Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two Most Common Bar Exam “Confidence Traps”

By Ronald D. Dees

Building and maintaining a healthy confidence level is an important component to overall bar exam preparation. There are typically two “Confidence Traps” that cause examinees to be at risk of performing poorly on the bar exam. Students can either be so paranoid about failing that they lose confidence and literally allow their fears to overwhelm them, or on the other end of the spectrum a student can be too confident and thereby underestimate the level of preparation necessary to be successful.

 By knowing the traits of students who typically fall victim to these “Confidence Traps,” you can evaluate your bar exam confidence level in order to avoid falling into the traps.

Click here to go to article.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Attitude=Internship Success

by Joe Bucher
(from Student Branding Blog - Dan Schawbel)

Congratulations to those of you who will be ending the spring term and going on to summer internships. This is an exciting time as this may be your first experience working in your desired field. While gaining an internship is a great start to your career, there is still much ahead of you.

I started my career as an intern myself and during my time I have seen many students successfully take an internship opportunity and turn it into a full-time role. What I have found is that attitude is one of the key things that separates good interns from great ones.

Here are 3 tips to make your internship experience a success:

Monday, May 21, 2012

An Inside View: What Students Need to Know to Succeed This Summer
By Janet Smith, NALP Director of Publications

So, what does it take to succeed as a summer associate? NALP sought the “inside view” by inviting advice from a sampling of recruitment directors who have watched summer associates

succeed—and once in a while fall short.

Comments were invited on two questions:

1. What is the most important piece of advice you wish you could convey to incoming summer associates?

2. What is the most frequent reason for a summer associate NOT to get an offer (disregarding firm financial reasons)?

Several major themes emerged in response to these questions:

• producing quality work;
• demonstrating a positive work attitude;
• developing positive workplace relationships;
• making the most of the learning experience; and
• taking responsibility for the summer experience.

Leslie Colvin, Professional Recruiting Director for Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich LLP in Palo Alto, sums up three of these areas by advising students: “Do your best work on all projects. Be accessible and responsive. Be a team player.”

Sarah Staup, Professional Personnel Specialist for Dykema Gossett PLLC in Detroit, focused on quality of work by noting that her most important piece of advice for incoming associates is: “Always do your best work. There is no such thing as a rough draft.” Staup adds, “Even if all they want is an emailed summary of your research, be sure to forward applicable cases, highlighted appropriately. Spell check and proofread your email after making sure it is as organized as a memo would have been.”

Ellen Zuckerman, who is Firmwide Attorney Recruiting Manager for Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP and based in Los Angeles, highlights a particular work characteristic. She says what she most wishes she could tell incoming summer associates is, “If you don’t understand an assignment, don’t be afraid to ask for further explanation.”

Attitude is key in other work areas as well.

Kimberly Coey, Recruiting Coordinator for Sherman & Howard L.L.C. in Denver, provides this perspective: “First and foremost, summer associates should come to the firm willing to learn and work hard. At firms like ours, summer associates do not compete against one another for a limited number of positions. It’s important for them to be themselves and not treat the summer as an audition. Finally, summer associates should focus on getting a realistic view of what it’s like to be an associate at the firm so they can make an educated decision when they consider their fall associate offers.”

“At Shook, Hardy & Bacon, we hire as many summer associates as we have offers for associate  positions to give at the end of the summer; thus we do not foster a competitive environment within the class,” says Jessica Baker, Director of Legal Recruiting and Professional Development for Shook, Hardy in Kansas City, echoing Coey’s comments. Baker continues, “Nevertheless, while we set high standards as far as a summer associate’s academic criteria are concerned, exemplary grades in law school and top-notch work product are not everything. The best advice that I can give a summer associate is to take a genuine interest in what the firm deems important (e.g., diversity issues, professional development, etc.) and to treat all members of the firm with respect, which includes both the attorneys and support staff. We look to hire well-rounded individuals who ‘play well’ with others —so do our clients.”

Diane Marshall, Director of Recruiting for Bass, Berry & Sims PLC in Nashville, puts a slightly different spin on positive work attitudes. The advice she shares: “Summer associates should know  that, while they are the firm’s guests for the weeks they’re here, they are also on a long job interview. I think the elements of a good job interview include being relaxed but not too relaxed and being  confident but not too confident. Some summer associates try too hard to ‘fit in’ during the summer by being too relaxed and it shows. While summer associates should be on their best behavior, they should also be themselves. If they feel as if they are in the spotlight and that they have to perform a certain way in order to get the job, they are only hurting themselves in the long run and attorneys (who were once summer associates) see right through the performance.”

The top advice from three firms is for summer associates to make the most of their experience.
Bonnie Bell, Director of Personnel for Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, in Philadelphia, comments: “Listen, observe, and learn. Listen carefully to the details regarding the assignments you are given, to the attorneys you are working with, to the administrator running the program, and to the support staff at your organization. Observe the culture and professional ‘temperature’ of the firm and adjust your actions accordingly. Use the program as a learning experience to increase your knowledge about the practice of law, the firm itself, and its attorneys so that you can make an educated decision regarding employment opportunities.”

Carrie Shepherd, Attorney Recruitment Coordinator for Holland & Knight LLP in Atlanta, echoes these thoughts by saying, “My most important piece of advice to incoming summer associates is: Make the most of the 12 weeks (or whatever amount of time you will be spending) at the firm. Not only do you need to do your very best work but you should also make an effort to get to know the lawyers and staff in the office to determine if it is a right fit for you. Try to attend some of the social functions; they are for you and designed to introduce you to different lawyers in different practice groups and settings.”

Jeanne Salerno, Director of Professional Development, and John Schembari, Summer Program Chairman, at Kutak Rock LLP in Omaha, sum it up this way: “Take advantage of everything a summer program has to offer, from seeking lawyer feedback to participating in cultural and social activities. Make a real effort to get to know both staff and attorneys.”

What Jennifer Blaga, Manager of Attorney Recruiting and Development at Thompson Hine LLP in Cleveland, most wishes she could tell incoming associates is: “Treat EVERYONE in the law firm with the utmost respect; everything you say and do each day at work makes an impression on someone.”

T.J. Conley, Hiring Partner for Leonard, Street and Deinard, P.A., in Minneapolis, notes the role of relationships in the broader context: “The most important thing summer associates can do is to begin to develop relationships with people at the firm so that they can build on these relationships when they return to the firm as regular associates. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know a wide variety of people, to build friendships, to identify potential mentors, and generally to begin to put some roots down. While it is critical to do solid written work, it is equally critical to build relationships that will last.” Conley continues by underscoring writing as a top quality-of-work issue: “Writing is one of the most important indicators of success, and summer associates can learn a lot during their time at the firm if they take advantage of the opportunities and resources available.”

The advice shared by Virginia Quinn, Manager of Law School Relations for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in New York, ties the importance of cultivating relationships to the need to take responsibility for the summer experience: “Be an effective mentee —seek out your mentor, ask questions, and let him/her know what you hope to get out of the relationship,” she advises. “Speak up to the recruiting department or assigning partner regarding the kinds of assignments you want. Make an effort to get a broad range of work experience during your time at the firm. While you should never turn down an assignment because it doesn’t interest you, you can be proactive in seeking the kinds of assignments that do interest you.” Quinn continues, “Make an effort to get to know the attorneys at the firm—don’t wait for an attorney to introduce himself/herself to you. Seek out attorneys who practice the kind of law that interests you and also make an effort to get to know attorneys from other practice areas.”

Finally, Nancy Louden, Director of Recruiting & Hiring for Hughes & Luce, LLP, in Dallas, underscores the need to assume responsibility. “Act like an owner,” advises Louden. “While it will be many years before a new associate is considered for partnership, you can show ownership in a variety of ways during your clerkship. Ownership could be viewed as the way you approach projects; the dedication you show in your work; the effort you show in truly getting to know the firm, culture, and people. Take pride in what you do, be professional, work hard, and show a true dedication. It will be noticed.”

Falling short of an offer . . .

Asked to comment on the most frequent reason (disregarding firm financial factors) that summer
associates occasionally fail to receive an offer, recruitment directors highlighted three interrelated areas: quality of work and/or work attitudes; communication skills; and relational skills and/or attitudes.

Sarah Staup notes that not doing acceptable work could mean a variety of things: “your work was
late; your work was not in acceptable format; your work contained errors because you were not
applying the level of analysis required; the time you spent was way out of line with the complexity of the assignment; you got overloaded and something had to give. The essence of being an effective lawyer,” she adds, “is effective juggling. While you can view the summer as a great chance to practice juggling, don’t do yourself in by over-committing and then turning in other than your best work.”

Bonnie Bell shares a similar comment: “Quality of work,” she says, “is impacted by a variety of factors: lack of understanding of the assignment, incomplete research, quality of written work (grammar, typos, etc.), quality of oral presentation (can you articulate your findings with confidence), lack of attention to time restraints. The competitive bar is high; prove that you have earned the right to an offer.”

“The most frequent reason that a summer associate does not get an offer,” says Kimberly Coey, “is poor analytical skills demonstrated on one or more projects during the summer.” Jeanne Salerno and John Schembari see poor quality of work as manifesting itself in two ways: “the written work product is not up to par, or the summer associate is not able to work with attorneys or staff in a collegial  manner.”

“Failing to keep attorneys informed of the status of projects; failing to complete an assignment in a timely manner due to social activities; failing to put your best effort into your work product; and declining to take on an assignment because you do not find it interesting,” are ways Virginia Quinn sees a poor work attitude or poor judgment demonstrated.

Poor communication skills are an ingredient in several of those responses. T.J. Conley underscores this area: “Most often [if a summer associate does not receive an offer] it has to do with poor communication skills. Either the summer associate did not talk with the assigning lawyer enough to understand the lawyer’s expectations for a particular project or the summer associate managed to alienate several lawyers for one reason or another.” Conley advises students, “Don’t make the mistake of spending too much time holed up in the library or in your office, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ninety-five percent of the time, the problem is not asking enough questions rather than asking too many.”

Immaturity, poor work attitudes, and poor relational skills were also highlighted as factors most likely to cause a summer associate to fall short. Pointing to the negative impact of immaturity or poor relational skills, Ellen Zuckerman says the question at the end of the summer is: “Would we feel comfortable having this future associate working directly with our clients? If we wouldn’t, they won’t get an offer.”

Jennifer Blaga adds, “Work product and high billable hours lose in the balance if you’ve been a ‘problem child’ administratively.”

Summing it up . . .

Diane Marshall and Nancy Louden offer a final summary of what it takes to succeed—or not to
succeed—as a summer associate. “We know before we hire the summer associate,” says Marshall, “that he/she is intelligent enough on paper to work at the firm. Often we will see that, regardless of their academics, some have a hard time communicating and getting along with others. Or they have trouble juggling the projects and tend not to take deadlines seriously. Some summer associates will concentrate on doing projects and ignore the opportunities given to interact on a social basis. Or they will give all their attention to the social events and not produce quality work. These are both equally important and the balance is something a successful summer associate will figure out. (We tell them this up front, but some listen and some don’t.) If the attorneys don’t have a chance to work with the summer associate or get to know him/her in a social setting, they simply won’t feel they have enough knowledge to vote on them at the end of the summer.”

Nancy Louden offers this summation: “When you see a person with stellar credentials who doesn’t receive an offer, likely a wide variety of circumstances surround the firm’s decision. Sometimes, people observe a lack of respect for their clerkship responsibility. Summer associates are highly compensated individuals on whom firms spend a great deal of time and resources to recruit. They have a responsibility to put forth the effort to get their projects done and produce a high-quality work product. If they don’t put forth the effort and respect the importance of their clerkship, it will typically translate to poor work product. It is also the responsibility of the clerk to put forth the effort to get to know the people and the culture of the firm. We want students to have the information to make informed decisions. To do this, summer associates must take their clerkship experience seriously and get to know the firm both personally and professionally. In turn, the firm should expend the same effort. It takes effort on both sides to make the program work effectively. Both should treat the process with respect.” 
From NALP Bulletin, April 2002

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What's Going On in the Law World?

Want to know what's happening around the law world?  Want to find some law blogs to follow or find out more about a specific practice area?  How about what's happening in a particular region?  This is a good place to start:

Monday, May 14, 2012

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting an Offer

by Beth Hansen

As hard as this may sound, when a firm needs to make cuts, they don't just put everyone's name on a wall and throw darts - they use criteria. Hiring decisions are made "with a scalpel". It may be seniority (i.e. all the new clerks are being deferred), but other times billable hours, rainmaking abilities and the ability to get along and work with others in the firm will also play a factor. Here are some tips to improve your chances of getting a post-grad offer from your summer employer:

1) Make friends with the secretary. She can be your greatest ally or your worst nightmare depending on the relationship she has with the boss. Don't treat her like an inferior. Good legal secretaries know a lot about civil procedure and can be very helpful to a new law clerk.

2) If you are in a clerkship that tracks billable hours, get the hang of their billing system right away. The bottom line is the bottom line. They keep people who make them money. Ask for a sample timesheet that has been filled out so you can see how things are phrased and ask for some guidelines about what is billable and what is not.

3) Be agreeable and use your head. They are checking to see if you will fit in so be sure to . . . fit in. Don't complain about the office you're assigned or the work you are given. Don't abuse any "perk" programs they may have and don't work nine to five when everyone else works eight to six.

4) Socialize when appropriate. If a group from the office goes to lunch, go with them. You want them to see your personality and you want them to like you as a person.

5) Work your tail off. Unfortunately, your summer break is the only time you have to show them what you can do. Now is your time to shine. Work long and hard and let them see it. If you need to ask for work, ask for work. Don't assume that if they don't give you work, it’s their problem and they won't hold it against you. When they look at the billable hours, if yours are low, they are going to assume it’s you.

6) Be sure you understand the assignment. Parrot back the assignment to your supervisor in your own words to make sure you are on the same page. We've had clerks lose offers and associates lose jobs over this one. Also, be sure you know whether they are looking for law to support a particular position or are looking for the state of the law generally.

7) Always read the updates (pocket parts and supplements). Make sure you are dealing with the most recent version of the law.

8) If you are in litigation, read the state court civil procedure rules and the local district court rules. Each court (both federal and state) will have their own set of local/district rules which will often dictate more of what you do than your caselaw, state civil procedure rules or the FRCP. If you can stand it, take them home at night and read them. The sooner you get a good grasp of them, the more useful you will be.

9) Be on your best behavior, regardless of what others are doing. Someone else telling a dirty joke or making a rash political statement is not permission for you do to the same. Do NOT reprimand anyone - its not your place, but don't add fuel to the fire either.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

Just about everyone has heard of the elevator pitch – that succinct summation of what you do that piques the interest of a potential customer or investor. Of course, in the Internet age, the elevator pitch has been shortened to the escalator pitch, then the Twitter pitch. As a result, a person has to adapt to the situation they’re in.

So, what do you do when you’re hit with the inevitable question “what do you do?” Do you captivate strangers right off the bat? Do you get people asking questions, or following up with you later?

One of the most important things a businessperson can do is learn how to speak about what they do.

Here are five tips to help anyone perfect their pitch and network like the pros.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to Land a Dream Job (Alternative Legal Careers - Nonprofit)

by Vivia Chen

Lesley Rosenthal has the kind of job a lot of lawyers would kill for: She is the general counsel, vice president, and secretary of New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Inc. A former litigation associate at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and a violinist herself, Rosenthal (at right) arrived at the center in 2005, just in time to help oversee its $1.2 billion redevelopment project.

In the following post—based in part on her book Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits (Wiley 2012)—Rosenthal gives us the scoop on how lawyers can parlay their firm experience into a job in the nonprofit sector.

How to Get That Nonprofit Job
By Lesley Rosenthal

America’s 1 million charities represent a gorgeous array of goodness. They lead efforts to cure diseases, alleviate poverty, advance education, and ennoble through culture. 

But what people don't realize is that these nonprofits tend to have a tiny or nonexistent legal team. That was the case with every nonprofit I've worked with. From the modern dance company I helped out as a fledgling attorney, the child care advocacy organization I served when its outside pro bono counsel suddenly passed away, to the foundation of one of the greatest violinists in history and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation—the total number of in-house counsel in each organization had been binary: zero or one.

Click here to go to full article.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New York City (Manhattan) Move-In Information

For those of you who will be working in New York City (Manhattan) during the summer or post graduation, this is a fantastic resource that one of our alumni, Stu Mitchell, shared with us.  It has all kinds of great information on getting to know Manhattan, finding housing, getting around, contacts for LDS wards in the area, etc.

Manhattan Move In Packet