Career Advice

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Debra M. Strauss, Associate Professor of Business Law at Fairfield University, offers helpful tips for landing a judicial clerkship.

You may be panicking now that that the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan appears to be in its state of demise. But this is not the first effort or the last to put some control on the timing of judicial clerkship applications! That’s why I gave the entire historical context in my book — Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships — knowing that the “new” timing guidelines might not endure but would be likely to suffer the same fate as previous initiatives. To help you understand where we are now, it is important to know a bit of the background that preceded the latest Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan. In addition, here’s some valuable advice I gave students the last time there were no timing guidelines to make the best of the situation.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Last week we took a look at how Biglaw’s litigation departments stack up against one another in terms of compensation, training, firm morale, hours, and culture.

Today, we turn toward the other major category of Biglaw practitioners: corporate/transactional attorneys. Unlike litigators, about whom the public at least has some notion, however distorted, of what they do, most people have no clue what corporate lawyers are up to. No young person daydreams about “facilitating a business transaction,” while there are some who aspire to argue in a courtroom. As noted last week, this litigation/corporate information imbalance is reinforced by the law school curriculum, which remains largely beholden to the case method of instruction.

When comparing the experiences of corporate lawyers versus litigators, there is a familiar litany of pro and cons:

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As we have discussed the past two weeks, Biglaw business development is not easy. The available flavors at the Biglaw business development ice cream stand are hardest (cold calls), harder (intra-firm networking and beauty contests), and plain old hard. As in turning referrals and unsolicited contacts from prospective clients into engagements. That is hard to do, but nowhere near as difficult as trying to land the matter when the prospective client has not invested in contacting you beforehand, or at least heard about you from a source that they trust. There is a reason rainmakers take the largest share of the Biglaw pie, even at white-shoe lockstep firms.

Getting other lawyers to refer you matters, even from within your own firm, is hard. The foundation one needs to generate referrals is the exact same one that is required to have success generating business through other methods. But there is an extra ingredient, or at least a greater emphasis on a particular ingredient, that needs to be there if you hope to get referrals. That ingredient? Let’s call it likability. No matter how skilled a lawyer you are, or how hallowed your reputation, you simply must be likable in order to generate referrals. Of course, the definition of likability becomes quite a bit more expansive when applied to lawyers considered at the top of their fields. Simply put, the person referring you has to feel good about making the referral, and they are much more likely to feel good if they consider you an agreeable person, at least to do business with.

Unsurprisingly, the definition of likability in the Biglaw context is quite different from the standards we normally apply when talking about the real world. For those who like analogies, consider that Biglaw likability is to indisputable real-world likability as Biglaw “hot” is to indisputable real-world hotness….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw Business Development (Part 3) — The Hard Way”

If you can’t see it in the eyes, then I can’t help you.

Don’t date people you work with. Don’t date people you might work with. Don’t date people you are interviewing. Don’t date people you don’t technically work with, but who work for the same company as you do. Don’t date people who you have to see every day on your way to work. Don’t try to get your date a job at your company. Don’t date people who have dated other people at your company. DON’T S**T WHERE YOU EAT!

Why? Because when (not if) it ends, it’s going to end badly. One of you is going to have to quit. And that’s assuming that both of you are reasonable adults. God forbid if one of you happens to be a crazy person. Then, you’re just going to end up with a shattered windshield and a legitimate concern that you need to find a new job for the summer.

Like this guy…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Recruiter You Dated At Your Firm Turns Out To Be Crazy, Now What?”

I typically limit myself to one rant per column; today, I’m letting fly with two.

My first (narrow) rant is aimed at the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio: Hey, guys, have you heard? It’s the 21st century!

I have the misfortune to live overseas (in London) while maintaining licenses to practice law in three states — California, Illinois, and Ohio. California and Illinois give continuing legal education credit for courses taken by webinar, which seems entirely reasonable in today’s world. Ohio alone opts against reason; for standard CLE credits (as opposed to self-study or publication credits), you must attend a CLE class in person. Riddle me this: Where do you find a live, in-person CLE class in London, England, that’s approved for Ohio CLE credit?

When I was recently back in the states, I was forced to endure 2 1/2 consecutive days of live CLE courses, which will keep me in the Ohio bar’s good graces for the next couple of years. But now I’m throwing down the gauntlet, Ohio: I’m not doing this again in 2015! Give CLE credit for webinars, or I’ll go inactive in Ohio, survive on my California and Illinois licenses, and you’ll be out the $350 registration fee! Not only that — I’ll lobby every other similarly situated person to do the same! It’ll cost you millions! (Shhhh! Please don’t tell the folks at the Ohio bar that I’m probably rallying a group of one: All lawyers licensed in both Ohio and another state — so they can go inactive in Ohio and keep on practicing — while living overseas. If I don’t tell the Ohio bar folks and you don’t tell ‘em, they’ll probably never figure it out. After all, these are the clowns who didn’t think to give CLE credit for webinars.)

But that’s all process; now I’m moving on to substance. The CLE presentations themselves provoke today’s second rant. What mistake, I ask you, do you see made by just about everyone who teaches CLE courses (or, indeed, gives any presentations to live audiences)? More to the point, how can you avoid embarrassing yourself publicly when you speak?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Gary Luftspring, managing partner at Ricketts, Harris LLP, enjoys a high-level litigation practice. He’s successfully represented clients in a significant and growing number of major cases and was named by Lexpert as a litigator who is “consistently recommended.” Read his full bio here.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The ATL Interrogatories: 10 Questions with Gary Luftspring from Ricketts, Harris LLP”

Last week we discussed the high-risk, high-reward approach of making cold calls to develop business. Because of the low percentage of success even the most personable and sales-skilled Biglaw lawyers have when adopting that approach, any business development effort that relies on cold-calling exclusively is almost impossible to sustain in a Biglaw setting. And there is a valid argument that one does not really need Biglaw if they are able to establish a strong track record developing business through cold calls. In fact, the successful legal “cold-caller” would likely thrive without the artificial constraints the Biglaw business model (e.g., rates, types of matters) places on its partners. Again though, it is the rare Biglaw attorney who generates a single matter via a “cold call” (or a single new client for their firm actually), and rarer still to find one capable of doing it with enough regularity as to sustain a Biglaw career.

So while trying a cold call on occasion is an important element of a comprehensive business development approach, you need to “work” the resources of your firm to try and generate business. That means selling yourself to existing firm clients, participating in client pitches for new business that are generated by the firm, and making a good impression on your colleagues. The latter is important, because you never know which of your colleagues will go in-house and be in a position to give you work down the road. In many ways, trying to use your firm’s resources for business development is the traditional Biglaw approach to business development. As the contracting ranks of Biglaw equity partners suggest, it is a hard way of generating business — and getting harder…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw Business Development (Part 2) — The Harder Way”

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Philip Segal reveals two tips that will help new associates keep their jobs longer.

While there are plenty of things they don’t teach in law school on the theory that “you’ll learn it on the job,” two of those omitted subjects would help new lawyers do a better job and probably hold on to a job longer.

The two are: how to find simple facts and how to bring in business.

Litigators don’t get the go-ahead to sue unless their clients are convinced that the other side has enough assets to make it worth the cost of litigation. Litigators, family lawyers, and many others often have basic factual questions, but law school does little to prepare you to find out:

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This post is sponsored by NexFirm. At NexFirm, we see dozens of new firms launch each year, and we seem to bond with both the people and the practice every time around. Their accomplishments feel like our success, and their disappointments, our failures. It makes for a great professional relationship, but it can also be painful when we see them repeat the same, predictable, new firm mistakes — especially ones that can be avoided with some guidance and forethought.

Attorneys who are launching their own firms tend to wring their hands over every small decision and miss the big picture. You feel overwhelmed, so you want to work feverishly to tackle your to-do list. After a long day full of “doing” without much “thinking,” you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s crucial to be thoughtful about the big things, set time aside to think about them, and treat them like the other action items on your list.

Start with these, the low hanging (albeit important) fruit:

1. Leave, Don’t Quit.

Focused on the unpleasant task of giving notice, worrying that you might piss someone off or — worse yet — be impeded from transitioning matters, you can easily miss the best marketing opportunity you will ever get. Use your resignation to ask your employer to give you business. Beg them, guilt them, scare them, do whatever you need to do, but make it happen. There is no one that knows you and your work better. If you can’t convince them to help you, in at least some small way, you are in trouble…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “10 Things You Are Screwing Up While You Are Worrying About The Little Things”

This is a Biglaw fashion don’t.

Day in and day out, the demands associated with Biglaw grind people up and lay waste to the hopes and dreams that many once had about what it would be like to work as a high-powered attorney. And more often than not, it is the men who are in charge of this “all work, no play” carnival of tortured souls.

From origination credit to salary wars to leadership opportunities, it is usually the men who are accused of pushing women two steps back in the Biglaw regime. But today, we’ve got insider information on some alleged woman-on-woman crime. This time, it is the women who are ripping their female colleagues to shreds. And it’s not just any women; no, it’s the members of the firm’s Women’s Committee who are doing the damage, and trust us when we say that these cats have claws.

Brought to you by the same firm that produced the departure memo seen ’round the world, we now present to you what may be one of the most sexist Biglaw memos we’ve ever seen….

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