Lawyers

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….

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….

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)….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: An Open Letter To The Bosses Of Young Lawyers”

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 five related articles, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the first step attorneys can take to leave the law.

Through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent, driven, personable, resourceful, knowledgeable but nonetheless unhappy, dissatisfied, unmotivated, upset, and burnt out attorneys. They tell me that they want to leave the law behind and explore a completely new line of work. They tell me that they want to change their current practice of the law in order to enjoy their work more.

I tell them that there are five main steps to leaving the law. Five time-intensive-but-manageable, build-on-each-other-to-grow-your-confidence, incremental, rewarding (baby) steps one can take to leave the law behind for a fulfilling professional (and personal) life.

And the first step involves money.

Before polishing your résumé, or looking at potential jobs, or interviewing with a recruiter, or doing anything else, the first step in properly leaving the law requires becoming as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) your expenses and (ii) your safety net and other sources of financial support you can call upon if needed.

Why the initial focus on money? Because one of the main obstacles lawyers face in leaving law behind is a fear around money: A fear of the unknown, a fear of a lack of financial literacy, a fear of facing their bad spending habits, a fear of having the “money talk” with their spouse, a fear that they can’t make money in any way other than being an attorney, a fear that if they leave their job as an attorney they’ll soon be financially ruined.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Just a typical lapsed lawyer (J.D., Northwestern ’68)

Lawyers turn into ex-lawyers for a host of reasons. The transition can be voluntary or not. We all know that erstwhile attorneys have successfully gone on to become, among thousands of other things, consultants, teachers, writers, and entrepreneurs. Late last year, in partnership with our friends at Adam Smith Esq., we reached out to lapsed lawyers to ask them their personal stories. Why did they choose the law in the first place? Why did they leave? What are they up to now? Do they regret leaving the practice of law? (A whopping 93% said “no” to that last question.)

We were quite pleased with the level of response to our survey: 430 former (or “recovering”) lawyers shared their stories with us. The tales they told us bring to mind a sort of inversion of Tolstoy’s line about happy and unhappy families. Those who were positive about their time spent practicing had a diverse range of experiences; those who were unhappy mostly tell the same story.

Read on for the details.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Lapsed Lawyers Survey Results”

Paul Cravath does not approve of this post.

Light years away and in the distant future, perhaps some alien grad student in Defunct Planet Studies will stumble onto the ATL archives. He’ll conclude, not unreasonably, that the legal industry was a sort of oligopoly. That there were only a handful of firms: Skadden, Cravath, Latham, Quinn Emanuel, Tannebaum Weiss, and those few others that get such a disproportionate amount of our attention. And of course, there were only 14 real law schools.

This singular obsession with “prestige,” this mindset that the most elite firms and schools are the only worthy ones, is detached from the experiences of the vast majority of lawyers practicing at the 50,000 other firms and the students at the 180+ other law schools. Back in December, we had a little debate about the effect of prestige in the legal industry. In the spirit of the “prestige obsession is bad” side of that argument, we thought it would be worthwhile to see which firms and schools outside of the very top tiers are, according to insiders, great places to work or learn.

Over the course of 2012, we received close to 10,000 responses to our ATL Insider Survey, where lawyers rate their firms based on compensation, culture, morale, training, and culture, and students and alumni rate their schools based on academics, social life, clinical training, career services, and financial aid advising. Based on our survey, the most highly rated firms and schools also happened to among the most prestigious (e.g., Stanford, Davis Polk), but there is certainly not a correlation between prestige and insider rating.

After the jump, we’ll see which schools outside of the T14 and which firms outside the Vault 50 were rated the highest by their own people….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the ATL Insider Survey: Overlooked Firms and Schools”

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….

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