Career Center

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine gives prospective law school applicants valuable advice on how to write the most effective personal statement.

If you’re sitting down right now, trying to write the most brilliant, persuasive, powerful personal statement ever written, but your fingers are paralyzed on the keys, you’re not alone. “I hate to write about myself,” some tell me. Others say, “My life has been pretty boring/sheltered/standard/privileged.” Still others say, “I went through hard times but I don’t want to write a sob story.” How do you hit the perfect compromise and create a personal statement you can be proud of?

Here are a few ideas to get you started on brainstorming topics:

1. It’s very hard to go back to the drawing board after writing an intro and conclusion, so just start writing your ideas down and sharing your stories and experiences. Start writing like you would a journal or blog post, using a conversational tone. Write how you speak. You can fix the grammar and spelling later. Fine-tune conclusions and themes later. Right now, get your stories on paper and see what themes naturally emerge.

2. Yes, your final personal statement will be between 500 words and four pages depending on each law school’s specifications. Most law schools want two-to-three pages. And yes, this is double-spaced. But don’t think about that. When you first get started you should write at least four pages so you have room to cut.

3. Don’t try to weave together everything you’ve ever done. Find things that are similar, either in subject matter or in exhibiting a trait you’re trying to demonstrate, and only weave them together if it really works.

4. Don’t reiterate things from your resume. Leave job descriptions to the résumé, and if you discuss résumé items in your personal statement, be sure to take a more anecdotal and lessons-learned approach rather than describing your duties and accomplishments.

5. Going in chronological order can be a trap. There is no reason to start with the day you were born, no matter how dramatic the birth might have been. Start with the most interesting thing about you — get the reader’s interest by sharing information about you that will be likable and interesting and as captivating as possible. Don’t try to “warm up” to your story with childhood memories, no matter how cute. You can always reflect back on those memories later in the essay if they were essential in formulating your goals and ideals and if they provide real context for your later achievements.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is another installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today Casey Berman of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the second step attorneys can take to leave the law. (The first step can be found at The First Step in Leaving Law Behind – It’s the Money, Stupid.)

As we discussed in the first article of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident, and happier.

I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation. They need to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed.

The second step in leaving law behind? Before getting one’s résumé ready or applying for jobs or networking, the second step often involves getting over law school. Or in other words . . . cutting your losses. Or to be more blunt: Move on. Stop living in the past. Stop thinking you need to eke out more of a return on your law school investment. Focus on the road ahead.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Law schools, properly understood, ought to be viewed as regional vocational schools. You will have to pass the bar exam for the state in which you want to practice, and a law school in that state, in theory at least, is more likely to prepare you for the specific content on the state bar. Typically, the majority of alumni don’t stray too far, so the strongest network will be local, for local jobs. It’s to your advantage to go to school where you want to practice, sometimes even more so than going to a higher-ranked school.

With this in mind, last week we looked at our ATL Insider Survey results pertaining to New York City-area law schools. We examined how current law students rate their schools in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.

Today we turn to Boston. The results of our survey might surprise you….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Which Is the Most Wicked Awesome Law School in Boston?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Gregory Henning of Anna Ivey Consulting explains to prospective law school applicants what they can expect in the application process. Part one of the series can be found here.

The typical law school application might require you to write three pieces: a main essay (two pages), a résumé (one page), and an optional statement on your interest in the school or some other topic (one page). That’s only four pages. Not too bad, right?

But those four pages are your only chance (in most cases) to communicate directly to the admissions officers. These documents are your only opportunity to step outside of the “numbers” to make a case for why you should be admitted. This is the only time the school will hear from you. Those four pages are starting to become pretty important…

Now think about your entire list of schools. Let’s say you plan to apply to 10 schools. You can expect to write two main essays (a personal statement and professional statement, depending on what a given school is asking for) and at least one résumé (some schools might ask for a longer variation of the one-page version that other schools require). If you apply to 10 schools, five might invite an optional statement about your interest in attending the school. Another three or four might ask for an optional essay on a different topic. If you believe you could add to the diversity of an incoming class, you may have a chance to submit an optional statement about that. Do you have any academic or criminal disclosure issues that need to be discussed and explained separately? If so, you’ll be producing another document.

Did you lose count? Even using a conservative estimate, it’s fair to say that you’ll probably be producing at least 10 separate pieces of writing when you apply to law school. That’s manageable, and certainly the content may overlap in many cases. You can create 10 documents. But wait, there’s more…

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Apologies to the Saul Steinberg Foundation.

New York City is the logical starting point for this occasional series highlighting law schools in specific locales. New Yorkers’ self-regard is bloated enough to believe they are at the Center of the Universe and that everything that happens there is naturally interesting to everyone, everywhere. The ATL Insider Survey asks, among other things, current law students to rate how their schools are doing in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.

After the jump, check out how the students at Columbia, NYU, NYLS, Hofstra, Fordham, St. John’s, CUNY, Seton Hall, Rutgers-Newark, and Brooklyn rate their institutions. Somehow we don’t have sufficient survey responses from Pace or Touro….

UPDATE (5:45 p.m.): Apologies to Cardozo Law School. You were mistakenly left out of the initial version of this post and we have revised it to include you.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Who Are the Happiest Law Students in New York City?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan shares some practical advice with associates.

When you show up for work at a law firm, you realize pretty quickly that there’s a lot to learn. Some things people will tell you, but there’s a lot of stuff no one’s going to tell you. Having been on both sides of the equation (as the one screwing things up, and the one getting annoyed with more junior people making my life difficult), here are a few things I learned along the way.

Ten Rules of Thumb for Law Firm Success

1. Don’t bring cases from the wrong jurisdiction. You remember Erie, right? If not, it’s time to review. There is very little that’s more annoying than giving a junior lawyer an assignment to find some case law, and having them come back with a state case, when you need a federal case, or vice versa. It’s one of those situations where you, as the assigning attorney, feel really confused. Did they not understand the assignment? Did they sleep through Civ Pro? Or do they just not care? None of these thoughts make me like you, or want to work with you again. Be sure you understand what you’re looking for, and resist the temptation to bring an irrelevant case, because you can’t find a relevant one.

2. On that note, no one cares how much effort you exerted. If you can’t find a case on point, just say that! If I ask what steps you took to search, feel free to tell me — in detail — so I won’t replicate your work. But do not go on about how many hours you spent, or how hard you looked. I don’t care. It’s nothing personal, I’m sure you’re doing the best you can. But, if you can’t find what I need, I’ll have to find it myself, so it’s best just to give me the bad news, and get out of the way.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

A couple weeks ago, we shared with you some of our survey data, which showed that, generally speaking, law students’ experiences with their schools degrade over time. The ATL Insider Survey asks law students and alumni to rate their schools in the areas of academic instruction, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life. When the ratings by first-year students are compared with those of third-years, the 3L scores are lower across the board, in all categories. In other words, the longer students are exposed to their schools, the lower their regard for the institution becomes. More equals worse.

We wondered whether or how this downward trajectory manifests itself after the students become alumni. After the jump, we compare the perceptions of students to those of graduates. The answer may surprise you, but probably not. Also, we identify the law schools where there is the greatest contrast between the views of current students and alumni — both negatively and positively….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Schools May Appear Worse in the Rearview Mirror”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Anna Ivey explains to prospective law school applicants what they can expect in the upcoming application process.

You watch Law & Order reruns. You spoke to some lawyers who applied to law school ten years ago. You have a friend who is in law school right now, and he says you have nothing to worry about. You even looked at a sample LSAT test that a colleague of yours was taking. It looks doable enough. Maybe someone even told you to take the test cold to “see how you do.” You figure you’ll have a personal statement to write and some recommendations to line up, no big deal.

You think you know what the law school application process will be like, right? Think again.

Most prospective law school applicants are not fully informed about what will actually be required of them in order to apply to law school. That lack of information causes applicants to misjudge, and often underestimate, how much of their time and effort they will need to produce strong application materials.

So what should you expect from the application process? This week, we’re starting a series of tips on how to get yourself mentally prepared for what lies ahead if you hope to submit strong law school applications this fall.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a new series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, some practical advice for finding a mentor from Desiree Moore of Greenhorn Legal.

There is a great deal of value to be found in finding a successful mentor — someone who is looking out for you and advocating for your success. Without my mentor in the early years of my legal career I would have been lost in the substantive, technical, and interpersonal aspects of my law firm practice. The right mentor can change everything.

When choosing your mentor, keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. Choose Someone Internal

Your mentor should be someone internal (and not your uncle who is a lawyer in the Cayman Islands). Your mentor should be in a position to help you decipher and navigate your specific office dynamics.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan offers advice to the bosses of new lawyers.

After writing a few pieces advising young lawyers how to start off on the right foot in their new jobs, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to look at the question from the other angle: If you’re supervising a young lawyer (or a law student in a summer job), what can you do to help ensure a smooth transition?

Here’s some advice for the care and feeding of young lawyers (and lawyers-to-be)….

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