Advice

I have Irish Alzheimer’s; I forget everything but my grudges. As I read about the latest round of bar study and exams, I think back on my job interviews over the years. I cannot shake the remembrances of some of my more outstanding successes and failures.

There was the major domo partner at an unnamed firm (located in the Battery which had a really salacious sex harassment fiasco some time ago) who looked at the title of my journal piece and stated, “You know, there’s no such word as ‘normalization.’” Now, I could have informed this pompous ass that maybe in the Kissinger era there was no such word, but, I wanted a gig. So, I put the tail between my legs and meekly said that I would have to look into that.

There was an associate from a since disappointingly merged firm from Midtown who “took a call” during our OCI, hung up, and informed me that he’d just closed a multi-million dollar deal. I was totally unprepared for dealing with such a tool, but again, I wanted a gig. So, I said something to the effect of “congratulations.”

Finally, there was the bow-tie wearing fop with shoulder length hair from the firm with four names, who cradled his fingers under his dimpled chin, shook his mane and said, “Why would XXXX want to hire you?” Unprepared to deal with such an insipid question, I came up with an equally insipid answer.

And just so I don’t let the in-house interviewers off the hook, there were some real winners in my last search. Since I am heavily involved in the ACC and other ventures, however, it’s best not to describe anecdotes. Let’s just say that, contrary to the viral videos, it does not “always get better”…

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In the late 90’s, lawyers taking credit cards was not the norm.

Stores took credit cards. Restaurants took credit cards. Lawyers took checks and wire transfers, and yes, cash in rubber bands. It was typical lawyer arrogance and ego – taking credit cards turned the lawyer in to a merchant, and paying a portion of the fee (because if you check your state ethics rules and opinions you may find you cannot charge the client for the percentage you pay the credit card company… oops) for the convenience of the client being able to “charge it” was seen as unattractive.

I didn’t take credit cards at first, a couple years later I started, and now I take them under certain conditions. One, I don’t advertise that I take credit cards. No signs on my door, no indication on invoices. If the client asks, the answer is yes, but like many places, there is a minimum amount (and no, it’s not $20). For volume-type lawyers who charge small fees, credit cards are a great way to sign up clients and maintain a good cash flow. For those with bigger fees and smaller practices, it’s a last resort for that client that you believe may have an issue paying, or who just can’t come up with the retainer unless it’s charged on a credit card.

Visa and Mastercard rates are lower than AMEX, but in the end, you’re looking at getting about 96% of the fee once the percentage and transaction fees are paid. If you can’t survive on that, I can’t help you.

What about house calls?

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In Proof of an External World, G. E. Moore famously defended the concept of certainty: Moore could put his hand in front of his face and say (with certainty): “Here is a hand.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein disagreed. Wittgenstein was uncertain whether he knew — with certainty — that the hand in front of his face actually existed. The first sentence of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty reads: “If you do know that here is one hand, we’ll grant you all the rest.”

(Hah! You thought you came to Above the Law to read about bonuses and pictures of naked judges. It turns out that we’re epistemology through and through. But I digress.)

On three recent occasions, I’ve heard (or heard of) people asking, “Are you sure?”

I’m with Wittgenstein on this one: I can’t even tell you that “this is my hand,” for heaven’s sake; how dare you ask if I’m sure about a legal judgment?

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Last month, a group named Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA) announced a study in which they identified eight qualities of successful legal executives. The study found that these accomplished folks exhibited greater levels of certain traits compared to your average Executive Joe Schmoe, Esq. The results, while informative, weren’t all that surprising. (It’s cool how hindsight works that way.) There were two traits, however, that RRA zeroed in on in their write-up of the study.

One was “excitability.” Successful legal executives got frazzled about 20% less than the average legal executive and even than the average non-legal executive. The gap in excitability was even wider between Successful GC and Not-Successful GC. So all of you lawyers who have a tendency to hyperventilate over every little fire drill can do yourselves a favor and think calm thoughts when you find that your prized pen has been moved from the right side of your desk to the left.

The other trait that RRA considered noteworthy is one they referred to as “mischievousness.” Their evaluation of mischievousness, however, is really just a brilliant scam….

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All across the country, law students and law firms are gearing up for on-campus interviewing. If you are seeking to advance your legal career or trying to figure out where to work, check out Above the Law’s new Career Center, which contains a wealth of resources to help you with your job search.

On Friday, we pointed you to our brand-new ATL Law Firm Directory. The Directory contains ratings for over 70 law firms, based on responses from over 6,000 attorneys. Our individual firm profiles break down the employers using a number of metrics, and based on your surveys we’ve been able to give each of the firms a letter grade (curved around a “B,” which should be familiar to most law grads). The profiles are dynamic, reflecting both publicly available information and user responses, so if you feel like your firm is getting an unwarranted grade, the profile page will lead you right to the survey, where you can tell us what you think.

We’re also interested in hearing about how the summer associate experience has been this year. We invite you to take our summer associate survey.

Over the weeks and months ahead, we will be adding new components and resources to the Career Center. Today we are going live with our Law Students section. This page provides advice and articles about job hunting, academics, and clerkships, as well as access to our law firm profiles. Some of the content provided by our five partners — The Girl’s Guide to Law School, Legal Writing Pro, Lateral Link, JD Match, and Leopard Solutions — is available only on the Career Center, so check it out.

Our effort to expand the career-related resources for our readers is just getting started. We’ll soon be launching a page dedicated to lawyers in the lateral market, as well as resources for those in other career paths outside of Biglaw. As more people fill out surveys, we’ll be able to construct profiles for more firms. And yes, eventually we will have letter grades for law schools as well as law firms — and that won’t be controversial at all!

The Career Center will grow and evolve over time, and we welcome your suggestions for adding to and improving it. If you have recommendations, questions, or concerns, you can reach the Career Center team by email: careers@abovethelaw.com.

It’s an exciting time here at Above the Law, and we hope you’ll take advantage of these new offerings. In today’s fast-moving and challenging world, information is king — and we want you to have access to all of it.

Law Student Career Center [Above the Law Career Center]
Law Firm Directory [Above the Law Career Center]

Lately, it seems that all of the regular legal media outlets have turned an eye toward women and their success in the profession. For example, earlier this week, we discussed whether women will ever be able to close the gender gap in Biglaw equity partnership ranks. Now, we’re faced with another “important” question: can older career women sport longer hairstyles?

According to some, such a look isn’t considered age-appropriate for the office. In fact, you could end up looking “rather sad and dated,” which may have an impact on your legal career. But then again, the National Law Journal’s survey on women who make partner didn’t include a question about the length of partnership candidates’ hair. Because at the end of the day, who cares? If a woman is great at her job, then the length of her hair shouldn’t matter.

Why can’t older women be successful and feminine at the same time?

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We’ve done some hiring recently, and people seem to have three types of résumés.

Some résumés start with an “Executive Summary” that consists largely of the applicant explaining that the applicant believes that he (or she) is a great guy (or gal). I’m not quite sure how that distinguishes the applicant from the seven billion other folks who share this planet with us:

“A fast-paced, fast-track, high-falutin’ individual with exceptional interpersonal, communication, and persuasive skills, as well as boyish good looks and a toothy grin; who leads by example and coaches and develops others to deliver high performance; blah, blah, blah.”

To my eye, this is “telling, not showing.” You think you’re great? Wonderful. But, other than your own say-so, is there anything about you that might objectively indicate that you’re correct? Have you ever, for example, achieved something that’s worth talking about? If so, perhaps your résumé should find an excuse to lead with that.

Other résumés also start with an “Executive Summary,” but of a different type . . .

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There have lately been a flurry of articles, blog columns, and opinions strewn about whether a woman can have a baby and run a corporation. Filtered down to a finer point, especially relevant to this site, is whether lawyers can have it all. The answer, in my opinion, is no. A distilled or altered sense of “all” perhaps, but truly having it all, where you commit fully to your work and home life? Not so much. And to commit the foul of using lawyer “weasel words” — it depends.

When I am asked for advice from folks who read this column, or others practicing law or about to, I usually begin by assessing where that person is in life….

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There are wiser career moves than suing the U.S. Marshals.

Do you remember Benula Bensam? You probably don’t. She was the student at Cardozo Law School who spent part of her summer watching the Rajat Gupta trial. She was reprimanded for sending notes to Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.), including some that questioned Rakoff’s rulings. Such behavior could be seen as an attempt to improperly influence a judge, and so Rakoff had the U.S. Marshals bring her before him, and he told her to cut it out.

Yeah, you remember her now. It was a humorous story about a law student who was maybe a little bit overzealous.

But now Bensam is taking things to the next level. Instead of quietly learning her lesson and getting ready for next semester, the Cardozo student has decided to sue a whole slew of people. She claims that U.S. Marshals didn’t return her cell phone — before they returned her cell phone — and so she’s suing the Marshals, courthouse security, the U.S. Attorney for the S.D.N.Y., and several other defendants. In the process of suing, she’s also revealing how she had what I’d call a bit of a nutty outside the courthouse.

This complaint is just going to do wonders for her Google footprint….

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Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, they are collected here.

With summer in full swing, and my column approaching its two-month anniversary, I thought it might be a good time to go through the mailbag. One of the main reasons I wanted to do this column was the opportunity to discuss the practice of law in Biglaw with people other than immediate colleagues and friends. Expand my horizons and all that.

Well, on that front, the readership has obliged, and I am grateful. So please continue sending me emails with column ideas and questions. I am pretty prompt in responding to email-based questions, even as I wish there was more time to talk through issues. (Reader comments, while at times helpful, frightening, and funny, will have to be a one-way interaction — mostly because of time constraints.)

Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the messages I have gotten so far (with identifying information masked to protect the senders), and my general thoughts regarding the issues raised within….

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