Single-minded sprint to finals? Maybe not

After Spring Break.

After spring break, finals loom on the horizon, leaving students with choices at two extremes:

  •   Hunker down now. Up the ante on studying. Finish, tweak, and  memorize outlines. Outline the note cases. Listen to recordings of every class for which there is a record. Take practice exams daily.
  •   Double down on job search until two weeks before finals. Then, proceed with #1.
As in Star Wars™, there is another. Another way, that is. 

Count your time.

Count the number of weeks until finals. Be honest with yourself and count the number of hours each week that you devote to studying and to job search. 

Create a schedule: keep panic in check.

If  you are a reasonably diligent student, you need not make radical alterations to your study habits. If you are an eight-hour-a-day person, there is no point in trying to put in 15-hour days. Within your comfort zone, create a sliding schedule, front-loading job search in late March and early April. Gradually decrease the job search hours and increase study hours. If you make a plan and work the plan, you may be able to control your time and keep your panic level in check.  

Spring Job Search Bonus Alert!  

The working world does not stop because you are studying for finals, so don't stop applying for jobs and don't abandon your networking. More jobs are posted in April than in any other month. Why? Employers who are  focused on getting client work done, are tipped by their kids' upcoming summer camp schedule to think "It must be time for a summer law clerk." Thus, there are jobs posted during finals. Don’t get cranky. Be prepared with a freshly dry-cleaned suit, a clean shirt, and polished shoes.

Interviewing during finals.

It happens. Be glad that you got the call. Employers may not be willing to wait to conduct your interview until after finals, however, they are usually willing to interview around your exam schedule.

Go to the interview. Knock it out of the ballpark. Get back to studying.

___Susan Gainen created a suite of training programs for law and other students (Alternative Careers, 2nd Career Law Students, I'am a 3L...What now?, Job Search Skills Outside of OCI, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, and Professionalism Has Attached). She is also an artist who has taken responsibility for the historic, pre-historic, and whimsical creatures of her hometown, Saint Paul, Minnesota. At her Small Friends' website, find Lost Cave Paintings,  Wild Parrots of the Winter of 2013, Tiny Wild Hummingbirds, Pandas and Frogs from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul, and Saint Paul's Backyard Rooster Haven.

How can my letter to a search firm get noticed?

Writing to a search firm is a crap shoot

Even if a search firm is working on a specific assignment, your application letter is a gamble. Getting a job through a search firm is like winning the lottery, it is not a comprehensive a career planning strategy. If you understand where search firms fit in the hierarchy of job search strategies, you can manage your expectations. 

Casting a wide net

Unless a search firm is working from a specific, detailed job posting, its advertising casts a wide net. Despite the wide net, the filters are narrow: whatever is perceived as “good grades, good schools, good experience.” The filters are generally hard-and-fast because it is what clients request from headhunters. There are exceptions, and they often can be found in very specific experience that a candidate may have that would trump the grades/school "requirement." 

The tricky part for candidates is knowing what might make their experience exceptional. The tricky part for search firms can be extracting meaningful specific information that they can use to source the candidate with exceptional experience.

The subset of the wide net is the search for the Purple Squirrel which has impossible requirements. 

Why can’t I write the best letter?

The best cover letters show that you  know the industry and its problems and that you are ready to help to solve those problems. Search firm advertising is likely to be too obscure to let you write a correct and compelling letter. Manage your expectations by keeping them low.

Consider the hierarchy of job search sources

  1. Connections that you have. These are people who you have enlisted in your Career Development Team. They are personal and professional connections, including the person who cuts your hair who can only tip you toward employment if you tell her what you want.
  2. Connections that you make, including direct contact made by search firms to you, personally. Headhunters don't make random "let's chat" calls. They call people whose credentials and experience match a specific client's job order or those who they believe might be helpful in finding marketable candidates. In the very late 1980s I conducted a pre-internet search for a 4th year Big Law Corporate Associate who spoke Polish for the people who were trying to buy the Gdansk Shipyards. My strategy? I used the paper version of Martindale Hubbell (this link has a very nice photo of the hard-bound volumes) and called every lawyer in Chicago and Boston whose last name ended with "ski." Using the telephone (that’s what we had in the Olden Days), it took six weeks to find the guy, and then the deal cratered. I was grateful to everyone who returned my calls.
  3. Referrals from #1 or #2 are not necessarily for jobs, but may be for connections to opportunities (barber's brother-in-law is the mayor of Left Elbow,MN, see #4)
  4. Opportunities that you identify by staying current with local and business news (new start up incubator opening in Left Elbow, Minnesota? Jump on it!)
  5. Job postings (a) on professional organizations' websites, twitter feeds, and LinkedIn posts, and (b) in general publications or on-line. Postings from actual employers are likely to have specific information about job openings. Armed with the name of the employer, you can conduct business/industry research which will help you write a good letter.
  6. Ads from search firms. Lacking the transparency of a posting from an identifiable employer, you are left to create documents that will seem unfocused and random. The remedy? Provide meaningful specific information about two or three best examples of your problem-solving experiences. Hope -- yes hope -- that your specific experience is what an employer is seeking.
___
Susan Gainen created a suite of training programs for law and other students (Alternative Careers, 2nd Career Law Students, I'am a 3L...What now?, Job Search Skills Outside of OCI, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, and Professionalism Has Attached). She is also an artist who has taken responsibility for the historic, pre-historic, and whimsical creatures of her hometown, Saint Paul, Minnesota (Lost Cave Paintings, Wild Parrots of the Winter of 2013, Tiny Wild Hummingbirds, Pandas and Frogs from the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul, and Saint Paul's Backyard Roosters' Haven.)

10 Tips for Moving a Small Practice



(Based on a comment posted to a lawyerist.lab post.



Telepathy is not a practice management tool

Ten tips for moving a small practice can get you started. Use this guide to start your list and get to work.

Harness school connections 

1.   Contact your law school career office. Its staff may be familiar with alumni in your new area. They should be delighted to make introductions because they know that introductions may lead to new job connections for current students and other grads.

2.   Ditto your law school development and alumni relations offices. Those professionals know that contented grads may make donations.

3.   Ditto your undergraduate school's career and alumni professionals. Graduates of these programs may not be lawyers, which is a good thing. Never forget that you are looking for clients.

Harness personal and professional connections 

4.   Announce your move in every paper and electronic publication associated with any part of your personal and professional life. Don't forget your high school classmates who you have found on Facebook. Unless you have been paying close attention, you won't know that the person with whom you shared a frog-dissection experience lives in your new location.

5.   Tell everyone you know including the person who cuts your hair. You can't know that your hair cutter's brother-in-law is the mayor of your new location unless you share your news.

Take action: choose volunteer activities wisely

6.   Join and become active in bar associations in your new area. Whether you join local or state bars or specialty bars, choose wisely so that you can make a real contribution to the organization.

7.   Find a civic organization that you can support with enthusiasm.

Recreate referral sources

8.   Because you are moving an existing practice (or traveling with an existing skill set), you know your target clients and referral sources, or at least you know where they hang out. For example, an elder law practice benefits from giving presentations in nursing homes, houses of worship, meetings with bankers, social workers, etc. You know your referral sources. Find them and connect.

Welcome people into your new space

9.    Announce the opening of your office in the local newspapers (paper and electronic versions.) Host an open house.

10.  Opening a physical office? Find a local arts organization and offer wall space to artists on a rotating basis. Art openings = visits from potential clients.  

Graduating 3Ls: Take the July Bar (No excuses)

Mid-February is the time when some 3Ls begin waffling about taking the July Bar. Waffle no more! Sign up for a bar exam.
           

Good excuses for skipping a July bar

        Donating a kidney.
        Having a baby.
        Caring for family members in crisis.
      

Not-so-good excuses for skipping a July bar

       I don’t know where I will practice.
       I'm tired of studying/I need a break.


I don't know where I will practice.

If you don’t know where you will practice, sign up for the least expensive bar that you can find or the bar exam that many of your classmates are taking.You will never care more about Torts and Contracts than you will just after graduation. Taking the bar with your law school pals allows you to wink at your pals when someone from another law school is clueless about something that you all learned in ConLaw. Thank your first year profs.  

Strategize with the ABA Section on Legal Education & Admission to the Bar’s extremely helpful and detailed Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission 2014. Some bar examiners allow you to apply multi-state scores from a recent bar exam, although you may be required to have been admitted. Read this document closely.

Note: This recommendation also applies to trailing spouse/partners of professionals whose locations in September 2014 are as-yet-unknown.

Push-back. “It’s a waste of time and money to take a bar exam for a place where I might not practice.”

If you take and pass a July bar, you will be a lawyer by November or December 2014.

If you wait to take and pass a February 2015 bar, you probably won’t be admitted May 2015, half a year behind your class. Should you fail a February 2015 bar and take and pass a July 2015 bar, you will be a year behind your class in your attorney job search, possibly unable to call yourself a lawyer until October 2015. What will you do in the meantime?

Interview issue: 20 seconds or 20 minutes?

Prospective employers expect that you will have taken and passed the first bar exam after your graduation date, and you will be quizzed closely about anything that is out of pattern. The unarguable kidney-childbirth-family-care takes 20 seconds; anything else may take more of your 20-minute screening interview than you can afford to waste.

I am tired of studying/I need a break.


Having chosen to become a lawyer, you have signed up for lifelong learning. If you really need a break, take it after the bar exam. Enjoy that time, because it may be the last long vacation that you have for a very long time.

()()(()())()(()(())

Out of 30 years of experience in boom and bust economies in a variety of volatile businesses, Susan Gainen has created a suite of programs for law and other students that can be scheduled by career professionals, admissions or alumni relations offices, or student groups. (Alternative Careers, 2nd Career Lawyers, Job Search Outside of OCI, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, Professionalism Has Attached, I'm A 3L/What Now?) In addition to lecturing, she provides individual career counseling, resume review, and business development training. 

She also has a life as a painter, and has taken responsibility for the prehistoric and whimsical wildlife of her hometown, Saint Paul Minnesota. (The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul, The Pandas of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul, The Wild Parrots of Saint Paul, and the Tiny Wild Hummingbirds of Saint Paul). 

3 Steps for 3Ls: Waste no time

Between now and graduation, you have a huge block of time. Don’t waste it.

You may have lost your zest for outlining, and your study group pals are busy with journals, moot courts, clinics, job searches, and pre-graduation frolics. Don’t become a couch potato unless you expect employment from Couch Potatoes International. You have to get up and do what needs to be done.

3 Steps for 3Ls: Get up and go!

      1.         APPLICATION IN PROGRESS: ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

Answer the questions out loud: “Why do I want to be a lawyer?”  “Why do I want this job?" and "Why should you hire me?" Think like the employer before you answer the third question. (What do you know about the business? The industry? The problems facing the employer?) Answer the questions out loud. Practice. Think. Practice. Think. Practice.

      2.     STILL UNFOCUSED? Don't be embarrassed if  you are still unfocused about what you want to do. It's ok that you don't know your path, but it's not ok to KEEP not knowing your path. 

a.     Go to monster.comcareerbuilder.com or other job boards, and spend some time in advanced-search mode with and without “JD/lawyer” as search terms. Surf those sites. Let your imagination fuel your search terms. Find something that’s interesting and explore it.

b.     What would you be doing had you not come to law school? Are you still interested? Find out how you might use legal training to do that work. Explore adding law to the toolbox that runs that job.

c.    Have you ever taken traditional assessment tests? (Myers-Briggs, etc.) Get some career assessment testing through your law career office or your undergraduate school. Do not expect a concrete, linear instruction (“You should be a fire fighter”). With professional review of your results you may get important clues that will serve you well and give you some things to think about. 

d.     What was your favorite class in law school? Do you like it enough to try to forge a career from it? Talk to law career services professionals. Don’t be discouraged when faculty and others say “There is no job in this town for fighting human trafficking.” Note, please:
                                                  i.     you can find human trafficking and and its Evil Twin domestic violence in every town and county in America.
                                                ii.     you can work on human trafficking using the same tools that fight domestic violence, which, mercifully, remains illegal. 
                                               iii.     take the Watergate-Era’s Deep Throat’s best advice to heart (“Follow the money”), and you should be able to find funding for work that looks like fighting human trafficking and domestic violence from a variety of public and private sources. Use your imagination. Brainstorm with others. Don’t sit this one out.

e.      Why did you decide to come to law school? Review your reason (look at your personal statement ), and consider how (if at all) you have changed. You know much more about law and law as a tool for problem-solving than you did when you took the LSAT. How much better prepared are you to pursue your original goals?

           3.     TELEPATHY IS NOT A JOB SEARCH TOOL. 

                 You have to get out of your couch potato comfort zone and talk (yes, talk on the phone or in person) to people who have the jobs that you want. Ask smart questions.
·       Avoid the #1 Dumb Time-waster Slacker Question: “What is a typical day like?” The correct answer is: “Every day is different. Why are you wasting my time? Get out of my office.”
·       Ask questions that get to the heart of reasons for doing a job: the challenges (personnel, budget, time-management), the emotional toll (public defenders’ good result is less jail time; family lawyers’ milieu is constant conflict); the things that keep lawyers up at night; the things that keep them coming back to the work.


Read everything you can about the work that you want to do. Explore it. Examine it. Change your mind. Find a new goal and start again.

())()()(()()()((()()()

Out of 30 years of experience in boom and bust economies in a variety of volatile businesses, Susan Gainen has created a suite of programs for law and other students that can be scheduled by career professionals, admissions or alumni relations offices, or student groups. (Alternative Careers, 2nd Career Lawyers, Job Search Outside of OCI, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, I'm A 3L/What Now?) In addition to lecturing, she provides individual career counseling, resume review, and business development training. 

She also has a life as a painter, and has taken responsibility for the prehistoric and whimsical wildlife of her hometown, Saint Paul Minnesota. (The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul, The Pandas of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul, The Wild Parrots of Saint Paul, and the Tiny Wild Hummingbirds of Saint Paul).

I'm a 3L. What now? #2: Smart or delusional job search strategies

3L spring semester job search strategies range from very smart to completely delusional.

Ideal: Organized, structured, systematic and not frantic combination of:

                    1.      Self-assessment,
                    2.      Targeted networking based on:
                   a.      well-developed or tentative selection of practice areas or career paths,
                   b.      geography,
                   c.       friends, family, and a constellation of established personal and professional contacts,
                    3.      Volunteer hours with work is tied to skill-building,
                    4.    Wise use of social networks, guided by Amanda Ellis' 6Ps of the Big 3,
                    5.      Selective application for posted jobs, and
                           6.      Careful exploration of leads gathered through connections for upcoming openings.


Not so good #1: Ramen Noodles. 

Efficient and effective job search is much more like making barbecue than making ramen noodles.  

"I want a job, any job" inspires activity as fruitless as throwing noodles against the wall to test for done-ness by seeing what sticks. 

Frantic application for every possible job posting looks deceptively like forward motion, but it is so time-consuming that it supplants thoughtful assessment, careful research into options (substantive law, the nut-and-bolts reality of specific jobs, geographic locations, etc.), and all other activities known to produce results. (See Ideal, above)

Not-so-good #2:  Magical Thinking.

The far side of short-sighted defines applying for one job or jobs in just one category, regardless of the state of the underlying industry or ongoing hiring freezes. 

Classic example: Consider the student who applied only to the Cook County Public Defender for the three years that he was in law school, which coincided neatly with the office’s three-year hiring freeze. Sadly for the career professionals who have to document and answer for the employment results of each student, there is no category for “delusional.”

Oh So Sad. Hiding under the bed and communing with dust bunnies, who are not hiring.

Overheard often: “It’s February. I’m not going to look until after I take the bar (or get bar results).”

There are some students for whom part of this strategy is correct:
                  1.      Students who have absolute moral certainty that they will not practice law (trust fund babies, committed stay-at-home parents, professionals in other fields adding "law" to their skills toolboxes), 
                  2.      JAG applicants (who should have a Plan B because stuff happens. Not everyone passes the entry physical),
                  3.      Students who are the trailing spouse/partner of someone whose future is structurally up in the air (military spouses, medical students, Foreign Service, etc).

Search on hold? A waste of time

For everyone else, putting a job search on hold for seven (until after the bar) or ten or eleven months (after bar results) is an astonishing position and a colossal waste of time.

Don’t know what you want to do?

You can wait 11 eleven months to be struck by a flash of insight or spend some time exploring practice areas and specific jobs. Volunteer. Get a part-time job.

Don’t know where you want to practice?

You can wait 11 months to see if the construction industry returns to your hometown or to learn whether the town fathers and mothers attract the equivalent of a Silicon Valley to your local mall. Interesting questions, certainly, and ones that you should follow by reading your hometown paper on line or by reaching out to the denizens of City Hall to monitor their efforts. It is, however, unlikely that a thriving business will appear out of nowhere in time to help you decide which bar exam to take or for you to secure a job in October after graduation.

Don't know where you want to take the bar, so you'll take it in February?

Opting for the February bar because you are tired of studying is a frequent cry of retreat from students who for a variety of reasons can't focus on next week, much less next fall. Get a grip because:
            1.  Many jobs require that you have taken and passed a bar exam before you can be considered as a candidate. Assuming that you pass, you can't begin a search until at least year after graduation. 
           2.  You will never care more about Torts and Contracts than you will just after graduation.
           3.  Studying with your pals (either in your law school's location or in a bar study site where you might have just a few classmates) is a comfort. When students around you are wailing about material that is new to them, you and your well-instructed pals can nod knowingly and silently thank your first year professors.
           4.  Because the February bar is out of pattern, you will have to explain yourself for taking it. Your risk? "I donated a kidney" will make you a hero. "I just didn't get around to it/I was tired of studying/I just needed a break" can brand you a slacker. 

Know that you want to travel after taking the bar?

You can pack a backpack all over the world and then try to explain yourself when you look for a job, or you can make the most of your trip by exploring sites such as Meet! Plan! Go! which can guide you toward activities that can make your post-bar trip look like a series of smart professional activities.

Help is available. 

Every single law student in American has access to a career office staffed with professionals who are there to guide you through the easy stuff (resumes) and the really hard stuff (decided what you want to do, and devising strategies to help you achieve your goals). 

One 20-minute visit is not enough.

If you believe that your career office is understaffed, take your concerns to the Dean who is uniquely situated to remedy the situation. Talk about student-to-professional ratios. Do the math. If you have 600 students and two professional staff, how many minutes can each student spend with a career adviser in one year? 

Don't forget that every minute of every day isn't available for students, because the career professionals must reach out to prospective and current employers, alumni, bar association and other professionals. They also organize and plan the programming that you should be attending, and they also work hard to stay current with the market for lawyers and for opportunities for alternative career paths. 

()()())()()()(()()

Out of 30 years of experience in boom and bust economies in a variety of volatile businesses, Susan Gainen has created a suite of programs for law and other students that can be scheduled by career professionals, admissions or alumni relations offices, or student groups. (Alternative Careers, 2nd Career Lawyers, Job Search Outside of OCI, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, I'm A 3L/What Now?) In addition to lecturing, she provides individual career counseling, resume review, and business development training. 

She also has a life as a painter, and has taken responsibility for the prehistoric and whimsical wildlife of her hometown Saint Paul Minnesota. (The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul, The Pandas of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul, The Wild Parrots of Saint Paul, and the Tiny Wild Hummingbirds of Saint Paul).

5 tips for the 3L marathon

Take a deep breath. Although the bar exam and student loan payments loom large, you are in a marathon, not a sprint.

1.  Job search skills are life skills: don’t put them in separate boxes.

The skills that you develop that lead you to a job are the skills that will help build your law practice (public or private), fundraise for your kids’ kindergarten, run a political campaign, and manage projects at work.

2.  Look at all of your experience and acknowledge what you have learned.

Review your work (paid, volunteer, clinic, probono). Consider how the people with whom you have worked have demonstrated professionalism, ethics, excellent client service, and top-notch management and mentoring skills. Do not ignore the flip side. Every time you have been poorly supervised, badly managed and not mentored at all, you should have said to yourself, “I’ll never do that.”


3.  Evaluate each experience.

Each experience helps you answer “Do you have any questions?” so that you can continue to find good work sites and to avoid what you know will make you miserable.

4.  Your network: Find it. Work it. Give Back to it.

  • Get out of your house. Dust bunnies under the bed are not hiring.
  • Tell everyone you know that you are hunting for a job and give them meaningful specific information about what you are looking for. Telepathy is not a job search tool.

5.  Become an expert.

Interview lawyers who are doing what you want to do. Research. Blog. It is easier to hire someone who is on her way to becoming an expert on her on dime and in her own time than it is to hire someone who says “Train me. I’m yours.”

You may change your focus.  If you have met with 10 lawyers who describe work that sounds like the 7th Level of Hell, explore another practice.


Bonus tips

  1. Join a bar association that is relevant to your interests. Find a committee and contribute.
  2. Volunteer. Build skills. Decide in real time whether you want to work for individual clients, to do policy work, or to do something else, entirely.
  3. Keep up your part-time job. Always do your best work. You will need glowing references. You may find that this job becomes full time.
  4. Review your resume. Write it for the job you want, not for the one you have. Having met with multiple lawyers in your goal area, you will be able to do this correctly.
  5. Polish your presentation skills. Banish “ummmm” and “I’m like, you know” from your vocabulary. You won’t know when they keep you from getting a second interview.
  6. Actively manage your electronic profile. Use LinkedIn and other tools wisely and well.
()()()()()()()

Susan Gainen's suite of programs for law students may be sponsored by student groups, career or alumni offices or deans of students: Alternative CareersSecond Career Law StudentsProfessionalism Has AttachedJob Search Skills = Business Development Skills, Job Search Outside of OCI: The Forever Skill (unless you are a Ground-Hog-Day-2L), and 3Ls - What now?  Her program  2nd, 3rd, and 4th careers: Concrete steps for a life-changing process, is designed for returning college students. In addition to 25 years of career development activity (headhunter, law school career development, consultant), she is an artist. Her creativity workshops include Open Your Heart and Close Your Wallet: Watercolor Postcards for Thrifty Travelers, Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun: A conversation about creativity, and The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul: Create your cave with gesso.