Not since its pursuit was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence has “happiness” had a bigger cultural moment than now, and not just because of that “room without a roof” earworm. There is a new and rapidly growing science of happiness, a mash-up of economics and psychology sometimes called “hedonics,” which tells us that money can buy happiness, but only to a point. Meanwhile, in corporate America, we witness the emergence of a new C-suite character, the Chief Happiness Officer, who is responsible for employee contentment. Sort of like an HR director, but smiling and magical.
Recently, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper, “Unhappy Cities,” reporting the findings of a major survey asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. The authors, academics from Harvard and the University of British Columbia, found that there are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. cities and, unsurprisingly, residents of declining cities are less happy than other Americans. (Interestingly, the authors suggest that these unhappy, declining cities were also unhappy during their more prosperous pasts.)
So there are unhappy cities; there are also unhappy (and relatively happier) law schools. When ATL’s own Staci Zaretsky learned that Springfield, Massachusetts — home of her alma mater, the Western New England University School of Law — made the list of unhappiest cities, it came as no surprise: “It’s hard to tell where the local misery ends and that of the law school begins.” Prompted by Staci’s observation, we wondered whether unhappy cities make for unhappy local law students. Or is the law school experience so intense and self-contained that one’s surroundings have little impact? What are law students in the happiest (and unhappiest) cities in the country telling us about their own personal satisfaction?
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Megan Grandinetti explores three ways lawyers can achieve a healthy separation from work-related electronic devices.
Put your phone away for a minute. And your Blackberry if you have one. Turn them both on silent, lock them in a drawer, and mentally walk away from them. Just for one minute. Close your eyes and remember the last time you were free of these devices, the ones that haunt your every waking moment. There had to be a point in your life where your electronic devices did not OWN you. Maybe it was on your last vacation when you had the sand between your toes and a fruity drink in your hand. Reflect on that time, and relish in it for one whole minute. Liberating, isn’t it?
I have several clients and friends who have a hard time putting boundaries on their Blackberries and smartphones, allowing work emails to pervade every waking hour of their day. I know exactly how that feels because I, too, used to be a slave to my Blackberry. When I first started at Cleary, I kept my Blackberry on vibrate, and I kept it with me at all times. I went shopping with it. I brought it to fitness classes at the gym. I took it with me on dates.
The average debt load of law school graduates is well over $140,000. That’s roughly the cost of purchasing a Maserati, or 88% of your first-year Biglaw salary. Couple that with a notoriously grim employment outlook and law school grads often find themselves tethered to mortgage-sized repayment plans, minus the actual house.
One thing law school doesn’t teach you is the variety of loans that are available and the advantages and disadvantages of each loan type. With a little foresight, law school students can select the proper loan and create a repayment plan that is best aligned to their career and lifestyle post-graduation.
Let’s start by breaking down each type of loan to better understand consolidation after graduation…
Taking the LSAT has apparently gone out of style. LSAC just released the numbers from the June 2014 LSAT, and only 21,802 law school hopefuls took the test. That’s down 9.1% from June of last year, and down 33.9% from the June LSAT’s peak in 2010. The last time so few took the June LSAT, Bill Clinton was president and Beyoncé was known primarily as a member of Destiny’s Child.
The continued decline in the number of LSAT takers is good news for aspiring lawyers as it’s likely that the number of law school applicants will similarly continue to decline. That, in turn, means less competition in law school admissions. Perhaps more importantly, there’s likely to be less competition for legal jobs in a few years, as that decline in law school applicants translates into fewer law school graduates.
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, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips for law school applicants.
Non-traditional applicants to law school face different barriers to admission and have different concerns regarding school choice, finances, and post-graduation career options than their counterparts who attend law school directly (or within a year or two) of graduating from college.
Three recent law school graduates who fit this mold when they applied took the time to share their thoughts and perspectives in order to benefit future applicants. One graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law in his mid-40s (Scott), one graduated from Notre Dame with a JD/MBA after serving in the military (Todd), and one attended Western New England after 20+ years as a paralegal and office manager for a large law firm (Susan).
1. What were some of your concerns applying to law school as a non-traditional applicant? What were some challenges you faced because you were not right out of college?
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, David Mainiero, Admissions Expert at InGenius Prep, examines major factors pre-law students should consider after taking the June LSAT.
You’ve finished the June LSAT… now what? In this blog series, I will help you navigate the perilous road to 1L.
First, decide whether (and why) you’re going to retake the LSAT in October.
Given that you just finished the LSAT, you’ve put at least three and a half hours of thought into one incredibly important component of the application. For your sake, we hope that wasn’t the extent of the thought you put into the LSAT.
Even in some cases where you have planned and studied appropriately, you might be considering re-taking the test. Or, if you aren’t reconsidering it yet, you might be when you get your score. There is nothing wrong with this. Tons of successful applicants to even the most selective law schools in the country take the LSAT multiple times; that’s not to say it’s encouraged, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. I myself took the LSAT three times.
There is plenty of generic advice out there about the circumstances under which you should retake the test, but ultimately it is a highly individualized decision. Nonetheless, here is some guidance on how to make this decision.
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Rob Jordan explores how good use of technology can improve your skills at networking events.
“The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd, is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” — Bill Gates
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard attorneys and bankers initiate a networking conversation with the question: “What are you working on these days?” Given attorney-client privilege and/or other confidentiality issues, there is a strong likelihood that the recipient of that question is in no position to answer. And, so, the conversation is instantly uncomfortable and awkward. This is the professional equivalent of asking a potential mate “What do you do?” in a social setting — which is largely, mistakenly, and unfortunately the question of default (at least in New York City). Quite simply, many people either don’t or can’t define themselves by what they “do” or what they’re “working on.” So… don’t do that.
A better approach is to ask, “What’s interesting?”
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Lee Burgess offers advice for pre-law students on how to spend the summer before law school.
The question is often presented to us about what to do in the summer before your 1L year. Some future law students are working full time. Some are taking a break after graduating from undergrad. The burning question is — what should you do to help you be best prepared for your 1L year?
First, a personal story. I didn’t do anything to get ready for my 1L year. I was working full time prior to the start of law school and I left my job just a week or so before orientation. I think I went shopping and bought some new jeans because I wouldn’t have to dress up every day anymore. I know, great planning. Do I regret the decision to do nothing related to law school prep? Not really, in the sense that I needed to work and save money to help pay for law school. And I was able to catch on to law school well enough. But my first semester grades (to be perfectly honest) were not the best grades of my legal career. My grades went up during law school, as I continued to master the law school skill set. I have to wonder what would have happened if I had invested some time during the summer before law school getting up to speed on what law school exams looked like. I will never know, but in hindsight it might not have been a bad idea, something to consider at least.
But now having the start to my law school career well into my rearview mirror, here are five things you should do to get ready for your 1L year.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Casey Berman of Leave Law Behind discusses how perfectionism can be a barrier to leaving an unhappy career in the law.
Leave Law Behind is a blog and community to help unhappy and dissatisfied attorneys find ways to leave the law behind and create new career paths for themselves. It’s an active community that comments on blog posts, emails me each week, and interacts with each other.
It also contains a huge amount of self-admitted perfectionists, myself included.
You see, while it is rare, every so often I may make a mistake and include a typo in my writing. No matter how many times I review and re-read my posts, sometimes there is a small grammatical error or some other type of inconsistency. In my most recent instance, I saw the typo for the first time right after I hit “Send” on the email newsletter … and published it on Facebook … and tweeted it on Twitter. It was repeated as people forwarded the post along and retweeted. Some readers even emailed me directly to let me know it was there.
My mistake was out there and there was nothing I could do about it.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ian E. Scott offers 10 valuable pieces of advice for Biglaw summer associates.
While a full-time job at a large law firm is not for everyone, a summer at one is highly recommended. Even if you are not sure if you have an interest in practicing at a large firm after the summer, a summer at one is a great experience and you will be paid around $35,000 for the summer. You should be careful though, because many who have summered at large corporate firms and swore that it was just for the summer, often must have drank the Kool-Aid and went back after graduation. If you have decided to work for a top law firm during the summer here are a few things to consider.
1. You will likely get a job offer but do not take it for granted.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.