Career Files

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Liz Brown, author of Life After Law: Finding Work You Love With the J.D. You Have (affiliate link), offers suggestions for at least appearing engaged at the office while contemplating leaving the law behind.

Someone asked me a great question the other day. “I’m having a hard time staying engaged at the office,” she explained. “I want to leave, but I’m not sure what to do next. How do I keep up the appearance that I’m still interested in practicing law while I figure out my next move?”

This in-between stage is hard in so many ways. It can be hard to force yourself to work on cases when you no longer care about the outcome. It can be hard to make yourself meet your billable hour minimum when you find the work dull and unrewarding. It can be hard to act happy, or at least not to growl at people, when you desperately want to do something else. Here are seven strategies for the summer of your discontent.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

For a couple months now, we’ve run an occasional series, drawing on the ATL Insider Survey, comparing firms and law schools in various geographic locales. Thus far, we looked at Boston, Chicago, New York, and “the South.”

Today, we turn toward Texas. Texas is beloved here at ATL as an apparently bottomless source of colorful legal news. The state is a frequent battleground for high profile constitutional fights while also generating a steady stream of tabloid fodder, from “judges behaving badly” to “tragic homicidal mayhem.” (Of course, there’s also the running joke among the ATL commentariat that, for what a New York Biglaw associate pays for his cramped studio apartment, one can buy a 3,500-square-foot wife house in Texas.)

But of course this is a limited, distorted view of the legal industry in Texas. Texas is a huge, diverse state with a relatively strong economy and a unique legal culture. Biglaw firms thrive in all three major cities, both local outposts of national firms, or more significantly, Texas-bred firms such as Baker Botts and Vinson & Elkins. Our ATL Insider Survey (13,000+ responses and going strong, thanks), asks attorneys at firms to evaluate their employers in terms of compensation, hours, training, morale, and culture. After the jump, we’ll look at how firms in Texas stack up in these categories — and how they compare to the national averages…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sarah Powell, author of Biglaw: How to Survive the First Two Years of Practice in a Mega-Firm (affiliate link), helps new associates face their own unrealistic expectations about life in Biglaw.

My last post focused on how much it can suck to be a junior associate in Biglaw today. In fact, much of what I say about Biglaw could be construed as a tad critical by the cynical and jaded (or sane).

So let me begin with a caveat: what I write is never aimed at my former firm, or any firm in particular. In fact, if you choose Biglaw, I have no doubt that my firm is one of the best places to practice. My crucial point, which is not controversial, is that Biglaw’s pathologies cannot be isolated to one or two crazy partners here or there. The problems of Biglaw are endemic.

So before we get too far down that Biglaw-bashing road, and especially for the folks gearing up for OCI, let’s look at what you can get from Biglaw if you decide to say “damn the torpedoes” and push ahead despite all warnings.

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, Kristina Tsamis shares some career advice for JD/MBAs from a panel discussion hosted by Duke Law in conjunction with other peer law schools.

We spend a lot of time discussing the dismal employment outcomes for JD grads. Things aren’t so rosy for MBA graduates either. To talk about a dual JD/MBA degree in this context seems like a double fail — a one-two punch of more work and potentially more debt in exchange for the same sad outcome.

Enter the panelists of How to Use the JD/MBA Degree in Business and Entrepreneurship: all JD/MBA graduates who touted the usefulness of a dual degree during a discussion hosted by Duke Law in conjunction with other peer law schools. The panelists centered their advice on four main areas: what to focus on while pursuing the dual degree, how to select a good mentor, how to interview well, and how to stop being risk-averse.

1. Maintain the Right Focus as a JD/MBA student

That class in early English case law will leave you painfully ill-equipped for the modern practice of law. But there are some courses you should be paying attention to, both on the JD and MBA side.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Today, our friends at BARBRI and Law Preview present a Google Hangout aimed at helping pre-law students understand and navigate the law school application and admission process. This week, Brian Dalton is joined by Sarah Zearfoss, Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions, Financial Aid, and Career Planning at Michigan Law and Jessica Soban, Assistant Dean and Chief Admissions Officer at Harvard Law.

Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Law School Application and Admissions Process: An ATL Google Hangout”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sarah Powell helps new associates face their own unrealistic expectations about life in Biglaw.

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” — Bruce Lee

If you read Above the Law, you know that law school, the legal profession, and Biglaw especially are not like the movies, not like the grand old days, and certainly not like partners pitch it to you at on-campus interviews. Still, a main source of junior associate misery is false expectations. Some examples…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: Biglaw Practice Today — Cruel Expectations”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sunny Choi interviews a fifth-year associate at a Biglaw firm who has some advice for summer associates.

If this is your 2L summer at a Biglaw firm, then you’re probably reveling in a copious number of three-hour lunches and nightly open bars, courtesy of the firm’s unofficial summer wallet. However, as a summer associate, this is also your time to make a lasting impression on the firm where you’ll most likely settle down for the next several years of your legal career.

I’ve conducted an unofficial interview with “Lady G,” a fifth-year associate at a certain Biglaw firm in Manhattan. She has kindly offered tips on how to be a stellar summer associate, based on her experience serving as an assignment coordinator for the summer associate program and working with summers in general.

How big is the summer associate program at your firm?

Pretty big, I would say 100+ associates divided into six teams. Each summer gets matched with an associate mentor and a partner mentor.

Could you describe your role as an assignment coordinator for your firm’s 2011 program?

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, Ann K. Levine debunks three popular law school admission myths.

1. The Earlier You Apply the Better

“I want to submit my applications September 1, so I am not going to take the October LSAT (even though I could get a better score).”

Yes, rolling admissions is a “thing” in the law school world. There is some advantage to applying earlier. However, it’s always better to wait and get an LSAT score that more accurately shows your aptitude than to be the first application in the door. There is no advantage to applying in September versus October or even November. The advantage comes in applying in December/early January as opposed to end of January/early February. However, the importance of rolling admissions as a whole has been diminished as the number of law school applicants overall has dropped significantly in the last few years.

2. Taking the LSAT a Third Time is Bad

“I don’t want to retake the LSAT because it would look bad for me to take it a third time.”

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, Noah Messing of Yale Law School — author of the newly released book, The Art of Advocacy: Briefs, Motions, and Writing Strategies of America’s Best Lawyers (affiliate link) — explores how law firms might reassess how they select junior associates.

Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have hired thousands of employees over the last decade by relying on brain teasers such as “Why are manhole covers round?” and “How would you weigh your head?” One psychology professor concluded last year that this sort of “puzzle interview is being used with greater frequency by employers in a variety of industries.” Earlier this week, however, a top human resources executive at Google reported that his company had scrapped the practice, offering the following admission: “brainteasers are a complete waste of time.” Google realized that its tests failed to identify the traits that correlate with success. For instance, Google now seeks managers who are “consistent and fair,” even if they aren’t good at estimating how many golf balls can fit inside a school bus.

Law firms are overdue for a similar reassessment of how they select junior associates. And as a corollary, law students should pay attention to the skills that law firms ask them about.

Let’s start with the employers. Several years ago, I organized a focus group of partners from top-10 Vault firms. I wanted to learn which skills Yale Law should emphasize as we continue to modernize the way that we train our students. The partners (including two corporate attorneys) all said that legal writing was the most important skill for junior associates.

The simplest way to know how candidates write, of course, is to evaluate their writing….

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 summer associates.

I read this advice for summer associates this morning, and it made me want to poke my eyes out.

I’m trying to imagine what I would have done if a summer had approached me at a firm event and said, as suggested: “I’m working on an IP matter with Joe. Your IP practice was one of the reasons I chose the firm, and I am researching an interesting X issue.”

Where to start?

Read more at the ATL Career Center…

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