Career Advice

Despite surveys showing that being a law firm associate is the unhappiest job in America, we know a fair number of happy lawyers. We don’t tend to write about them very much — we like our stories to have a little more bite or edge around here — but there is such a thing as a happy lawyer (affiliate link).

Still, there’s no denying that the stereotype of the miserable lawyer has some truth to it — and that, after a while, some of these lawyers leave the legal profession. Most people who go to medical school end up practicing medicine for the long haul; many people who go to law school end up doing something different after a while.

If you’re thinking of leaving the law, what should you do?

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Whether you practice in Biglaw or a boutique, knowing how to email is a critical skill. In fact, the quality of a lawyer’s emails are among the best indicators of their future career prospects, excepting those fortunate to be born with a guaranteed multimillion-dollar book of business through family connections. That should not be a surprise, considering how email is the single most used form of communication for lawyers. Yes, technology has liberated us from a full day’s work (with the help of a secretary) in order to prepare what would now be considered a routine client communication in the form of a fancy letter. But the need for a similar level of care in preparing today’s written communications has not changed. Show me an associate’s emails, and I (along with other former or current Biglaw partners) will have a very respectable success rate in guessing whether or not they are partnership material, even in the absence of other information about the author.

I have sent many thousands of emails in my legal career. I do not even know how many of them would even have been considered “good” emails. I’d like to think that most of them were. I was fortunate, since I worked for a partner who stressed to me early on the importance of sending “good” emails.

What is a “good” email?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Beyond Biglaw: 4 Tips For Writing Good Emails”

Stacy Slotnick aka The Foxy Jurist

In a Huffington Post op-ed, Redefining the Female Lawyer’s Uniform, Stacy Slotnick, an entertainment lawyer and founder of the Foxy Jurist, argues that lawyers should add some color to their courtroom arguments. Literally.

Slotnick isn’t talking about injecting imagery into an opening statement or pounding on the witness box to punctuate an argument or adopting a dramatic whisper to attract the jury’s attention. Instead, Slotnick implores female lawyers to cast aside their bland Gray Lady and Black Widow personas and embrace the hot pink of Legally Blonde. Or as Helen Reddy might sing, women lawyers should go from I am Woman, Hear Me Bore to I am Woman, Hear Me Roar!

Slotnick has some colorful words for colorless dressers:

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It turns out that the Office of Career Services at Harvard Law School has been sending out weekly tips to the hordes of HLS summer associates working around the country. Because it’s Harvard, most of the tips are in Latin and can only be read with the special Crimson decoder ring every HLS student gets along with President Obama’s cell phone number and some lembas bread.

Just kidding… lembas bread isn’t real.

The tips themselves aren’t earth-shattering, they’re standard career-services speak that are useful only if you find the maxim “don’t be a f**king tool” lacking in specificity. But the progression of the tips, now that is fantastic. In a way, the tips kind of follow the life cycle of an ivory-tower babe who is thrust into the real world. Let’s take a look at how Harvard wants its students to approach their summers…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “10 Summer Associate Tips From Harvard Law Perfectly Sum Up Harvard Law”

The traditional arguments against going to law school are: (1) there are too many lawyers and not enough jobs; (2) tuition and student loan debts are too damn high; (3) the high-paying or high-powered jobs are available only to the top students of the top schools; and (4) most “JD Advantage” jobs could have been obtained without a law degree.

The typical response to the above is something along the lines of, “That won’t apply to be because I’m going to put in the work and be one of the top students.” Now those of us who lived through law school might find this amusing and even ridiculous. But we can’t really blame them for their determination. We were their age once. Back then, the world was a playground and full of opportunities. If 0Ls today know all of the risks and can obtain a decent scholarship at least for the 1L year, then they should take a shot and see where they fall on the bell curve.

Today, I am going to talk about a few issues regarding law school and law practice that have not been discussed (at least extensively) amongst the law school critics. The issues apply to most students (even the top students) of almost every law school….

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Ed note: Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep, featuring live LSAT classes across the country and the online LSAT course Blueprint: The Movie — which are now open for enrollment for the 2014 September LSAT.

Taking the LSAT has apparently gone out of style. LSAC just released the numbers from the June 2014 LSAT, and only 21,802 law school hopefuls took the test. That’s down 9.1% from June of last year, and down 33.9% from the June LSAT’s peak in 2010. The last time so few took the June LSAT, Bill Clinton was president and Beyoncé was known primarily as a member of Destiny’s Child.

The continued decline in the number of LSAT takers is good news for aspiring lawyers as it’s likely that the number of law school applicants will similarly continue to decline. That, in turn, means less competition in law school admissions. Perhaps more importantly, there’s likely to be less competition for legal jobs in a few years, as that decline in law school applicants translates into fewer law school graduates.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Keith Lee

Yesterday I went for a run, my usual 5k. I had given some thought to going farther than normal but when I got to the point where I could keep going, the trail crossing over the creek was flooded. I was stymied. Guess I’ll be sticking to 5k. Time to turn around.

I made it two steps before I stopped. Was I really going to let some water stop me from pushing myself? Give up at the first obstacle I came across? I pivoted and made my way through the woods away from the trail and towards the road.

I had to run a few blocks on the road away from my usual route to get to a different bridge over the creek. Then back to the trail and on my way — 10k instead of 5. Double my regular run. My lungs burned, legs tired. I felt great. And I almost didn’t do it because there was a trickle of water in my way….

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With the number of LSAT takers dropping yet again, the law school class of 2017 is likely to reach a similar low. And there is no indication that the application freefall has stabilized. Regardless, just about everyone (except for this guy) agrees that law school is still either an extremely risky gamble or a complete a waste of time and money.

But for those who are determined to go to law school no matter what any rational, non-biased individual says, I want to help make your dream come true. So while I am waiting for future job interviews, I am going to again interrupt my Back In The Race programming to give the future lawyers some advice that I wish someone had given me when I was an idealistic pre-law student. This is not a joke. Nor am I going to use a clever pitch like “Yale or Fail.”

The next few weeks should be spent taking some proactive and reflective steps to ensure that you will attend the right school and leave with minimal debt. Keep reading to figure out how….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Go To Law School — Seriously. Just Do A Few Things First.”

I never heard these words before I went in-house: “If you send something to a person above me in the hierarchy, then send a copy to me, too.”

Now I hear (or speak) those words all the time. And those instructions seem pretty easy to grasp.

Remarkably, a fair number of people don’t seem to understand what those words mean.

I offer this column for the benefit of in-house newbies, and in-house oldbies who don’t understand, and lawyers at firms who might want to consider whether these instructions make sense at law firms, too.

If you’re sending something to someone above me in the hierarchy, then send a copy to me, too.

Why?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If It Goes To People Above Me, Then It Goes To Me, Too”

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 for law school applicants.

Non-traditional applicants to law school face different barriers to admission and have different concerns regarding school choice, finances, and post-graduation career options than their counterparts who attend law school directly (or within a year or two) of graduating from college.

Three recent law school graduates who fit this mold when they applied took the time to share their thoughts and perspectives in order to benefit future applicants. One graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law in his mid-40s (Scott), one graduated from Notre Dame with a JD/MBA after serving in the military (Todd), and one attended Western New England after 20+ years as a paralegal and office manager for a large law firm (Susan).

1. What were some of your concerns applying to law school as a non-traditional applicant? What were some challenges you faced because you were not right out of college?

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

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