Advice

I think you really have to bust your butt.

Eric Bernsen, patent counsel at Knobbe Martens, recalling the hard work that was necessary to get a job at a respected firm after law school. Bernsen graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2012.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Abby Gordon is a Director with Lateral Link’s New York office. Abby works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in New York, Boston, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York Bar and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian).

In the first part of this series, I discussed picking the right practice area and picking the right firm to optimize your opportunities for working overseas.

In this second part of the series, I will touch on the importance of language skills for various regions and practice areas. I will then discuss the potential downsides and sacrifices involved in working overseas for a portion of your career. Finally, I will talk about what you can be doing now to best position yourself for a move overseas….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Planning For A Legal Career Overseas (Part II): Language Skills, Caveats, And What You Can Be Doing Now”

Sadly, lawyers are a group vulnerable to succumbing to addictions.  In fact, according to one study, while 10% of the general population suffers from alcohol addiction, this number increases to 20% among lawyers.  That’s right: one in five lawyers are alcoholics.  At this point, you may be starting to wonder who in your firm proves this statistic.  I would advise against this game, however.  Although it may seem mildly entertaining at first, you’ll quickly realize that it’s actually pretty sick.  This is because, of course, the statistic is true.

I remember being warned about the problem of substance abuse in the legal profession during the first week of 1L orientation when we watched a video about addicted attorneys. Unfortunately, this movie — which followed high functioning alcoholics and a woman with a shopping problem — failed to have its intended effect.  That is, instead of scaring me away from drugs and alcohol, the film left me with the misguided impression that being a lawyer is easy.  After all, if those people could practice law when they were completely wasted, doing it sober must be a breeze.

Notwithstanding my experience during 1L orientation, I do realize that drug and alcohol abuse is a serious issue in our profession, and not one to be taken lightly.  If you or anyone you know has dealt with an addiction, you know how hard it can be. The question is, why are lawyers at such a high risk?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Think You Have An Addictive Personality? Steps You Can Take To Avoid The Worst”

Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who will offer an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

Law students love to bash the staff of their law school’s career services office. Students often roll their eyes as they describe a staff, usually all female, most with law degrees, who have allegedly traded in the law firm life for a 9-to-5 job. The students often comment that the staff does nothing to help the students secure jobs. Well, I wish to share with you a harsh reality that your law school counselors may not be able to impart directly.

When a student presents to the career services office at law school for a résumé review, there is very little that the counselors can do at that point. The counselors can, of course, suggest the reordering of text and/or tighten certain job descriptions. But YOU are the one who has made certain professional choices, and the staff cannot rewrite your history. A résumé is impressive not because it is well-written; a résumé is impressive because it demonstrates curiosity, risk-taking, and a desire for depth of experience.

So what is my main advice about résumés?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Résumés: The Harsh Reality”

Wait, law students aren’t supposed to do this?

If you’re a woman working in the legal profession, the odds are already stacked high against you, especially if you want to work for a large law firm. You’ll likely be paid less than your male colleagues. You’ll find that your life’s work has been reduced to a diversity talking point. Motherhood might as well be a crime. You can’t even dress yourselves without assistance.

We’ve heard about that last point of contention from law schools, multiple bar associations (see here and here), and even law firms. The latest slight against women comes from yet another law school, one perhaps too eager to assure potential employers that its female students exude the sensibilities of Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe.

How many times do women in the law need to be told not to dress like streetwalkers? Enough already…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School Sends Memo About Inappropriate Student Cleavage, Hooker Heels”

I like to say that I went solo because I had no other options — but I chose to stay solo when I started a family.

I started my law firm at the end of 1993 because I’d been downsized for economic reasons and couldn’t find another job. Three years later, the economy picked up and job offers came my way — but I was newly pregnant, and the prospect of the 50-hour work week that one of my prospective employers described didn’t interest me at all. So I figured that at least for the time, I’d remain solo because I was certain that working for myself was the best option for raising children.

Fast forward seventeen years, and my conviction that solo practice is a family-friendly work option is no longer as black and white as it was back then before my daughter was born. That’s not to say that I regret my decision – because I don’t. But here, on the other side of child-rearing — with one daughter in high school and the other on the cusp of college — I’ve realized that there’s really no easy or perfect solution to balancing work and family — whether you’re a solo or a big-firm attorney. All you can do is evaluate the facts and make the best decision for yourself and your family based on the facts in front of you.

Of course, when it comes to research about work-life balance, that’s where things get tricky….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is Going Solo The Best Choice For Parents Who Practice?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Abby Gordon is a Director with Lateral Link’s New York office. Abby works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in New York, Boston, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York Bar and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian).

If one of your career or personal goals is to work as a U.S. lawyer overseas, you need to start preparing and positioning yourself very early on. In this two-part series, I will first discuss picking the right practice area and picking the right firm to optimize your opportunities for working overseas, keeping geographical considerations in mind.

In the second part of this series, I will discuss the importance of language skills for various regions and practice areas. I will touch on the potential downsides and sacrifices involved in working overseas for a portion of your career. Finally, I will talk about what you can be doing now to best position yourself for a move overseas….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Planning For A Legal Career Overseas (Part I): Picking The Right Practice Area And The Right Firm”

Conventional wisdom says that solos and smalls should join a bar association — either the American Bar Association, a state or local bar, or a practice-specific bar (such as an association of telecommunications or criminal defense or real estate lawyers) — as a way to generate clients. Here’s but one recent article that recommends pounding the pavement at bar events to find clients.

I disagree.

I’m not suggesting that solos and smalls steer clear of bar membership entirely; after all, bar associations provide a myriad of practice benefits, including substantive information on practice trends, affordable continuing legal education (CLE), and advice on starting and running a law practice. But if lawyers think that they’ll find business through bar membership, most are sure to be disappointed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Will Joining A Bar Association Help Solos And Smalls Get Clients?”

Remember the pushmi-pullyu?

It can teach you a lesson about the law.

Years ago, I heard the frustrated 60-year-old head of an IP department at a big firm complain: “Aren’t there any other IP lawyers at this firm? Why do I have to decide everything?”

The problem, of course, was that his subordinates were on the wrong end of the pushmi-pullyu: They were pulling the senior guy back instead of pushing him forward. My sense is that the average lawyer, either at a firm or in-house, suffers from the same affliction: The average lawyer stands at the . . . er . . . back mouth of the beast.

I recently published a self-assessment test to help you learn whether you were a bad litigator. I’ve cleverly designed another self-assessment test, this one to gauge whether you advance the cause or obstruct it when you work on a legal matter. Here’s the test:

Look at the last email that you sent reporting on a legal development and seeking guidance on the next step forward. How does that email end? For many of you, the last sentence includes one of these two phrases, which prove that you stand at the pullyu end of the beast . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “On Dr. Dolittle And The Law: Learning To Advance The Cause”

U.S. News will release its annual law school rankings next week. That means that a bunch of would-be law students will have another somewhat arbitrary look at which schools have the right to saddle them with lifelong debt, and which schools should be begging them to come with money.

So it’s time to fire up the ATL Decision Machine! You know how this works: you email us with the schools you are choosing between, we tell you what to do, you end up going to the highest-ranked school you got into anyway.

Usually, Lat and I give slightly competing reasons, but he’s on vacation right now, so mwahahaha. Today’s choice is interesting: two good schools, but only one is shelling out any money….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Decision: Top-20 Law School At A Discount, Or Top-10 At Full Price?”

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