Alison Monahan

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 provides some practical advice for the new year.

It’s January, so we must reflect and resolve, right? Well, I’ve never been one for resolutions (just do it, don’t talk about it), but the beginning of a new year is a good time to examine recent history and identify “areas of potential growth,” shall we call them.

When I think about what I’ve been most surprised about in the 2+ years since I started The Girl’s Guide to Law School, one key thing stands out: The remarkable lack of urgency that many law students and young lawyers seem to feel about shaping their lives and their careers.

Before you get all offended, let me be clear. I’m not saying you’re lazy. I’m not saying you don’t spend a lot of time studying in the library. But — and I have to be honest here — there is an odd lack of gumption, of hustle, that permeates many of the interactions I have with law students and new lawyers.

A few examples…

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, Alison Monahan looks at the pros and cons of joining a study group.

If you’re in law school, you’re eventually going to have a really bad exam experience.

I’m not talking about the normal “this is pretty un-fun” experience that is every exam — but one of those really horrible, terrible, awful exams. Maybe you studied all the wrong topics, or the proctor gave out the wrong questions (happens), or you got sick, or had a meltdown, or didn’t sleep the night before, or overslept, or whatever.

But you’re eventually going to walk out going, “WTF just happened?!?”

If this is your final exam, so be it. You can wallow for the entire Winter Break if you like.

But what if you’ve got other exams to get ready for? You don’t have the luxury of wallowing, so here are a few tips to help you recover from a terrible exam experience and get ready to study again.

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 looks at the pros and cons of joining a study group.

My first week of law school, I heard a rumor (which I’m pretty sure was true) that one of my classmates was forming a study group. Great, right? What’s not to like? However, this study group was special — you could only join if you’d gone to Harvard for undergrad!

After I finished cracking up (particularly since this story was conveyed to me by a Yale undergrad), I decided to stay away from study groups, if this is what they were about.

Was that a good decision? Maybe not….

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 for new law students.

There’s a ton of (virtual) ink being spilled these days over what to do as a new law student. Everything from “buy all your books and read ahead” to “hire a tutor to explain the Rule Against Perpetuities.” (I only wish I was making that last one up. For the record, don’t do it.)

Since I don’t like to be boring, here are a few less obvious things you can do, to make your life easier and better later on. Trust me, I learned most of these the hard way!

1. Set up automated backups on your laptop. Seriously, if you only do one thing before law school starts, do this. Have you ever lost years of work in a hard drive crash? It’s a nightmare. Imagine you’re a week from exams, and your computer dies, taking EVERYTHING you worked on all semester with it. DO NOT let this happen to you. Go to Dropbox right now, and sign up for the free version. Make a folder called “Law School” and add it to your Dropbox. Save every file you create in law school there. Presto, problem solved. You can thank me later. (I don’t care if you use Dropbox, but it is really easy. Use whatever you like, but do something. I’m paranoid enough now that I back up to Dropbox and to an external hard drive, but that’s probably overkill.)

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…

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 future and current lawyers on what they should be reading this summer.

Looking for some summer reading? Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (affiliate link) is short enough to read in a few hours as you lounge in a hammock, but has enough heft to keep you thinking for much longer.

Who Should Read This Book?

Whether you’re considering applying to law school, you’re starting soon, you’re currently in law school, or you’ve already graduated, Tomorrow’s Lawyers is a must-read.

So, pretty much, it’s a must-read for anyone who’s in the legal profession currently, or who’s thinking about joining.

Why? Because Richard Susskind has written a short, readable introduction to the many challenges and opportunities the profession will face in the next 30 years (aka, the length of your legal career). Ignore him at your peril….

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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, Alison Monahan shares some practical advice with associates.

When you show up for work at a law firm, you realize pretty quickly that there’s a lot to learn. Some things people will tell you, but there’s a lot of stuff no one’s going to tell you. Having been on both sides of the equation (as the one screwing things up, and the one getting annoyed with more junior people making my life difficult), here are a few things I learned along the way.

Ten Rules of Thumb for Law Firm Success

1. Don’t bring cases from the wrong jurisdiction. You remember Erie, right? If not, it’s time to review. There is very little that’s more annoying than giving a junior lawyer an assignment to find some case law, and having them come back with a state case, when you need a federal case, or vice versa. It’s one of those situations where you, as the assigning attorney, feel really confused. Did they not understand the assignment? Did they sleep through Civ Pro? Or do they just not care? None of these thoughts make me like you, or want to work with you again. Be sure you understand what you’re looking for, and resist the temptation to bring an irrelevant case, because you can’t find a relevant one.

2. On that note, no one cares how much effort you exerted. If you can’t find a case on point, just say that! If I ask what steps you took to search, feel free to tell me — in detail — so I won’t replicate your work. But do not go on about how many hours you spent, or how hard you looked. I don’t care. It’s nothing personal, I’m sure you’re doing the best you can. But, if you can’t find what I need, I’ll have to find it myself, so it’s best just to give me the bad news, and get out of the way.

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 offers advice to the bosses of new lawyers.

After writing a few pieces advising young lawyers how to start off on the right foot in their new jobs, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to look at the question from the other angle: If you’re supervising a young lawyer (or a law student in a summer job), what can you do to help ensure a smooth transition?

Here’s some advice for the care and feeding of young lawyers (and lawyers-to-be)….

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The end is in sight for our long national nightmare. Starting in 2014, the NCAA will institute a four-team playoff to crown the national college football champion. The 14-year reign of the BCS will be looked back upon as a time of national unity: everyone thought the system was horrible. Even President Obama decried the system on the campaign trail . The BCS has been described as anything from a “horrible Jenga tower of bad arguments” to a “broken, failed, even corrupt enterprise.” Oh wait, that second quote is from a blurb for Brian Tamanaha’s recent book Failing Law Schools. But of course there is an important parallel between the BCS and the legal education industry: they have few defenders outside their own walls. The soon-to-be obsolete BCS system is only considered successful by those with a financial stake in the status quo. As for our current model of legal education, efforts to defend its value from the inside have not been well received, to put it mildly. But there’s an important difference between the BCS and legal academia. The BCS has shown a willingness to adapt and transform itself in the face of widespread and well-founded criticism.

Anyway, as even casual football fans know, a college team’s prospects are highly correlated with how the students at its affiliated law school rate their experiences. (Ed. note: this is untrue). So, after the jump, let’s have a look at how the law schools for the BCS bowl schools match up.

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Law students react to op-ed in the New York Times.

Yesterday, we discussed a New York Times op-ed, “Law School Is Worth the Money,” by Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Mitchell has been slammed — by me, by Professor Paul Campos, by Alison Monahan, and by many others. If you’ve been looking seriously at the state of legal education, it wasn’t hard to eviscerate Mitchell’s arguments.

But Mitchell seems to believe that looking critically at the value proposition of legal education is a media-driven phenomenon. As he wrote in his op-ed, “For at least two years, the popular press, bloggers and a few sensationalist law professors have turned American law schools into the new investment banks.”

It seems that Mitchell has forgotten about the students. Bloggers and law professors don’t really have any skin in this game. But actual students feel like law school deans have taken advantage of them, and telling them “everything is okay here” isn’t a winning argument.

These kids are tired of law deans, like Mitchell, who continue to act like law schools can keep doing what they’re doing while recent graduates don’t have jobs and are crushed under a mountain of debt. They’re really sick of the subtle implication that they only reason the “great deal” of law school didn’t work out for them was that they were “lazy” or somehow undeserving.

In short, they are sick and tired of the very kind of arguments Mitchell made in the New York Times — and yesterday they spoke out about it, loudly….

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