private practice

How to Transition from Law Firm Summer to 1st Year Associate

Guest Blog from Vault Law Blog – The expectations for law firm summer associates are very different than those for first year associates. Dan Grossbaum, a first year litigation associate at White & Case, answers some questions regarding the ramp-up period and how best to prepare when you start your career.

Is there anything students should do in law school or during the summer that would help with the transition to working as an associate?

One great way to get ahead of the curve is to take advantage of clinics at your law school. Clinics give you real-world hands-on experience and a good sense of what legal work entails. Depending on the clinic, you can get drafting experience, participate in interviews with clients or practice your oral advocacy skills.

As a summer associate, you should try out as many practices as your firm will allow. At White & Case, for example, you can split your summer between the Litigation and Corporate practices. Splitting the summer allowed me to experience a number of different practices and gave me a sense of how the practices differ. Based on that experience, I knew that Litigation was the right practice for me.

What are some of the best ways to meet and get to know other lawyers at the Firm? How approachable and globally minded are partners and senior associates, especially with questions about a project or assignment?

One of the easiest ways to get to know lawyers is to pop into someone’s office and introduce yourself. Whether you are interested in the type of work they do, or you have a question about one of your assignments, the partners and senior associates, are always willing to sit down and discuss it with you. Additionally, when you start, you are typically placed in an office setting with a lawyer with more experience than you have, usually a second-year associate. This makes the atmosphere more amenable when it comes to questions about projects/assignments.

When did you start to feel comfortable in your new position, and is there anything you could have done differently to make that happen sooner?

Coming from law school to a large law firm was an adjustment; having gone straight through from undergrad to law school, I had never worked in a law firm before I was a summer associate. One thing that made that adjustment easier was the informal mentors I ended up having. They were always there to give me advice and to teach me what it would take to be more comfortable in my new position. One thing I would encourage all junior associates to do is ask questions of the partners and associates they are working for.

Dan Grossbaum is a first year associate in White & Case’s Litigation group. He summered in the firm’s New York office in 2015 and graduated from NYU in 2016. Read more about his experience through Vault Law’s blog here.

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.

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

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.

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.

New Approaches to Getting a Law Firm Job

In the November 25th issue of The National Law Journal, Steven Bennett, a partner in the New York City offices of Jones Day, offers suggestions to help job-seekers “adapt to the new recruitment practices” of law firms brought on by the economic downturn.  Read the article to get his tips.

Serving the Public: Perspectives from Legal Services and Private Practice

Monday, November 9, 2009  from 12:00 – 12:50 p.m. in the Courtroom
co-sponsored by PILO and the Office of Career Services

Are you passionate about finding a career that will allow you to serve the public? Come hear from two attorneys who are doing this in very different work settings. Susan Gottsegen is a staff attorney with Legal Aid of NC and a Law Board of Visitors member. John O’Neal is a solo practitioner in Greensboro, whose practice focuses on representing plaintiffs. Both are members of NC Advocates for Justice, an organization whose motto is “Protecting People’s Rights”.

Join us to hear their career stories, the rewards and challenges of their jobs, advice on breaking into the field and their thoughts on several current issues (changes in the legal profession, the mortgage/foreclosure crisis, hot issues in consumer protection, etc.) There will be time for Q&A, so bring your questions!

RSVP in Symplicity by 12:00 noon on Thursday, November 5 to reserve a lunch.

Has the recession forever changed large law firms & what does that mean for law students?

The “State of the Legal Markets” program series offered in September featured speakers discussing the changing legal job market, in large firms, small firms and in-house at corporations.  An article recently published in The American Lawyer offers an interesting discussion of this very topic as it raises the question, “Has the recession forever changed large law firms?  And if so, where does that leave law students?” Check out the article by Tamara Loomis online.

Want to learn more about the Patent Bar Exam?

The WF Intellectual Property Law Association and the Office of Career Services are teaming up to present a one-hour program for students who might be interested in Patent law on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 12:00  noon in Room 1302. Guest speaker John M. White has been preparing applicants for the Patent Bar Exam since 1988 and is the Director of Patent Professional Development at PLI.

Please register to attend by submitting an RSVP in the Events section of Symplicity by FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9TH!  Lunch will be provided for those who RSVP, but please bring your own drink. Continue reading »