Career Center

As a writing trainer for dozens of the nation’s top law firms, I’ve learned first-hand where summer associates go wrong and how to help them succeed.

Here are ten tips:

1. Take a deep breath.

Despite the vagaries of the legal market, the basics haven’t changed: The partners want you to succeed. You wouldn’t have been hired unless you had the legal skills to handle your projects this summer. And unlike the economy, the way you write is entirely within your control.

2. Where am I going?

In this BlackBerry age, supervisors often forget to relay key information. Avoid such misconnects by getting answers to these five questions before you start: (1) What format do you want? (2) How long should the final document be? (3) How much time should I spend? (4) Can you point me to a document I can use as a model? and (5) What will you do with my project after I submit it?

3. Cover your . . . bases

Each time you get an assignment, send your supervisor an e-mail summing up your understanding of the project. Attorneys are text people, so seeing your write-up might help your supervisor steer you onto the right track before it’s too late.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the fifth of five related articles, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the fifth step attorneys can take to leave the law. Previous articles in this series can be found here, here, here, and here.

As we discussed in the first four articles of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident, and happier.

I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation; to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: The Fifth Step in Leaving Law Behind — Get Out There”

As all sentient beings are aware, we have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad legal job market. According to NALP data, the industry is down 50,000 jobs since 2008 and there is no reason to believe they will ever reappear. If you ignore school-funded positions (5% of the total number of jobs), this market is worse than its previous low point of 1993-1994. In light of these grim economic realities, we feel that potential law students should prioritize their future job prospects over other factors in deciding whether to attend law school. To put it mildly, inputs- (LSATs, GPAs, per capita spending, etc.) and reputational survey-based law school rankings schemes have proved unsatisfactory. Hence our release last week of the ATL Top 50 Law Schools, which is based on nothing but outcomes.

(Although he probably disapproves of all rankings, it must be said that the legal world owes a great debt to Kyle McEntee and his colleagues at Law School Transparency. LST has forced us all to look at the publicly available employment data, submitted by the schools to the ABA, in a more meaningful way. Like all good ideas, it seems obvious in retrospect.)

We received a ton of feedback and comments regarding our rankings and our methodology, much of it thoughtful and substantive. (Our very own Elie Mystal weighed in with this takedown the day after we published.) Quite a few recurrent criticisms emerged from the comments. Of course there’s no perfect dataset or methodology. At best, rankings are a useful simulacrum and just one of many tools available to 0Ls for researching and comparing schools.

What follows are the most common criticisms of the ATL Top 50 Law Firms rankings….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The ATL Top 50 Law Schools: A Roundup of Criticism”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park advises prospective law students on selecting an online law school.

Which are the very best online law schools?

This is hard question because there isn’t a clear ranking system — U.S. News doesn’t rank online degree programs (neither does Above the Law) — and actual first-hand information is scarce for online law schools. There isn’t much accountability at online law schools.

Let’s take a step back.

No juris doctor program at an online law school, at the moment, is going to give you the kind of career you would have if you attended a national top-tier law school like Harvard, or even a regional powerhouse (like University of Alabama if you live in Alabama).

Indeed, there are not that many online law schools, actually, that permit you to sit for any state’s bar exam. None are, at the moment, ABA-accredited (this is important because if you graduate from a law school with ABA accreditation, you can take the bar exam in any of the 50 states of the U.S.).

There are a lot more programs that offer a masters of law online if you already have a juris doctor.

So, with all of that as a warning, let me pick a couple of the best online law schools if you are dead set on getting an online law degree. Again, below, I consider juris doctor and LL.M. programs separately.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the fourth of five related articles, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the fourth step attorneys can take to leave the law. Previous articles in this series can be found here, here, and here.

As we discussed in the first three articles of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident, and happier.

I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation; to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: The Fourth Step in Leaving Law Behind — Facing Your Fears”

Today, we present the third and final installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. This week, Joe Patrice is joined by Mike Sims, President of BARBRI, Alison Monahan, founder of The Girl’s Guide to Law School, and John Goldberg, a professor at Harvard Law School.

Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s Unofficial Orientation to Law School (Part III)”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park gives some practical advice to prospective law students on how to finance their education.

Law school scholarships are the most important way you can fund your painfully expensive legal education. Law school grants are more rare and not much different than scholarships.

Otherwise, you will — as with most law students — fall back on law school loans to fund your education. Be very, very, very careful with this route. Let me say this in all caps and bold so you can hear me:

DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL WITHOUT A CLEAR PLAN TO FUND YOUR EDUCATION!!!

Sorry for shouting.

Read more at the ATL Career Center…

Today, we present the second installment of our three-part series of Google Hangouts aimed at helping prospective law students navigate the application process and the first year of school. This week, Joe Patrice and Elie Mystal are joined by Nicole Wanzer, Law School Recruiting Manager at Morrison Foerster and David Thompson an associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

Prospective students can sign up here to get more news and resources to begin their legal careers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s Unofficial Orientation to Law School (Part II)”

This is the fourth in a series of posts looking at how law schools in specific markets stack up based on the results of our ATL Insider Survey. As we’ve often noted, very few law schools are truly national institutions. Typically, the majority of graduates don’t stray too far from their alma maters, so the strongest network will be local, for local jobs. It’s to your advantage to go to school where you want to practice, sometimes even more so than going to a higher-ranked school.

In recent weeks, we’ve looked at our survey results pertaining to Chicago, Boston, and New York-area law schools. We examined how current law students rate their schools in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.

Today, we turn to our broadest geographic region yet: the South (the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, Florida, and Louisiana). Read on to see how schools in the region compare….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Comparing the Law Schools of the South”

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 manage their relationship with the press.

Reporters can embarrass you. But they can also help you and your clients get your message and name out into the world, if that’s what you want.

When a reporter calls, any lawyer’s first instinct is to say “No comment.” That’s a really good first instinct, particularly for anyone except the most senior member of a legal team representing a client. For that senior lawyer, though, “no comment” might not always be the right answer at the end of the day.

Lawyers aren’t supposed to be founts of information, particularly about their client’s affairs — unless that’s what the client wants. All of that is a matter of legal ethics and client relations, and represents the first and most important element of any lawyer’s strategy in dealing with the press. It’s outside the scope of this article.

Once you get past that “gating issue,” you will sometimes want or need to talk with the press. Here are a few suggestions for how to do that….

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