Career Development

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Rob Jordan gives advice to attorneys on how to best position themselves to clarify or confirm their career path.

“Better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than in the middle of some ladder you don’t, right?” — Dave Eggers, The Circle (affiliate link)

Everyday, many lawyers sit unhappily in their offices with little clarity about their professional futures. I know: I was one of them.

Today, the continued weakness and real-time evolution of the business of law merely compounds the uncertainty. In this environment, it is critical that lawyers regularly perform self-reviews to assess contentment and career trajectory.

These reviews will obviously be very personal. Some lawyers may simply conclude that their unease stems from the plain practice of law; that their law degree is a sunk cost; and that every day spent practicing law rather than pursuing a career acting, rapping, or starting a company is opportunity cost. Others, however, may not be fortunate enough to arrive at such a definitive conclusion; rather, they may be stuck in a state of inertia, unclear whether they like or want to continue to practice law.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a new series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, some practical advice for finding a mentor from Desiree Moore of Greenhorn Legal.

There is a great deal of value to be found in finding a successful mentor — someone who is looking out for you and advocating for your success. Without my mentor in the early years of my legal career I would have been lost in the substantive, technical, and interpersonal aspects of my law firm practice. The right mentor can change everything.

When choosing your mentor, keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. Choose Someone Internal

Your mentor should be someone internal (and not your uncle who is a lawyer in the Cayman Islands). Your mentor should be in a position to help you decipher and navigate your specific office dynamics.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

In the world of sports, the figure of coach has taken on near-mythological status. Some coaches — such as the late Joe Paterno, before his fall from grace — are treated like gods, due to their legendary leadership and inspiration abilities.

What about in the world of Biglaw? Well, it’s catching on there too. An increasing number of law firms are making career coaches, including on-site coaches, available to their attorneys.

What’s behind this trend? And is it one worth celebrating? We share some survey results, as well as comments from a former associate who worked with a career coach….

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Crushed dreams of employment.

On Friday, we brought you what could be classified as one of the worst law jobs of all time: a job as an unpaid potato chip tester/taster.

And much like the side effects of eating an Olestrafied potato chip, the law school in question has announced that the notorious job was full of crap….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School Claims Potato Chip Tester/Taster Job Was Fictitious”

Here at Above the Law, we write all the time about crappy law job postings. A good deal of these awful employment listings come from law school career services offices (which is not at all impressive!).

We recently received word about a law school career services job posting that was so horrendous, so ridiculous, that we could not help ourselves but to write about it. After all, writing about crappy law jobs is like opening a can of Pringles: once you pop, you can’t stop.

And this job — well, let’s just say that it takes the cake, or the potato chip, as the case may be….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Once You Pop, You Can’t Stop: New Law School Job Post Borders on Absurd”

I posted last week about the idea of providing training intended to give lawyers wings — to teach lawyers the skills, and give them the experiences, they need to leave their firm or corporation and move forward on a career path elsewhere. If you thought that was a good idea — if you thought that your firm or corporation might benefit by being known as the place that trained people to become great lawyers — how would your firm pursue that goal?

I actually saw this happen once: I saw a lawyer design a training program to permit him to perform adequately in another job. But the situation was a bit unusual. A heavy-hitting litigation partner at my former firm accepted a job as the general counsel of a large corporation. That guy realized that a litigator’s training has gaps; litigators know the rules of procedure and the substantive law governing cases that they’ve handled, but litigators may be ill-equipped to become general counsel. A litigator is likely to know very little about preparing securities filings, negotiating M&A transactions, advising boards of directors about non-litigation matters, and the like.

My former partner created for himself what I’ll call “General Counsel University.” He asked a bunch of our partners to set aside a half day each to give him a primer about their areas of expertise. He spent time chatting with an employment lawyer about the basics of executive compensation. He spent a half day with a public company securities lawyer, trying to learn the nuts and bolts of securities filings. He talked to M&A lawyers, spent a few minutes with the corporate tax folks, and so on. (Why was he able to do this, you ask? First, he was a heavy-hitter; people were willing to make time for him. Second, he was about to become the general counsel of what could be a very significant client; it made sense to be nice to the guy.)

Could a law firm (or the law department of a corporation) replicate this process for its lawyers generally?

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It’s hard to create career paths for in-house lawyers.

It’s easy to describe the career path for a junior lawyer at a law firm (even though the path may be illusory for many): Work hard and well and become a partner; work harder and better and become a richer and more powerful partner. Retire. Die.

So long as law firms are growing, that path appears to be available to some percentage of junior lawyers, and all can strive to follow it.

Corporations are different. There’s one general counsel, who probably has six or eight people reporting to her. Unless the general counsel moves on, retires, or dies, none of the lieutenants is moving up. The lieutenants in turn all have six or eight people reporting to them. Unless a lieutenant moves on, retires, or dies, none of the sub-lieutenants is moving up.

What can you do to create a career path for someone who reports to you in a corporation (other than eating poorly and exercising little, which might create an unexpected opening in the ranks)?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Train To Stay, Or Train To Go?”