Career Advice

Beyond BiglawThere are a lot of ways to measure success as an attorney. Many of the ways lawyers measure their own successes are backwards-looking. Whether focusing on past educational accomplishments or big deals or cases they have participated in, lawyers love to focus on what they have done.

There is nothing wrong with that, unless it prevents someone from focusing on what truly is important: the present. And for practicing lawyers, and those who intend to keep on practicing, there is only one question relating to the present that matters: “Who thinks of me as their lawyer?”

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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, Ariel Salzer offers advice to overwhelmed law students.

When I tell students that I took almost every Saturday off during my first semester of law school and still did well, their incredulity is palpable. It’s not because this is some huge, amazing accomplishment on my part, because it’s not. It’s one day off! I think it’s because, as law students, we are indoctrinated to believe that we need to study all the time. A minute off is a minute wasted. It’s one more opportunity for our classmates to lunge ahead in the great race.

In other grad school programs, doing something like taking a day off each week (gasp!) would not be considered teetering on the brink of insanity. For some reason, though, the minute we get those crisp acceptance letters, buy those books that cost half our rent money, and buckle down to get As at all costs, our common sense tends to go out the window.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Ryan Belville is the Principal for Lateral Link’s New York office, where he oversees attorney placements and client services. Ryan also establishes and maintains relationships with new employers in need of attorney placement services on a national level. Before joining Lateral Link, he practiced litigation for several years and then became a legal recruiter in New York in 2004. In 2007, Ryan joined Lateral Link as a Director, and worked both the New York and California markets before being promoted to Managing Director in 2012. Ryan holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, where he attended the Honors College, and a J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School.

It seems that there are few more dreaded tasks for junior associates than creating a résumé from scratch, or even updating an outdated version. However unpleasant, it is critical: a résumé is your 30-second “pitch” to a Partner that will make or break your chances to land that coveted interview. Given the ultra-competitive environment that is today’s lateral market, the importance of presenting a clean, effective résumé is paramount. Here are ten guiding principles and tips- they ought to save you some time and make your résumé stand out as truly interview-worthy…

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Keith Lee

The first step in putting yourself out there is knowing what you are about. You absolutely need to be able to present who you are to people in a simple, cohesive fashion. Otherwise, it can be difficult to make connections with people.

If you are stumbling on who you are or what you do, people lose interest. You need to be able to simply, and quickly, tell a story about who you are. Something that communicates what you are about — as a person and as a professional. You need to be able to express your personal narrative.

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In my line of work, I sometimes end up as a career counselor of sorts. People talk to me about what’s going on at their law school or law firm and ask me for advice about what to do.

I recently had occasion to speak with a lawyer who was laid off by his Biglaw firm. He remains on the website, but he hasn’t been to the office in months; that was part of the deal they negotiated with issued to him. He has been looking for a new job for months but has been having difficulty. He blames this in part on a lack of specialization — he’s a generalist, not really marketable as an expert in a particular type of litigation or transaction.

This reminded me of a chat I was having with an old friend from my high school debate days, who has found great professional success in a focused practice area. I contacted him again and our chat turned into a full-blown interview about how to become (and remain) a partner at a major law firm by establishing expertise in a particular field of substantive law.

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A few weeks into my new contract job, things got extremely busy. A few of the partners assigned additional work to me, and I see 12-hour days coming in the near future. And when I am done there, I have to go back home to work on my own client files. Unread letters and email are piling up on my desk, and it is getting harder to respond to phone calls quickly. I needed to do something to reduce the workload. And I sure as heck am not going to tell the partners that I’m too busy with my own work.

Over the weekend, as I was reviewing my notes and preparing billing statements to my clients, I decided that some of them had to go. Some were not paying their bills as agreed on the attorney-client contract and giving me all kinds of excuses. Others were slow in giving me information and documents that I needed. And others had malignant personalities that I couldn’t stand. Like most unestablished solo practitioners and small firms, I previously had no choice but to be flexible and exercise temperance in these situations. But now I am in a position to fire them.

After the jump, I will tell a story about a client I recently fired, the reasons why, and how I ended the relationship. I was worried because of the things he could possibly do to me: a bar complaint, a malpractice lawsuit, or a negative online review. But I felt particularly bad about this because he was one of my very first clients and one of my strongest cheerleaders….

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Everything about 22 Reasons Why Going to Law School Is the Best Decision You’ll Ever Make is sublime. The article touches the face of God by slapping Him and then giving Him the finger. Imagine a defense of law school so bereft of substance that it actually exposes the cynical lie driving the law school-industrial complex. Truly a work of beauty.

Presumably trying to newsjack the success of How To Get Away With Murder (inaccurate though it may be), the venerable Huffington Post unleashed these 22 Reasons Why Going to Law School Is the Best Decision You’ll Ever Make upon the world. If we were trying, I’m pretty sure we can come up with 165K+ why it’s a bad one.

The story is written by Madison Rutherford, a senior in Journalism at San Francisco State. What does she know about the value of a law degree? Not much actually. And she’s graciously offered to show us how little she knows about law school in reader-friendly listicle format!

Join us then, as we review all 22 terrible reasons to go to law school….

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Here’s the rule: Make it perfect; then send it to me.

(Yeah, yeah: That’s a slight overstatement, and there might be occasional exceptions to the rule. But let’s explain the rule first, for the benefit of the slow students. We’ll teach the exceptions to the advanced students next semester.)

The old guy — the curmudgeon who’s heading up the team — has been playing this game for decades. He’s been marking up crappy drafts since before you were born. He’s been receiving bad drafts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday (“so that you can have the weekend to look at it”) since God was young. That crotchety old coot really, really, really is not interested in seeing more bad work. (Put yourself in his shoes for a minute: Why would he possibly want to see your appalling first draft?)

Make it perfect; then give it to him. Why should he bother looking at anything other than your best work?

That’s the rule. Here’s a corollary . . .

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Ed Sohn

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY and they meet at the bar.” – Drew Carey

You thought law school would be a good investment.  “Even if I don’t become a lawyer,” you proudly announced, “I will have many, many options.  A J.D., after all, is so valuable.”  When staring down a crushing mountain of student loans, you signed on the dotted line.  “Who can put a price on the doors a J.D. will open up for me?” If you knew this guy back then, you might have thought twice, but you didn’t.

Today, four, six, or ten years later, you spend late nights staring at your J.D. in its pristine frame, tears of rage streaming down your face.  “Where are MY DOORS??” you scream at it, sobbing into your sea of briefs or closing sets or brown liquor. Instead of doors, why are there enormous walls and sets of handcuffs (and not the good kind)? Why is it that you hate every job opening you might qualify for? I mean, you got your J.D., and you’re a grown-up lawyer who brilliantly catches typos.

I’m eight years out of law school and many of my classmates – including some of the gunnerest of gunners – are now in industries like legal technology, legal practice products, deal consulting, and law firm professional development. A director at a global fashion house in Latin America. A professional poker player. And my favorite: founding a service for renting gentlemen.

So how do you get from here to there?  How does a lawyer really stop being a practicing lawyer?

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Over the last few months, people have emailed me questions about my job search and for general advice. Unfortunately, I have not been able to answer all of them for various reasons. But now that my job search is on hold, I wanted to get back to everyone and possibly take this column into a new direction.

After the jump, I will answer some frequently asked questions about my future plans, and my difficulties in finding former solo practitioners willing to share their stories and impart their wisdom. I will also describe my plan to profile law firms that have hired underdog candidates with good results.

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