Greetings fellow law students, soon-to-be law students, and all other dreamers. Its meeeee – I’m still heeeeere! And now as a 2L.
So I’m 3 weeks into 2L year. And let me just make one observation. I – Have – Been – Misled – to – Think – 2L – Was – “EASIER.”
It’s a conspiracy. The 2Ls and 3Ls told me last year – don’t worry, 1L is tough, but 2L is way easier. Bull. The only difference thus far is that instead of having just classes to worry about, I now have “OCI” (on-campus interviewing) and all other things related to the job search AND in addition to taking 5 classes (yes, I was delusional when I registered for classes), I also have commitments related to the journal that I worked so hard to be on (as though it was a badge of
honor horror to become intimately familiar with the BlueBook and editing “scholarly” works consisting of citations to newspaper articles dating back to the 70′s).
But in all seriousness, I’m really happy to be back at school. My summer was intense and I learned a lot but I found some comfort in getting back into the grind of law school. Granted, I felt that 1L taught me all I needed to know to become an attorney (and I still feel that way), but quite frankly, I like getting “out of” having to do the dishes, laundry, etc. because I can use “I’m studying” as an excuse (even if the excuse is only to myself). Now – let me clear one thing up here – I am not a gunner. But I do enjoy the intellectual rigors of law school. Plus, the best thing about 2L year is I’m taking the classes I want to take – and therefore only can blame myself (not the ABA) for any developing disdain for any particular subject – say, Ambulance Chasing 101.
I’ve had a few rambling thoughts jumbling around in my head that I wanted to share – none of which are fully developed enough to create stand alone blog posts – so while the following may seem random, well, just take it for what it is:
Random Thought #1
OCI is fun. It’s like speed dating. As long as you have more than 3-4 interviews scheduled, otherwise, you don’t have the luxury of chilling-out because every interview must matter. Not that some don’t, but it’s nice to have a few backups. Some of the interviews I’ve had are actually a lot of fun – the interviewers are extremely personable and like to throw a few jokes around to lighten the mood (and of course test the personality of the interviewee as well). On the other hand, I’ve had interviewers that are so shy, they seemed more nervous than I – in which case, I had to learn to really sell myself without being prompted to and take charge of the interview. Lastly, I had an interviewer who talked about himself for 20 mins – everything from his kid, to his dog, to his passion for rock collecting – seriously. 10 minutes-in, I had already mentally declared I would never want to work with this person even if it was my only offer. Which leads me to this important point – you are interviewing the firm/agency/whatever just as much as they are interviewing you.
Random Thought #2
Why, why, why are my classmate wearing really dark nail polish colors during interviews, half of which has chipped off? Puhl-eeze. I know that we are all very busy bees but either don’t wear polish at all (or just wear clear) or actually make sure you’re wearing an appropriate shade (nude or pale pink) with the lacquer fully intact. Granted, most interviewers tend to be male (and I won’t even get into my long rant about the need for more women on the hiring committee) but even though they are male – they still notice your appearance and are still aware of what is considered appropriate. And in case its not obvious, black polish = not appropriate.
Random Thought #3
Sell yourself. Sell. Your. Self. I am naturally a very modest non-braggy person. Perhaps this comes from the fact I’m unapologetically feminine. But this is something I have to get over. It’s an interview – you have permission to (tactfully) share your accomplishments and the many reasons why you are best suited for the job. I’m beating myself up because I’ve been given many opportunities to elaborate on something in my resume or something that the interviewer may not even otherwise know about me and yet I tend to diminish my accomplishments or prior experiences. I’ve literally said, “Oh, I was just a secretary for five years.” Doh! Not “JUST” – no no no – I was a “legal assistant to three busy partners in x areas of law, which allowed me to develop a good understanding of the inner workings and business side of private practice.” Work it!
Random Thought #4
Similar to #3, when a firm offers to pay you to come back for a second interview – don’t be sheepish in allowing the firms to cover your expenses. In my case, the cost of gas for me driving to a callback was around $45, but because the firm paid $.050 per mile, I was entitled to nearly $150. Because I tend to be financially conservative and am not oblivious to the fact the economy is rough and firms are cutting costs, I insisted that I be reimbursed only for my actual expenses. The response I received wasn’t at all what I had expected. Instead of appreciating my gesture, it was (inadvertently) assumed that I had become less interested in the position after my callback and that my offer was in guilt for feeling that I would not accept – which isn’t true at all. Perhaps someone with more expertise could weigh in here – but I had clearly not contemplated this type of reaction.
Random Thought #5
Callbacks that include a meal (lunch or dinner – or heck, maybe breakfast too) involve alcohol. It’s part of the culture – but it’s also a way to gauge how you can handle yourself in situations where your maturity and business savvy is tested. My top – one glass of wine, and sip slooooowly. Make it last the entire evening. My less fortunate peers who consumed their first glass too early encountered a particularly unique problem (ie their glasses refilled before they could even object) – three glasses in, they were feeling pretty good – all (I mean ALL) inhibitions went to the wayside. And now we see what drunken 2Ls look like at a callback interview. Not. pretty.
That’s all I have for now – I hope to check back in as time permits. And please keep the comments and emails coming – I love hearing from you and since law school is no walk in the park, I love the encouragement!
This post over on the Lawyerist prompted me to think about Gatekeeping. It has been some time since I have blogged with tips from my (former) life as a paralegal and I saw this as an opportunity to pay homage to the profession that has carried me so much farther than I had ever anticipated.
Gatekeeping. We hate to be “gatekeeped” (made-up definition: calling to reach the exec/lawyer/head honcho but instead speaking with an assistant/subordinate/message taker. Our attorneys love us (paralegals/legal assistants/receptionists) to gatekeep for them because it allows them to stay productive without getting sidetracked (or bombarded) with non-urgent phone calls/solicitations/annoyances. The trouble is, gatekeeping is almost an art form that has to be handled with utmost tact and delicacy. In other words, don’t piss off the wrong (or right) people and don’t make it obvious that the gatekeepee is being screened for importance.
I was lucky to have one boss who insisted on taking his own calls because he found it was better to address the call immediately as opposed to having to remember (and put off) returning the call. My other boss, on the other hand, never took his own calls and even had his firm voicemail transfer calls into my voicemail. He would also forward messages from his firm-issued cell phone voicemail to my voicemail. (Grrrrrr.) While this may have provided him the opportunity to keep working uninterrupted, this kept me from completing my tasks. Aaaaaand, I am completely ADD. So, being interrupted every 15 mins to take a phone message, which often required the advice/response of an attorney kept me from staying on-task and was frustrating for the client.
Regardless, read the Lawyerist article, I found it very insightful and know many of my readers will wholeheartedly identify with the issue of gatekeeping.
In preparation for law school in 85 days, I have begun transitioning out of my position at work. This has entailed finding my replacement, training the replacement, and on a personal level, preparing to be unemployed. My replacement started a few weeks back and she has been quite excellent. This had left me with some spare time on my hands, which has been filled with assisting our 2L summer associate. I am appreciative of this opportunity because it allows me to see what my life will be like a year and two years from now. However, there are a few notes that I have taken based on my assessment of our summer associate and have written them in a form of a letter to my future self. If this were a “real” letter, I would guess it would not be received well. But I tried to make it worthwhile anyway. I wanted to document these realizations to two purposes: 1) To remind myself of the support staff perspective of the summer intern with a goal to review my feelings again a year from now; and 2) to share my findings with others and solicit feedback and additional comments which will help me be a better associate when that time comes. In reality, I don’t know how helpful this will be to my future self because if I am keen enough to notice these issues, I am (hopefully) unlikely to repeat the same mistakes.
Thank you for this opportunity to work with you as you learn the ins and outs of law firm life. I am eager to learn from you and hope that we will have the opportunity to discuss (off the clock) your experiences as a first year law student – perhaps we could meet for coffee one morning this week? I appreciate that we seem to “mesh” well and believe we will stay in touch in the future. You graciously asked for my help and to provide you with any helpful information that may benefit you this summer. Below are some things to consider:
It is wonderful that we are close in age and it is great to see fresh new blood in the office. As you are aware, all of the partners here are 40+ years in age and very traditional in their ways. Your command of technology and helpful tips on using computer software to enhance productivity is a helpful asset. Just remember that email should also be used appropriately and that the recipient of your email correspondence likely has differing opinions on the appropriate level of formality for emails. You may be unaware that our firm management software archives emails to client files – these emails can then be viewed by anyone with access to our firm’s client file system. This includes attorneys who will be later evaluating your work. While we are the same age and I “get” the use of emoticons and “LOLs” the attorneys evaluating your work (including these emails) may not. Though I too, am “youngish,” I expect the same level of professionalism from you as I would any other attorney and you can expect the same level from me. Additionally, there are times when emails must be shared with other attorneys; forwarded on for clarification or to keep your supervising partner “in the loop.” It would be difficult to go through and redact every and “LOL” for the sake of appearing professional. It is best to simply be professional in the first place (and at all times).
Though it has become clear that your internship at our firm was not your first choice, you shouldn’t burn bridges. Keep an open mind, though, while your first choice was “big law” you may find you enjoy the atmosphere here and may ultimately be happier with a mid-size firm such as ours. Don’t write-off a future with us just yet. You may not realize it, but your lack of enthusiasm and unwillingness to learn our firm-specific procedures yields insight to others that you feel you have wasted your time (or are only here to earn a few bucks). Regardless if you hope to return next summer or an employment offer is ultimately extended, the contacts you make here will be invaluable to your professional development. You may need to use your experience here as a professional contact, a letter of recommendation, etc. Moreover, even if you do not wish to stay in the area, attorneys are all connected in some way. You want to be able to tap into that network without fear of an unpleasant experience coming back to bite you. Always be tactful, courteous, and intelligent.
Don’t be afraid to field work (appropriately). Let me help you type the file memo, track down a missing file, etc. Don’t ask me to run down your supervising partner to ask a question about a task he has assigned you. Those type of tasks are an opportunity for you to demonstrate your communication skills. The partner is already aware of my abilities – this is your time to shine! Also, don’t be afraid to communicate with the partners on the status of your workload. If its too heavy and you run the risk of submitting sub-par work for the sake of getting everything done, communicate to them what your running against. They will respect you for it and you can do it without seeming weak or as complaining. Communication is key.
On another note, platformed 4”heels are all the rage right now – they allow for height while maintaining some degree of comfort. They are sexy and very stylish. However, they are not popular with the other professional women of our firm who equate them with stripper heels. Men, too, may view them as inappropriate and are hoping you are not in their office when their wife visits them for lunch. No joke. Moreover, you need to gain the respect and confidence of everyone around you. This entails dressing the part. If you don’t want to be mistaken for the 18 year old pre-college file clerk, don’t dress like your fresh out of high school. Try to mirror the attire worn by the 30 year old associate who has earned the respect of the named partners. Also, designer shoes are expensive and if you have chosen to wear them only once inside the office (wearing flip flops or sneakers outdoors), you must either use our side/private entrance (as opposed to the one that opens into the client waiting area) and change into them privately in the stairwell or change your shoes in your car and walk the few steps into the office wearing your professional attire. Since we live in a rural area with no public transportation, it is less forgivable to be seen wearing flip flops into the office. We know you didn’t just get off the train and walk 10 blocks to get here.
Best of luck to you this summer.
According to CareerCast.com, which ranked 200 jobs, the job of paralegal is ranked 12th, while lawyer is ranked 82nd. The rankings took into consideration physical demands, work environment, income, outlook and stress. The ABA Journal article can be read here.
I wonder which paralegal’s income they took into consideration for this. Ha!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the economy and its impact on the legal profession generally. I came across a recent job posting which would typically seek paralegals, indicating a paralegal or attorney may apply. Are recent law grads with high loan payments getting preferential treatment here? If the job would pay the same salary to either a paralegal or a lawyer, would the lawyer be seen as a bargain with necessarily higher education to bring to the table? It is certainly a trickle-down effect. However, if more lawyers could learn how to utilize paralegals, they may find it more economically advantageous to hire one-less associate and keep one more paralegal.
Of course for me, I’m ”playing” for both teams: paralegal and future lawyer. Hopefully by the time I graduate law school in 2014 we will be in a very different economy and the legal market will be thriving once again. Though, I think firms and corporations have had to take a close look at “trimming the fat” and may be reluctant to sway from their newly-found thrifty ways. After all, less money spent on salaries means more money for equity partners.
Rasmussen’s School of Justice Studies has searched high and low for the top 15 blogs paralegal students will love. I am honored to be among the top 15! Checkout the listing here!
I have a teeny-tiny links page on my blog on the right hand side (its very hard to see). I’d like to make it larger, nevertheless, I thought the best way to alert my readers to a few paralegal-related blawgs would be to put it in a post.
I recently came across Paralegals on Trial with a tag line “Get your laugh on while getting it done.” The paralegal profession is so stressful and so demanding. This site offers great tips and resources and the blog’s author is hysterically funny. A particularly helpful post is Trial Prep Made Easy and is a must read.
Another paralegal blawg is Paralegal Hell. I think the name explains it all. Great comical commentary that all paralegals and legal professionals can totally identify with. You must check out the “Fun with Boss” category posts.
When I think of professional attire – my mind automatically directs itself to images of the “Hilary” pantsuit or a “Jackie O” inspired skirt suit. Both of which are beyond my years and I would look ridiculous sporting either looks. Often, when I go suit shopping I feel like a little girl playing dress-up with her mother’s work clothing.
The first mistake a lot of freshy lawyers make is investing in a suit that is too trendy. If you’re going to shell out some serious cash for a killer suit – it better be one that will not only last (in quality) but will also be timeless and stay with the trends for many years to come. Hair should always look profession regardless of the length of your hair or the way you chose to style it. I think a low pony with a sidepart is acceptable as long as it is neat and tidy – same with long flowing hair or a short bob, both can fit the bill if they appear to be well kept.
I think there are two approaches to ladies suit attire. The first is to play up the slightly masculine ultra serious New Yorker look. I will call this the “New Yorker.” The New Yorker starts with a dark – usually black pant suit. This suit should boast a neatly tailored 1-3 button jacket with full-length sleeves and a straight leg pant, cuff and uncuffed pant legs are both acceptable. Now you may be thinking what I’m describing is a men’s suit – here’s where we get feminine. Heels are a must – preferably a 2 to 3 inch thin heel with a pointy toe. Accessories will playup the feminine quality in this look though accessories should be either black, silver, pearl or sparkly (but not too “bling!”) Hair should be neatly styled – not wild. My preference would be a low pony-tail or bun with a side part; the general idea is no lose hairs.
The second approach is more feminine, a little flirty, and allows for more color and accessories. The idea is to stick with a dark toned suit, but stay in the blacks, greys, maroons, navy blue color groups. Pants or skirts are acceptable, though skirts may not be shorter than two inches above the knee. Accessories can be pretty much any color so long as they fit into the color of the suit.
One could also brighten a dark suit by adding a flash of color underneath – I would recommend accessorizing the undershirt with jewelry, shoes, bag, etc.
When choosing accessories, be careful to not let the accessories overpower your attire – or yourself for that matter. Remember that the purpose of accessorizing is to compliment the entire look – think of it as a teamwork effort.
Makeup is also a big deal. Office makeup can be a little tricky. I have yet to meet anyone who looks fabulous in florescent lighting. Usually more blush is needed and pastels can help counteract the green hues glaring from the ceilings. All the while not looking like a drag queen.
The attorney profession is unique in that a client or patron of an attorney does not necessarily receive a good or item in exchange for their payment; or leave the office with something physical to hold in their hands. What a client does leave with, however, is the sound legal advice of a competent attorney, certified by that state’s bar association that they are capable of handling legal issues. The legal profession is a service industry. What the client is paying for is the attorney’s knowledge. Rather, the attorney’s main selling point is knowledge. How does one sell knowledge? Or how does one advertise that they have knowledge? In today’s discriminatory world, knowledge is often conveyed by one’s professional appearance. Like it or not, all of us, regardless of age, race, sex, or geographical placement are judged by one thing in about 2 seconds: our appearance. One may not be able to change one’s DNA or genetics, but one can certainly make sure that one does everything they can to ensure they convey a professional image.
One of the easiest things to change with regard to one’s appearance is their hairstyle. Men have it easy. There isn’t much to do to style a man’s hair. 10 minutes tops is all is needed. But the foundation of the style is the haircut. Long hair has never been accepted any professional setting, nor is a short buzz cut considered business-like. There must be a happy medium. Below are two examples. Clearly one has a professional (yet edgy, trendy) hairstyle, and the other . . . well I’m not sure what to call it.
Which would you trust with your legal matters?
Yes, most assistants do not have bachelors degrees and did not endure three years of law school, but they are your support team, they are an extension of you and thus represent who you are and are often your link between you and the client. If treated properly, they will go to bat for you, field calls from pushy callers, make sure all deadlines are met, and remind you of forgotten tickles. Rather than trying to prove how much better you are than them, acknowledge that they are just as talented and capable as you, just in other areas. Think of it as an estate planning attorney telling a prosecuting attorney how to do their job.
You must never hand them your dirty work (ie send my wife and mistress flowers, book my vegas hotel, etc.) and if the task you hand to them is completely mundane and insulting, at least acknowledge that it is crap work, apologize, but ask politely if the assistant would have time to tackle such mundane task. You will probably receive a more positive response when given said task than if you were to simply plop it in front of them and say “have fun with that.”
2. As a freshy, it is likely you are unfamiliar with the local courthouse and may have questions about filing documents and proper courthouse etiquette. This applies to not only freshies but the “new kid in town.”
Getting in the door. Most courthouses now days have security checkpoints at each entrance. Some local bar associations issue identification cards which you may politely (but not arrogantly!) show to the security person so that if you trip off the metal detector, you are allowed to go through without emptying your briefcase, etc. Find out if your local courthouse or bar association uses such passes/id cards and locate one, this saves time for you and the security personnel. However, if the courthouse does not use a pass, you must empty your pockets of any items which may trip the metal detector, as well as place all handheld items (briefcase, laptop, PDA, crackberry) in the bin to be inspected and/or x-rayed. DO NOT act annoyed or indicate you are “above” this. I realize this makes you feel as though you are a “layperson” but the security people do not care whether or not you are an attorney, they are just doing their job and ensuring the safety of everyone in the courthouse.
Once you have made it through the door you need to locate the proper court in which to file your document. If you were successful in not being too pompous with the security personnel, you may quickly but politely ask them to point you in the direction of the proper court. You should specify if you need that court’s clerk’s office or the judge’s office. If you are filing a doc, you will obviously need the clerk’s office. You may need to visit the judge’s office (you will most likely not get past the secretary’s desk) to get things on the calendar, etc.
Filing documents. If the purpose of your visit to the courthouse is to file documents, stand in line (yes in line, even behind the laypeople, superman) and politely wait your turn. When you have arrived at the desk politely explain to the clerk staff that you are here to file x document in x case. Some courthouses prefer that you go ahead and pull the appropriate file and file-mark it yourself, then place the court’s file with the file-marked documents in a specific box which the clerk staff will bring to the judge’s secretary. You will usually file stamp one copy of your document for the court’s copy, one copy for each party in the case, and one copy for you to return as your own file copy; so leave all copies with the file except for your file copy.
There is a standard location to place the file-stamp. You must never stamp over any of the wording of the document, especially the cause number, this will frustrate the court staff. Here is an example of the standard location to place a file-stamp:
3. Document Drafting.
Color Matching and Pattern Clashing. Most females do a pretty good job with this, so I’m speaking mostly to the males here. First, identify if one piece of clothing has a pattern. If said article of clothing has a pattern, DO NOT MIX WITH ANOTHER PATTERN! This is pertinent and you are sure to look like a clown if you wear more than one pattern. The simplest way to wear patterns is to wear a plain, one color collared shirt with a patterned tie. Somewhere within the tie, there should be at least one color that matches identically to the color of said collared shirt. Some stores make this really easy by allowing you to buy a “pre-made” combo, this really takes the guess work out of the equation. You can usually find a shirt in your size that provides a perfectly matching tie and voila your good to go!