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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!

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.

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

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. 

 

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.

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.