Monday, November 22, 2010

10 Ways Students Can Endear Themselves to Employers During the Hiring Process

by Joni L. Peet, Legal Recruitment Manager, Richards, Layton & Finger

1. Be humble and kind. Not that we expect bowing and scraping, but a little humility can go a long way toward making a favorable impression. A cocky attitude will come across as an unpleasant cover for insecurity. Mild self-deprecating humor usually works. Moreover, ALL persons encountered during your callback should be treated with respect. Be courteous, not condescending, to support staff you meet. They are vital to their organization’s success, and you will be judged on your ability to relate well to all potential coworkers, not just lawyers.

2. Be on time. Even early. This indicates that you have allowed for contingencies such as heavy traffic, or not finding a parking space in the first ten minutes, and were still able to arrive promptly for the interview. While we will be sympathetic if you come running in five minutes late, short of breath and complaining about the traffic, we are secretly thinking that you did not plan your travel time well enough. Moreover, if you have
more than one interview in the same day, it is equally important to be on time for the second one. Try not to fall into the trap of being invited back after lunch to the firm of your morning interview, thereby making you
late for your afternoon interview. Politely decline, saying that you “would love to” but you have an appointment at 2:00 pm.

3. Be sure addressees match. We know that students send letters to multiple potential employers; but when the letter inside the envelope is addressed to someone different than on the outside of the envelope, it leaves us a little soured on the applicant. Along the same lines, any reference to the employer within the body of the letter needs to match that of the addressee. Another good idea is to make sure that multiple addressees are not visible to all recipients when sending emails.

4. Be firm with your handshake. When meeting employer representatives for the first time, step forward and shake hands with confident authority and a no-nonsense grip (that doesn’t mean cutting off the blood circulation). This approach will help create a much more positive first impression than would a half-hearted, “limp fish” handshake.

5. Be ready with two or three “meaty” questions
for your interviewer.
When asked by the interviewer if you have any questions, say “Yes!” The response of “No, I think I’ve had all of my questions answered”—or, worse yet, “How do I get back to the Interstate?”— translates to the interviewer as a lack of interest. Instead, students should plan a question or two to ask in such situations that are not “canned” or boilerplate—perhaps a question about the firm’s growth philosophy or what role the firm plays in community service. An interested, enthusiastic student is a breath of fresh air!

6. Be complimentary. Don’t try the Eddie Haskell “Nice sweater, Mrs. Cleaver” type of compliment, but do consider a greeting that quickly follows with a comment about how great your hotel was the night before or an appreciative statement about the firm’s artwork. It is a positive beginning to the callback and makes us feel good about you right from the start.

7. Be kind to employers’ pocketbooks. While many law firms have written parameters for travel expenses, there can be quite a bit of “wiggle” room. Students should make responsible and considerate choices whenever it is up to them to make decisions regarding if, when, and how to spend. Employers will appreciate the mature approach and will not feel as though they are being taken advantage of.

8. Be prompt in rejecting offers. It goes without saying that employers would like all of their offers to be accepted on the spot. The real world of legal hiring, however, is a delicate balancing act between offers and decisions. As soon as a student makes that tough decision to accept or reject, it needs to be communicated to the employer immediately. Certainly calling to accept is more fun than turning down an employer, but rejecting an offer must be done just as promptly! Our feelings will not be hurt (well, maybe a little), but we will think very highly of you for having the courtesy and courage to let us know in a timely manner. Either a phone call or an email will obviously get the word to us more quickly than regular mail. A rejection letter that is received two weeks after a decision has been made will keep another student unfairly waiting for that elusive offer.

9. Be interested. This has already been touched upon in some of the other tips, but it cannot be stressed enough! Student interest in an employer is typically gauged by alertness, level of engagement with interviewer,
eye contact, number and quality of questions posed, and enthusiasm. Lack of interest, whether real or perceived, is a major reason for unsuccessful callbacks.

10. Be realistic in your post-offer requests. Leave the sun, moon, and stars up in the sky, and, instead, stay grounded on earth when asking for special considerations related to your offer and subsequent employment. For instance, while many employers will invite (quite sincerely) offerees for a return visit to meet more people and get to know the firm better, students should know that asking for more than one post-offer visit can wear out your welcome. Further, if policies are clearly stated regarding allowed travel/moving/housing expenses, it is not advisable to seek exceptions to those policies. If there is a prescribed start date for employment, absent extenuating circumstances, that is the day new hires are expected to be there.

You want to show up that first day amid sincere welcoming faces, not coworkers inwardly groaning because the new pain-in-the-neck associate has arrived.

Notwithstanding the above, employers will be as accommodating as possible to ensure a smooth transition into the legal workplace.

So there it is. Most of the foregoing really comes down to common courtesy, common sense, and consideration. Following these tips may not guarantee an offer, but there is little doubt that employers will respond much more positively to law students who take the above suggestions to heart.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Formal Dinner Etiquette

You nailed your initial interview with firm recruiters and have been invited to fly back to the firm location for a call back interview.  During the call back, you are invited to attend a formal dinner in a very upscale restaurant.  Knowing a potential offer is on the line, you start to worry about making an etiquette mistake.  Here are a few tips to help you navigate a sometimes daunting situation with confidence.

  • Turn off your cell phone, get rid of your chewing gum, and if you need to, use the restroom before you sit down.
  • Wait for the host or hostess to invite or direct you where to sit.
  • When you sit down, your napkin goes in your lap.  In some very formal restaurants, a server will place the napkin in your lap for you. 
  • Order something you are familiar with and is easy to eat.  For cues on ordering extras like appetizers, desserts, etc., follow what others in the group do. 
  • If you are puzzled what all the flatware is for, see the diagram below help.  Also, watching what others are doing is also helpful.
  • Make small talk with those around you--have a few safe conversation starters prepared such as, "How long have you lived in this city?"  "What do you like best about living here?"  "What do you like to do in your spare time?" "Have you seen . . . or Have you read . . . ? (the latest movie, a current book, etc.)
  • Do not start eating until everyone at the table has been served or until you are invited to eat by the host/ess.
  • Pace your eating to match those around you.
  • Once a piece of silverware has been used, it never goes back on the table.  Place it on the side of a plate. 
  • When buttering a piece of bread, a roll, etc., tear off a bite sized portion, then butter only that portion.
  • Remember, the food is the least important part of the dinner--the conversation is the most important.
  • If you have to excuse yourself from the table for any reason, place your napkin on your chair.  When you are finished with your meal, loosely fold or gather your napkin and lay it to the left of your place setting.
  • If you are offered an alcoholic drink, coffee, etc., a simple, "No thank you, I think I'll just have . . . " is all that's necessary.
  • Don't request a take-home bag.
  • Remember to thank the host/ess.  Be gracious

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Student Debt Relief - Public Service Careers

by Leeor Neta, Assistant Director for Public Interest Programs at Golden Gate University School of Law. Excerpted from Key Insights from NALP/PSLawNet Public Service Mini-Conference and EJW Conference Career Fair.

The Equal Justice Works (EJW) Conference also featured a lengthy presentation on student debt relief. For many years, most law school graduates that decided to pursue public interest careers had a very difficult time paying back their student loan debt. In the last few years, however, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) has made it much easier to manage that debt. In fact, PSLF has made it so easy that, according to EJW’s expert on student debt relief, Heather Jarvis, “it is better financially in terms of debt relief to go into public service.”

PSLF was created by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. As Heather often repeated in her presentation, to qualify for PSLF, a person must “make the right kind of payment on the right kind of loan while in the right kind of job.” After 120 qualifying payments, one can apply for and receive forgiveness of the remaining debt.

So what is “the right kind of payment on the right kind of loan while in the right kind of job”?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Finding and Making the Most of a Mentor

by Leeor Neta, Assistant Director for Public Interest Programs at Golden Gate University School of Law.  Excerpted from Key Insights from NALP/PSLawNet Public Service Mini-Conference and EJW Conference Career Fair.

Finding and Making the Most of a Mentor

On the last day of the conference, I attended a session on how to find and maintain a mentor relationship. The speaker explained that there are three ingredients to successful mentorship: (1) reasonable expectations, (2) a strategic approach, and (3) a two-way relationship.

In order to ensure that one’s expectations are reasonable, mentees should ask themselves specifically what they are hoping to get out of the relationship.

Click here to continue to full article.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Help! I Get Interviews, But No Call-backs

If you are consistenly getting interviews, but no call-backs, here are some common causes:
  • You're interviewing for jobs you don't really want.
  • You're answering a question with something that triggers a negative response in the interviewer.
  • You've got a habit, verbal or non-verbal, that's throwing off the interviewer.
  • You're not communicating, verbally and/or behaviorally, your interest in the job.  If you answer questions monosyllabically, if you don't seem to know anything about the employers, if you sigh or roll your eyes . . . you're telling the employer, 'I don't want to work for you.'

What you can do:
  • Don't suffer in silence.  Let the Career Services Office know what's happening--get in touch with your counselor:
    • Karen Andrews, 1Ls, externships
    • MariLee Allred, 2Ls, public interest tracks including government & military
    • Beth Hansen, 3Ls, non-traditional career tracks, clerkships
    • Mary Hoagland, LLMs, Alumni
  • Arrange a mock interview
    • Email Beth Hansen to arrange a mock interview.  This interview will be videotaped so you can review it with Beth to look for things that might be an issue.
  • Think carefully about your interviews.  Was there a point where things seemed to go downhill? What happened immediately before and after that time?
  • Review your motivation for interviewing with each employer.  If you don't really want to work there, the interviewers can sense it.  Your enthusiasm will shine naturally when you go after jobs that really interest you.
  • Remember:  job offers are like marriage proposals.  If employers feel you won't accept, they won't make you one.

from Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams by Kimm Alayne Walton, 583-584

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pursuing a Public Interest Career: Key Insights from NALP/PSLawNet Public Service Mini-Conference and EJW Conference and Career Fair

by Leeor Neta, the Assistant Director for Public Interest Programs at Golden Gate University School of Law.

Best Advice I Know on Pursuing a Public Interest Career

On the last day of the NALP / PSLawNet Public Service Mini-Conference, I attended a panel discussion that indirectly shared some important advice on how to pursue a public interest career.

I say that the advice was “indirectly shared” because the purpose of the panel was to discuss pathways to public policy and think tank careers. Two of the four panelists (Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, and Alejandro T. Reyes, associate counsel for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) are involved in some of the most prestigious impact litigation and legal policy work in the nation.

Both of the panelists agreed that lawyers who work on policy need to understand the nexus between law and enforcement. In concluding that the “best policy percolates up from the street,” Ms. Austin-Hillery explained that a policy lawyer can’t craft effective policy unless she understands her clients and understands how to get them to tell their stories. A policy lawyer needs to make brief and effective arguments under pressure. A policy lawyer also needs to know how to work with opposing forces and different interests to negotiate on her clients’ behalf. Because effective communication and negotiation skills are the key to policy work, the entire panel agreed that a lawyer wanting to work on policy needs a solid foundation in litigation.

Click here to continue to full article.

For more information about all postgraduate fellowships, visit

Friday, November 5, 2010

Moving from Social Networking to Handshakes via Twitter

by Thomas C. Ksobiech, Assistant Dean for Career Services, The University of Alabama School of Law

Get started now. Join Twitter, create a professional-sounding user name and start searching for legal terms that interest you. In short order, you’ll find people in the legal field who are writing about things that matter to you. Adding locations to your searches can also help narrow it down.

Don’t neglect your social interests. Just as you don’t want to be the person at the party who can only talk about work, you don’t want to be the person on Twitter who is solely focused on your job search. Go ahead and follow celebrities, media outlets, and fellow fans. Interact with others on these topics. It’s not only acceptable, it’s beneficial.

Open dialogues with others. Here’s where you have the opportunity to actually begin discussions with individuals. Whether in open tweeting or through direct messages, Twitter provides you with a way of initiating contact and conversation.  Maybe it’s easier to start your conversations about non-job related topics. That’s fine. The important part is that you start interacting with professionals who can provide you with information and advice.

Take it outside of the medium. After you have interacted with an individual on Twitter, it is perfectly appropriate to ask if it would be possible to take the conversation to a non-computer based medium.  If it’s someone in close geographic proximity, set up a meeting for coffee. If it’s someone more distant, ask if there is a time that the two of you could talk by phone.

 If you’re uncomfortable meeting in person right away, talk on the phone. When push comes to shove, networking is still about building relationships. In the past two centuries, technology has continued to provide us with newer and better ways of networking, but technology has not changed the basic concept. Namely, people like helping people. And if you develop relationships with enough people, you’ll eventually find yourself talking to someone who not only wants to help you, but also can help you.

You don’t have to use Twitter or other social media, in order to find a job. You also don’t have to go to ribbon cuttings and bar meetings to find a job. But if you knew that by doing those things, you would have a greater likelihood of success, wouldn’t you want to do them?
Thomas C. Ksobiech is the Assistant Dean for Career Services at The University of Alabama School of Law. You will find him on Twitter as @TomKsobiech.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ideas for Good Questions to Ask in Interviews

from Querrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams by Kimm Alayne Walton

An essential part of interviewing is having good questions to ask the interviewers.  Below are some ideas for good questions:

Personal Questions

  • What do you like about your job?
  • How did you choose the firm/agency/company?
  • What do you wish you'd known before you got here?
  • If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?
  • What do you find most challenging about being a lawyer?
  • When you go back to work/the office, what will you be working on?
  • What's the best thing that's happened to you working here?
  • What's the most interesting case/project you've worked on?
  • How is your job different than what you expected it to be?
  • If you were to stay for twenty years, why would you stay?

Questions that Show Off Your Research into the Employer and the Interviewer

  • Anything that's thoughtful and shows off your research, especially if it's related to a practice area that interests you.
  • Ask questions that tie the employer's practice to current events.  For instance, you can ask how they're prepping clients for a new law, or how they're handling a merger one of their clients is involved in.
  • Ask something that shows you did more than Google the firm--find someone who's worked at the firm.

Questions that Gives You a Chance to Wheel Out Your Informercial 

  • What would the ideal candidate for this job look like? or What do you look for in people you hire?  Then you can say, "I'm glad to hear that.  Here's what you need to know about me . . . ."

Carefully Worded Questions about What Your Own Job Experience with the Employer Would Be Like

  • What would a typical day look like for me?
  • What kinds of cases/projects would I work on?
  • What makes a clerk/new associate/new lawyer really stand out?

Other Questions

  • Which practices areas at the firm are growing the most rapidly?
  • How has the practice changed over the last five years?
  • How would you get feedback on your work?
  • Is there a mentor program?

Questions to Avoid in Initial Interviews

  • Anything that sounds like "what's in it for me?"
  • Questions with a negative tone.
  • Unanswerable questions like, What's the firm culture like?
  • Any question you could answer yourself through simple research, ex. How many attorneys do you have? What are your practice areas? In which cities do you have offices?
  • Something they've already covered in the interview.
  • What kind of hours will I be working?
  • What billable hours do you expect?
  • Anything about information you've gathered about the interviewer on MySpace, Facebook, etc.
  • What's the benefit package like?  Vacations?
  • Any questions about salary.
  • How many people besides me are you interviewing?
  • What's your policy on maternity leave?
  • Do I have a shot?  Am I in the running?
  • Not asking questions.