Advice

We are very service-oriented here at Above the Law. Given the depressing realities of the legal job market, one service we provide is alerting our readers to job opportunities.

We recently reminded our readers about the deadlines for various federal-government honors programs (including but not limited to the DOJ Honors Program). In case you missed those deadlines, though, here’s another option for entering government service….

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If you’re not online, then you’re losing traction (and clients) to the professionals cultivating a strong online presence through the act of blogging. The Internet is a communication ecosystem that amplifies the effect of lucrative referrals with “word-of-mouse spread[ing] even faster than word-of-mouth,” according to a Harvard Business School study, The Economics of E-Loyalty.

An Example of Traction Through Blogging

Within six months of launching the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, Dan Schwartz got the high sign that his blog was working:

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Since I began my job search, I have read many books and articles on how to find a job. Most of them gave the usual tried and true advice — meet people and learn new skills — with some variation. And to prove their points, they include cool and heartwarming anecdotal stories.

But I have also been given awful job search tips. They typically revolve around a story about someone who uses a gimmick to get the attention of an employer. One thing leads to another and the applicant is hired over the many others who had better grades and work experience. The success story is passed off as advice because it worked in his particular case in very unusual conditions.

After the jump, I will discuss some of the worst job advice I have been given.

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Look, e-discovery is not going away. Doc review (at least English language doc review) will never be high paying or sexy. But, as e-discovery becomes more and more prevalent, it will continue to become a larger part of the legal job market. So, how do you get out of the rut of sitting in a windowless room, making $10 an hour (or less), typing the date of each e-mail you read into the date field of your coding software? How about taking your knowledge of the front line ESI issues (document coding) and learn a little bit about managing ESI projects, starting with how to draft discovery? As we learned yesterday, ESI discovery can be tricky and employers mostly know that, so understanding the concepts behind it can help you move through your career.

Since Bryan Garner was just in my town last weekend, and I’ve been spending a lot of time drafting ESI discovery requests and dealing with  opposing counsel’s requests, I have been thinking a lot about drafting proper ESI discovery requests, including proper wording…

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At this stage of my career, I am pretty removed from the Biglaw associate recruiting scene. So I don’t know if firms have finished hiring their summer associates for summer 2015, or whether current 2Ls are evaluating offers and deciding which firm to join. While I was in Biglaw, I was very involved in supporting the recruiting department’s efforts, whether it was serving as a summer associate mentor or interviewing lateral candidates. So I know how seriously the process is taken by both Biglaw firms and the candidates.

As serious a business as recruiting is, however, it is often difficult for students and lateral candidates to distinguish between firms. Sure, enterprising law students and associates can study PPP or “prestige” charts in the American Lawyer or on Vault, or even take advantage of the vastly improved research tools for associates on sites like this one (including ATL’s law firm directory). Even more enterprising candidates will take advantage of their networks to solicit “real-world” feedback about the associate experience at firms from current and former employees of those firms. In sum, there is plenty of information, both collected and anecdotal, for young lawyers to consider when they are lucky and accomplished enough to have earned the right to choose between Biglaw firms vying for their services.

It is great that all this information is now available. But I think what younger lawyers would benefit from most is direction as to what information is worthy of focusing on, especially when making critical career decisions.

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Last year, St. Martin’s Press published The Partner Track, the debut novel of lawyer Helen Wan. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, I praised the book for being engaging, suspenseful, and — unlike so many legal novels — realistic. The paperback edition of The Partner Track became available last week.

I enjoy fiction about lawyers, as both a reader and writer — my own first novel comes out in a few weeks — and I’m deeply interested in how other writers work. So I interviewed Helen Wan about her book, her approach to writing, and how she managed to write a novel while holding down a demanding job as an in-house lawyer for Time Warner. I also asked for her advice on how women and minority lawyers can succeed in Biglaw.

Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.

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We all dream of a world in which collegiality matters.

Partners at law firms are . . . well . . . partners. They look out for each other. They build each other’s practices. They work for the common good.

Perhaps that firm exists. I wouldn’t know.

From my perch here — as the guy who left a Biglaw partnership for an in-house job, and on whose shoulder other Biglaw partners now routinely cry — the view is pretty ugly. (Perhaps my perspective is distorted because of an obvious bias: Partners happy with their firms don’t come wailing to me.) What I hear these days is grim: Guys are being de-equitized or made of counsel; they think they’re being underpaid; they’re concerned that they’ll be thrown under the bus if they ever lose a step.

Several recent partners’ laments prompted me to think about something that I’d never considered when I worked at a firm. (Maybe that’s because I’m one of those guys who was perfectly happy laboring for the common good. Or maybe it’s because I’m a moron.)

In any event, here’s today’s question: I want to wrestle effectively with my own law firm. I don’t want to be nasty; I just want to be sure that I have implicit power when I negotiate with the firm. I want the firm — of its own accord, without me saying a word — to treat me right. How do I wrestle my own law firm to the ground? How do I pin my partners?

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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, Kate McGuinness writes about the different “selves” all lawyers can find within throughout their careers.

I have several different selves rattling around inside. No, I’m not suggesting multiple personality disorder. I’m alluding to the varied interests and aptitudes that have led to different careers over time.

My nurturing, playful self became an elementary school teacher. She was followed by the brainy, kick-ass self who became a lawyer. Then the creative, reclusive self came forward to write my legal thriller Terminal Ambition (affiliate link). Now the compassionate, wise self is stepping up as a coach to guide clients through growth and change.

Just as Harry Potter discovered that he had a “good self” and a “bad self,” each of us has many selves.

A lawyer may be hiding a self who longs for deeper connection with others and a helping role as a therapist as well as another self who longs to be an academic and another self who longs to be a chef.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Professor Joseph Marino of Marino Legal Academy, who will be writing a bimonthly column about law school and legal education.

Your first year classroom experience is not all that different from the classroom scenes in the well known 1973 movie, The Paper Chase.

“Look to the left, look to your right. Because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year.” It sounds like an urban legend, but it’s not that far off from reality. According to the ABA, roughly 5,000 1Ls across the country will not come back for their second year of law school.

By now you should be familiar with case briefing and the Socratic method, the decades-long dominant pedagogical approaches for teaching first-year students. It is dramatically different from the days of rolling out of bed after a night out partying and acing the exam that you were used to in college. Unlike college and high school classes where your professor taught you the subject area, in law school you have to take responsibility for your own education….

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Lawyers and law firms need to measure their return on blogging. Too much time and money time is put into blogging to do it on a lark.

The ROI, or blog success, is not measured by traffic to your blog or increased traffic to your law firm website from your blog.

Blog ROI should be measured by five milestones. Look at the milestones at six months, a year, and again at two years. Business development success online is a marathon, not a sprint…

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