Many law school graduates are wondering how they can make themselves more marketable in light of their dismal job prospects. Hell, even graduates from elite law schools are having trouble finding jobs these days.
What can these would-be lawyers do to help themselves land a respectable job?
Some of these people are actually so desperate they believe that getting even more legal education will solve their employment woes. Maybe, just maybe, they think, an LLM from a better school will help them wipe the sub-T14 sludge off their résumés. Of course, money is no object, because really, after throwing $150,000 at a wall and hoping that it sticks, another couple thousand dollars is just a drop in the bucket.
But don’t sign up for that LLM just yet, because the masterminds at the University of Texas School of Law may have a solution for you. Education is the key, but it’s not the kind of education that you’d expect….
A paralegal at work (via the Bureau of Labor Statistics page on paralegals).
One week ago, in our advice column, Pls Hndle Thx, Marin and Elie tackled the topic of paralegal education. The question presented: the usefulness of an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree in Paralegal Studies in securing gainful employment as a paralegal.
For the record, Pls Hndle Thx should not be viewed as a straight-up advice column. Rather, PHT represents Above the Law’s irreverent reinterpretation of the conventional advice column, and the “advice” offered therein should be taken with (more than) a grain of salt. Alas, judging from some of the reader comments and blogosphere reactions, Marin and Elie’s comments were taken seriously — and viewed as insulting to paralegals, which was definitely not their intent.
Based on the intense reaction (and traffic) to that controversial column, however, we learned that many people are interested in a more serious story about how educational credentials will affect the search for paralegal positions. Here it is….
I just received my A.A. in Paralegal Studies. Will this be useful at all? How do attorneys view paralegals? I don’t need an attorney to like me. I just need one to pay me.
– Wrong Kind of Associate
Dear Wrong Kind of Associate,
I’m going to be honest here and say that I had to Google “A.A. degree.” I thought it might be it something called an “Associates Degree,” which I’ve seen advertised on the subway, but I wasn’t sure because I’ve never seen that abbreviation in real life and wanted to be absolutely certain about it before I tore you a new one….
In parts one and two of the Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on how junior associates can become more indispensable to their law firms, we covered the importance of taking ownership of your work and becoming an expert in your field. Today, we’ll discuss effective management strategies you can use to not only help you manage your work but the people with whom you work.
These tips are provided by the experienced recruiters at Lateral Link, who, in addition to providing sound career advice, can advance your career by consulting with you on the hundreds of law firm and in-house positions they have in their network.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for a legal secretary / administrative assistant. Law firm partners are getting their end-of-year distributions, associates are getting their bonuses, and some of this bounty will be shared with their secretaries, in the form of Christmas — er, holiday — gifts.
What should you get your secretary as a holiday present? It’s a familiar question that comes up every year. Here’s an open thread where you can discuss and compare notes with your peers. We’ve also included a reader poll at the end of the post.
Let’s start the conversation with some preliminary observations….
A pair of motions are bouncing around email inboxes this week, thanks to the “foot-tapping lawyer.” (This has nothing to do with Larry Craig, so read on without fear.)
It all started in July, when Florida law firm Rasco Klock sent a paralegal to Wilmington for a deposition. The firm is representing a plaintiff suing an insurance company, but one of their lead attorneys, Juan Carlos Antorcha, had to remain in Miami and conduct the deposition by video, with the paralegal handling the exhibits in person.
During the deposition of a witness for the defense, a strange noise caught the attention of the Perceptive Paralegal. After hearing clicking, he peeked beneath the table and saw a defense attorney’s foot tapping the foot of the deponent. He snapped a photo with his smartphone and sent it to Antorcha, who confronted the defense and halted the deposition. Rasco Klock then filed a very angry motion for sanctions, accusing the defense attorney of coaching the witness through foot tapping.
From the motion:
Before accusing a lawyer of acting in an unethical and unprofessional fashion, a fellow lawyer must think long and hard. Was the breach intentional? What were the circumstances? Was there any sense of contrition? Could the offending lawyer believe that his conduct had been appropriate?
The lawyer accused of foot-tapping is Brown Sims shareholder Kenneth Engerrand. On every single page of the 13-page motion for sanctions against him is the incriminating footsie photo…
I take the 4/5/6 to work every morning. Usually the trip is uneventful by New York City standards — just a collection of mariachi bands and homeless people who loudly state their intention not to bother me. Occasionally, people break the cardinal rule of subway etiquette and make direct eye contact: but I can’t tell if that’s because people recognize me from Above the Law or if they’re hoping to get to know me, in the biblical sense.
Rarely do people actually talk to me. The other day a man came up to me just after I boarded the 6 train:
RANDOM DUDE: Aren’t you the Above the Law guy?
ELIE: Yes, one of them.
RANDOM DUDE: I’m a paralegal and you’re going to love this story.
ELIE [the only thing I want to love right now is a cup of coffee]: Do you want to email me?
RANDOM DUDE: Nah. But you see that right there? [Points to clothes hanging up on one of the bars.] That is my boss’s dry cleaning.
ELIE: SHUT UP!
RANDOM DUDE: He sent me uptown to deliver some documents, and he asked me to pick up his dry cleaning on the way back.
It sounds like an urban Biglaw legend, but I snapped a quick picture to capture the moment…
Administrative Professionals Week is upon us — ignore it at your peril. While senior partners might be able to pass the week off with a slap on the bum for a job well done, the associates among you would be wise to throw some cash at those who make your office run.
The official day on which you need to make a financial display of appreciation is Wednesday, but people are supposed to be nice to their secretaries for the entire year week.
Given the recession and general market uncertainty, some lawyers might be tempted to cheap out on administrative professional recognition. But surely even the most hardened associate understands that the recession has been much tougher on administrative personnel than it has been on practicing attorneys. Right?
Here at Above the Law, we’re used to seeing funny and fiery departure memos. But the one we were forwarded last night is truly a special treat.
Here’s the set up. The memo comes out of a small firm in the Atlanta area. It was written by a paralegal — we’ll call her “Blaze of Glory.” She had some very pointed things to say about one of the associates, who we’ll call “Attila.” A partner at the firm, “My Name is Pitt,” is also referenced in the memo. All the rest of the backstory comes from a tipster:
I am told that the ENTIRE firm was blind copied when this email was sent. Now there’s only about 20 or so attorneys at this firm, however, the firm also includes about [a much larger number of] paralegals/legal assistants. A few words cannot describe this email; you just have to read the email to believe it.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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