Career Advice

Ed. note: This is another installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the truth behind the phrase “you can do anything with a law degree” and lists nine real-life, non-legal jobs that are in fairly good alignment with an attorney’s skill set and can realistically be a stepping stone for a lawyer to leave the law behind.

Many of us unhappy attorneys are tired, exhausted, and frustrated with the practice of law. We are confused as to how, after all of the work we did in law school, all of the loans we took out, all of the hard work we did as an associate attorney, we now sit three, five, eight, 12 or more years in and wonder, “I’m not happy. How did this happen?”

So, we decide, yes, we want to leave the law behind and do something else. We want to find another job that pays well, that provides us with meaning and self-worth. And we are encouraged by that oft repeated advice, “You can do anything with a law degree.”

And so we begin to think of other things to do, anything. But soon, this optimistic phrase that is supposed to encourage us can actually begin to stress us out.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

I recently received an email from a rather desperate attorney. They’d finally come to the realization that after losing their job a few months ago they would need to take a contractor position, and they weren’t happy about it. I wasn’t either when I took my first contract attorney job, but it pays the bills and I guess that is the point.

Do you remember that old anti-drug PSA from the 80s that informed us that no kid wants to grow up to be a junkie? Well, no law student wants to be a contract attorney. But much like learning not to share dirty needles, there are tricks for the best way to survive the legal underground.

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Earlier this week, Above the Law hosted its first-ever Fashion Law Forum in Los Angeles at the W Hollywood. Despite the traffic on the 405, the event was very well-attended, and we nearly had a full house in the audience. Everyone was dressed to the nines, and we couldn’t have been happier with how this elegant soiree turned out.

The highlight of the evening was a lively discussion, moderated by ATL’s Staci Zaretsky, about all of the ins and outs of fashion law. Panelists included Staci Riordan, Chair of the Fox Rothschild Fashion Law Practice Group; Jane Shay Wald, Chair of Irell & Manella’s Trademark Practice Group; Deborah Greaves, Secretary and General Counsel of True Religion Brand Jeans; and Erica Alterwitz, Assistant General Counsel of BCBG Max Azria Group Inc.

If you’re interested in becoming a fashion attorney, here are three takeaways from our esteemed panelists that you can use to get a better understanding of the industry before you dive in…

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Complaining openly and presenting a negative persona is not a good strategy for the office or most places, for that matter. Even if you have every good reason to complain, people do not want to hear it.

Susan Smith Blakely, author of Best Friends At the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (affiliate link), explaining that women lawyers must show “true grit” without “making a victim of [them]selves” because the alternative is the possible loss of friends, support, and jobs.

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.

Jami Wintz McKeon is chair-elect of Morgan Lewis and leader of the firm’s litigation practice. She is responsible for the strategic and day-to-day operation of the litigation practice, made up of 700 litigators in 25 global offices.

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

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Ed. note: This post is sponsored by NexFirm.

So you’ve decided to make the jump. Persuaded by the 10 reasons to leave Biglaw, and aware of the 10 common mistakes made by lawyers who launch their own firms, you have decided to hang your shingle.

What can you expect in your first few years running your own law firm? Here are 10 things that might surprise you….

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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, 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….

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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…

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