advice

They Say Talk is Cheap

They say talk is cheap. Perhaps for some, but not for law students who have a boat-load of networking events filling up their social calendar. These students are playing it smart and taking advantage of the many social and networking event opportunities our office is offering in the coming months. All throughout the Fall you can:

  • Learn from students on how they landed their summer job
  • Hear great advice and stories from local practicing attorneys
  • Receive countless wisdom with fellow Wake Forest alumni

You’ll probably want to brush up on your networking skills… again?

Can you ever get enough networking advice?

Of course not!

When it comes to mingling, socializing, and meeting new people, small talk can be a big problem. You want to be friendly and polite, but you just can’t think of a thing to say. Mastering those ice-breakers could mean the start of a lifelong connection, vital to your career. But how do you start, what do you say, and how do you say it – what are the tricks of the trade?

Gretchin Rubin, from the Happiness Project, has highlighted some strategies to try when your mind is a blank:

1. Comment on a topic common to both of you at the moment: the food, the room, the occasion, the weather (yes, talking about the weather is a cliché, but it works). “How do you know our host?” “What brings you to this event?” But keep it on the positive side! Unless you can be hilariously funny, the first time you come in contact with a person isn’t a good time to complain.

2. Comment on a topic of general interest. A friend scans Google News right before he goes anywhere where he needs to make small talk, so he can say, “Did you hear that Jeff Bezos is buying The Washington Post?” or whatever.

3. Ask a question that people can answer as they please. My favorite question is:  “What’s keeping you busy these days?” It’s useful because it allows people to choose their focus (work, volunteer, family, hobby) — preferable to the inevitable question (well, inevitable at least in New York City): “What do you do?”

A variant: “What are you working on these days?” This is an especially useful dodge if you ought to know what the person does for a living, but can’t remember.

4. Ask open questions that can’t be answered with a single word.

5. If you do ask a question that can be answered in a single word, instead of just supplying your own information in response, ask a follow-up question. For example, if you ask, “Where are you from?” or “What areas of law to you practice?” some interesting follow-up questions might be, “What would your life be like if you still lived there?”, “What made you move here?” or “What made you decide to choose that practice area?”

6. Ask getting-to-know-you questions. “What newspapers and magazines do you subscribe to? What internet sites do you visit regularly?” These questions often reveal a hidden passion, which can make for great conversation.

7. React to what a person says in the spirit in which that that comment was offered. If he makes a joke, even if it’s not very funny, try to laugh. If she offers some surprising information (“Did you know that the Harry Potter series have sold more than 450 million copies?”), react with surprise.

8. Follow someone’s conversational lead. If someone obviously drops in a reference to a subject, pick up on that thread.

9. Along the same lines, counter-intuitively, don’t try to talk about your favorite topic, because you’ll be tempted to talk too much.

So what will it be? Table Talk? Speed Networking? A Law Alumni program? Take your pick or pick them all and try out these new found tips and tricks. You’re in school to practice what you’ve learned from your books, but you are also in school to practice the networking skills that will keep you climbing to the top of your career ladder. There is no one without the other.

Good luck!

Sales First. Then Law Career.

As a law student, that sounds pretty crazy, right? Well, if you are suddenly in the interview stage of your law school track then you are going to be selling something important soon – yourself!

Listing out your outstanding accomplishments and achievements on your resume and cover letter won’t necessarily make the cut in the interview process. Sure, it’s great to give your possible employers an idea of what you’ve done academically; however, to become a cut above the rest, you have to sell yourself as if you were a valuable product sitting on a shelf in a quality department store.

Start to think like a salesperson. No, not the super pushy salesperson on the phone trying to get you to buy movie channels – the salesperson that talks to you like a respected colleague as you browse your favorite store. Likeability is important, even in sales people. If a salesperson is confident in their product and is friendly, maintains good eye contact, a strong handshake, and a smile, you would likely feel more inclined to buy from that person.

Listing out your resume bullet points again in your cover letter is like hearing that pushy salesperson drone on about how your cable bill will go down if you just sign on for another year. All you want to do is let them finish or even just hang up on them. (We’ve all done it!)

Try it again. But this time, get excited! Get your customer interested in you as a product. Talk about your great features and benefits. Mention that one of your features is your dedication, but then explain the benefits of that dedication. Perhaps you’re the first one in the office in the morning and the last one to leave. Or better yet, mention a time that your dedication created a tremendous result in a school project or during an internship. Focus on your other skills and factors that make you immediately productive. You wouldn’t want to wait 6 months to start enjoying your movie channel if you purchased the movie package. The same goes for employers who don’t want to wait for six months before you deliver benefits to them. Concentrate on what you can do for the company, not on what the company can do for you.

What about all those common interview questions that you keep hearing and possibly stumbling over? Treat those tricky questions like a sales call and as if your salary depended on making that sale. “Why should I hire you?” would be the same as “Why should I buy from you?” Well, why? Tell your interviewer that you will be getting more than just a product (you). They would also be getting quality work, dedication, drive, and intelligence. Developing a storytelling flair will also go further in an interview when faced with those questions. Everyone loves a good story. It doesn’t mean you need to become a chatterbox, but your interviewer was interested enough in you to interview you in the first place. Be sure to prepare short little true stories that support your claims of relevant skills and accomplishments.

Better yet, become your own leading salesperson by mastering a one-to-two-minute “commercial” about yourself. In sales, commercials are meant to intrigue the client when asked the standard, “What do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself.” Almost certainly you will be asked to respond to some version of the “Tell me about yourself” question during an interview or even when you are out and about in networking groups. Memorize a short description of your background (education, experience, and skills) that matches your strengths to the job or any job in which you are seeking. Be sure to also add a sentence or two about your curiosity, commitment, and drive to move mountains above your already amazing skills base.

As with every new challenge you face, practice will make perfect. Stand in front of a mirror and rehearse these new tips or even try recording yourself and playing it back for you to review. Ask a friend, professor, or career advisor to go over some practice interview questions to get you to the point where you are truly comfortable. On-campus interviews are also available for your benefit, so take advantage of each bidding session. Soon, your ease and confidence will speak for themselves during your next interview (Spring 2014 for 1Ls) and you will soon make your first sale – you!

Make It A Great Year

So you started law school this year. Yay!

You’ve finished 1L orientation. *whew*

(Wait for it)

Have the nerves started to set in yet? Well, STOP!

Before you let your emotions take over and put you into a stress-induced panic attack, take the time to review these simple tips that may seem straightforward, but are often overlooked by first year law students each year:

    1. Start thinking about your law career path. Criminal law. Family law. Tax law. Corporate law. The law practice areas of today seem endless, don’t they? Make your transition from college to career as seamless as possible by thinking about what area of practice would best suit you. Start thinking about your strengths and interests. Research different areas of practice online and write notes about each one. This tool can give you an idea of what’s out there. Would you like to represent large corporations or individual clients? Is land use & zoning up your alley or is insurance law more your thing? Do you think you’ll work best in a small firm or a large firm? Get your ideas flowing.  Schedule an appointment with your career advisor to brainstorm about options and get detailed career insight for your personal strengths and interests.

    2. Network. Network. Network. Some 1L students make the mistake of not doing this the first semester and miss out on great available help. Meet professors during office hours. Go to networking events. Apply to on-campus interviews. Connect with the Office of Career and Professional Development. Network with whomever possible during first semester, especially different alumni: Alumni now at law firms, alumni at firms in which you are interested in working, alumni you know in your neighborhood, etc. Even a small connection can give you a huge leg up in looking for 1L or 2L summer employment, and best part? People are naturally willing to help! A simple conversation about their experiences on campus or their careers after graduation can lead into the formation of the core base of contacts that will help you in your future law career.

    3. Health is wealth. Maintain a balanced diet. Get regular exercise. Drink plenty of water. Sounds like an elementary school lecture on the food pyramid, right? Healthy living isn’t just instilled in young children anymore. It’s preached throughout your lifespan. So why stop while attending law school? Keeping a proper diet, exercising regularly, and having a regular sleep schedule will give you more energy than that caffeine-laced energy drink. Good health is long-term. Quick fixes like espresso, sugar, and brief cat naps before exams will only work short-term. Before you know it, those late afternoon runs to the coffee shop and stacks of take-out boxes will be taking a toll on your body and mind.  Use the gym on campus. Take a walk with an audiobook. Ditch the greasy food for some quinoa and greens. Mmmmmm.

    4. Be kind and courteous to your classmates. Everyone already feels that it is one big competition in law school, which can create pointless tension. Instead, practice kindness, consideration, and helpfulness each day. Sounds so easy, right? Try it then — EVERY day. The legal community is small so it’s good to be known as a genuine and pleasant person. Your classmates are the first group of contacts you will make in your law career, so be sure to get your reputation in the legal world off on the right foot. Don’t forget that you’ll be around the same group of people on a daily basis for over a year, so be sure to be nice to your new family of 100+. Offer to share notes or outlines. Make sure you try and get to know 2Ls and 3Ls, too. They are great allies when it comes to advice and tricks of the trade. They might even give away their old outlines and study aids, or even give advice on specific professors’ teaching or grading style.

    5. Have Fun! Be sure to take some time out for yourself each week and enjoy the benefits and opportunities that are in store for you at Wake Forest University. Walking paths, world-class gyms, adventure trips, sporting events, and so many more activities are waiting to fill your (albeit limited) free time and reduce the stress levels in your body. Get involved with the various social clubs on campus, SBA fundraisers, and happy hours which can be fun and relaxing as well as circle back to the all-powerful networking rule.

You’ve made it this far along the long law school path, so keep on trucking! Congratulations to you. Excitement and fun (and yes, lots of studying) await you this year. Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride each step of the way!

Great Advice from Speed Networking 101

Our speed networking program last night was a huge success! Twenty-five law students met with twenty local attorneys from various firms and businesses.  Modeled on the “speed dating” concept, the room was set up with numbered stations, and each student was matched with one or two attorneys. They were given five minutes to meet, ask questions, and give their “elevator speeches” before the bell was rung and the students shifted to the next station.

Participants (both students and attorneys) raved about this event.  The format gave students an opportunity to hone their networking skills in a structured environment, while also meeting and developing relationships with practicing attorneys.  There was an opportunity for additional informal networking following the timed portion.

After each group of students circled the room, the attorneys offered insightful advice and feedback to the students, including:

  • Networking is a skill that can be learned.  Even if you consider yourself shy or introverted, you can become a successful networker with practice.
  • The best way to start is to ask questions of the other person. Try to find common ground – similar schools, interests, hobbies, etc., and then let the conversation flow from there.
  • Listening skills are important! Try not to always be thinking about what you are going to say next.
  • Show interest in the other person. Be careful not to make the conversation all about you.
  • Do your research. Know something about the company or firm the person you’re speaking with works for.
  • Employers hire based on likeability – when looking at a group of applicants who all have similar credentials, they will remember (and probably hire) the person with whom they most want to work on a daily basis.
  • Networking is essential, and not just for your job search.  This is a skill that you will use in practice, whether to gain clients, develop relationships with other attorneys, or grow within the firm.
  • Follow up! After you meet someone, jot down where you met him/her and something about your conversation. Then send an email (it’s always a good idea to remind them where you met) and reiterate that you enjoyed speaking with him/her.
  • You never know who will become a valuable business contact – always act professionally.

To see pictures from this event, visit our Facebook page. The next Speed Networking event with the NCBA Government & Public Sector Section will be on Tuesday, November 13 at noon. Registration is limited, so stay tuned for details!

Want to work for the federal government? Here’s how!

The federal government has approximately 111,700 employees working in the legal field, including attorneys, law clerks, paralegal specialists, and contract representatives.  Even more employees with JDs work in policy-related positions, legislative liaison roles, etc.

In July 2012, the government implemented its new Pathways programs, streamlined developmental programs aimed at employment opportunities for students and recent graduates in the federal workforce.

Internships

The Pathways Internship Program provides paid internship opportunities for current students to work in federal agencies. Students who successfully complete the program may be eligible for conversion to a permanent job in the civil service. Internships are administered by each individual agency, but some agencies must post opportunities on www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads, making searching for these opportunities easier while others post internship positions directly on their website.

The Government Honors & Internship Guide, published by the University of Arizona College of Law, is a great resource for learning more about government internships and keeping track of deadlines.  The Guide, available at http://www.law.arizona.edu/career/honorshandbook.cfm includes information on opportunities at a number of federal agencies. The OCPD maintains an annual subscription – contact us for login information.

Entry-Level Positions

There are essentially three ways to obtain an entry-level position with the federal government: (1) the new Recent Graduates Program, part of the Pathways programs; (2) Honors Programs; and (3) the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program.

Pathways Recent Graduates Program: This program is intended to streamline hiring for recent graduates.  Students are eligible for the program for up to two years after graduation. The program lasts for one year (unless the training requirements of the position warrant a longer and more structured training program). All agencies are required to provide the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) with information about available positions, and OPM posts the information publicly on www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads/ about how to apply for specific positions.

Honors Programs: Many federal agencies (including the Department of Justice) hire new attorneys primarily through Honors Programs. These usually require a two-year commitment, after which participants convert to permanent federal employees. The Government Honors and Internship Guide (see above for details) is the most comprehensive resource for these programs.

Presidential Management Fellows (PMF): This is a competitive program that recruits students with graduate-level degrees to policy and management jobs (not attorney positions) in the federal government. Students are eligible to apply in their final year of graduate school or up to two years after receiving their degrees. As part of the Pathways Program, the federal government has streamlined the process and reinvigorated the PMF program for 2012-13. More detailed information is available at http://www.pmf.gov/. (The website has not yet been updated with the application process for the Class of 2013, but last year’s application process began in mid-September). You can subscribe to the PMF listserv to receive updates and keep track of key dates.

For additional detailed information on opportunities with the federal government, consult the 2012-13 Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide and additional federal career resources available at http://psjd.org/Careers_in_Federal_Government.

Finding Success in a Tough Legal Market

The Office of Career & Professional Development presents:

Finding Success in a Tough Legal Market: Advice & Perspectives from Richard L. Hermann, Esq., professor, author and speaker

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

12:00-12:50pm

Room 1312 – Courtroom

A program to discuss the effect of the economy on various legal employment settings and to offer suggestions to students on how you can achieve success in the job search.

Richard L. Hermann, Esq. is a graduate of Yale University and Cornell Law School. His diverse professional background includes:

·         Legal Consultant, US Department of Justice, Defense, & FEMA

·         US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, JAG Officer

·         US Department of Energy, Attorney

·         US Department of Defense, Attorney

·         National Public Radio (NPR), Legal Commentator

Mr. Hermann is currently a law professor and an accomplished author, blogger, op-ed columnist and sought-after speaker on topics related to legal careers and the legal market.  Some of his books include:

From Lemons to Lemonade in the New Legal Job Market:

Winning Job Search Strategies for Entry-Level Attorneys

Landing a Federal Legal Job: Solving the US Government Job Market

 Managing Your Legal Career: Best Practices for Creating the Career You Want

The Lawyer’s Guide to Job Security: How to Keep Your Job – and Make the Most of It– in Good Times and Bad

The Lawyer’s Guide to Finding Success in Any Job Market

Mr. Hermann’s presentation will draw from his career, as well as all of his books including his forthcoming ABA book, Back to Nature: Practicing Law in Small-Town America.

Books will be available for purchase (student discount with student ID) outside of the courtroom, before and after the program.

Book Signing Times: 11:15-11:50am and 12:50-1:30pm

Please RSVP for the presentation by clicking the Events tab and finding this program in Symplicity by Friday, September 7th to reserve lunch. This program is a career education program for the 1L Career & Professional Development Certificate of Completion.

Bar Exam Tips — from those who have been there

Recent grads! As you gear up for the bar exam, the Office of Career & Professional Development has compiled a list of favorite tips to help ease the stress of bar prep…..

Keep up whatever keeps you mentally healthy: exercise, eating decent meals, watching a favorite TV show.  It’s all about time management, and it’s important to build in time for those things that keep you sane.

Treat bar review as a full time job: bar review classes may be 3-4 hours a day, then completing all the assigned work will make it a full work day (or longer).  On the plus side, it will get you prepared for entering professional life as an attorney!

You are paying a lot of money for your bar prep course, so take full advantage of their expertise.  They’ve done this for a long time and there’s a reason they charge so much — because they know what they’re doing.  The course will provide you with an easy-to-follow calendar, just stick to it and plan ahead.  If you know you have an event coming up during the summer (like a wedding), budget your time accordingly.

 Practice makes perfect: nothing gets you prepared like doing the practice essays and practice multiple choice tests.  Force yourself to sit down and write out essay answers.  If you can get your hands on past bar exam questions, do them too (hint: several states have been known to repeat questions).

Don’t listen to anyone else (well, except us!).  Some people will tell you that you MUST study 23 hours a day to pass. Some people will tell you that you don’t need to start studying until after July 4.  You have successfully completed law school and you know what study method works for you — stick with it. Don’t worry about what “everyone else” is doing.

Remember, you don’t need to know EVERYTHING about secured transactions.  You just need to have sufficient grasp of the subject to be able to spot issues and craft an intelligent response.  If you have perfectionist tendencies, keep this in mind: you don’t need to make an A, you just need to pass.

That said, if you’re a procrastinator, keep this in mind: the bar exam requires knowledge of a LOT of information. Much more than the average law school exam.  It is VERY difficult to cram that amount of information into a short period of time.  If you’re a last-minute crammer, at least be sure to give yourself enough time to get it all in!

When the big day comes, do whatever you need to do to go in confident and relaxed.  You may want to focus on nothing but the exam, and review your notes up to the moment you enter the exam room. You may need to build in time to take a break (some of us may have gone out for ONE beer between test days).  You may feel better having your meals planned out ahead of time.  Again, you know how to make yourself successful.  Give it some thought and plan ahead so that all you need to worry about is the test itself.

Best of luck from all of us in the OCPD!

Free Webinar: Getting the Most from Your Summer Public Interest Experience

On Wednesday, May 23 at 3:00 PM EDT, NALP is presenting “Summer Success: Getting the Most from Your Summer Public Interest Experience.”

During this free webinar, you’ll learn practical tips on how to develop professionally and personally while interning at a public interest office this summer. Also, you’ll get insider advice from public interest attorneys and community leaders.

Deb Ellis, the Assistant Dean of Public Service at NYU Law School, and Lindsay M. Harris, Tahirih Justice Center’s Equal Justice Works Fellow and Immigration Staff Attorney, will be leading the webinar.

Don’t delay, register today!

Register here:  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/824680642

FREE Webinar: The Summer Public Interest Job Search

NALP and Equal Justice Works have teamed up to offer students this FREE webinar with insight into the key elements of the summer public interest job application process.  Attorneys with years of experience will highlight do’s and don’ts, explain how and why public interest application materials may differ from law firm materials, and explore the dynamics of personal interactions in interviews and networking situations.

If you are looking for work in the public sector, don’t miss out on this valuable information and advice!

Part 1: Wednesday, January 25  at 3pm: Best Practices in Drafting Cover Letters & Resumes

Part 2: Wednesday, February 1 at 12pm: Best Practices in Interviewing & In-Person Networking

 

To register, go to https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/953896682

For more information, visit http://www.nalp.org/

Making the Most of Your Winter Break

As the semester is winding down, it is important to think about ways to make the most out of your time off over winter break. These few weeks off provide a great opportunity for you to work on your career plans without the time demands that you face throughout the semester.

Here are several things to do over winter break to make effective use of your time.

Finalize your resume and cover letter. You’ve probably already met with your career coach (and if you haven’t yet, try to fit it in before break!). Use your down time to make sure your resume and cover letter are polished, incorporate suggestions from your career coach, and be ready to hit the ground running in January.

Set up informational interviews. Winter break is a great time to meet with professionals in the field(s) that interest you.  Start researching employers as soon as possible, then contact them to set up a time to meet during your break.  Keep in mind that many people take time off over the holidays, so the sooner you contact them to schedule a meeting, the better.  Also, try to be as flexible as possible as to the day and time of your meeting to make it convenient for the professional.  Don’t forget to follow up by sending a personal note to the person who took the time to meet with you.

Set up a job shadowing opportunity. Ever wonder what asset securitization lawyers do all day? Following one around might be the perfect opportunity to determine what type of practice you’re drawn to.

Join professional associations. Affiliating with professional associations provides access to networking contacts, educational opportunities, and information about local job markets.  Consider a student membership to the American Bar Association, your local bar association, and other specialty bars such as the American Intellectual Property Association or an association of women attorneys.  Most groups have a minimal cost for student membership.

Create a master job search “to do” list and develop a job search tracking method. This can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or Word chart, including the name of the employer, contact information, date of application, and notes on follow-up.  See page 41 of your Career Planning Guide for an example.

Visit prospective employers – If you are applying for jobs at home, your winter break is a good time to follow up in person with potential employers.  An in-person visit to the employer’s office can leave a lasting impression and can make you stand out from other candidates.  Of course, you want to make sure that you are leaving a positive lasting impression, so be sure to dress professionally and be considerate of the employer’s time.

Check e-mail and Symplicity over break. The OCPD staff will continue to update job postings over break and may send out emails with important announcements.

This article and more detailed advice can be found in the OCPD weekly newsletters:

1L Newsletter4

2L Newsletter11

3L Newsletter11