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, in the second installment of a two-part series (you can read the first part here), Joshua Stein gives some practical advice on how manage your workflow.

When your work feels overwhelming, you can take some specific steps to help break through the panic and get it all finished. The first installment of this article offered about a half dozen techniques. This installment completes the list.

A. Start. If you feel like you have too much on your plate – spilling over onto the table and the floor — sometimes you respond by freezing, not knowing where to start. Or you do know where to start, but you aren’t quite ready. You think about problems that might arise. You keep postponing the pain. But your best strategy will often consist of just starting the job. Even if you’re not quite ready and even if it’s not all lined up nicely, just dig into it. Start anywhere. Of all the suggestions in this two-part article, this one seems the most obvious. But the obvious suggestions are also the ones most likely to get forgotten when you get overwhelmed.

B. The Blank Screen. If you will produce written work, then you don’t need to start writing at the very beginning. That’s often intimidating. Instead, start with your second or third paragraph or a list of the bullet points you intend to cover. Fill out your memo, report, or other project and then go back to the beginning….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: Getting Your Work Done (Part Two)”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, from Ross Guberman, a look at lawyers’ ethical breaches and their consequences.

Quick: List all the ways you can get into ethical hot water while writing a brief, and then list all the things judges can do to you in return.

Sometimes lawyers go too far, but do judges ever overreact?

I interviewed Judy Fischer, author of Pleasing the Court (affiliate link), on wayward lawyers and the angry judges who penalize them:

In your short and fascinating book, we meet all sorts of wayward attorneys who are in some way punished by courts for something they’ve done in a brief. One attorney called the members of an administrative board “monkeys” and compared their pronouncements to the “grunts and groans of an ape.” Another attorney neglected to mention an unfavorable case even though he himself was counsel in that case. Yet another referred to opposing counsel as “Nazis and redneck pepper-woods.” And various other attorneys drafted a proposed order with a first sentence that’s nearly four pages long, filed a complaint that the court called a “hideous sprawling mess,” cited a dissent as controlling authority, or copied another lawyer’s brief.

When you compare all these alleged ethical breaches with the penalties they provoked, what are a few of the behaviors that seem to irk judges most?

Read more 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, in the second part of a two-part series, Casey Berman gives some practical advice to attorneys considering a corporate in-house counsel position.

While some are viewed as a valuable resource, many non-lawyers in the company automatically stereotype company attorneys as mere red tape, as an expense, or as an obstacle to be avoided (or derided as the “Department of Sales Prevention”). “Often, lawyers are considered overhead in a corporate situation, and to be a success, it really helps to be able to show how you contribute to the bottom line or at least don’t add significantly to it,” says Katie Slater, former Assistant General Counsel at AEI Services, a Houston based energy company, who now runs Career Infusion Coaching, a career management firm for lawyers.  In-house attorneys always have to manage expectations and demonstrate over time how their legal skill set contributes to the collective goals of the company.

The best way to demonstrate this value is to be able to communicate and express ideas in a quick, clear way in order to give guidance and ideas for next steps. “Bottom-line communication ability — can you say things in three bullet points or less, and in plain English?” says Slater.  “Being able to break down a legal issue simply and coherently to get to why this is an issue from a business perspective is a huge skill that will be valued.  Can you give ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers, and, if the answer is ‘No,’ can you come up with alternatives or work-arounds?”

Many business types think lawyers are put on earth to tell them “No.” To combat this, successful in-house attorneys are responsive (even if they are still working on an answer), and provide the business units with alternatives to mull on and consider. This interaction can build trust and shows that the attorneys is indeed on their side and contributing to business persons personal goals and the overall growth of the company.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Dear Law School Deans:

How’s the media boycott going? Oh wait… you’re not doing that? So it must feel a bit like a digital mob is baying at your walls. Apparently, any attempt to defend the “value proposition” of a legal education will be met with instant scorn and mockery (and not just here on ATL.)

Now, deep down, we all know that no serious person can actually believe that law school deans are venal and sinister characters looking to simply con students. You entered your profession in the hope of helping students get the best legal education possible. And you find yourself in a world where your motives are being impugned. And we all know the parade of horribles that is the legal job market: only about half of all law school graduates will find a job requiring bar passage, and at least half of those who do find legal jobs don’t make enough money to service their debt.

When law schools are put on the defensive about employment numbers, we often hear about how the J.D. is so incredibly versatile and will serve its holder well in any context: banking, consulting, business, and what have you. There is some skepticism about this.

On the one hand, there are too may lawyers and too few jobs. On the other, a law degree can be used in a variety of ways. There is a mountain of data proving the former assertion, there is little data to support or refute the latter. So let’s try to settle this….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “An Open Letter to Law School Deans”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the first of a two-part series, Joshua Stein gives some practical advice on how manage your workflow.

As your work piles up, you will often feel as if you can’t possibly finish it. Each project seems overwhelming when you think about it in the abstract. And as soon as you start work on a new project, and figure out what it will actually require, it can become even more overwhelming.

This article and its sequel share a few techniques I use to help gain some control over my workflow. Few of these ideas are original, but I’ve included my own variations and suggestions.

A. Managing Everything. You will feel less overwhelmed if you protect yourself from feeling physically overwhelmed by the projects on your plate. For example, don’t cover your desk with piles of active tasks. For each active task, collect the various pieces of paper in a folder. Put all your folders away. Keep a “to-do” list of all your active tasks — every one of them — without writing other reminders to yourself anywhere else. Your to-do list should include everything. My own to-do list consists of a Word document with three columns: client work; other work; and personal projects. First priority tasks go to the top of each list. Some people use Outlook or even dedicated software. In any case, keep track of what you need to do and your priorities in a way that you don’t unintentionally leave anything behind. You should, however, also stay flexible in reordering and adjusting the list as you go. Regardless of format, a to-do list will help you feel more in control of your agenda, inviting you to set priorities and take each job one at a time. It’s far better than living with a chaotic physical mess that constantly taunts you about what you haven’t done….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: Getting Your Work Done (Part One)”

The end is in sight for our long national nightmare. Starting in 2014, the NCAA will institute a four-team playoff to crown the national college football champion. The 14-year reign of the BCS will be looked back upon as a time of national unity: everyone thought the system was horrible. Even President Obama decried the system on the campaign trail . The BCS has been described as anything from a “horrible Jenga tower of bad arguments” to a “broken, failed, even corrupt enterprise.” Oh wait, that second quote is from a blurb for Brian Tamanaha’s recent book Failing Law Schools. But of course there is an important parallel between the BCS and the legal education industry: they have few defenders outside their own walls. The soon-to-be obsolete BCS system is only considered successful by those with a financial stake in the status quo. As for our current model of legal education, efforts to defend its value from the inside have not been well received, to put it mildly. But there’s an important difference between the BCS and legal academia. The BCS has shown a willingness to adapt and transform itself in the face of widespread and well-founded criticism.

Anyway, as even casual football fans know, a college team’s prospects are highly correlated with how the students at its affiliated law school rate their experiences. (Ed. note: this is untrue). So, after the jump, let’s have a look at how the law schools for the BCS bowl schools match up.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If ATL Decided the BCS”

Ed. note: This is the tenth installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the first of a two-part series, Casey Berman gives some practical advice to attorneys considering a corporate in-house counsel position.

For many lawyers looking to leave the law firm or explore other legal careers, in-house counsel often arises as a favorite option. Some of these attorneys want to be happy in their job. Others want a job that is anywhere but the firm. Others like the idea of fewer hours and a flexible schedule. And still others are attracted to expanding their responsibilities and broadening their business exposure.

This article explores just what it takes to be an in-house attorney, the expectations and demands of the role, and the potential career paths. While these positions are often coveted and hard to get, it takes critical analysis (of one’s personal skills and the job’s duties) to ensure that this role could be the answer to an attorney’s job hunting prayers.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

‘…to take a survey (if you’re a non-practicing lawyer).’

You almost never hear of someone enduring the rigors of med school, becoming a doctor, practicing medicine for a few years, and then just ditching the profession altogether. The same could be said of licensed plumbers and electricians. Yet lapsed lawyers are everywhere: making chocolate, writing novels, blogging, leading the free world, whatever.

Obviously, there are myriad reasons for leaving the profession. Some ex- (or “recovering”) lawyers were nudged out or fired, while others left of their own free will to follow their muses onto different career paths. Some simply hated being a lawyer. Some hated the clients (e.g., “[W]hat do I care about some stranger let alone his problems?” — Columbia Law grad turned soldier-of-fortune Denis Clifford).

Not everyone buys into the idea that a law degree is so versatile (hi, Elie), but some non-practicing JDs do find that that their legal training was great preparation for the next stage of their careers.

We are reaching out to lapsed lawyers to ask them their personal stories. Why did you choose the law in the first place? Why did you leave? What are you up to now? Looking back at your time practicing law, how would you describe your experience? And so forth.

Are you an ex-lawyer? Please click here to take our survey and share your experiences. This survey is the first in a series of research projects in partnership with our friends at AdamSmithEsq, where the Lapsed Lawyer survey will also be hosted.

Ed. note: This is the ninth installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Desiree Moore gives some practical advice to new associates on delivering work product to their supervising attorneys.

As a new lawyer, you will be expected to deliver assignments in a variety of ways. For example, you may be asked to do an oral presentation of the results of your assigned research, provide a “marked up” copy of a case or statute or contract for the assigning attorney, or create written work product. In all instances, be sure you are clear at the outset when you receive the assignment as to how you will be expected to deliver it. Listen carefully, take notes, and be sure to remit your work exactly as expected.

Where an assignment calls for written work product, think carefully about how you will deliver it. The ideal method of delivery is to hand a hard copy of the assignment to the assigning attorney in person, and offer to follow up with an electronic copy of the assignment for his or her files.

However, if you are unable to connect with the assigning attorney in person, as is often the case, follow these five steps to ensure he or she receives the assignment in a manner that is both convenient and helpful.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is the eighth installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan demystifies the law school exam.

The secret to doing well on law school exams is actually pretty simple: Deconstruct what you’re being asked to do, and then relentlessly focus on learning how to do it well.

No problem, right? So why does law school have such a ferocious reputation?

Several reasons:

1. Everything’s graded on a curve. Even if you do well, someone else might do better. You’re competing against all of your very smart and accomplished classmates, not just displaying your personal knowledge.

2. The pedagogy is weird. Unlike most undergrad classes, law professors won’t spoon-feed you what you need to know. You essentially have to teach yourself, and what you discuss in class often bears little resemblance to what you’re expected to do on the exam.

3. You don’t get any practice. Most law school classes only have one exam, so you don’t get the chance to practice before game time. There’s a lot of pressure, and not everyone can handle it.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

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