Career Advice

That law firms are all about talent is a commonplace. Too bad that so many lawyers seem to have an uncanny knack for knocking the wind out of the sails of the most spirited contributors.

I dare you to tell me that you don’t recognize at least a few colleagues who exhibit some of the behavior described in The Three Habits of Highly Effective Demotivators, just picked as one of the top posts of 2013 on Booz & Company’s “Strategy & Business” publication. If these colleagues are at your firm now, you know what to do; if they used to be at your firm and you took the necessary measures, congratulations. (Just be on alert that you may have to do it again.)

The author uses the example of a real, but disguised, high-tech startup in the academic sector, whose CEO—otherwise brilliant—was referred to internally, sotto voce, as “the DM,” standing for “the DeMotivator”:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Across the Desk: See Talent. Kill It.”

Laurence Tribe

* Great music can inform great persuasive speaking. That’s why Larry Tribe always cranks up YYZ on a loop when prepping for an appearance. [Katz Justice]

* If you’re a law student planning for your summer job, this is an absolutely can’t-miss guide. “Be Fashionably Late To Everything To Demonstrate Your Value.” If only this had been around when I was a tyke. [BigLaw Rebel]

* If you’re a 1L thinking about what to do this summer, consider applying for a 1L Diversity Fellowship at MoFo. Maybe don’t follow the last item’s advice if you go for this. [MoFo (disclosure: ATL advertiser)]

* The attorney for convicted Steubenville rapist Ma’lik Richmond probably should have just kept his mouth shut. [Jezebel]

* Who needs domestic surveillance when the next generation helpfully posts all their crimes online. [IT-Lex]

* With courts in Utah striking blows for gay marriage and tolerance of religious polygamy, Professor Edward Zelinsky asks if it may not be time to junk the whole civil marriage thing altogether. [Oxford University Press Blog]

* Congrats to Forbes’s 30 under 30 for law and policy. As Orin Kerr noted on Lat’s Facebook page, “I am looking forward to the Forbes ‘Top 10 Lawyers Under 10.’” [Forbes]

* This isn’t a law school, but this is probably what those deans did over the break. Video after the jump…. [TaxProf Blog]

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Keith Lee

A new year means new beginnings, new goals, new ideas. There is a desire to hit the reset button on well-tread patterns of behavior. This can often lead to uprooting worn methods of doing things and casting aside old habits. This can be just as true in a firm as it is in your personal life. Especially if you are new to a firm.

But of course, the problem is that law firms, big and small, are bastions of doing things “the way they’ve always been done.” Change is often not welcome. For example, look at the continuous stream of complaints about legal writing (Hereunto, wherefore, premises considered, three (3) forms…). If you’re a square peg, you’re going to be hammered into a round peg whether you like it or not. The same can be true for the manner in which matters are handled within your firm. Perhaps there is a set process for handling a routine matter, something that was put in place ten years ago and does not take advantage of modern workflow procedures. Coming in with a fresh set of eyes and understanding of computers and technology, perhaps you see a way in which to improve and build on it.

Or the firm uses a standard template for certain motions, or they give you a boilerplate contract for a certain type of real estate deal that they’ve done before. You look over the contract and find some arcane phrasing and a seemingly unnecessary clause. You see the incongruities and think you can fix them.

The problem is that you are likely falling victim to the fallacy of Chesterton’s fence….

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Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Gaston Kroub of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique here in New York. He’s writing about leaving a Biglaw partnership to start his own firm.

One of the criticisms leveled at Biglaw attorneys is that they do not have a lot of “real” experience — and as a result are somehow lesser lawyers. Biglaw litigators in particular are ripe targets for such remarks, even more so than their brethren in corporate, real estate, or tax. While it is often true that a Biglaw litigator will have much less trial experience or even “on their feet” courtroom experience than a criminal defense attorney, blunt attacks on a Biglaw litigator’s technical skills usually reflect more on the person making the criticism than the subject of that criticism.

For what litigation in Biglaw lacks in terms of volume, it more than makes up for in terms of scope and scale. The crucible that a series of high-stakes litigation matters subjects a Biglaw attorney to is just as capable of forming a highly-skilled litigator as a high-volume personal injury practice. Yes, there are good Biglaw litigators and bad ones, but that is a function of the lawyers themselves, rather than Biglaw’s ability to produce capable litigators. One can even argue that the Biglaw experience makes a better litigator, on average, than someone who learns their craft on a different track.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Beyond Biglaw: Learning To Litigate”

I find New Year’s to be a fairly depressing time of year. The calendar demands that you reflect on everything in your life over the previous, arbitrary, and finite period. And if you are naturally cynical, depressive, or even just ambitious, that reflection and self-assessment reveals flaws and unrealized potential.

It’s why the whole “New Year’s resolution” phenomenon is a thing. Every New Year’s resolution can be reduced to “I think I suck, tomorrow I’m going to try to not suck.” And, of course, New Year’s resolutions tend to be either petty or wildly unrealistic. If you can look into your soul and decide that the most important “self-improvement” you can make is to lose ten pounds and fit back into your wedding dress, I kind of hate you. But if you find yourself looking in a mirror thinking “okay, January 1, no more cocaine,” as if you can muster the Earth’s orbital transit to aid you in freeing yourself of addiction, then you’re also very annoying.

What I’m trying to say is that I’d bet that the seeds to the most terrible and irrational decisions to go to law school are planted on New Year’s (or your birthday). I have no evidence to back up this opinion, but “I’m going to do something with my life and go to law school” seems like exactly the kind of desperate thought that makes a lot of sense to people when the calendar demands they spend a lot of time gazing at their own navels.

Going to law school should be an intermediate step in a long-term plan, not the first step in a “changing your life” plan you’ve concocted because 2013 sucked and you don’t know what else to do with yourself. If you find yourself considering law school because your life looks like this guy’s, who’s jobless and living in his mom’s basement, STOP. BACK AWAY FROM THE LEDGE, have some Cold Duck tonight, and know that the blues will pass and that there are better ways to spend $150,000….

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Meet Ludo. A graduate of a top-50 law school now living in Chicago, Ludo was no-offered after his stint as a summer associate in Biglaw. Unable to to find employment with this black mark on his record, Ludo was forced to take a job in retail, losing his last shred of dignity in the process. But Ludo’s job selling cologne hasn’t completely taken him off the legal market. As Ludo shares on his blog, his coworkers pepper him with questions about “peoples law” (in other words, the stuff you don’t learn in law school or practice at Biglaw) — like how to beat a traffic ticket, or whether a hospital can turn an uninsured patient away at an emergency room. But instead of offering up answers, Ludo simply shrugs off questions, explaining that “he didn’t learn anything practical in law school.”

Meanwhile, eight hundred miles east of the Chicago department store where Ludo works, meet Lou Cambria. Lou’s a Philadelphia solo who typically represents small-business clients and individuals who need help writing wills. But on weekends, you won’t find Lou in the office….

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Ed. note: This post is written by Adam Gropper, author of Making Partner: The Essential Guide to Negotiating the Law School Path and Beyond, a recent release by the American Bar Association. Making Partner provides guidance for maximizing performance while in law school, securing the dream law firm job, excelling as an associate, and moving on the fast track to making partner. Adam Gropper is also the founder of www.LegalJob.com, a blog that provides practical advice for current law school students and law firm associates.

Other than attending a top ten law school and being in the top ten percent of your class, there is not just one way or one big secret to obtaining a dream legal job. Many people, for example, especially top law students, just fall into their practice area, and are doing what they are doing by accident. Accordingly, for this group, focus and planning ahead are not as crucial.

This post speaks to all others who are not quite sure what they will do when they graduate law school and are interested in planning ahead. For these folks, it may be helpful to have a practical plan with specific, mechanical steps.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Keith Lee

About three years ago, a case caught my eye that still sits in the the back of my mind when looking at our firm calendar or speaking with opposing counsel on a matter. It highlights something that should be self-evident to most attorneys. Yet, as this case illustrates, even routine matters can cause extreme problems.

Booher v. Sheeram LLC was a fairly standard slip-and-fall case. A hotel had been receiving a number of complaints about its slippery bathtubs. The hotel subsequently placed non-skid material in the tubs. Regardless, Mary Booher slipped and fell after the non-skid material had been placed. She and her husband sought to recover damages from the hotel and retained an attorney. Things proceeded along as they do in these matters — discovery plus more discovery — and eventually the hotel filed a motion for summary judgment. After an extension was granted, the deadline for a response from the Boohers’ attorney was set for November 7, 2008.

But Booher’s expert was missing a key document, and was going to be out of the country during the deadline for the motion. And her attorney was about to undergo major surgery. He needed more time in order to properly prepare his brief in opposition. Opposing counsel didn’t mind an extension; these things happen. No one wants to be a jerk regarding scheduling matters. 

But Booher’s attorney didn’t follow the rules, so it didn’t matter. And he lost his clients their case, not on the substance, but on a technicality:

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For the past two weeks, readers of this column have benefited from the insights of Professor William (Bill) Henderson of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law regarding the current state of Biglaw. When Professor Henderson kindly acceded to being interviewed, he made a request that was both unexpected and welcome: he asked that I commit to answering a number of his questions in return.

I agreed and am pleased to present our exchange. I found his questions probing, and I have tried to answer them from a broad perspective, despite the fact that they call for some personal viewpoints that are by their nature unique to my outlook and experiences. I have answered the questions in the order presented, and have not altered them in any way. Now, I get my turn in the interviewee’s chair….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Discussion About Biglaw’s Present: My Turn (Part 1)”

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….

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