Friday, March 30, 2012

How to Request a Letter of Recommendation


Success in law school can be defined in more than one way: getting good grades, to acquiring legal skills and getting practical experience during law school, to the always-undervalued networking with professors and classmates.

Success (immediately) after law school is usually defined one way: employment. When you find yourself applying for jobs and asking for a letter of recommendation, follow these tips to enhance your chance of success.

Business Reception/Networking Event Tips

By Etiquette Scholar

Drinks and Hors D'oeuvres

At a business reception drinks and hors d'oeuvres will more than likely be served - from a bar, buffet table, trays carried by waiters circulating around the room, or a combination thereof.

The Bar

If there is no true bar on the premises, bartenders will serve from a table, mixing drinks or pouring wine or beer as requested. Before ordering, be certain it's your turn; if you're in doubt, ask anyone who arrived at the bar or drinks table before you whether he or she is being served.

Waiters, too, will probably be passing through the room with trays, serving drinks. Don't make a beeline to the waiter to grab a glass or place your order; either wait patiently until the waiter comes your way or go stand in line at the drinks table or bar. Keep the drink in your left hand so that your right is ready for handshakes. When your glass is empty, look for a sideboard or tables where used glasses and plates are deposited; if you can't find one, ask a waiter or the bartender what to do with your glass, and then thank him when he more than likely takes it.

Do not tip the bartender unless there is a cash bar; in which case you will also pay for your drinks- an arrangement that's unlikely at a formal affair.

Click here to go to full article.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tips for Overcoming Bad Law School Grades


The sluggish legal services market has made job seeking all the more difficult even for top performing law school students, so what hope is there for those who simply don’t have the best grades? The bad news is that if you do not happen to be one of the lucky few who manage to rise to the top of the class, you are not likely to be successful in securing on-campus interviews with so-called “BigLaw” firms. The good news is that many students who do obsess over grades and other resume-boosting extracurricular activities often fail to distinguish themselves by developing practical legal skills.

When it comes to those coveted BigLaw jobs, grades and class rank are really the only proxy for ability, because these types of firms base their hiring decisions almost entirely on first-year grades. Such firms are not really interested in the kind of legal skills a student might have acquired, largely because the firm will provide the new associates with the kind of training required for that particular law practice.

Tip #1: Aim for the Middle
Tip #2: If Government Work Is What You Seek--Volunteer
Tip #3: Be Realistic

Monday, March 26, 2012

Good Questions to Ask in Informational Interviews

One of the best ways to network and gather information is to conduct informational interviews with attorneys.

For some great tips on good questions to ask to make the most of your info gathering, see this article by
Susan Gainen, Pass the Baton blog.

Click here to go to article.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Top Five Ways to Make a Great First Impression

by Erin Palmer

A first impression is like a headline. People are going to check you out and decide immediately if they are interested in knowing more—so it’s vital to make an impactful first impression at the start of every conversation. People often relate a first impression with a face-to-face meeting, yet initial impressions often precede in-person meetings. Every type of communication with someone new shapes his or her overall impression of you.

 Here’s how you make every first impression memorable—in person, on the phone, via video chat or in plain old writing…

1. In-person

2. Over the phone

3. Through email

4. Via video chat

5. Follow-up

Monday, March 19, 2012

10 Body Language Mistakes That Sabotage Most Interviews

by Paul Michael

Question — how much of what you “say” is actually interpreted through body language and tone of voice? Well, if we are to believe Albert Mehrabian, almost all of it.

Professor Albert Mehrabian has stated that only 7% of a message is conveyed verbally, through words. The other 93% is split between tone of voice (38%) and body language (55%). In fact, it’s widely known as the 7-38-55 rule.

Now, you may take or leave that kind of statistic, as it clearly cannot be true in all cases. And furthermore, it cannot include the written word. If it did, authors would not sell books, and we would never sign contracts!

But even so, it’s true that tone of voice and body language can betray our real feelings. And in a job interview, it’s important to take control of your body language as much as possible. After all, even though you may say all the right things, your body can be telling the interviewer a completely different story.

Here then are 10 body language mistakes to avoid. Keep them in mind before your next interview, and keep them under control when you’re in the hot seat. (See also: 16 Ways to Improve Your Body Language)

Click here  for 10 body language mistakes to avoid.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Bar Prep Action Plan for Public Interest (and Other) 3Ls with No Job Offers

by Steven L. Grumm

I have spoken recently with several law school career professionals about the plight of public interest-minded 3Ls who likely will not have job offers at graduation. To say the least, many of these 3Ls are experiencing heightened fear, uncertainty, and demoralization. There are external and internal factors catalyzing this anxiety. Externally, 3Ls face a tight labor market. In NALP’s September 2011 snapshot survey of nonprofit and government law offices, fewer than one in five respondents indicated that they hired Class of 2011 graduates for staff or post-graduate fellowship positions. And approximately one in three respondent organizations was in a hiring freeze at the time of the survey. (See “NALP Public Interest Employment Market Snapshot Report,” January 2012,

Internally, 3Ls perceive — wrongly, but understandably— that their prospects for long-term professional success or failure hang in the balance —to be determined by bar exam results and by landing a job as soon as possible. I remember these feelings well. I graduated in 2003. Compared to today’s job market, it seems like employers were extending job offers with abandon back then. Yet when I made an abrupt career course correction two months before graduation, I found myself with no job offers, little money, a bar exam looming, and free-falling self-esteem.

Here follows a modest proposal for 3Ls to maximize productivity and minimize stress in the period
between graduation and bar exam results.

The Action Plan for Public Interest 3Ls

For those 3Ls who will be studying for the bar and hunting for jobs after graduation, the keys to success may be distilled into one word: planning. Before graduation, 3Ls should work up an action plan to manage their summertime responsibilities. There are (at least) four considerations for an action plan:

Bar exam prep;
The job hunt;
Managing finances; and
Maintaining sanity.

Bar Exam Prep

This is the graduating 3L’s primary responsibility. I am convinced beyond debate that the key to bar exam prep is turning into a sheep. Whether taking a BARBRI-style course or using an independent study program, grads should follow the advice, processes, and timelines laid out in their course materials.

(I grant that staying 100% on schedule is nearly impossible, but the trick is not to fall too far behind.) There is a reason that these bar prep programs are so popular: they work. I had success by treating bar prep like a job. I attended classes on weekday mornings, studied independently in the afternoons, and put in time on evenings and weekends as needed. I heeded instructors’ advice and treated the course materials like gospel. Grads should find a study routine that works for them and stick to it. But of course while bar prep is the foremost priority, it is not the only one.…

The Job Hunt: Networking and Volunteering

Trite as it may seem, the key to landing a job is building relationships in the public interest community.

And while bar prep will consume a great deal of time between graduation and the end of July, grads should take steps to connect with employers. The two most efficient ways to do this are:

Informational interviews. Starting in the late spring, graduating 3Ls should arrange a series of summertime, Friday afternoon coffee appointments with attorneys at employer organizations. It’s important to plan these in advance so that vacation schedules can be considered.

Volunteering. While time will be at a premium during June and July, volunteering a few hours per week will help graduating 3Ls to network and may serve as a pleasant distraction from more mundane bar prep.

When asked what law students can do to make themselves the strongest possible job candidates, employers responding to our snapshot survey answered, overwhelmingly, that volunteering and networking were the keys. There are few better ways to get oneself noticed.

Managing Finances

This must begin now. 3Ls should take inventory of their finances. How much money is in the bank Can their funds sustain them through graduation? Through the summer? When I was a 3L, I found that I would run out of funds (Stafford loans) in May. So I did what everyone else seemed to be doing:

I borrowed private “bar” loans. “What’s $10,000 on top of my existing debt?” I said to myself.  The answer is that it’s $10,000 more—money that wasn’t mine and that I’m still paying back. To be certain, graduating 3Ls do not want to worry about making rent payments in July. But they should live frugally, borrow only what they need, and start convincing themselves of the enlightenment to be achieved through Spartan living.

A buddy of mine in law school, Irish Dan, had a great gig. He tended bar—what else did you think a guy named Irish Dan was going to do? — a couple of nights a week to take his mind off of bar prep and to bring in extra cash. Graduating 3Ls should consider these kinds of side jobs that require minimal time investment and can actually give their brains a break.

Maintaining Sanity

Speaking of giving brains a break, the importance of living well is not to be lost amidst memorizing the rule against perpetuities, networking with employers, and clipping coupons. Graduating 3Ls should identify those activities that clear their minds and perk up their spirits. Exercise was hugely important for me during June and July. And by mid-June, my body convinced me that eating right was helping my studies. Indeed, by bar exam time I was in the best shape of my life. (If only the bar exam were a half-marathon.) In addition to exercise and good eating, I found all sorts of free things that I could do with minimal time investment —museum and gallery visits chief among them. Also, one or two well-timed weekend trips are advisable.

For me, a one-day trip to the beach in early July felt like a week in the South Pacific. Finally, while I did not come to this until later in life, I’d recommend to any bar exam taker that beginning each day with 10 minutes of quiet meditation time will pay enormous dividends.

The stress that attends bar exam prep is extraordinary, but it need not — in fact, should not — be overwhelming. By planning out their summers and making the most of their time, graduating 3Ls will be able to keep up with their preparation, take care of their minds and bodies, and not lose sight of the job search.

from March 2012 NALP Bulletin
Steven L. Grumm is the NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives

Monday, March 12, 2012

PSLawNet Resources

PSLawNet - The Online Resource for Public Service Legal Careers is a great resource to help you in your public service job search (public interest, government, non-profit, etc.) and has a wealth of information and materials to help you. 

Here are some facts about PSLawNet.

If you are unfamiliar with their website, or would like a refresher, see the following user guide for help:

Job Seeker User Guide

Friday, March 9, 2012

5 Tips on How to Approach a Mentor

Most law students and new lawyers know it's critical to have a mentor, but how can they find one? Lawyers are busy, the economy is bad, and it's easy to feel adrift. In this and future columns, I'm going to share what new and aspiring lawyers need to know, without a bunch of fluff that doesn't add value.

What qualifies me to write as a mentor? During three decades of practice, I've won and lost a lot of cases and been on both sides of the desk, as an employee and a boss. I see a lot of resumes as managing partner of my firm's Dallas office. I'm a member of the American Inns of Court, a group that devotes time to mentoring. I spend a fair amount of time with 3Ls and new lawyers seeking counsel on their careers.

I get emails -- lots of them -- from the future-lawyers cohort. They ask if I can help them. Some of them are looking for advice, and some are looking for help finding a job. But the devil is in the details.

Here are five things a new lawyer or lawyer-to-be should do when approaching another attorney for guidance.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rejection – It’s Not Personal


As job seekers, we all have one thing in common–at one point or another, we will all be rejected. When I was right out of college, I really wanted to work for this local company that was world-renowned for its jewelry. I imagined myself getting an employee discount and being able to present all my loved ones with those famous blue boxes containing carefully selected gifts. Imagine my excitement when I was called to interview for a position in their marketing department.

I practiced my answers for a week straight, making sure my facial expressions matched my enthusiasm, and my dress attire reflected my seriousness and professionalism. The interview went smoothly but I got a call two weeks later and was informed I didn’t get the job.

But, in the midst of rejecting me, the hiring manager said something very important, which would stay with me throughout my career. She said that while I didn’t have the years of experience they were looking for, that would come in time. If I was able to gain some experience and then pair that up with my personality, I would be unstoppable in whatever I ended up doing.

Click here to continue to article.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tips from Experienced Professionals: Tips for 1L (or other) Job Seekers

by Lynn Traverse
NALP Bulletin, December 2011

At this time of year, I enjoy having the privilege of speaking to 1L students at local law school campuses. My goal is to convey some savvy about the unique challenges involved in seeking legal employment.

The focus of my advice is to help them keep common first-timer mistakes to a minimum, allowing potential employers to see them as great candidates, with no inadvertent obstacles standing in the way of consideration. Here are a few of my tips for 1L job seekers: 

Write to the person whose job it is to process your application smoothly and efficiently. Open access to the NALP Directory of Legal Employers ( and other employer websites means there are no excuses for using outdated contact information. Even if you are applying directly to special connections at the firm such as “Uncle Harry,” copy the recruiting professional so he or she can make sure your materials aren’t lost or delayed.

When submitting an application, remove any extra steps to consideration by including all of your materials in the first communication. Typically, most bases can be covered with a cover letter, résumé, law school transcript (if available), and writing sample. The employer won’t have to ask for anything because your application is complete and can be moved along without delay.

When applying to a geographic location other than where you have an obvious connection, explain your ties to the area in your cover letter. If you will be there over a holiday or semester break, say so and be date specific. When employers know they can easily see you in person, a potential obstacle is removed.

The cause isn’t lost because you don’t have legal experience. Focus your résumé on relevant skills such as work ethic, team participation, leadership, problem solving, writing, and creative thinking. While this may seem tough at first, think about your experience in these terms and use descriptive words that highlight what you’ve done.

Follow up in a professional manner. Whether for written applications or after an interview, two weeks is a safe timeframe to wait before calling the recruiting professional to inquire about the status of your application. Asking “When would it be appropriate to follow up with you?” at the end of these conversations is the perfect way to get the information you need. Expect it to take awhile —and be patient but cautiously persistent.

Lynne Traverse is the Recruiting and Professional Development Manager in the Phoenix office of Bryan Cave LLP. “Tips from Experienced Professionals” is a column contributed by the NALP Experienced Professionals Section.