Prepare to Launch

Photo of Mary Crane

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. 

 

New Attorneys Will Benefit from a Mentor

Passing the bar makes every new attorney think they are ready to hit the ground running and filing Supreme Court appeals their first year of practice. Whether you are planning on starting your own solo practice or are starting work at a big firm, make a conscious effort to find attorney(s) who are willing to mentor you as a new attorney. Good mentors are invaluable as you can bounce ideas off them and they can give you tips on how to overcome some common pitfalls a young attorney is sure to face.

But if you’re just starting out, you may be wondering just how you’re supposed to find a legal mentor. After all, legal mentors do not grow on trees. Here are three tips to find a mentor:

  1. Check in with the law school and former classmates. At no point in your life will you be surrounded by as many people involved in the legal field than when you were at law school. Check in with classmates who may have started a law practice, especially those who were a year or two above you. Also, you can ask law professors and your career advisor for suggestions. Alumni are often willing to work with other alumni.
  2. Contact your local bar association. Many bar associations have a section devoted to junior attorneys, and they may pair up juniors with more senior members. These sections are often split among practice areas, so you may be able to find a mentor directly in the area you work in. In North Carolina, membership in the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association is open to all NCBA members who are under 36 years of age and all lawyers within their first three years of practice. Membership in the YLD is free and automatic upon membership in the NCBA.
  3. Approach someone you admire. At some point, you may read an article about a lawyer you aspired to be like. You should try calling or emailing that attorney. Everyone loves flattery, and even the busiest of attorneys may take some time out of their day to talk to their biggest fan. It doesn’t hurt to try, and the worst that can happen is that the person you approach says “no” or ignores you.

There are viable legal mentors everywhere. You just have to take the initiative to find one. If you need any assistance in how to start searching for a mentor, contact your career advisor today and they will help point you in the right direction.

Making the Best Use of Spring Break

beach chairLaw students the world over look forward to breaks from law school. Some students view these breaks as a holiday—a time to get away from the intense daily demands of their studies, travel, and visit with family and friends. Other students have ambitious plans for catching up or getting ahead in their studies. Regardless of which approach you take, you are probably pretty happy when you see Spring Break finally approaching. There is nothing wrong to either approach to Spring break, at least in the abstract. In fact, the best Spring Break plans should probably include some of both. The key is to come back to law school after the break in a better place than you were before—and accomplishing this task takes just a little advance planning. Here are a few tips for making the best use of your Spring Break this year:

Set reasonable goals for studying during the break.  Often, law students say that they are going to outline for all of their classes during the break, do practice exams for each class, get ahead in their reading assignments, and read a bunch of supplements. Spring break can be the perfect time to work on getting caught up in your studies, but it is important to set realistic goals. After all, Spring Break usually only lasts a week! You aren’t superhuman, and you can’t do everything. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself, it is easy to get defeated and give up when you realize that you can’t get everything done. Instead, decide what your highest priority items are, and focus on those first. Create a study schedule for yourself during the break, and set reasonable goals for what you intend to accomplish during each of those study sessions. You will be focused and productive, and your efforts will build momentum for the weeks leading up to final exams.

Visit the city where you wish to work. Planning a trip to the city where you want to work, either in the summer or after graduation, will prove useful in the long run. By scheduling informational interviews or even coffee or lunch meetings with attorneys and alumni in the area, you can accrue connections to help you learn the ropes in a new area. On these informational interviews or meetings, ask plenty of questions so that you may acquire tips and best practices about important topics such as how to get your foot in the door at a particular place of employment.

Give yourself permission to take some time off. It isn’t particularly healthy to work long days every day during the break, including weekends. There is still a lot of time before the end of the semester, and you don’t want to burn yourself out. If you take a little time off from your studies, you will come back refreshed and ready to tackle the hard stuff. At the minimum, give yourself a couple of days off entirely. Do something fun. Get out of the house. See your friends and family. Read a fun book. Go to the movies. On the days that you study, take regular breaks. If you set realistic study goals for yourself and create a study plan to achieve those goals, you will be able to build in some time to relax as well.

Make vacation plans that recharge your batteries, not leave you even more tired. Maybe you are caught up on your law school studies, and you’ve decided to go on vacation during Spring Break. (Or you are making it a combination study/travel break!) It’s important to make sure that your vacation plans don’t leave you exhausted as you are heading back to classes. It’s still a long uphill climb to final exams, and you won’t be setting yourself up for success if you have run full speed the entire break.

Above all, think balance. As with everything in law school, taking a balanced approach to Spring Break and other holidays will help to keep you on the right path to academic and personal success.

How a Law School Specialization Can Help You Obtain Employment

Guest Blog by Ashli Irene Weiss from Ms.JD.com 

Specializing while in law school is a valuable tool. As a law student, I specialized in intellectual property and focused on trademark law. My specialization helped me land amazing intellectual property career opportunities within a field of law I enjoy and that my peers are equally as passionate about. I wrote this article to share the benefits I learned that come with a specialization, to quell the fear that many students have of specializing while in law school and to provide advice on how to choose a specialization.

A legal specialization can be work experience in a job interview.  ”Why do you want this job,” is a question I received at every job interview. As a new graduate, I always incorporated my specialization. A specialization requires certain courses to help prepare a student to practice in a specific type of law. I wrote articles on intellectual property, completed projects that simulated attorney work product and discussed new issues in IP with my peers in class. This translated to my potential employer as experience, because it aligned with some of the job qualifications required for the position. Similarly, a new graduate can use their specialization to demonstrate experience. This may help the new graduate stand out from other applicants who also have limited work experience, but no specialization.

Specializing shows to potential employers that you have a passion.  As an interviewer for an intellectual property job position, I favored those applicants that showed a passion for IP. In general, a passionate employee is dedicated to completing the task at hand, more pleasurable to work with and tends to have innovative ideas in that area of law. A specialization is a straightforward way to show an employer that you have a passion towards a particular field of law. It signals that you wanted to take specific courses in law school to prepare you for a specific career. It suggests that the employer can speak with you about breaking issues in the law, because you keep up-to-date on the news in that area. An employer may also be more confident that you will put in the hours required to solve the issue and have a better work product.

A legal specialization helps create new contacts.  In law school, I reached out to IP lawyers via email and introduced myself to IP lawyers at events I attended.  Under these circumstances, I always mentioned my specialization in IP.  My specialization was something that could relate with the IP lawyer.  People connect more willingly with one another if it is based upon a similarity.  Conversation between the two people flows more easily, because they can exchange thoughts and new ideas on a common interest.  If you practice in the same field of law, there is also a likelihood that the lawyer will run into you in the near future.  With a chance of crossing paths again, a lawyer may be more willing to help so they can maintain their reputation.

Read more on other ways specialization in law school can benefit your career.

Still Undecided? What Bar Exam to Take If You Are

It’s a question that many students have, particularly when entering their 3L year: what state bar exam do you choose if you are still undecided? Choosing a state bar exam is a deeply personal decision and may involve input from family, friends, your law professors and/or law school career advisors. Start with this: Where do you see yourself in five years? (Don’t you hate that question!) Interviewers tend to ask it often during the interview process. The purpose is to gauge your commitment to the company or agency you are pursuing. For the bar exam, it is a similar commitment question. To help, here are a few things to consider when making your decision:

Location — When considering state bar exams, target (and research) where you’d like to live most. Are you willing to practice law in another jurisdiction or move to another jurisdiction? Some law graduates are not set on living in one place. If you don’t have anything tying you down, moving can open up new opportunities with the bar exam and with other work. But make sure you think carefully about this! Passing an individual bar exam does tie you down quite a bit.

However, now that the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is gaining in popularity, moving between jurisdictions is getting easier and easier wherever the UBE is accepted. Do your research and see if moving is the right decision for you. What if you are trying to get a job where your bar exam membership doesn’t matter? Sometimes attorneys want to be licensed somewhere but don’t intend to practice law. Or they get a job with the federal government where it doesn’t matter which jurisdiction you are licensed in. Most graduates and attorneys only want to take only one bar exam if they can help it, so choosing wisely when thinking about location and job requirements is best.

Bar Admission requirements — Examine the bar exam subjects tested, the bar’s format, test dates, CLE requirements and fees associated with maintaining good standing. You can visit www.ncbex.org and www.ncble.org to obtain these details. Some bar exams may be more difficult than others for some individuals. Perhaps it is the weight of the writing portion. Or perhaps it is the availability of getting testing accommodations. If an exam just seems impossible for you, then you may want to investigate taking a different state’s bar exam.

But taking a new bar exam will come with its own set of challenges: You will need to learn new state-specific law. If you switch jurisdictions, you are going to have to start all over again which can be a daunting task for some. Those moving forward with this choice will have to face more substantive review than if they studied for the same jurisdiction over again. Depending on how much time you have to study for the exam, this may make changing jurisdictions overwhelming.

Deciding which bar exam to take is a challenging decision to make. Weighing the pros and cons of each possible plan will help you make a decision you can be happy with. Be sure to also keep these other key points in mind as you narrow down which bar exam to take:

  • Legal industry — Is the market saturated with attorneys and is the legal industry of your choice in your area/region of the country?
  • Family obligations — Do you want to go back to your hometown? If so, why?
  • Professional Network — What professional contacts have you made? Does your school have an alumni network that would allow you to pursue your goals? Do you have access to mentors in that state?
  • Family and friends network — Do you have the support your need to pursue your goals?
  • Reciprocity — Most states allow admission on motion after practicing for a number of years.

Our Advice on How to Choose a Practice Area

It can be hard to decide on a specific practice area while attending law school, especially during your first year. The choices can seem endless! Throughout the year our office will present informational programs and events with participants designed to inform you about different legal careers & practice areas. Check the Upcoming Events section of our newsletters and web site, as well as the law school calendar regularly for events that may interest you or advance your career. In addition, programs are publicized by Twitter and Facebook so be sure to stay connected.

Conducting informational interviews is also a great way to explore different practice areas and to develop professional networks. Make a list of people you know (or who family members or friends know) who have a law degree. Contact them and introduce yourself as a law student and see whether they would be open to meeting or talking with you over the phone (at a convenient time) about their work and their unique career path. It is important to start building a network of colleagues. Not only can they be a source of jobs, but a source of future collaborations. They can also be a source of valuable advice on what steps you should take to learn more about a particular field or who else to contact to gain information and expand your network.

In addition, alumni/ae, faculty and lecturers are an important source in building your network and obtaining information about different areas of practice. Search the new Wake Network or contact your career advisor for assistance in identifying/contacting appropriate alums. Don’t forget that fellow students are an excellent resource. Talk to current students about their summer experiences and how they were able to obtain their summer position. To the extent you can (especially as a 2L and 3L), consider classes in areas of the law that genuinely interest you and may help you explore a particular area of the law, rather than loading up on “bar” classes.

You may even want to consider a field placement, clinic or externship for academic credit. A great way to research public interest/public sector employment is to enroll in a field placement for a semester.  A number of public interest/public sector employers offer students an opportunity to work in their office in exchange for academic credit. Similarly, if you’ve taken a class you really enjoy and think you may be interested in pursuing a career practicing that area of law, a practicum extension may be another option to choose. Talk to the professor of the class and see if s/he would be willing to be your faculty supervisor. Please note that approval is required for any placements for which academic credit is sought, so be sure to check with the point of contact for each individual externship or clinic for details.

Still unsure of how to start deciding on a practice area? Make an appointment with your career advisor to discuss what options you are considering and they will help guide you throughout this process as well as your journey through law school.

Which OCI Offer to Accept?

You’ve aced the OCIs. You’ve convinced multiple employers that you’re the one for them, and you’re now in the enviable position of juggling offers for that coveted summer position. Now time to choose the employer that is actually right for you with some careful advice:

1. You have 28 days from the date of the offer letter to decide whether to accept or not, assuming the firm is a NALP member. Once you’ve made your decision, let employers know and don’t wait until day 28 just for the sake of it. (Read NALP’s General Standards for different timeframes depending on circumstances.)

2. Speak to current and former lawyers at each firm, though bear in mind that experiences of the same company can vary dramatically and things may be different when you (hopefully) join as an associate in two years’ time. Many employers are happy for you to revisit them during the offer period and some may even invite you to dinner (go if you can).

3. Focus on the work. What is each company’s core business? Which practices have been expanding/contracting? How will work be allocated? Will you rotate through practice areas as a junior associate or stay in just one? If you don’t know or care what work you’ll do, try to keep it broad – choose an employer that will keep doors open.

4. Be honest with yourself about your personality and genuine interests. What vibe did you get with your interviewers during OCIs and the callback interviews? Who did you really click with? Would you rather work downtown or in the more rural areas? Do you value a world-wide legal company or close ties to the region?

5. It’s never too soon to consider your exit options. Where do departing associates move to next? How would this employer look on your resume – to help your long term career goals or not? If you think you might want to join private equity, or government, or a corporation in a few years then join a company that excels most at what you want to do.

6. Decline offers as soon as you can, thanking each employer for its time. This could be the person you receive the offer letter from, the interviewer or recruiting director. We’d advise that after phoning it’s best to send a short follow-up email too. Try to speak to the person and don’t just leave a voicemail. Your paths may cross again in future, so leave a good impression.

“Select a good initial experience. Get the best training possible. Those first few years of training and legal practice are more important than people realize. If you have a clear sense that you want to be a tax, corporate, litigation or administrative lawyer, then go to a law firm that will give you a well-rounded experience in that area. If you don’t know what area you’re interested in, go to the best law firm you can get into and learn how to become a general lawyer, while you figure out what your passion is.”

– Rudy Giuliani, Bracewell & Giuliani

What to Wear (And Bring!) to a Legal Job Interview

As Fall On-Campus Recruiting season draws near, students will soon feel the excitement of having a legal job interview. The excitement also rings true for recent grads still in the market for a position after taking the July bar exam. However, once the initial excitement of landing the interview wears off, two questions are sure to follow: What should I wear? And: What should I bring?

As far as the ‘what to wear’ part, the rules for men and women are similar: always err on the conservative side. With very few exceptions, your number one dress choice for a legal interview should be a suit. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed on such an occasion. Here are some tips to remember as you prepare for the big day:

  • Make sure everything fits properly. Make sure nothing is too tight, or too loose, too long or too short. For women, check skirt length carefully, and ensure there’s no excessive “button gap” on button-down shirts (look from the side in the mirror). If you need changes, enlist a tailor to make alterations or ask for help in the store as you’re trying things on. These people are trained to make you look good!
  • Get rid of wrinkles. You can have the nicest interview outfit in the world, and it’s going to look lousy if it’s full of wrinkles. If you are traveling to interviews, think about how you’re going to keep everything clean and pressed. Will you iron in the hotel? Do you need to send things out? Is a travel steamer the answer? There are lots of options, but waking up the morning of your interview and realizing your shirts are a mess isn’t ideal!
  • Buy decent shoes. At a minimum, your shoes should match your suit (and pay attention to socks) and be leather or leather-like. For the ladies, closed-toe shoes paired with nylons are best. Think conservative!
  • This is not a time to make a statement. A job interview is the worst place to try and make a statement about your brave personal style. The hiring manager is looking for someone who is grounded. They are looking for someone that will show up every day, ensure great work and fit in with the rest of the office. Make sure your clothes reflect that value.
  • Check your hairstyle. For the men, go conservative with the hair — yes, this means getting a traditional haircut. A classic taper is the best option, or something similar that is at least short on the sides and back, but long enough for some versatility when not interviewing. Keep in mind that hair will always grow back, so it may be to your advantage to get a haircut now that will look good to perspective employers. Once you get the job you can always grow it back if you can.

Once you’re appropriately attired, it’s time to think about what to bring. Women have a bit of an advantage here, because they often carry a bag or purse. But, for men and women, a nice portfolio is useful for carrying copies of all application documents: résumé, writing sample, transcripts, references, etc. Always bring copies! You can’t assume your interviewer will have them.

Bring any personal care items you might need: gum, mints, a toothbrush (if you’re coming for a meal), extra hosiery, eyedrops, touch-up makeup, etc. And don’t forget directions (including parking locations, if you’re driving). You’ll probably also be bringing your cell phone, but be sure to turn it off or put it in airplane mode before the interview.

With these tips in mind, you will look great and be well-prepared to handle your upcoming legal interview. Best of luck this fall and with all your future interviews!

8 Questions That Will Help You Land A Job

Featured Guest Blog by Mary Crane at MaryCrane.com

Too many summer associates and interns make the mistake of believing that they only need to produce quality work to land a job offer. Make note: In today’s competitive work environment, turning in a first-rate assignment earns little more than a “meets expectations” evaluation. To receive a coveted job offer, summer associates and interns must also establish relationships with professionals at every level in an organization.

If you’ve just begun work, don’t worry. Every employer I know has planned lots of opportunities for you to meet with a variety of people in your firm or corporation. When you do, request permission to set aside 10 to 15 minutes to ask a few questions of your own. Then use the following eight relationship-building inquiries to guide your conversation.

#1 How do you spend your time?

Make this inquiry for three different reasons:

First, this question helps you clarify and confirm the role the individual plays within the organization. If you’ve never stepped inside a law firm before, you may not know what a Chief Marketing Officer does and why the role is critically important.

Second, this question helps you develop a clear understanding of day-to-day work expectations. Learning that an entry-level financial analyst frequently spends 70 hours or more per week creating complex financial models may or may not be consistent with the work-life balance you hope to achieve.

Third, the answer contains important information that you can use to follow up and demonstrate your genuine interest in the professional and his or her work. Let’s say a partner tells you that she currently spends an inordinate amount of time assuring a particular client that proposed regulations are unlikely to move forward. After the meeting, you can create a Google Alert about the regulations. As soon as you receive notification of some development, you can share the information with the partner, thereby showing your interest.

#2 Is this what you thought you’d be doing every day?

You may think that most professionals follow a clear roadmap as they advance in their careers—they start at A, move to B, and eventually advance to R, S, and T. But today, nearly every successful professional engages in a nonstop game of chutes and ladders. They start in one position, often move sideways, and periodically slide on a diagonal. Sometimes they even go backward before they move forward again.

This question elicits the professional journey people have taken. Ask this question if for no other reason than most professionals love to share their stories. Many of the responses you receive will be filled with funny anecdotes about obstacles encountered and approaches tried. You will likely hear about career transitions currently unimaginable to you.

#3 What are you most proud of?

Everyone likes the opportunity to toot his or her own horn. Give the people with whom you meet this chance. Let them talk about a victory they snatched out of the jaws of defeat, or the biggest deal they closed, or the time they helped someone who was flailing at work become a proven performer.

#4 What weaknesses have you discovered?

This question helps you identify a respondent’s ability to self-reflect. Professionals who actively think about their day-to-day work experiences—especially errors made in judgment or understanding—begin to comprehend the underlying causes of their success or failure. This knowledge allows them to consciously change behaviors instead of repeating mistakes.

When someone indicates that he has no weaknesses (or is unaware of them), do a quick check to confirm whether he’s joking. If he appears to be serious, you’ve likely found someone who is not good at self-reflection. Keep this in mind during future meetings. As soon as someone cites a specific weakness, fine tune your ears and listen carefully. This professional is affording you the opportunity to learn from his experience.

#5 Are there organizations that I should join?

While social networks are great, never underestimate the importance of connecting face-to-face. Virtually every industry and profession has organizations and conferences where like-minded people connect. Use this question to discern those groups and events that are most worthwhile. You may even learn how to get on the inside track and quickly become a rising star.

#6 Who else should I connect with?

Your summer work experience will move at the speed of light. Absent the insights of seasoned professionals, you risk missing out on some potentially transformative conversations. Use each conversation to help you strategically plan your next one.

Finally, whenever you encounter a specific obstacle or challenge, feel free to ask, #7 What would you do if you were me? And before any one of your conversations ends, don’t hesitate to ask  #8, I appreciate the time you’ve given me. Is there anything I can do for you? This closing will help you end the meeting on an especially high note. It demonstrates your intent to build mutually beneficial relationships, an outlook valued by today’s employers.

See more tips from Mary Crane on Starting Work, Networking, Business Etiquette, Time Management, and more on her web site.