Last week’s column discussed the underappreciated role that second chairs play in modern litigation practice. But how best to fill the role, once it is earned?
The easy answer is fanatical preparation. Meaning you will need to prepare for every hearing, no matter how minor, as if you were going to be handling the argument yourself. Or if you are at trial, and supporting another lawyer on the testimony (be it direct or cross) of a witness, preparing as if you were conducting the examination. Apply the “laryngitis test” if you need motivation, as in what would you do if the first chair woke up that morning without a voice? Knowing that you could be thrust into the spotlight on short notice should be motivation enough for thorough preparation.
But you also need to put that preparation to good use. Arguing in open court is difficult, for even the most seasoned advocates. If you are being asked to sit at counsel table, the idea is not for you to admire the wood paneling in the courtroom. The expectation is that you will put your knowledge of the case to work, by anticipating the flow of the argument, and making sure that whoever is arguing has any needed information readily available for immediate use. When your partner is speaking, that means keeping track of whether they will need to refer to a document along the way. Or whether they have forgotten to raise an important point. For that latter reason, working out a non-intrusive note passing system in advance can be worthwhile. The key is not to disturb the flow of the argument, but to enhance its effectiveness. If you have nothing to contribute, you should not be sitting there wasting the client’s money. The need to be “active” does not give license to hijack the hearing or cause distraction, of course. Engaged listening at all times and sparing active participation are the better approach in almost all cases.
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, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips on proper decorum for recruiting events.
‘Tis the season for LSAC Recruitment Forums and on-campus law school fairs. These are great opportunities for law schools to recruit applicants, but they can also be great opportunities for law school applicants to get a jump up on the competition. Here are some things you can do when interacting with law schools at recruiting events:
1. Do your research ahead of time. Know which schools you hope to target and have specific questions ready. Great questions include how to arrange a campus visit, how many students specialize in an area that you are interested in (some interest/faculty support is good, too much competition is not so good), the attrition rate (how many people transfer versus stay at the school after the first year), and other information that you may not be able to find so easily on the school website. Stay away from things that should be obvious from the website like median LSAT scores, etc.
One of the first realities that new lawyers come to confront as they graduate law school — whether it be on their own or within a firm — is that clients are the life blood of practice. No clients, no practice.
This often comes as a surprise to new lawyers. Despite the the glut of lawyers, declining legal industry, and overall economic malaise, many new lawyers still think that clients will magically appear once they have received their J.D. and passed the bar. A few months into practice, they are quickly dissuaded of this notion.
Instead, they learn that clients must be developed or found.
Good luck to all of our readers who are now going through the on-campus interview process for 2015 summer associate positions. We’re sure that, armed with Anonymous Recruitment Director’s 8 tips for OCI, you are racking up offers left and right.
Once you have the offers, how do you decide between them? How do you weigh, for example, overall prestige versus strength in a specific practice area?
Another law school year is almost upon us. Whether strolling into law school for the first time still filled with wide-eyed optimism or returning from a summer job to kill more time and rack up more debt, every student must resupply for the impending school year. Sure, for returning students, you’ve made it through at least one year of school so some of this is old hat. That said, you undoubtedly did something wrong and you’re now flush with cash from your summer job so it’s time to go shopping.
Meanwhile, for 1Ls, obviously if you’ve made it this far in life you have at least some clue. Or think you do. There are essentials from high school and college that will serve a law student just as well. But law school is riddled with its own unique quirks that require a different set of tools.
What’s the appropriate gear for law school? Well, you’re lucky Skippy because ATL has you covered. Here’s a rundown of exactly what you need to buy for law school….
There are certain legal skills of critical importance that receive the same level of attention as a mid-summer pilot for a sitcom not expected to make it to the fall slate. In fact, there is usually a disconnect, particularly in Biglaw, between what is “taught” and what lawyers really need to learn as they develop. A recent anniversary of sorts reminded me of an example. Let’s discuss the notably unglamorous, but often critically important, role of “second chair” at a hearing or trial.
For the uninitiated, the typical hierarchy on a litigation matter for lawyers is support (faceless associate research drones), team member (associate or higher who is “on the case” but may not even get to sit at counsel table), second chair (trusty lieutenant, perhaps content in the role, or perhaps gunning for more), and first chair (field marshal winning the war and the peace on behalf of a grateful if lighter-pocketed client.)
August is the anniversary of my first patent trial, well over a decade ago….
It’s that time of the year when law students should start preparing for on-campus interviews. They’re straightforward, right? Wrong. ATL’s recruiting experts have designed this challenge to help you determine whether you really know how to nail the interview. Take the On-Campus Interviewing for Law Firms challenge and find out if you are truly ready for OCI season.
(This challenge is brought to you in partnership with our friends at CredSpark.)
A full house for last week’s in-house counsel panel at Betterment.
Last week, Betterment and Above the Law hosted a great panel discussion about working as an in-house lawyer at a relatively young company. The event, hosted at Betterment’s spacious and airy offices in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood, drew a standing-room-only crowd of around 200 people.
How can you get a job as an in-house lawyer for a startup? And what’s life like once you’re there?
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Adam R. Banner explains how the bar exam is a microcosm for legal practice as a whole.
Just took your state’s bar exam? Good Luck.
I remember hearing that same ominous warning from many of the attorneys in my community directly after taking the Oklahoma bar exam. Now, I wasn’t TOO worried about my prospects for future employment. I was already set on hanging my own shingle, and I was full of naivety with a dash of piss and vinegar. I had practiced (with a limited license) through the local public defender’s office, and I had a part-time gig interning for another solo practitioner. I chose this set-up to help pay my way through school, but also to gain any type of experience I could since I only really knew two things in law school: criminal procedure, and the fact that I needed some courtroom experience and some small-business guidance. I was lucky enough to get both.
That isn’t the case for everyone. I distinctly remember one of my buddies (a fellow class mate) walking up to me a few days before graduation and asking me if I knew of any places that were hiring associates. I didn’t, so I asked him if he was interning anywhere.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
For senior associates up for partner, firms have become increasingly focused on business potential and less so on an associate’s ability to outclass others in the courtroom or at the negotiating table.
In the days of yore, the partner track in Biglaw was oftentimes a reward for consistent competence and professionalism. In an era of PPP and RPL, most firms (other than the Cravath, Quinn, or Simpson Thacher types) are less likely to promote associates unless they see real revenue-generating potential.
If you find yourself in your fifth to tenth year and are unsure whether you will make partner, here are four steps to help you steer your career…