Career Advice

It’s been a hell of a week for knowing what to wear.

Judge Richard Kopf blogged about “being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress,” weighing in on the latest debate about proper attire for women in law.

The story of Sunnie Kahle also emerged. (Gavel bang: Ann Althouse.) Sunnie is an eight-year-old Virginia girl whose grandparents reported to news media that Sunnie had been booted from her school for not being sufficiently girly. The story of a tomboy expelled for bucking hyper-conservative Christian notions of femininity set the internet ablaze with headlines like “Little Girl Taken Out of Christian School After Told She’s Too Much Like a Boy.”

In both of these stories, others are telling females how to look acceptably feminine. Judge Kopf instructs female lawyers not to appear overtly sexual. School officials instruct Sunnie not to appear overtly boyish. In each case, the powers that be seem to dictate the narrow swath between too-feminine and not-feminine-enough. Women and girls must be recognizably female while not spotlighting the sex traits that make them female.

That’s one gloss.

Here’s another. Let’s talk about sex and uniforms . . . .

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This column is designed to deal with all of the issues related to document review — and we’ve dealt with a bunch. Whether it is staffing agencies, fellow reviewers, or associates, there is no shortage of things to complain about when you are on the very bottom rung of the legal world. No one goes to law school thinking, “Oh, maybe one day I’ll get to be a document reviewer,” and that profound lack of satisfaction with their careers leads to a uniquely disgruntled set of workers.

All that is true, but sometimes there is reason to be disgruntled. In all my professional experiences, there is nothing quite as outrageous as the pure lies that are told to document reviewers. Sure, they may try to hide behind the inherent instability of the industry, but the thing that is really frustrating is the lies. Maybe you can never prove it as such . . . but they know, and you know, it is a blatant untruth.

As George Orwell once declared, “In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Thus, without further ado, I present the top four lies of document review:

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Too slutty, Your Honor?

Does what women wear to work matter? Of course it does, especially in a profession where looks are valued almost as highly as other qualities expected of a good lawyer, like exemplary analytical and interpersonal skills.

When we say “looks” here, we mean a lawyer’s ability to dress appropriately given the circumstances, but being attractive certainly doesn’t hurt. Men are basically given a free pass. So long as they don’t show up to court looking like they just rolled out of a dumpster, they’ll be given the respect they’re due.

Women, on the other hand, don’t have a uniform that they can wear to court like their male colleagues, and that’s where the trouble begins. Women lawyers have been told countless times to resist the urge to dress like harlots, with style suggestions ranging from the incredibly obvious (be wary of skirts too short and necklines too low) to the incredibly absurd (“think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe”).

The sick thing is that most of these style advisories have come from other women. Don’t follow trends? You look too frumpy. Follow too many trends? You look too skanky. A federal judge recently called attention to this perverse gender bias, but perhaps he could’ve used some more delicate language.

Calling all “ignorant sluts”…

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Christina Gagnier

The inevitable part of being a lawyer is that you need to work with other lawyers. If you thought you would be able to avoid this or have nightmares about law school classmates, then perhaps the practice of law that necessarily includes working with attorneys may not be for you.

As a small shop, it is important to evaluate how you work with other attorneys. Business is often referral-based and your reputation, which is gold if you are making your own way, will be based on how well you work with others. This does not mean being a doormat, but it does mean starting to understand how to build relationships or, in the least, be collegial with “opposing counsel.”

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Robert S. Mueller III

* Congratulations to WilmerHale on landing former FBI director Robert Mueller, and congratulations to Mueller on his move (a homecoming of sorts; he was once a partner at Hale & Dorr, the “Hale” in “WilmerHale”). [DealBook / New York Times]

* A former television judge gets held in real-life contempt. [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

* In the wake of the Dewey & LeBoeuf criminal charges, Jean O’Grady poses an interesting question: should law firms have whistleblower programs? [Dewey B Strategic]

* “Have a Better Legal Career by Being Less of a Lawyer.” [Medium]

* This story of losing a client might contain lessons for lawyers. [BigLawRebel]

* As we previously mentioned, the SCOTUS-themed play Arguendo is coming to D.C., and there’s a discount code for ATL readers: WMATL, good for 15% off on previews, Friday nights, Saturday matinees, and Sunday evenings. Enjoy! [Woolly Mammoth]

* In case you missed our Attorney@Blog conference, our friends at wireLawyer were on hand to document the proceedings. Video after the jump….

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Am I wrong to be suspicious?

I knew a defense lawyer whose online bio said that he had “spent more than a year of his life in trial.” But I also knew the facts: He had tried precisely one case in his life; it lasted more than a year; at the end of the year, the jury awarded more than the plaintiff demanded in closing argument.

Despite having spent “more than a year of his life in trial,” I’m not certain he was a proven trial lawyer.

Google the words “consummate trial lawyer” or “quintessential trial lawyer” or the like. (The actual bio may use a synonym to those superlatives; I’m concealing my victim here.) One bio will pop up from a guy who has, in fact, tried a few cases. But he lost them all. He hasn’t secured a defense verdict at a jury trial since the early 1980′s. (He did manage to reverse on appeal several of his trial-level defeats, but I’m not sure that’s too comforting to someone who’s looking to retain trial counsel.)

These examples, of course, come from the guys who are being honest: The words contained in their bios are technically true. I’m not even talking about the folks who brazenly lie.

Given the skepticism that puffery breeds, how can you write an online bio that actually persuades a reader?

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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, Joshua Stein gives some practical advice to lawyers on how to land their second job out of law school.

If and when you decide to leave your first job out of law school, finding your next job will differ in huge ways from the law school recruiting process. The search will give you all sorts of new opportunities to screw things up. This article, however, will arm you with some strategies for success. It starts from the assumption you want to move from one law firm to another. Many suggestions here also apply to other moves, but you will need to adjust them as appropriate.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

I think you really have to bust your butt.

Eric Bernsen, patent counsel at Knobbe Martens, recalling the hard work that was necessary to get a job at a respected firm after law school. Bernsen graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2012.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Abby Gordon is a Director with Lateral Link’s New York office. Abby works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in New York, Boston, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York Bar and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian).

In the first part of this series, I discussed picking the right practice area and picking the right firm to optimize your opportunities for working overseas.

In this second part of the series, I will touch on the importance of language skills for various regions and practice areas. I will then discuss the potential downsides and sacrifices involved in working overseas for a portion of your career. Finally, I will talk about what you can be doing now to best position yourself for a move overseas….

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Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who will offer an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

Law students love to bash the staff of their law school’s career services office. Students often roll their eyes as they describe a staff, usually all female, most with law degrees, who have allegedly traded in the law firm life for a 9-to-5 job. The students often comment that the staff does nothing to help the students secure jobs. Well, I wish to share with you a harsh reality that your law school counselors may not be able to impart directly.

When a student presents to the career services office at law school for a résumé review, there is very little that the counselors can do at that point. The counselors can, of course, suggest the reordering of text and/or tighten certain job descriptions. But YOU are the one who has made certain professional choices, and the staff cannot rewrite your history. A résumé is impressive not because it is well-written; a résumé is impressive because it demonstrates curiosity, risk-taking, and a desire for depth of experience.

So what is my main advice about résumés?

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