Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hidden Treasure When Trying to Find A Summer Position: Alumnae Network



This summary is one of many law school admission helpful tips in the new book Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job – (Barron’s Publishing) – Author Ian E. Scott.  You can order Law School Lowdown on Amazon
 
“It is about who you know, not what you know” is a phrase that unfortunately carries a lot of truth when it come to trying to get a summer position in the legal world these days.   This is a phrase that can be very reassuring when your father or mother is partner at a firm, but also very discouraging when you really don’t know anyone in the legal world.  I was one of the discouraged individuals, but I quickly realized that there were a lot of people in the legal world that I could know if I was willing to make the effort.   Many colleges and universities have strong alumnae network, and I know, as a Vassar College graduate, that I owe that network many thanks for opening countless doors for me.
            Alumnae network is extremely powerful for a number of reasons.  1) When you call up an attorney and let them know that you went to the same undergraduate school as they did in creates, most often, an instantaneous bond.  You can talk about professors you may have had in common, maybe you stayed in the same dorm or took a course with a same professor.  2) Alumni are all over the world.  So if you are seeking to move to a different city they can help you create ties in that location by introducing you to other practitioners, keeping an eye out for openings and mentoring you.   3) They will be able to help you much like I explained professors can in Creating a Legal Network.
            The hardest part is accessing this alumnae network and how to most effectively approach alumni.   Below I will develop how I went about it, and what worked best for me:

1.     Contact your Alma Mater

Many schools keep a very organized alumnae database that can be shared with other alum.  This database will often have the person’s name, where they live, what they do, and whether or not they permit current students or alum to contact them.  If your school does not have this type of database you can always ask to speak to the pre-law advisors because they often keep in touch with alumni that went onto law school and to become attorneys. 

2.     Create an organized list

No matter how you end up finding names and contact information of alumnae make sure you keep it all organized.  If you want more information on how to create this list please read How to Get a Summer Position on Your Own: Cold Calling. 

3.     Reach out via telephone

I am personally a fan of calling rather then emailing because I believe it is much more personal and it is much easier to ignore an email then it is to ignore someone on the phone (if you manage to actually get through).
You will need an elevator speech here too, however once you establish the alumnae connection, they will be more prone to giving you some of their time. (If you want a detailed explanation of what an elevator speech is please read How to Get a Summer Position on Your Own: Cold Calling.)  Consequently, this does not have to be so much of a sales pitch, but more so a structured conversation.  I do not suggest you call alum to get a job, but rather to gain a connection, a new member to your legal network.  The same rules apply as those I spoke of in Creating a Legal Network, but there are a few more, because these interactions will not be face to face. 
My cold call to alumnae would have the following elements:
a)     Brief description of who I am
a.        + the school that we have in common (feel free to spice this up, if your school has a famous saying then go ahead and say it, make yourself more personable.)
b)     Why am I calling?  There are many options for this one, depending on what your true reason for calling is.  A few examples are:
a.       To learn about them and their field of practice:  I am calling because I am in my __ year of law school and I learned that you practice ____ law.  In trying to narrow down my focus, I am calling alum to learn more about their fields of practice, in order to see if it is something I could see myself wanting to do.
b.      To try and create ties in the city where they practice:  I am calling because I am hoping to move to (insert city where they practice) upon graduation.  I am originally from _____, but I want to move to (insert city) because ___________.  I don’t know anyone/ any attorneys out there, and so I wanted to reach out to alum to learn more about how it is to practice out there, how you enjoy it and simply learn from your experience.
c)      What am I seeking?
a.       I was wondering if you could spare 10-15 minutes of your time to speak with me about (reiterate the reason you’re calling briefly).  I would love to learn from your experience and get any advice you may have for me.

4.     Connect the dots

If you speak to a number of alum from a same city, it is okay to say “ I met with (insert name) or I spoke with (insert name)” , again this simply gives that person more reason take interest in speaking to you.  Now I would use this tactic intelligently, because not all attorneys like each other, you don’t want to bring up someone’s name that is disliked, because that will shut a door.  You will get a better feel for when to use this in the following point.

5.     Always end with opening the door

Whether the alum agrees to speak with you that moment, to set up a follow up conversation or not to speak with you at all, make sure you ask them for suggestions on other people to contact.  This might sound strange, but if each person you speak to can give you 2 or 3 names of people that match up with your geographic or practice area interest, then that will widen your network for you.  At that time you can call whoever they recommend and say “ Hi, I was referred by X to speak with you”, again it creates ties, and will make that person more prone to listening to you.

            The most important thing to remember when trying to reach out to alumni is to be yourself and to remain genuine throughout the conversation.  Adapt your game plan to the specific person you are speaking to and to your specific situation. If you feel unsure about the strength of your resume or cover letter ask them if they would be willing to look over them and send you edits.  If you have a good conversation with someone and they are clearly willing to be helpful ask them if they would be willing to meet with you in person for coffee when you are back in town to discuss this further.  It is important to have a plan when you make these calls but please do not be married to a script because, after all, the ability to think on your feet is something what will help you become a distinguished attorney (or so I hear).

This post is a guest post written by a recent law graduate immediately after her third year.  Carolyn Demougeot.  Ms. Demougeot went to Wake Forest Law School and is currently clerking for a federal judge in Washington. 

This summary is one of many law school admission helpful tips in the new book Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job – (Barron’s Publishing) – Author Ian E. Scott.  You can order Law School Lowdown on Amazon.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pros and Cons On Not Taking Time Off Between College and Law School


This summary is one of many law school admission helpful tips in the new book Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job – (Barron’s Publishing) – Author Ian E. Scott.  You can order Law School Lowdown on Amazon

I have a very one sided view of this matter because I did indeed go straight from college to law school, so I cannot speak in depth about the experience of those that took time off.  However, I will speak of my experience having not taken any time off, and what my thoughts are about that decision now that I am looking back.

Pros

A number of my classmates that had taken time off from school and worked before returning to law school had a hard time readjusting to the life of a student.  They had become used to the life where when they got home they could relax, watch tv, cook a nice meal and get some sleep.  But as a student, work starts when you get home.  They say you should be putting in 3 hours of work at home for each hour of class.  Having gone straight from college to law school all I knew was the life of a student, so going home and studying was just part of my normal routine.

Many of my peers that returned to law school later in life were driven by experiences in the real world that they could not stomach.  That can be a great strength for them, which I will discuss below, but it can also be a great weakness.  The first year of law school is almost entirely theory based.  You read cases and you analyze the law through the eyes of these cases, this process is often very abstract and intellectually grueling.  When one is driven by real life experiences it is harder to grasp the theory.  Real life scenarios become touching because of the intricate details that make that story unique, but if you get bogged down by the details in law school you lose sight of what is really trying to be taught – the greater theoretical picture.

You graduate from law school at a young age, and you are thus quite marketable to firms because with youth often comes less jaded personalities, cheaper labor and malleable minds.

Cons

It is easy to feel burnt out entering, arguably, your most important three years of academia off of a 18 year lead up of constant school. 

Across the board I found that students who took time off had more drive then those who didn’t.  They had more purpose in their studies, they knew what it was like to work in the real world, and not enjoy their work, or work incredibly long hours to barely make rent.  Having experienced this they chose to work towards a higher degree in order to free themselves from their former worries, and that gave them that extra push when a lot of students who did not live that experience simply called it a night.

Those who took time off before law school I believe valued law school more.  They recognized the privilege that had been bestowed upon them, and again it stimulated them to study harder, pay more attention in class and also to participate in all that the school had to offer.  It is easier to take the law school experience for granted when school is all you have experienced.

When it comes to looking for a job, you don’t have any experience to bolster you academics.  This can hurt you because your passion for a certain type of law doesn’t carry much weight.  For example if you are passionate about employment law and you are sitting in front of a partner an employment firm who is interviewing you.  The strongest thing you could say, as someone who never took time off, is that you worked for employment firms for 2 months for 2 summers during law school… that doesn’t scream passion.  However, if you can say, for example,  “I worked for X company for X amount of time, there I watched the company exploit and mistreat its workers, but I couldn’t do anything about it because of my title and limited academic credentials.  I decided to go to law in order to put my JD to work in a firm just like this one so that I could be proactive in making right the wrongs I had experienced and I know others continue to experience.”  That tells an employer that you aren’t shooting in the dark and giving employment law a whirl, but rather that you are someone that is safe to invest in because that type of law really is a deeply rooted passion of yours.

I know that my analysis looks unevenly balanced, and that is because I wish I had taken time off before going to law school.  This is not to say that I regret the decision I made, I just believe that I could have made more of my time in law school if I had taken the time to learn how to appreciate it correctly.  I believe that you cannot go wrong either way, so long as you go to law school, because there is so much to be gained from the experience.  And at the end of the day… the grass is always greener on the other side, right?
 
 
This post is a guest post written by a recent law graduate immediately after her third year.  Carolyn Demougeot.  Ms. Demougeot went to Wake Forest Law School and is currently clerking for a federal judge in Washington. 

This summary is one of many law school admission helpful tips in the new book Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job – (Barron’s Publishing) – Author Ian E. Scott.  You can order Law School Lowdown on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

3 Reasons Why You Should Chose Law School Based on Location


This post is a guest post written by a recent law graduate immediately after her third year.  Carolyn Demougeot.  Ms. Demougeot went to Wake Forest Law School and is Currently clerking for a federal judge in Washington. 

This summary is one of many law school admission helpful tips in the new book Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job – (Barron’s Publishing) – Author Ian E. Scott.  You can order Law School Lowdown on Amazon.

Three years ago, I sat down in front of my law school acceptance letters, and began pondering what felt like the “biggest decision of my life”: Where to go to Law School.  In making this decision, I thought back to when I chose where to attend college, and how I made that decision, figuring that it would help guide me on another academic decision.  College was an enlightening time of my life that I cherish profoundly, but ultimately I knew it was a means to an end: graduate school.  I knew going into college that my education was not ending in four years and for that reason it made sense to simply go to the best college I got into.  Sure, location, atmosphere and student body played a role in the decision, however, because I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, it was more important for me to go to the best school I could get into, so I could set myself up for the best graduate program, come four years.

 Little did I know, law school is a whole other ball game.  Law school was not an academic stepping-stone, or at least it wasn’t for me. Law school was the final stop on my train heading for a career.  In choosing a law school I prioritized my guiding factor for choosing a college, going to the best school I got into, coupled with a new paramount factor: tuition.  The unfortunate reality about education in the U.S. is that big name universities, most often come with big prices, and big post-graduation headaches if you don’t have the big firm job to handle Sallie Mae’s wrath.  Although I don’t regret going to the school that these factors lead me to, I realize that my ultimate goal of setting up a career would’ve been better accomplished if I had prioritized a third factor: location.  I would highly recommend to anyone going to law school to think long and hard about where they would like to practice post graduation, and to apply heavily to law schools in that area because it will help their chances at hitting the job market in 3 major ways.

1. Legal Network

Building your legal network while in law school is key (if you want to read more on how to create this network- read Setting Up Your Legal Network While In Law School).  Your legal network will be strongest in the city where your school is located.  This legal network will be invaluable when it comes time to finding summer positions and ultimately a permanent position upon graduation.  Simply put, attorneys that you meet in your town know a lot of other attorneys and have a lot more pull in that same town then outside, and they will enable you to cast a wide net when trying to land a job.
                                                             
Before moving forward I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that a lot of my thought process is geared towards “finding a job” and there is a reason for that.  My second year of law school, I met an attorney who asked me, what many attorneys do, “why do you want to be a lawyer?”.  I responded with my most honest answer, though admittedly cheesy: I want to stand up for those who have always been silenced.  He laughed and shook his head disagreeing with me, he then said “Your number one reason for being an attorney is to make a living.  You can help no one if you can’t even help yourself.”  It is important to start thinking early on about how you intend on making a living with your law career, and I believe that choice starts in choosing your law school.

 
2.  Home Court Advantage

“What makes you want to work in *insert city or state”?  I assure you that this is a question 95% of employers will ask you if you are not applying for jobs in your hometown.  This question, unlike some other ones they ask, is not an icebreaker, it is not frivolous, but rather your answer, in a lot of ways, will eliminate you from making it past this round of interviews or not.  You need to have a strong answer for this question, and having gone to law school in that city/state can give your answer that carries true weight. 

“Yes I am from Virginia, but having attended insert law school name in New York City I can not imagine ever leaving the city.  I have created a strong legal network (names of people you have worked with, people who have mentored you, or affinities you have created), I have grown roots within the community by joining x, y, z organizations and I have lived in the same area for the last 3 years- a place I am proud to now call home.” The reason why this question comes up so frequently is because employers do no want to waste there time, money or resources on a Virginia resident who will go back there in 3 years and leave the firm seeking an employee to train again.  Employers want to know that they are investing in a stable worker who will ultimately be a return on investment, meaning, the time and money put into the new employee will come back two-fold during their career at the firm. 

However, if you are from Florida, went to school in Florida (in-state tuition is a beautiful thing) all the while knowing you want to start your career in New york City… you might have a hard time selling an employer on your dedication to the milieu.  This is not to say that it is impossible, but it is much harder.

3.  Supporting “there own”

There are a lot of attorneys in the United States, in that same vein, there are a lot of law school in the United States that produce new lawyers on a yearly basis.  “The legal job market sure is tough these days” must be on the 2013 “Top 5 most frequently spoken phrases” list.  Because there is truth to this statement employers have taken to “supporting their own” that is to say they support graduates from local schools, dare I say, over graduates from out-of- state law schools.  In addition, firms in every city are full of attorneys that graduated from local schools, and it is no secret that we feel a sense of connection to people that have lived similar experiences to our own, and we inadvertently (or advertently) are more keen on helping those same people over “a stranger”.  This idea of creating ties is the foundation of my theory that it is important to go to law school where you want to practice.  The ties you create, the name you build for yourself and the power of word-of-mouth within any legal community are invaluable when it comes time to start your career.

There is clearly no one factor that if followed will assure you to have an enriching, positive and career building law school experience, but I wish I had considered the above more seriously before making my decision.  One thing I do know for sure is that law school will teach you a lot if you are willing to learn, and regardless of how easy or hard your path to a job post graduation may be, having gone to law school will forever change you for the better.

This summary is one of many law school admission helpful tips in the new book Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job – (Barron’s Publishing) – Author Ian E. Scott.  You can order Law School Lowdown on Amazon.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Some Helpful Tips if Writing Law School Exams


This summary is one of many law school admission helpful tips in the new book Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job – (Barron’s Publishing) – Author Ian E. Scott.  You can order Law School Lowdown on Amazon.

If this is your first set of law school finals, our thoughts are with you and we can only say that it is not going to be as bad as you think. Well..perhaps it will be but it will be over quickly.  While the process can be a tough one, with Finals around the corner, we wanted to give you some helpful tips.  Here is a list of things to help you get through the next few weeks.

  • Study In Groups but Find a Good Group

It is impossible for a law student to assimilate all of the information that law school has to offer. As such, studying with a group of people will help you recognize the things that you may have missed. A great approach is for all members of the group to work on a hypo or an exam and then sit down with the group to go over answers.  Remember to listen carefully to the answers of your fellow students because they will always have picked up on things that you will miss.
  • Avoid Study Groups that Waste Your Time

While a good study group is great, cut your losses if you do not feel you are getting anything out of the group or they are wasting your time.  Give it a real chance but you will find that your time will run out as exams near and you will not have time to waste.
  • Make Your Own Outline

Do not use commercial outlines or other outlines that you can download at places like the outline depot.  The benefit of an outline is making your won and your grade will significantly improve if you work on your own outlines. This of course assumes that you went to class and have notes to make a good outline.
  • Do As Many Practice Exams and Hypos as You Can

I was always shocked at how many people entered an exam and had not done even one practice exam. This is a mistake!  You should do as many exams as you can under timed conditions and compare your answers with either the answer sheet or friends
  • Do Not Borrow Time from Subsequent Exam Questions

At the start of an exam, budget your time from each question and DO NOT BORROW TIME.  Those who borrow end up missing easy points on final exam questions. The fact is you likely have gotten as many points from the question you are wasting time on and you can always come back to it if you like if you have time.
  • Make A Schedule

Make a study schedule of what you want to cover and stick to it.  Time is a premium around exam time and you will find that the organized student does best.
  • Go Visit Your Professor

There are many reasons to visit your professor during office hours.  First, Professors often give away what is on an exam.  Second, they can clarify things you do not understand. Third, they will see that you are engaged and this may help your participation grade.
  • Relax

Do not stress yourself.  You should of course take exams seriously but do not beat yourself up or stress too much. this will only lead to poor performance.

Good Luck!!!!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lawyers & Law Students Beware! A Con Artist is Just a Phone Call or Email Away


Everyone has either received, or knows someone who has received, an email from the relative of a deposed King (or Queen) of Nigeria where this royal relative is willing to pay you millions of dollars if you would only help them get their money out of Nigeria.   Although this scam is obvious to many, the perpetrators of this fraud have managed to defraud some out of either their personal information or their money.  As of late, I have become aware of a similar (although somewhat more sophisticated) scam and the targets of this scam are lawyers & law firms. 

A week ago, I had the following discussion with a law student that works with me:

“I am not sure if we normally do this type of case but I thought that I would bring it to you and see.  A friend told me that a Nigerian oil company, ARC, was suing General Electric for some equipment that GE failed to deliver to them. They are looking for a law firm in NY to handle a $10,000,000 contract dispute and I was wondering if the firm would be interested." 

This struck me as particularly interesting because a few weeks earlier I had a discussion with a fellow lawyer about a very similar fact pattern where Company A (the company that contacted the law firm) was suing Company B (a large well known multinational company) and the contract dispute was over the failure to build ships & deliver equipment.  What makes this scam incredible is that unlike the emails from the relative of the deposed King of Nigeria that are often riddled with spelling errors and obvious indications of fraud, Company A produced very authentic looking documentation to support that a contract actually existed.  (Purchase agreement, ship building specifications, etc.) The fraudsters also set up phony telephone numbers & email addresses and were able to conduct several phone conversations and exchange various emails with the law firm without initially raising suspicion. 

Shortly after the law firm was retained, Company B “settled” and Company A told the law firm that the check was going to be sent to them.  A few days later an authentic looking check arrived but by that point the law firm was suspicious.  When the law firm called Company B directly it was discovered that Company B had not ever heard of Company A and no dispute ever existed. 

The exact mechanics of this scam are unclear but subsequent research suggests that Company A sends the law firm an authentic looking check which they deposit in their trust account.  At almost the same time, the law firm would wire funds from their operating account to Company A and Company A would disappear with the money.  (Presumably before the false check is detected).  Other frauds involve elaborate money laundering schemes where Company A uses the law firm to launder large amounts of cash that they claim are a settlement from a dispute.  (Money launderers are willing to pay large amounts in fees to launder money).

There are two lessons that lawyers (and others) can learn from this.  The first is simple. If something looks to good to be true, it usually is neither good nor true.  Most scams are based on an overwhelming desire for the scammed party to benefit or “win” something and when someone is offering you easy money there is usually a reason.  The second lesson for lawyers is, know your clients.  In all of the lawyer fraud cases I have heard of, the appropriate due diligence either revealed or could have revealed that the law firm was dealing with a fictitious party.  The due diligence process should not stop and you should take a closer look at your clients if you start to receive suspicious information from the them during the attorney-client relationship.  These fraudsters thrive on the fact that many law firms are looking for business so lawyers and law students beware!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Great Way To Market Yourself as a Law Student - Some Great Ideas From Our New Book Law School Lowdown.


A Few Good Marketing Ideas for Law Students
A simple Google search is one of the first things that a prospective employer does when they are considering hiring a law student.  While a student cannot control everything that is on the Internet, he/she can perform a number of simple tasks to improve his/her profile and market strengths.  In my new book, Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job, I describe just how important it is to find everything at your disposal to ensure you can find employment, and given the competition and difficulty surrounding finding a legal job, it is never too early to start marketing yourself.  Here are three simple marketing ideas for both pre-law and law students.
  1. Set up A Student Webpage and Claim the Website Domain Associated With Your Name
I received an email from a first year law student, and he posed a very interesting question.  His email read;
“What is your personal opinion of law students having their own resume-styled website? I tried to do some research and could not find many that existed. Having an undergrad degree in Graphic Design, I’ve built my own. What do you think?”
Setting up a personal webpage to market yourself is an excellent idea! This idea extends far beyond law students and is an excellent thing to do for anyone including students in other disciplines, lawyers, and also any other professionals. This is a great idea for anyone that is or will be looking for a job and/or anyone that could benefit from positive marketing.  Here is the student’s site: www.justinhwalters.com
Justin is exactly the type of innovative law student that our profession needs and the idea of creating your own website to showcase yourself is something that I wish I had thought of.  Also, it is always a good idea to use part of your prior life (in Justin’s case marketing and graphic design) to make some money or compliment a new legal or professional life.
There are several reasons why setting up a Website A Good Idea.
I started to write this section myself but then remembered that Justin had already done an excellent job summarizing on his website why setting up your own website is a good idea.  As such, I will quote Justin and his words echo my exact thoughts;
“I believe there is a need for students to have their own websites with their resumes, portfolios, and contact information.  I believe it is beneficial for professional students, especially those studying law, to be able to place a personal website address on their business card or in the signature of their email. Having a website can be appealing to prospective employers because it shows you are independent, creative and ready to advance into a more professional role.”
I will only add one additional point and that is that the webpage puts all of the relevant information that an employer wants (short bio, resume, writing sample, skills) in one place and makes it all easily accessible.  Given that employers spend very little time assessing candidates you want to make your information as easy to access as possible and a simple webpage accomplishes this.
I am not a web designer but am confident that with a bit of determination I could create a page like the page that Justin has created. WordPress is the web design tool of choice but if you do not want to use that there are many other options available with templates that will get you started.  In terms of hosting the website, that costs around $5 a month (a more complex website would be maybe $8 a month because it has more space) and you will pay around $10 a year for domain name. (You should try and nab your own name – just think of where Barack Obama would be if he had not purchased his domain namewww.barackobama.com years ago).
  1. Set up a LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is a professional network social media website and every law and pre-law student should join.  LinkedIn is NOT Facebook and your “connections” are business connections rather than “friends.”  As such, it is not unusual to connect with someone just because you have some business aspect in common.  When you develop a profile, the site lists all of your relevant educational and professional credentials and this site is a key tool used by employers to find candidates.  I am interviewing someone this week for a position with my law firm and I “met” her on LinkedIn.   Also, my law firm, Scott Legal Services, P.C., recently signed a large client and I met the contact on Linkedin.
  1. Watch What you Post on Social Media
I have a friend who owns a company that attempts to repair damaged internet reputations.  Everything that you allow to be associated with you on the internet can and will come back to either help or haunt you.  When something you regret hits the internet, the best that my friend’s company can do is attempt to get the “bad” things associated with a person moved to a lower Google page.  Regrettably, it is NOT possible to eliminate negative things posted about you or by you on the internet.
The Lowdown for Law Students
In this economy you cannot afford to be at a disadvantage and it is important to ensure that you are constantly improving, marketing and selling your brand.  This should start early in your career and creating a website is a great networking and marketing tool.   Creating your own personal website and properly using social media also forces you to give some thought to what important things you want to showcase to the world and may encourage you to constantly reevaluate key aspects to showcase.
Here is an excellent example that demonstrates that proper networking and marketing goes a long way. In this case, Justin sent me his website and as a direct result of his marketing and networking efforts, I hired him to work on my law firm website.  I also referred him to a number of my friends and they paid him to work on their websites.  How is that for marketing efforts quickly finding a job!  This is only one example of how innovation and marketing yourself in the new cyber world can increase your chances of success and put money in your pocket.
This summary is one of many law school admission helpful tips in the new book Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing the First Job – (Barron’s Publishing) – Author Ian E. Scott.  You can order Law School Lowdown on Amazon.