Can Blogging Boost Your Legal Career?

There’s no better way for a law student to network with leading lawyers, alums and potential employers than blogging (also called ‘blawgging’ when referencing legal blogs). In addition, there’s no better way for a law student to demonstrate their passion for and desire to get into a niche area of the law than blogging.  Writing frequently helps to improve your expression, and the blog format means you learn to explain things in a clearer, more concise manner. Being able to explain something simply and accurately is the best way to be certain you and others understand it.

Then there are the career benefits. Blogging is particularly helpful if you are interested in a specific area of the law where opportunities are few and competition for particular positions can be somewhat intense. When you have no prior experience, all you can do is tell your prospective employer how interested you are in a particular practice area or legal niche. This typically involves saying, “Oh yes, I’m really interested in this area of the law,” and then worrying whether you sounded too enthusiastic or not enthusiastic enough when you said it.

Not sure how to get started on your legal blog? Read up on Sally Kane’s Ten Tips for how to create a successful legal blog. You’ll find advice on how to start, how to pick a topic, and how to engage your readers. Happy blogging!

Productively De-Stress This Winter Break

Winter break provides the perfect opportunity for law students to replenish and recharge your batteries.  Here are 8 suggestions to help you stay balanced, stress-free and productive in the coming weeks.

1.    Set realistic expectations for yourself

Accept that you can’t be everything to all people. You can’t be in ten places at one time and can’t buy more gifts than your budget allows.  You can be upfront, honest and diplomatic, without over promising.  Your friends and loved ones will understand.

2.     Eat strategically

With so many eating choices during the holidays, it’s easy to overindulge. Healthy decisions during the day will help. Get your day off to a strong start with a balanced breakfast including quality protein, some healthy fat and complex carbohydrates.  Because it can be difficult to distinguish between hunger and thirst, keep yourself hydrated by continually drinking water throughout the day and at holiday parties. Finally, eat intuitively by enjoying the company of those around you, savoring your food and eating just until you are satisfied.

3.    Practice mindfulness

Navigating the terrain of law school can make time pass in a blur, possibly making you feel stressed and depleted.  Mindfulness practice helps you to focus on experience, resulting in numerous benefits for your mind and body. Below is a simple mindfulness exercise to practice during and after the holidays.

  1. Bring yourself into a posture that is upright and stable.
  2. Lower your eyes, (or close them if you prefer).
  3. Bring your attention to your breathing, following the in-breath, following the outbreath.
  4. Rest your attention on the flow of the breath through your body, with the intention of keeping it there.
  5. When you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to the breath.
  6. Do this for a few moments then lift your gaze or open your eyes.

Read more about law student wellness and mindfulness.

4.    Diffuse tension

Holidays can be loaded with stress. Contribute to stress free interactions by diffusing tension whenever possible.  Do your part to de-escalate stressful situations and replace tension with something productive.  If a situation is too challenging to de-escalate, then politely temporarily disengage by finding something else to do.

5.    Reach out to friends and family

You’ll be seeing many friends and family over the coming weeks. This is also the perfect time to reach out to the friends and family you’ve intended to catch up with, but have not had the time to do so.  Some of these folks – and you never know who – will have an interesting insight or connection.

6.    Volunteer

 Besides improving the lives of other, volunteer work has been documented to result in surprising benefits:

  •  Makes you feel as if you have more time
  • Helps develop new skills
  • Leads to better health
  • Builds your experience – and resume
  • Can lead to greater happiness

 “One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” – Gordon Hinckley

Read more about the benefits of volunteering.

7.    Plan ahead for the summer

If you haven’t started already, Winter Break is the time to get yourself ready to seek summer job opportunities and internships. Jump start your search before next semester begins by getting organized – develop a system for tracking applications and draft a list of potential employers. This is also a great time to put your networking skills to work: use LinkedIn or the WFU alumni database to identify potential professional contacts, then set up coffee, lunch, or a phone conversation for early January.

8.    Refine your resume, cover letters and writing samples

While you have a bit more time to focus, fine-tune your job search materials. Is everything up-to-date, including most recent employment? Have you carefully proofed for typos? Are your materials, especially your cover letters, as engaging and compelling as possible?  The content and quality of these materials can determine whether or not you move to the top of the employer’s pile.

Balancing Out Your Law School Thanksgiving Break

The Thanksgiving holiday period is always an interesting time for law students. It’s so close to the end of the semester—right before that crucial final exam time. Some students will choose not to travel to visit family to the holiday, concerned about potential distractions from studying, while others feel that a visit home is just what they need at this point in the semester.

Regardless of whether you are going to be with family or on your own for the Thanksgiving holidays, there are things that you can do to stay on track with your law school studies. Like so much about law school, the key to studying over Thanksgiving break (or any other holiday break, for that matter!) is balance.

Here are some tips to making this holiday break a time for both recharging the batteries and getting ready for final exams:

1. Give yourself permission to take a break. Sometimes law students feel so guilty about taking time off that they don’t actually enjoy the holidays. But it’s important to take a break sometimes so that you can recharge your batteries, and your family and friends’ support may be just what you need after working so hard this semester. Whether you are going home to visit family or staying near school for the Thanksgiving break, give yourself some time off so that you come back to your studies refreshed and ready to tackle your finals.

2. Create realistic goals for what you want to accomplish during the holiday period. When thinking out a study plan for Thanksgiving break, it isn’t always sensible to think that you will have the time to work on every single class. So packing every casebook, supplement, notebook, etc. when you travel home for the holidays may not be necessary. When students set unrealistic goals for themselves, they are tempted to give up entirely once they realize that they do not have time to get everything done. If you set realistic goals, you are much more likely to accomplish what you set out to do. Make a plan to tackle 2-3 important study goals during break so you can feel accomplished when completing them. Then, if you have the time and energy to take on more, you will feel even more accomplished for tackling those additional goals.

3. Create a schedule, and stick to it. If you do go home for the holidays, create a realistic schedule for what you want to accomplish—and, most importantly, hold yourself to that schedule. Communicate with family and friends about what you need to accomplish, and find the time and the right distraction-free location to get your work done. Maybe you set aside several hours each morning to work on your outlines, and then visit with family and friends in the afternoons and evenings. Or maybe you commit to studying all day long on certain days so that you take other days off entirely. If you set aside time to study and stick to it, you will be able to enjoy your time off even more because you won’t feel like you have so much hanging over you. If you are not traveling for the holidays though, make sure that you take the same approach—create a study schedule for the break so that you accomplish your study goals. It’s much easier to make progress when you have a plan for what you want to accomplish.

4. Get some sleep. Make sure that you come back from the Thanksgiving break refreshed and ready to tackle the end of the semester. This is the perfect time to make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and getting exercise so that your brain and your body are ready for those final exams.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Preparing for Your Video Interview

As legal employers search for more efficient and cost-effective ways to recruit for summer and post-graduate positions, use of video interviews is increasingly common. Software use varies from the popular Skype, to Microsoft and WebEx, to even fancier teleconnect modes of direct machine-to-machine dialing.

If you are having a video interview scheduled, or if you have never participated in a video interview, here are some tips to help familiarize yourself with the process:

 

Practice Makes Perfect

Before starting an interview, make sure that your webcam is working properly and that the sound levels are correct. Set your webcam to record and practice answering questions. Then review the video and see what you think you can be improved. If possible, ask a friend to send you questions so you can practice thinking on the spot. Remember, sound and video can lag due to slow internet connections, so be sure you stop after your responses to allow your interviewer time to respond.

If you are conducting a video interview at your residence, be sure to run a test video call with a friend to check speeds and reliability. Use a dedicated Ethernet cable if possible as wireless connections are slower if you are not close to the wireless router.

Do Your Research

Prepare for a video interview as you would an in-person interview. Be sure to research your interviewer and firm, and consider how you might respond to some common interview questions. Don’t get caught scrambling to think of what you might ask the employer. Prepare a couple of questions ahead of time to show you have taken to the time to fully research the company and the position.

Look at the Camera, Not the Screen

This isn’t the time to be checking yourself out on the screen. Eye contact is critical in an in-person interview, and it helps the video interview feel more effective as well. Pretend your webcam is the person interviewing you. Keep looking at the webcam as you would look at your interviewer.

Dress Appropriately

Plan ahead so you look your best. It’s best to dress professionally from head to toe, both to avoid embarrassing mishaps and to put yourself in the interview mindset. If you are considering dressing “business on top and casual on the bottom,” be careful! When you shift in your seat, you don’t want your pajamas or sweatpants showing! Dress in light colors against a darker background or dark colors against a light background. Give yourself enough space to make hand gestures as these are an important part of communication.

Have Paper, Pens, and Notes Available

It can be useful to jot down a couple of bullet points during your video interview when it’s time for asking the interviewer questions. Likewise, if you are asked to name your three best attributes, you can prevent any awkward silence when you forget your second point by glancing down at your notes. Having a few papers out on your computer desk is fine. Just don’t rely on having 10 pages out in front of you – flipping through multiple pages would be very distracting to interviewers.

Be Yourself

Treat the interview as you would any other professional opportunity, and make the most of it. Act naturally and answer the questions with as much enthusiasm as you would face-to-face. Finally, don’t forget to smile! Employers appreciate a warm and genuine conversation just as they would in person.

How to Set Up Effective Networking Meetings

It’s fall and you’re getting back in touch with your classmates and friends, finding out what they did over the summer, and asking for advice about classes, professors, and even where great new restaurants are located near campus. Networking operates along the same principles. You’re asking friends, acquaintances, and referrals about career paths, people they know, and job search strategies. It’s really just a conversation. There’s nothing all that complicated or scary about it.

In addition to checking job listings in Symplicity and other locations, you probably want to start setting up networking meetings. Our office is a good place to get tips. The school alumni directory, located in the new Wake Network, is a great place to start. You can also talk to your career advisor about locating a specific alumni in a field and geographic area of interest. With alumni, you both have a connection to the same school, which is a good ice-breaker. Professors can also be a good source of information.

Student memberships in professional associations are another way to find people to network with – since you are a member of the same organization, they have a built in connection to you. LinkedIn groups are also helpful. Of course, friends, family, people you know through sports, campus activities, and other schools you have attended, are another good place to start.

Now that you have some un-intimidating ways to find people, what should you do next? You can send a brief, friendly email asking to chat with them about their career, and mentioning your connection to them. If you want, attach your resume. The email should be more conversational than job search directed at this point.

Next, put together a list of questions for networking contacts. Questions about their own career path are a good place to start. You know that everyone likes to talk about themselves, right? Questions about areas that are in demand, job web sites and professional organizations related to what they do, and predictions about future growth areas and are also good. You can show them your resume, and ask for suggestions to improve it. Questions about referrals to others they know in the industry are fine (but I would wait until the end of the networking meeting to ask for other names). Hold your first networking meeting with someone you know, rather than your dream employer, so you can practice, and work out the kinks.

Plan to conclude networking meetings by asking your contacts if it’s okay for you to follow up with them. Follow up is the key. It takes the pressure off them having to feel they have to come up with an available job for you, but leaves the door open to remembering you when they do hear of an opening.

Once you get into the mindset that networking is a conversation and not a high pressure job interview, it’s a great way to meet people. There are many career studies that indicate it’s the best way to find a job. Need advice on getting a networking plan in place? Make an appointment with your career advisor today.

Why Attend the Equal Justice Works Conference & Career Fair?

For those students interested in pursuing a career in public interest law, now is the perfect time to mark your calendars and make plans to attend the annual Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair. The career fair will be held this year in Arlington, Virginia, from October 28 to Saturday, October 29.

This event is the largest national public interest legal career fair in the country and provides students with the unique opportunity to network with a diverse grouping of public interest employers and organizations in one location over the course of just two days. The career fair typically draws more than 160 public interest employers from many states, including California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, and Texas. The employers conduct actual interviews for internships and full-time jobs and meet with students in informal “table talk” discussions of public interest legal opportunities with their organizations. The conference also includes opportunities for networking, mock interviews, and resume review with practicing attorneys and workshops on specific public interest careers.

The cost of registration for the conference is only $25.00 and registration information is available.  A list of employers participating in this year’s conference is also available. Some notable attending employers include:

  • Animal Legal Defense Fund – Cotati, CA
  • Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, PA
  • Disability Rights Advocates – New York, NY
  • District Attorney’s Office of Charlotte, NC
  • Federal Trade Commission – Washington, DC
  • Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
  • U.S. Senate Office of the Legislative Counsel

Registration for the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair ends on September 14, 2016 so be sure you register early! To stay abreast of other Equal Justice events and public interest opportunities, students should also consider joining the Equal Justice Works JDs for Justice Network or following Equal Justice Works on Twitter.

Should You Take a Document Review Job?

Document-review work is not glamorous, but it is a common way to gain legal experience and provides valuable insight into the discovery process in many different areas of law. It is often done by solo practitioners looking for extra income or new law school graduates who have not yet secured permanent employment, or outsourced by larger firms with a heavy workload or large scale project. So what is document-review work and could it be right for you?

Document-review attorneys are required in a variety of situations. Typically, parties in a lawsuit or officials in a regulatory investigation need several documents produced or received. Corporations also need document reviewers to organize their documents. For example, a document reviewer might screen a recently departed employee’s computer files or create legal abstracts for insertion into a master spreadsheet.

Most document review work is done at a law firm office. However, it can also be done at a recruiter’s office, at the site of a corporation, or at a third-party location.

Typically, document-review work is done in teams of two to twenty persons. Occasionally, a document reviewer may work alone. Document review teams are typically supervised by one or two attorneys from the organization and interact with IT personnel.

The job requirements almost always call for bar licensure, and previous experience with document reviewing is preferred but not required in most cases. A document-review assignment can last almost any duration of time, commonly two weeks to three months. Document reviewers must be able to start an assignment on short notice, sometimes even within one day. The end date is usually not known upfront, but employers do provide an estimate if possible.

Our office lists document review positions in Symplicity posted by staffing agencies, but be sure to also reach out to legal staffing agencies directly and apply on their websites. A sampling of such agencies locally and nationally are:

Unsure if document review work is right for you? Contact your career advisor with your questions or Read More to find out how document review work can help you grow as a lawyer.

5 Tips for Less Stress at Networking Events

Networking has many benefits: you can meet new people, make connections, and learn about up and coming career opportunities. If you’re attending an event for the first time, the following tips can help alleviate your concerns.

1. There’s no magic bullet. Keep in mind, networking events do not bring guaranteed success.  Online or in person, you get out of networking what you put into it.  Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself by imagining how you should be or act. Simply focus on looking presentable, being considerate of others, and enjoying the company of the people you will meet.  Worst case scenario, you have some food and drinks, then head home. Which leads to….

2. What should you talk about? Aside from conflict-ridden topics (ie. Religion, politics, etc), strike up conversation on anything. The expectation may be that you should use this opportunity to market yourself, discuss your practice area interest or career goals, and that is a great idea. However, it may be a bit easier (and a bit more natural) to just start conversation as you would if you were amongst friends. Chat about the food, current surroundings, or an interesting, relevant story you recently heard. Keep the stories positive, because everyone migrates towards enthusiastic people. Once you get into casual conversation, you have developed some rapport, and you can introduce your professional self and make a connection.

3. Conversation lost its sizzle? Try a few questions to get to know your new connection a bit better, as opposed to yes/no style questions. “How did you get started with XYZ Company?” “What makes someone at your company successful?” “What do you think of the changes with (function of job)?” Just be sure you contribute as well, making it a two-sided conversation.

4. Manage your time. Even if you feel like you’ve hit it off with someone, be respectful of their time. It would also be good for you to go along and meet more people as well.  This is a great opportunity to exchange contact information either from sharing business/networking cards or another convenient method. Don’t have business cards? There are many online options to create your own personalized business cards to market yourself, even if you are in between jobs.

5. Confidence is key.  Applying for a job, presenting a topic for a business meeting, interviewing, and meeting new people… all require confidence for success. You have to value yourself and convey enthusiasm before others can really see those qualities in you.  If you’re feeling nervous about meeting new people, then practice what you may say with some friends. Smile often. Keep your head held high, literally. Posture and your presence when walking into a room will show your confidence. Make eye contact while talking to someone. These physical tips could help boost your confidence while approaching new people, and the more practice you get, the more you will improve.

Overall, professionally present who you are. Focus on building quality relationships and getting to know the people around you. Not every event will go smoothly, but it’s how we keep our cool under pressure or how we can make others feel that will make the lasting impression.  Practice, get out there, and enjoy these events!

Prepare to Launch

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Guest Blog Featuring Mary Crane from MaryCrane.com

Congratulations — as soon as final exams end, you’re about to enter the world of work! This is an important first step in the transition that you will undertake from being a student to becoming a successful professional. Even if you are just entering your summer job, you will still have a plethora of challenges ahead of you. Over the next several weeks, you will begin to learn the intricacies of a new profession. You will start to develop your professional persona. You should begin to lay the foundation for what will eventually become your professional network. Perform well and your introduction to the world of work may lead to a job offer.

You will be prepared to launch your professional career if you undertake the following eight activities:

1. Establish S.M.A.R.T. goals for your summer experience
A S.M.A.R.T. goal is one that is Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-targeted. A summer associate assigned to a firm’s mergers & acquisitions practice group might send the following S.M.A.R.T. goal: by the end of the summer, research, assist with the drafting of bylaws and articles of incorporation, and participate in creating a financing plan for one merger. In contrast an investment bank intern might set the following S.M.A.R.T. goal: once a week, review a randomly selected financial statement and build a leveraged buyout model from scratch.

Identify as clearly and specifically as possible what you wish to accomplish and whom you wish to meet during the summer months. Once you’ve been assigned to a specific department or task, be prepared to revise and refine your goals.

2. Research

Learn everything you can about your summer employer. Understand the products or services that it provides. Get familiar with its culture. Ascertain how formal or informal the workplace appears to be.

Create a work journal in paper or electronic format and add your research results. Throughout the summer, constantly add to this journal, developing an ongoing record of the people you meet and the projects that you undertake. Make note of new skills acquired and lessons learned that you can later add to your resume.

3. Make contact with your new employer
In most cases, representatives from your employer’s HR department will reach out to you long before your summer employment begins. If they do not, take the initiative to contact them. Use these exchanges to confirm attire expectations, your start time on Day One, and any information that might be available regarding your supervisor.

4. Research your supervisor

To the extent you know the department to which you will be assigned or the people with whom you will be working most closely, spend some additional time engaged in research. Google or look up the names of key individuals on LinkedIn and look for points of commonality, for example, you graduated from the same school.

When you undertake this research, be discreet. Don’t get pegged as a cyber-stalker. And it goes without saying that all of your own social media information now needs to be workplace-appropriate.  If it’s not, clean it up now!

Read Activities #5-8 Here – Responding to Employers, Your Day-One Outfit, Commute Test Runs, and Your Work Kit

5 Ways to Perform Well on Law School Exams

Feeling overwhelmed with all the new information you’re learning in your classes? Not sure how you will be able to do well on your exams in law school? Performing well on law school exams is essential to law school, and exam writing is a “specialized art that takes skill and practice.”

Attorney, editor and legal writer Sally Kane shares 5 tips for crafting a successful law school exam response. Her advice provides some insight to students about how to demonstrate both substantive knowledge of the subject matter in written form.

  1. Plan your response
    It’s hard to not get caught up in the “hurry up and start” pressure. Before starting immediately, plan an outlined response, which will help organize your thoughts and allow you to address the question clearly.
  2. Craft a well-organized essay
    Clear and concise writing will gain you points even if you fail to spot all of the issues. By crafting a well-organized essay, you will make the professor’s job easier. With this being said, be sure to include an introduction stating the rule of law, supporting paragraphs that apply the rule and mention any counter-arguments. 
  3. Remember “IRAC”
    Issue. Rule. Analysis. Conclusion.” This is the formula for law school writing exams which has been the most successful approach. Even if there is no clear answer, be sure to list several alternative conclusions and explain why each is logical. 
  4. Review past exams
    Many professors maintain a file of exams they have given in past years. While past exams don’t include the answers, they will give you an idea of the style and format of the professor’s exams. You can then brainstorm responses to the questions with other students. Some professors may even be willing to critique your answer or give advice on how to best answer the question.
  5. Budget your time
    Oftentimes, professors may plant a difficult question in an exam to test the student’s ability to manage his or her time. There will be some questions on the exams will be harder to answer than others. Skip harder questions to spend time on the other questions.