Friday, September 30, 2011
Getting your resume into the right hands has never been more of a challenge than in today’s current job market. If you blindly mass send your resume to a number of law firms, you will be lucky to get your resume past whomever they entrust to sort junk mail from pleadings. Most law firms, like ours, receive several unsolicited resumes a week. Rarely, if ever, do they make it to my desk — and only when word has been spread that we are hiring.
Today, the best way to get your resume into the right hand starts with figuring out where and how you would be the best fit for the potential employer. This starts with a long, hard look in the mirror and some hard-answered question. Ask yourself if you really, truly want to be a lawyer, and if so what kind. Like most recent law school grads, you probably know very few real lawyers, if any. So, meeting real lawyers is the first step and the sooner that starts the better.
In my book, “Make It Your Own Law Firm,” I provide a detailed road map as to how to acquire and keep meaningful contacts that can and should become your mentors once you graduate. The bottom line is you have to meet lawyers. Take a look at your state’s bar journal or your city’s or town’s local bar association web site and find events that you can attend now. Most have weekly or monthly luncheons, meetings or cocktail parties that you can attend for little to nothing as a law student or recent graduate.
Dress the part: wearing whatever you would wear to the finals of your moot court competition. If you select an event that is atypical, like a charity event or legal clinic, call or contact the organizer to get a feel for the dress code. Always take a few minutes to make sure you look like a lawyer and not a law student. Come equipped with your own business cards that have your name and email address (choose a new one for your professional identity such as Bernard@gmail.com, as opposed to what you may have used for the last ten years) and plenty of pens.
As you meet people take a moment or two to find out what kind of work they do, how they like it and if they would ever be interested in discussing it further. Don’t look like you are desperate or in need of a job. Rather, project an image of genuine desire to learn about and know people in the legal community and the best way to stay in touch. Do they say “just call me” or “send me an email” or “don’t?” After each meeting make notes about the person and what you discussed on the back of the card.
That night, go home and do further research on you new-found contacts. Enter or scan each card into a contact management program (Google has one for free) and input where and when you met them and on a 1 to 5 scale the “vibe” you got as to whether this potential new contact can become a friend, mentor or employer--sometimes all three, sometimes none.
If you like the person, send a nice note and follow up within twenty days. Hey, the longer you go, the less they will remember you or even care. When you do follow up, it’s a time to come prepared for real questions (don’t bring your resume) about advice they can give you as to whom, when or where you can find a job. These people can give you real advice, real contacts and real leads. They may even be willing to forward your resume for you. Find out what events, groups or associations they would recommend for you to join. Many people are scared that they don’t have a job out of law school. Use the valuable free time to network and meet as many different lawyers as you can. It will pay dividends--not just in getting and keeping your first job, but for your entire career.
We are going to find out.
The wait is almost over. A weeklong exercise in withdrawal from social media usage will end for the campus community at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology shortly. The Pennsylvania university, which performed a similar move last year, has been blocking network access to 10 popular sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, Hi5, Twitxr, and Plurk, as well as texting outlets. This year's activity has been dubbed, "Back to Blackout."
According to Provost Eric Darr, the exercise will inspire students, faculty, and staff to think more about the use and abuse of technology:
This exercise is an attempt to better understand an important technology, social media, that clearly impacts how we live and work. It might inspire students, faculty, and staff to think more about their social media habits and to further raise awareness about the impact that social media has on daily life and work."
Here’s the story from Campus Technology, which includes a few interesting comments from readers.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Here are two former 1L's from U. of Utah College of Law, who, fresh from completing their first year, recorded this video offering newly matriculating students 10 tips for succeeding in law school. Number 7 is about the importance of starting legal writing assignments early and then doing as many rewrites as possible. The rest of the tips are pretty dead-on too.
If you click on this former student's YouTube page, here, (he has since graduated) you'll see a bunch of videos documenting much of his law school experience including "The First Day," "First Semester Recap," and "A Day In The Life Of A Law Student."
Nothing earth-shattering about that; everyone knows that many jobs are filled by word-of-mouth before an ad is even published. But this study by an Emory business professor adds empirical support regarding the importance of pressing the flesh during a tough economy. From the National Law Journal:
Six major law firms closed their doors in 2008 and 2009, forcing more than 1,400 attorneys into the job market during tough financial times.
The vast majority of those attorneys have since landed new jobs, according to a study by Emory University business professor Christopher Rider. He tracked the employment of 1,426 attorneys left jobless by the dissolutions of Heller Ehrman; Thelen; Thacher Proffitt Wood; WolfBlock; Dreier; and Morgan & Finnegan. By reviewing resources including LinkedIn, Martindale-Hubbell and other online directories, Rider confirmed that 88% found jobs.
Those attorneys landed at 400 different organizations, but 65% went to firms on the NLJ 250 — The National Law Journal's list of the 250 largest law firms in the United States according to attorney headcount.
Rider studies networking, and originally planned to track the employment moves of bankers who lost their jobs when Lehman Brothers failed in 2008. That project was not feasible, he found.
"There were just too many people," Rider said. "When Heller went down a few months later, I thought, ‘This would be a good group to follow.' We often don't know why people leave their jobs, but when a firm fails, everyone leaves at the same time and we don't have to speculate as to why."
For his paper, entitled "Networks, Hiring, and Inter-organizational Mobility: Evidence from Law Firm Dissolutions," Rider performed a statistical analysis of the employment data he compiled. He wanted to gauge the effects of alumni and co-worker networks on the ability to land a new job.
Rider concluded that the presence of law school alumni and former co-workers at a prospective employer helped jobseekers, but lawyers who move with a large number of their former co-workers saw the biggest benefits.
"The results of this study indicate that prior education and employment network contacts do indeed facilitate employee-employer matching but that only contacts made during prior employment experiences are likely to help individuals attain positions of greater intraprofessional status," he wrote.
In other words, lawyers who moved to new firms in groups were "more likely to experience upward status mobility" than those who didn't. Rider attributed that to the fact that lawyers who have worked together before bring complementary skills.
To Rider's surprise, his analysis found that alumni networks were more important for senior attorneys than for associates. That might be a result of associates depending on partners to bring them along to a new firm, rather than finding new employment on their own, he said.
(Former) Pennsylvania Judge Michael Conahan is going to prison for 17.5 years. He also must pay $874,000 in restitution. Conahan was convicted of money laundering and related crimes concerning a scheme in which he sent many teens to a privately run detention center in exchange for kick backs from the operation. Often the teens were guilty of very minor offenses, at best. A fellow judge pled guilty to his participation in the scheme and received a prison sentence of 210 months. Here is a report from the Wall Street Journal blog.
Questions remain. Why did none of the lawyers in the community ever report these obviously aberrant sentences to the state’s Judicial Conduct Board. Why did that Board drag its feet (to put it mildly) until the U.S. attorney took action? Good questions for a Professional Responsibility class to consider.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary turns 100! To celebrate, Oxford University Press is providing free access to the full OED Online until October 1st.
Find login information here.
Find more information on the history of the Oxford English Dictionary here.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
According to an article in the New York Post, seven teens were busted in an SAT cheating scandal in which one person would take the SAT for another one for amounts up to $2,500. ( The article also insinuates that sexual favors may have been involved). The scammers were current and former students at prestigious Great Neck North High School. The article states that "out of a possible top score of 2400, Eshaghoff posted eye-popping numbers of 2220, 2210, 2140, 2180, 2180 and 2170 for the alleged cheats." The cheaters were discovered through rumors and comparing their SAT scores with their GPAs. The leader of the group faces up to four years in prison. Prosecutors declared that this maybe only the tip of the iceberg.
While this scandal does not involve law students, it is still very troubling. It would be just as easy to cheat on the LSAT as the SAT.
While that used to the case, it isn't any longer according to some employers. And that should give serious pause to anyone thinking about taking on even more debt in the hope of gaining a competitive advantage in a bad job market by pursuing a graduate law degree. Interviews with a sampling of tax lawyers suggest an LLM may not help much unless you get it from one of the top 3 programs out of the 30 schools that currently offer an LLM in taxation. And even then, it's no guarantee of a decent return on investment.
Conventional wisdom suggests a tax LLM degree can open professional doors for an aspiring tax lawyer -- and that more are pursuing that degree in the sluggish economy -- but not all firms value the degree equally. James H. Lokey Jr., a partner with King & Spalding in Atlanta in charge of the firm's tax practice group, said the tax LLM degree is helpful for three types of people: the unemployed who don't know what to do, lawyers going to small firms without as many people to talk to, and people who prefer having an overview of a subject before jumping into it. People who don't fit into one of those groups may be wasting money if they pursue an LLM degree, he said.
"In addition to the out-of-pocket cost, there's a huge opportunity cost if you would otherwise have a job," Lokey said. "I would prefer to have somebody who's had four or five tax courses in law school, who is very smart and ready to get to work, than somebody who's got more mediocre credentials with an LLM."
Samuel Weiner, partner and head of the transactional tax group at Latham & Watkins LLP in Los Angeles, views the tax LLM degree more favorably. "We don't require our young attorneys who want to join the tax department to have an LLM, but we're happy to see it when we do," he said. "To me, as part of our hiring team, it indicates that the attorney is going to have a lot more than just your basic knowledge of tax in general."
Tax LLM degrees are important for a job candidate's prospects, said Mark A. Vogel, an associate professor and head of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Graduate Tax Program. "When more attorneys are in the job pool and are competing for fewer jobs, the tax LLM becomes even more important as a distinguishing factor for more junior attorneys as they search for jobs," Vogel said.
. . . .Where those students seek their degree is important, both Lokey and Weiner said. When asked how he would evaluate job candidates with LLM degrees from schools other than NYU, Georgetown, or Florida, Lokey said, "To tell you the truth, I never see tax LLMs from other schools." Weiner said Latham & Watkins sees some candidates with LLM degrees from Loyola, but that those are generally Los Angeles natives who are committed to working there. He said that other than Loyola, his firm's LLM holders come from NYU, Georgetown, or Florida.
"Those, I would say, would travel more nationally," he said about degrees from those three institutions.
Samuel Donaldson, associate dean and professor of law at the University of Washington School of Law, said that if he were advising a student on where to go and if the student wanted to be an academic, he should attend one of the top three ranked schools, because academic hiring committees prefer the elite programs. He would also tell students who want to work in the New York or Washington areas to consider either NYU or Georgetown.
You can continue reading here.
Negative, say several experts who spoke with ComputerWorld.com. The smaller, 7 inch screen and lack of features make it less serviceable than the iPad when it comes to creating content, as opposed to consuming it, which is why it will likely attract few legal service professionals.
Amazon's new Fire tablet may disrupt the Android market, but it's unlikely to have a significant impact on Apple's iPad business, analysts said today.
Earlier today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the Fire, a 7-in. backlit-color screen tablet priced at $199 that will start shipping in mid-November.
The Fire is powered by a customized version of Google's Android mobile operating system, has 8GB of storage -- half that of the lowest-priced iPad -- and weighs about 33% less than Apple's iPad 2. Amazon will sell only a Wi-Fi version of the tablet.
Experts saw it as a negligible threat to Apple's tablet, and cited a variety of reasons.
"Hardly an iPad killer," said Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities, in a note to clients today. "While Amazon's price point, installed base, digital content and cloud ecosystem will attract a certain consumer demographic to the Kindle Fire, there is still no real competitor to the iPad 2."
"I think it's more disruptive of the Android tablet market because of its price point," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Gartner. "Android competitors like Samsung will be impacted by the Fire's price, much more so than something that has the Apple logo on it. So there's no reason why Apple should worry today."
Milanesi sees the Fire as "all about consumption and buying behavior" because of who is selling it, its size and hardware specifications, and the tight integration with Amazon's online markets for apps, books, music and movies.
"A seven-inch tablet is for content consumption," she said, "not for the kind of content creation that can be done on the iPad."
She also noted that the Fire lacks some of the iPad's features, including a microphone and camera. "There are lots of things that are missing from the Fire," she said.
Not that that wasn't smart of Amazon, which is selling the Fire to push the products and services it sells.
"The point of the Fire is to sell more content, and keep customers within the Amazon ecosystem," she said, pointing out that there's no need for, say, a camera when Amazon can't parley that into a sale of some sort.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst for Technology Business Research, also thought that the Fire won't pose an instant threat to the iPad. In fact, the Fire's price only reinforces the split nature of the tablet market.
Continue reading here.
The Library of Congress National Book Festival was held this past weekend on the National Mall. The event drew an estimated 200,000 to the event and featured more than 100 bestselling authors. More information from the Library of Congress here.
Law schools will not have to report to the American Bar Association the percentage of their 2010 graduates who landed jobs requiring bar passage or the percentage of graduates in part-time jobs.
Those queries will not appear on the questionnaire that law schools will be required to submit next month for the class of 2010. The ABA's questionnaire committee finalized that list of questions on Sept. 23, prompting criticism from some reformers that the ABA is protecting law schools from reporting what would surely be grim statistics.
The Chair of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar states that the statistics will return in another year after the Section refines the definition of which types of jobs count for reporting purposes:
The questionnaire committee was not acting to protect law schools by omitting the so-called "J.D. preferred" question, insisted chairman Art Gaudio, dean of Western New England College School of Law. It dropped that question this year because members were uncomfortable with the way different types of jobs are defined, he said. In the past, schools reported the percentage of recent graduates in jobs that require bar passage, jobs for which a J.D. was preferred and jobs that did not require a J.D.
"We could not come to a conclusion about what definitions there should be," Gaudio said. "We just couldn't get that done in time. If we were trying to hide anything, we wouldn't be putting [that question] on the questionnaire for the next cycle."
Here’s the full story from the National Law Journal
Following up on the post below which addresses the notion that law school will become increasingly irrelevant in the future, I point out the recent Wall Street Journal article which reported that attending law school is declining in popularity. Traditionally, during troubled economic times law school admissions have gone up as students wait out the economic downturn. However, what is noteworthy about the WSJ article is that even though these are difficult financial times law schools are not seeing an uptick in applications, instead law schools are seeing a sizable drop. Even more troubling, it looks like the popularity of law school may not be coming back anytime soon.
From the WSJ,
"Even more interesting, it appears law schools are not about to surge back to popularity soon. This summer, there was an 18.7% decline in LSAT test takers. That is the biggest decline in at least 24 years, according to this report from the Law School Admission Council."
I have received a ton of emails (okay 2) asking me what are the best introductory books on Behavioral Biology, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Science for lawyers and legal scholars. I recommend the following:
Matt Ridley, The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture (2004).
Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002).
Marc Hauser, Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong (2006).
Michael S. Gazzaniga, Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique (2008).
The Gazzaniga is the best general introduction to Neuroscience, and it is an easy read.
Following up Jim Levy’s post about the Vault.com survey results on law firm diversity, here’s (in my view) a worthwhile take on the value of diversity in the workplace.
Debra Amesqua, the award-winning chief of the fire department here in Madison, Wisconsin, for the past sixteen years, will retire later this year. In an interview late last month on Madison’s City Channel (the city-owned and -operated video service designed to “promote citizen access and exposure to local government and further government accountability”), she reviews (among other things) her career with the Madison Fire Department, and she explains the importance of achieving diversity in terms of the department’s delivery of services to the community. Her explanation strikes me as applicable to any organization (including law firms) delivering services to a diverse customer base. Chief Amesqua’s comments about diversity begin around 40:15 in the video.
The interview ends on, literally, a musical note: Chief Amesqua plays the mandolin, a long-time passion of hers. If you have the time, the whole interview’s a worthy way to spend it. (Also, anyone interested in the labor demonstrations earlier this year in Madison might want to hear Chief Amesqua’s comments, beginning around 34:50, on the Madison firefighters’ participation in those demonstrations.)
Madison City Channel - Access: City Hall: Madison Fire Chief Debra Amesqua (interview) (August 30, 2011) (running time: 58:49).
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The Georgia Supreme Court recently denied certificates of fitness to two bar applicants, in part because they had failed to disclose prior criminal records on their law school applications. It is difficult to tell from the report, but the criminal histories seemed to include largely minor offenses; neither seems to have ever been incarcerated. According to ALM’s Daily Report, Southern Illinois Law School Associate Dean Frank Houdek students need to be more aware of the risk of nondisclosure than in the past:
In the last five to seven years, said Houdek, bar admissions officials are looking more closely at applicants with troubled pasts. "I think the admissions committees are kind of saying, 'Let's not admit somebody who's got a problem,'" Houdek said.
Richardson Lynn, Dean of Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School emphasizes the need to warn incoming students of the need to come clean:
Filling out their applications initially, said Lynn, some students think their "stupid college tricks" aren't serious enough to report, or erroneously believe a criminal misstep has been expunged.
"We give it to them with fire and brimstone," said Lynn. "The associate dean for academics is incredibly blunt, saying, 'We need to fix this now, because it's going to be a bigger problem if it lingers for three years and the board finds out about it.'"
At my law school, incoming students are given a grace period in which to amend the disclosures they made when they first applied to our school.
New York, NY (September 27, 2011). Vault.com, the source of employer rankings, ratings and insight for the legal industry, and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), the nation’s foremost authority on diversity issues in the legal profession, have released the results of this year’s Law Firm Diversity Survey in the Law Firm Diversity Database (http://mcca.vault.com). The fully-searchable online tool features comprehensive data on diversity performance for over 300 law firms nationwide. The Vault/MCCA data provides evidence that the legal profession is slowly recovering from the economic crisis and that progress for minority lawyers, which was halted — and, in some cases, reversed — in 2009, has moved forward again. However, partnership prospects remain dim for most minority attorneys, as well as female attorneys.
Signs of Post-Recession Recovery
Following a difficult year of recession-fueled cutbacks in the legal industry, entry-level and lateral recruiting experienced a welcome uptick in 2010, although hiring remained well below 2007 levels. Data also suggests that law firms are doing a better job of retaining lawyers. In contrast to 2009, when law firms lost 2,661 more attorneys than they hired, in 2010 more attorneys were hired (12,374) than left their firms (10,254).
While the 2L summer associate class of 2010 was substantially smaller than previous classes (only 53 percent the size of the 2009 class and less than half the size of the 2007 and 2008 classes), the full-time offer rate returned to pre-recession levels, with 88.78% of 2Ls receiving permanent offers in 2010 (compared to just 72.82% in 2009).
Minority Attorneys Regaining Ground
Last year, Vault/MCCA survey data suggested that minority lawyers had been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, with minority recruitment falling and departures rising. In 2010, however, these attorneys regained some of the lost ground, as hiring and attrition returned to pre-recession rates and the proportion of minority equity partners grew. Overall, the percentage of minority attorneys in the law firm population, which had fallen to 13.44% in 2009, climbed back to 2007 levels (13.77%).
In addition, the percentage of minority equity partners increased from 6.06% in 2009 to 6.29% in 2010 — the highest rate since 2003, when the Vault/MCCA survey was launched. Furthermore, minority representation on executive/management committees continued to expand, from 5.42% in 2007 to 5.50% in 2009 and 5.76% in 2010.
With respect to recruitment, racial/ethnic minorities represented nearly 21 percent (20.98%) of all attorneys hired in 2010 — a notable increase over the 19.09% reported for 2009, though still below the levels for 2008 (21.77%) and 2007 (21.46%). Within the 2L summer associate class, minority representation returned to 2008 levels. Retention rates also improved in 2010: minority lawyers represented 18.98% of all attorneys who left their firms, compared to the 20.79% who left in 2009.
“We’re happy to see an upturn in minority recruitment and retention after the disturbing results from last year’s survey,” says Vera Djordjevich, Vault’s managing editor for research and consulting. “The most encouraging news may be the advances made by minority lawyers within the top tiers of law firm hierarchies. On the other hand, smaller summer class sizes means a narrower recruiting pipeline, while a relatively stagnant partnership leaves fewer opportunities for diverse attorneys to climb the partnership ladder. Given these conditions, it’s hard to see how the ranks of minority partners in BigLaw will increase dramatically without corresponding increases in the proportions of minority law students hired and senior associates promoted.”
Contiue reading here.
During the last administration of the LSAT in June, 2011, the number of prospective law students taking the test declined 18.7% from the previous year. In June, 2010 there were 32,973 test-takers; this past June the number dropped to 26,812. According to figures maintained by the LSAC, last June saw a record number of test-takers; the highest number since the LSAC began reporting those numbers in 1987. From the LSAC website.
|Year||June||% Chg||October||% Chg||December||% Chg||February||% Chg||Total||% Chg|
Here's a guide published by the career development office at U. Arizona School of Law which is intended to help recent grads and otherwise unemployed (or under-employed) lawyers consider more remunerative and satisfying alternatives. The authors say that the guide's somewhat humorous tone is supposed to be an attention-getter that shouldn't detract from the "serious business of finding an alternative" to a career in law that may longer be a viable choice for some, if not many.
An alternative career can be the correct choice for many law students and graduates. The choice to enroll in law school does not mean that you have to be a lawyer. Whether you put your legal training to active use or not, there are numerous opportunities for people with law degrees. By examining the possibility of following a different career path than most, you may find yourself in a job that better suits your skills and interests. You have a variety of career options; explore them!
The following individuals have law degrees but followed different paths. There is hope for alternative career seekers after all ...
Fidel Castro Dictator John Cleese Actor Colonel Sanders KFC Founder Howard Cosell Sports Writer/Commentator John Grisham Author Julio Iglesias Singer David E. Kelley Screenwriter and Productor Tony LaRussa Baseball Player and Manager Geraldo Rivera Reporter and Talk Show Host Portia di Rossi Actor
For a complete copy of the Alternative Career Handbook click here.
Hat tip to the ABA Journal Blog.
The Most Ethical of People, the Least Ethical of People: Proposing Self-Determination Theory to Measure Professional Character Formation
Larry Krieger has posted a new article on studying ethical and professional behavior at SSRN.
Abstract: The complexities of ethical and professional behavior present major challenges for systematic study. In order to illuminate the understanding and promotion of ethics and professionalism, scientific inquiry will require testable hypotheses that reach deeply to the sources and means of developing professional behaviors. A functional consideration must also be broad, reaching to many subtle factors that impact ethics and professionalism, including personal purpose, attitudes, values, character, integrity, interpersonal behaviors, and more. I discuss here many of these factors, and an approach to measure them that is sufficiently broad and deep to offer real promise.