advice about getting practical experience while in school and why you should think carefully about picking your classes. Includes helpful comments from readers, as well. See also:
- Uncivil Litigator's Likes and Dislikes about being a litigator.
- Anonymous Lawyer's recent discussion of what BigLaw lawyers do, including tons of comments, plus these from Yeoman Lawyer. (Note that Anonymous Lawyer may or may not be real, and what he writes is probably best described as satire, which means you can learn a lot from it, just so long as you take it for what it is. As satire, it may be even more revealing than if it was just a straight report of life in a big firm. YMMV.)
- Yeoman Lawyer who cautions young lawyers against taking jobs w/out any planning.
August 24, 2004
Every fall, law schools around the country participate in a ritual variously known as OCI (On Campus Interviews), FIP (Fall Interview Program), and etc. This ritual involves students "bidding" for the chance to interview with big firms; you bid by submitting a resume and cover letter. If the firm picks you, they schedule an interview, then come to campus and meet with you. In fact, students all over the country are doing this right now. Fun, right?
Maybe, maybe not. But the point here is that some anonymous someone is trying to make the process a little more predictable via a new blawg; Law Firm OCI Reviews. Here's what it's all about:
The purpose of this Blog is to make information available to law students who are involved in OCI interviews for law firms. The purpose of this blog is not to provide information about the firm in terms of the work experience or compensation and benefits, rather it is to provide information for students concerning the methods used by a particular firm in it's OCI interviews. By inviting readers to send in comments regarding their OCI interviews, I am hoping to be able to build a database aimed at helping future students understand what to expect from a particular firm in the interviewing process. Although I named this site OCI reviews, I will also deal with the flyback/callback process.
So far, the site has no content, but it seems like a good idea. If you have experience with OCI, please send your comments to OCIreviews at gmail dot com. You have to email from an "@school" email address, but the site claims your identity will be protected. [link via Law Sloth]
August 16, 2004
Right now, many people are finishing summer internships and/or preparing for fall interviews, and Biting Tongue has just a couple of tips just for you. First, here's a tip for those of you finishing an internship: don't forget to thank those who deserve it. Second, if you're going to be interviewing soon (or even not-so-soon), make sure you know which bread plate is yours.
August 13, 2004
Insights into firm life?
A reader writes to recommend Anonymous Lawyer for anyone considering going into big firm practice after law school. He writes:
Whether or not it's really written by a law firm partner, it captures the mindset of the worst elements of law firm life better than anyone else currently writing.
August 08, 2004
10 Interview Questions
After spending time at her first legal job and realizing it wasn't really living up to all its promises, Energy Spatula developed "10 Questions I SHOULD have asked while interviewing, but before accepting, a summer position."
Good stuff for everyone heading into the fall interview season.
August 01, 2004
Summer Associate Mega-Post
Another Jeremy, this time the incomparable Jeremy Blachman, recently rounded up many many of his thoughts on what it's like to be a rising 3L summer associate in a big NY law firm. It's all right there in: Are You Interviewing Soon? The Day-In-The-Life-Of-A-Summer-Associate MegaPost. A must-read for anyone planning to try this, and even for those of us who don't think we ever will. Apparently the position comes with free muffins and bagels in the morning, a secretary, a computer w/Internet access and email, a rotation system for giving associates experience in different practice areas, lots of nice lunches, some discussions of what the associates and partners do with their days, and "one or two nights a week, the day finishes with some sort of summer associate event . . . bowling, scavenger hunt, culinary class, Broadway show, concert, etc." As for the work itself, Jeremy says it includes:
Researching on Lexis and Westlaw, writing up summaries of cases or memos or other big stacks of paper, reading through big documents looking for small stuff, helping to organize or arrange or manage big stacks of paper, filling out forms, checking rules and procedures, drafting e-mails, memos, perhaps some contractual language, drafting initial stabs at sections of a brief, sitting in on conference calls, going to hearings, tagging along in court, perhaps sitting in on a client meeting. That's basically the collection of tasks.
The fact that he appears to have written the entire gargantuan post while "at work" may just tell you all you need to know about his experience as a summer associate. Then again, it may not.
Aside: I really recommend reading Jeremy's blog regularly. You'll be a happier person, and you'll learn a lot, too.