From the monthly archives:

September 2013

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Tips for the Legal Informational Interview

by writer on September 26, 2013

The legal world has experienced its ups and downs since the recession hit and those currently in law school continue to debate whether or not their decision to attend was worth it. Recent law grads and those who are scheduled to graduate within the coming months, should consider scheduling and attending informational interviews to help in their search for a job.

An informational interview has a much different feel compared to a job interview because for the most part, you should be asking most of the questions. If you are considering going on informational interviews with attorneys, make sure you are well prepared before sitting down and taking up anyone’s time.

The first thing you need to do is find people working in the legal practice area you are interested in by talking with faculty members, friends, classmates and maybe even family members. After you put together your list you can begin contacting via phone, email or mail those who you wish to meet. In your correspondence make sure that you let the contact know that you are not asking about a job or asking for a job. Instead, you want to learn more about the practice and what that specific attorney does on a daily basis.

Once you have been able to schedule a meeting, make sure that you are prepared even though this is not a job interview. Do some research on the attorney and the firm where he or she works. Find out their background by reading their bio on the firm’s website so that you can impress with all that you know. Letting your personality shine through during an information interview could help you in the future if the attorney knows of a job opening in the area or at his or her firm.

During the interview, make sure you discuss some of the following items with the attorney:

  • How the attorney made his or her decision to enter into their specific practice.
  • How long the attorney has been working in their area of law.
  • What the attorney likes most about the practice and what the biggest dislikes are.
  • What the attorney does daily in terms of job responsibilities.
  • The qualifications needed by law grads who wish to enter the specific legal practice.

If you feel that you have created a good report with the attorney, you might want to even ask if he or she could look over your resume and give it a critique so you can improve upon what you already have. Ask the attorney for any referrals he or she can offer for you to speak with further about scheduling any more informational interviews about the practice or other practices.

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Simple, Yet Effective, Tips for a Law Grad Job Search

by writer on September 23, 2013

We have all read the stories in the news about how disappointing the market for legal jobs is right now for recent law school graduates. Well, no matter the market, you can make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd by employing the following tips for your legal job search. These tips are very simple to put into action but they are effective enough to help you land a job in the legal industry.

Create Resumes and Cover Letters for Each Job Application

This is a tip that can be used when searching for jobs in any industry but is vital in the legal industry. Thousands of legal job applicants send out mass resumes and cover letters to prospective employers simply by changing the address on the paperwork and who the cover letter is written for from job-to-job. An excellent way to get noticed is to tailor each resume and cover letter specifically for each job you submit them so you come across with a personal touch. This method could be much more effective than mass-mailing 50 sets of resume/cover letters each week because the ones you send out are centered more on the job(s) in which you applied.

Keep Record of All Applications Submitted

When applying for a legal job, it is in your best interest to keep a record of all the applications you have submitted from day one following graduation. This will help you prevent sending duplicate applications in, which takes up your precious time, and helps you remember which employers you have heard from via phone, email or letter. Keep a spreadsheet of the applications you have submitted and update the spreadsheet whenever you contact the company/firm or when they contact you.

Network, Network, Network

This category must be important since we repeated it three times in the headline. Many young attorneys do not enjoy networking but this is one of the most important aspects of a legal job search that you can use today. Join local bar associations and specialty associations in your area aside from the state bar association to meet lawyers and potential employers.

Another aspect of networking is the informational interview. You should schedule as many informational interviews as possible in your locale or within your practice area. These interviews will provide you with not only the opportunity to meet lawyers in the field but also information about the specific job you would like to work in at some point. Then, when the time comes, you will know exactly what is needed when applying for the position.

Set Goals

A job search does not always yield results immediately, which is why it is important to set various goals along the way. These goals should include a set number of resume/cover letter combos you would like to submit each week, a set number of informational interviews to attend each month or what time of day and for how long you will be searching for jobs. For example, send out 10 resume/cover letter combos per week, attend five interviews per month and search for jobs every evening from 5-7 PM.

If you are able to use all of these methods, your legal job search will be much more effective and you will be more organized in your search as well.

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Children and Working in a Law Firm as an Attorney

by A. Harrison Barnes on September 19, 2013

I am currently working in a mid-sized firm and am on track to become partner. Being a fairly new firm, there is no maternity leave and part-time policy in place. I am considering having a child, but still want to be considered for partner, while at the same time pioneering the path for a good maternity policy. Do you think I’ll be able to achieve this, and, if so, how do I go about it?

Dear Victoria,

Thank you for your letter. In response, I sincerely hope that you will be able to achieve your goals of having a child, remaining on the partnership path, and pioneering a strong firm maternity and/or part-time policy. The key to success in this area is to: (1) become informed as to the State and Federal laws in this area and (2) approach a firm representative with whom you feel comfortable, aiming for an open and positive line of communication.

First, you mentioned that your firm is a “new” firm. This is a benefit to you. You and the partnership and/or human resources department can work together to establish a solid and protective maternity policy. Before beginning, become informed. It is important to know your rights in this regard. The Family Medical Leave Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act are two federal laws which protect your rights. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects against sex discrimination, treating pregnancy, pregnancy-related illness, and childbirth on an equal level with other medical matters. At last check, such law held that an employer with at least 15 employees could not fire or refuse to hire/promote a woman because she was pregnant and also could not force a woman to take a mandatory leave.

Benefits (such as seniority) also were required to remain “as is”. Similarly, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) permits an employee to take as much as 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period for certain events, including pregnancy. Certain criteria apply, however, in order to fall under this Act, such as, at last check: at least 50 or more people need to be employed by the company. There are other criteria as well–of which you should become informed. Notwithstanding the aforementioned federal protections, state and local laws can often vary dramatically. Before beginning any discussions with your partnership or human resources department, you should educate yourself on how such matters are handled in the Atlanta area.

Once you are legally informed as to your rights, the first line in achieving success with any goal in firm life is an OPEN LINE OF COMMUNICATION with the established partnership–or those charged with making firm policy. Approaching a partner, or human resources person, with whom you feel comfortable discussing your personal life is a solid first step. [Note: Women are not obligated to disclose personal goals regarding having/adopting children and it is against the law for an employer to ask you questions in this regard.] Inquire as to your firm’s intentions on the matter of maternity leave; delve into its opinion regarding the foregoing federal laws and applicable state rules. If you are experiencing some resistance, mention the financial benefits of having a maternity policy in place-such as lower turnover rates and higher morale. A firm without a strong maternity policy cannot hope to attract or recruit female employees and will likely be looked upon as “behind the times” or something less than an “equal opportunity” employer. To this end, remaining on the partnership track is also imperative–a firm without female partners who have children sends a bad message to clients, as well as new recruits.

As for your secondary concern addressing a part-time policy, this is often a more difficult road to pursue. Traditionally, firms are very hesitant to adopt part-time policies due to cost considerations (benefit payments outweighing work production), fear of abuse by employees, and general concern that attorneys will fall behind, knowledge-wise, in their class. Having said this, firms who have adopted such policies are looked upon as progressive and women-friendly, in particular.

Again, do your research. Before approaching the partnership, call the human resource offices of other local firms of similar size. Find out if they have a part-time policy in place. Ask them if they might send you a copy of their part-time guidelines. You would be surprised how helpful other firms can be in this regard. KNOW THE MARKET before approaching the partnership/human resources. Once you have done your local due diligence, let your firm know how their policies, or lack thereof, compare with other like firms. Competition is the motivating factor behind every law firm; everyone wants to be the best. Use this to your advantage in negotiating a solid policy. You may wish to not only suggest guidelines for such a policy, but also that admittance to such policy be determined on a “case-by-case” basis-as a case-by-case scenario often puts a partnership at ease. Hence, employees will feel confident that a policy is in place, and the partnership will feel confident that it has discretion as to who is allowed to join the “part-time” ranks.

In conclusion, do I think you will be able to achieve your goal? Yes! Like any good attorney, do your research and come prepared to the discussion table with facts, suggestions and ideas to make your firm a top player in Atlanta.

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Making the Switch from Corporate to Litigation?

by A. Harrison Barnes on September 17, 2013

Given recent economic conditions, many Legal Authority clients choose to make the switch from corporate to litigation each week. While this is not always the best choice if you believe that you are particularly suited to doing corporate work, it is an option that Legal Authority clients have chosen with increasing frequency. Conversely, a couple of years ago many attorneys were choosing to make the switch from litigation to corporate. To give you a sense of the mechanics involved with making a switch, we have profiled a recent Legal Authority client who successfully made the switch.

Mark*, a 2001 graduate of a top five law school, had little more than a year of experience as a corporate attorney with a major US law firm’s Silicon Valley office (the office closed in 2003). Mark’s circumstance was particularly dire because he (1) was a corporate attorney, and (2) had failed the California Bar Exam–not once, but twice. Mark’s law firm had the same policy as many other major law firms have: If you fail the bar exam more than once, you must leave the firm.

While Mark’s circumstance was unique, the situation in his particular legal market and practice area was not. In addition to having assisted numerous other associates from top Silicon Valley law firms land new jobs, Legal Authority was also already quite familiar with the events that were occurring inside Mark’s own law firm because we had already assisted numerous corporate associates from the same class at the same firm as Mark switch firms within the past several months. Indeed, we had even assisted a partner from the same firm move who informed us that he believed the firm’s office was in danger of closing. While we had assisted these individuals locate corporate or in-house positions, Mark’s situation was something that we believed required a far different approach.

Prior to contacting Legal Authority, Mark conducted his job search for a few hours every day, trying numerous methods for getting a position. Mark scanned online job boards, contacted recruiters, and asked his law school for alumni contacts. By January of 2003 — more than 7 months after being let go — Mark had not received a single interview. After unsuccessfully trying to get a job through a preeminent San Francisco recruiter, the same recruiting firm recommended that Mark contact Legal Authority.

Despite all of the gloom, there were some positives to Mark’s prospects by January of 2003. Fortunately, Mark ultimately did pass the bar on his third attempt. In addition, Mark graduated in the top 50 percent of his law school class. Having seen many of his fellow associates get laid off (several at his own firm were even let go while he was studying for the Bar Exam his third time), Mark was not entirely committed to doing corporate work. In fact, Mark had become so disillusioned with corporate practice, that he was not sure he even wanted to practice law at all. Nevertheless, Mark believed he owed it to himself to push forward. With almost $100,000 in student loans from law school, and a family to support, Mark felt a need to continue working as an attorney.

Mark was initially skeptical about using a service like Legal Authority, according to Legal Authority Employment Advocate Melissa Zelada. Melissa, herself an attorney, had to spend a great deal of time with Mark educating him about Legal Authority and discussing his job search. According to Melissa, “Mark’s search was complicated by the fact that he really stood no chance of getting a corporate position. Not having the bar and competing with scores of other corporate attorneys who had not been fired for failing the bar twice made his prospects very dire. In addition, Mark was conducting his search in one of the worst areas of the United States from an employment perspective. Mark believed that if a firm did not advertise a position or hire a recruiter to track down a candidate for an opening, they were not worth contacting.”

Melissa also knew that Mark’s search was not going to be an easy one: “Here was a super candidate who had both found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and had not passed the bar after two attempts. He was also in the virtual epicenter of the economic downturn. He was a junior corporate associate and had not worked in over six months. I knew that Legal Authority could help Mark despite his situation.”

Melissa and Mark spent over two hours on the phone strategizing options. Mark accepted the idea that it would be in his best interest to move out of corporate law and into a practice area that was currently more in demand and would be more stable, like litigation. As a summer associate at both a major New York and Silicon Valley law firm, Mark had been exposed to enough litigation work that Melissa knew that Legal Authority’s Resume and Cover Letter Division would be able to do an excellent job both highlighting his litigation skills and helping Mark make a plausible case that he really wanted to do litigation work. In addition, Mark spent one year as a litigation paralegal prior to enrolling in law school, and had enjoyed the litigation work there.

“When I was a first and second year student in law school, all anyone was talking about was corporate, corporate, corporate,” Mark told Legal Authority, “Everyone knew that being a corporate associate could be a ticket to a super in-house position and stock options. When I was a corporate associate, I gradually came to realize that being a litigator was probably more suited to my personality. To me, corporate attorneys were just too uptight.”

While it may not sound all that significant, making the change from corporate to litigation was a major career decision for Mark. Melissa also felt there was a lot of strength in providing Mark with a rationale to do litigation work and that his decision was justified in his own mind. According to Melissa, “Mark wanted a job. He could have applied to scores of firms in the Bay Area for a corporate position and gotten another one-most likely at a firm of less than 20 attorneys that would not have cared about the Bar Exam, but it would have nevertheless been difficult with his particular circumstance. When I sensed he did not really enjoy corporate anyway, it was somewhat refreshing because I knew he would have a lot of choice in the litigation realm.”

Melissa and Mark believed that the best strategy was to follow his heart and go for a litigation position. In the San Francisco legal market, like virtually every legal market, far more firms do litigation work than corporate work. Finally, the corporate market at the time was in horrible shape. Mark ultimately decided to approach 300 large and medium-sized law firms with litigation departments to secure his litigation position.

Mark and resume specialist Christopher Dacus worked on several versions of his resume and cover letter with Legal Authority. Dacus, who received his Master’s Degree in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania, had counseled hundreds of attorneys in his time as a professional writer. According to Dacus, the largest challenge with Mark’s cover letter was that Mark really needed a job and would basically take any position offered, and he needed to portray strength while not appearing desperate.

According to Chris, “Mark didn’t want to put all his eggs in one basket. Essentially, he was hoping that a corporate position would open up for him if the litigation strategy failed. When I am working with our clients at Legal Authority, I am always cognizant that my goal is to ensure that they get a job.”

Mark’s final cover letter and resume reflected that he had litigation and corporate experience. While the cover letter emphasized Mark’s litigation interest but also mentioned his corporate experience in enough detail that employers would see it.

Mark received his Airborne Express package from Legal Authority on a Saturday. On Sunday he signed his cover letters and mailed them on Monday. What happened next surprised Mark. By Wednesday, Mark had received 5 interviews. While 4 of the 5 interviews were with medium sized firms, the fifth interview was with the San Francisco office of a major New York City-based law firm. By Friday, Mark had received 11 interviews, and by the middle of the following week he had received 16 interviews.

Mark called Melissa the day he received his first interviews. Two weeks later, he called Melissa again to tell her he had accepted a litigation position with a mid-sized San Francisco firm — at a salary identical to his former one. And what happened with the San Francisco office of the major New York law firm? Mark was quite clear: “When I got my call back after my screening interview, I stalled and ultimately never went back. I do not think I am ever going to want to work for a big firm again. Who needs that? I expect to be a partner in five years at my present firm. If there is anything I would recommend to attorneys searching for a job it is this: Don’t use Legal Authority as a last resort. I could have been employed more than 6 months ago if I had used Legal Authority in the first place.”

*Names have been changed to maintain privacy, but this is a 100% true success story.

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Transitioning to Bankruptcy as Your Practice Area?

by A. Harrison Barnes on September 11, 2013

My firm’s bankruptcy practice has been very busy recently and proposed that I transition to this work. What would this mean to my long-term career?

Bankruptcy has been a hot topic in the legal market ever since the dotcom bubble burst in the late 1990’s. Although many of the dotcoms disappeared with nary a whimper (because many of these firms did not have significant assets), the quick and public demise of huge international companies such as Enron Corp., WorldCom, and Global Crossing increased the amount of bankruptcy work at many firms around the United States.

In addition to the increase in activity in the bankruptcy and restructuring markets, the United States capital markets have been quiet as the economy has slowly recovered. In the recent depressed market, many corporate attorneys who were not billing enough hours were approached by their firms to “re-tool” and work with the firm’s bankruptcy or restructuring group.

Consequently, I am frequently asked by midlevel, junior, and summer associates how they should approach the current economic recession from the perspective of their practice areas, and whether they should consider a short stint in other busier areas of law such as bankruptcy or even litigation. The answer for any individual is case by case, however, there are some common threads that all candidates will have to consider before accepting a temporary or permanent change.

An important distinction should be made between experienced and newly minted attorneys. That distinction is driven, in my opinion, by the concept of an attorney’s “brand.” What is an attorney’s brand you may well ask? Practicing attorneys have a brand that is a combination of their expertise and education. Do you realize that every task performed by an attorney develops (or hinders) their brand? Therefore, choosing and changing practice areas affect your brand, and any such arrangement should be considered carefully. In my experience, well-branded attorneys get the best work and consistent recognition, and managing your brand correctly will help your success at your firm.

Bankruptcy Law

First, let us consider the practice of bankruptcy law. The bankruptcy practice is, for the most part, a federal practice before Article III courts. Under the United States Constitution, businesses (and individuals) can seek the protection of the bankruptcy courts as they seek to sort out their business and financial affairs. Bankruptcy is a code-based practice which relies on the bankruptcy code (Title 11 of the United States Code), a set of rules which are loosely drawn to determine the arena in which creditors and debtors can determine how they are going to proceed to resolve a company’s financial situation. The Bankruptcy Code has been modified by case law, but much of the bankruptcy practice never reaches published judicial decision because the parties negotiate a solution that is blessed by the supervising court.

Contrary to popular belief, businesses do not stop operating when they file for bankruptcy, and most businesses that have filed for bankruptcy continue their daily operations with the same pre-bankruptcy management and personnel. One example is Texaco, which filed for bankruptcy in the 1980’s after losing a multi-billion dollar lawsuit to Pennzoil. The bankruptcy process allowed Texaco to continue to operate its business while it negotiated payment of the lawsuit with Pennzoil. However, businesses in bankruptcy operate under the watchful eye of a court, and they cannot dispose of any of their assets without court permission. Of course, a company’s creditors are busy scrutinizing the company’s books too!

A primary function of a bankruptcy attorney is to assist his/her client in realizing the maximum value of a debtor’s estate so that creditors can receive the maximum return on their debt. Maximizing return to creditors frequently occurs in the form of the sale of assets or business operations or the whole business in an auction process. Bankruptcy attorneys are frequently called upon to assist their clients with the daily components of running a large firm while in bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy can be loosely divided into creditor and debtor practice areas and restructuring and bankruptcy practices. The creditor and debtor practices are essentially similar practices; attorneys represent either creditors (generally financial institutions) or debtors. Frequently a firm will specialize in creditor or debtor work to prevent inter-client conflicts.

Creditor practice is frequently portrayed as the more intellectual and enjoyable practice because the attorney is not involved in the day-to-day minutia associated with running businesses in the bankruptcy process. However, these practices really are two sides of the same coin, with creditors’ attorneys required to respond to and engage in the same motion practice as their debtor counterparts. In addition, the personal side of a debtor practice can be extremely rewarding because clients tend to be very grateful for their attorney’s assistance in navigating them through the bankruptcy process. In addition, associates with a debtor’s practice frequently liaise at a very senior level because bankruptcy necessarily streamlines the personnel structure in a business.

Whereas creditors and debtor re-negotiate the terms of existing debt, restructuring is rarely as complex or as lengthy as a full-blown bankruptcy. In general, this practice involves financial institutions and corporate executives working to renegotiate a company’s private or public debt.

One advantage of being a bankruptcy attorney is that the attorney has the opportunity to act both as a litigator and as a transactional attorney. One day, the attorney may be required to do research, engage in motion practice or attend court hearings, while the next, the attorney may liaise with corporate attorneys, tax attorneys, ERISA and employment attorneys, intellectual property attorneys, corporate finance, and in the case of public companies, securities professionals as they work to negotiate a deal on certain of the debtor’s assets. A bankruptcy attorney does not need to know these areas of the law, but should develop a thorough understanding of the concepts associated with these practice areas. Consequently, the practice of bankruptcy law can be bewildering to the junior attorney, as they endeavor to understand not only their own practice area, but also learn to integrate other areas of the law into their practices. This straddle between transaction and litigation frequently generates the common perception that an attorney can easily transition into or away from the bankruptcy practice. While the bankruptcy practice straddles transaction work and litigation work, it is not the same as practicing in either of those areas of the law.

Graduating Associates

Recent law school graduates frequently do not realize that they have a “brand” and their career depends on the continued development of that brand. Most recent law school graduates have invested more than $120,000 in their legal education and law school living expenses to develop their brand. With attorneys, the brand starts with your pre-law school education. In most cases, this will be the primary factor that will decide which law school you attended. Next, your law school and your grades generally determine the scope of employers and training that you receive once you have graduated.

A graduating associate is different from an experienced associate because the graduating associate has yet to develop their practice area. The biggest career choice that graduating associates make when they join a firm is deciding their practice area. Consequently, I would recommend that graduating law students find an area of practice that they are prepared to commit to from the start. Choose an area of law that is right for you rather than being “hot.”

Changing practice areas later is not necessarily easy, especially if the associate has been branded as a bankruptcy associate. For example, many junior attorneys overlook the fact that law firms are seeking laterals with experience in an advertised practice area. Junior associates can lateral into a different practice area, but frequently they must compete against candidates who have the prerequisite experience and all else being equal, it is most likely that the experienced candidate will fill an available job.

Experienced Associates

With experienced attorneys, the issue is more complex. Experienced associates have (presumably) developed expertise in one area of law and have managed their career to get the widest range of experience in their practice area. However, a dilemma arises when your practice area is quiet, and the partner has asked you to “help out” in another department.

Temporarily working in a related practice area may be perceived as being beneficial to an experienced associate. The associate can make new contacts with different departments and partners of the firm. The attorney believes they will also demonstrate their commitment to their firm, and wants to see their firm succeed.

However, an attorney’s skills in their chosen practice area will atrophy over time, and the attorney is not being trained in their chosen practice area. It is hard to focus on the demands of the training and reading associated with one’s favored practice area when one is busy working in a foreign practice area. In addition, there is the chance that the associate will be removed from the roster of associates available for assignments because the transferred associate’s hours have increased. Associates asked to transition should consider whether the firm is giving them a subtle hint that they are not fitting in with their peers in their own practice areas. For example, do some of your colleagues remain busy while you are idle? Perhaps it is time to dust off your résumé and consider looking for a new home.

Having said all that, if you like the idea of bankruptcy as a career then I would encourage it. I worked as a bankruptcy attorney at one of the large New York firms and I still consider that experience to be one of the best in my legal career. The work was hard, the hours were long, but, in retrospect, I learned an enormous amount about how to get deals done and what it means to run a business. Finally, bankruptcy, in many ways, is not like other aspects of the law. I found it to be very creative because bankruptcy lawyers operate in one of those rare spheres in the business and legal worlds where the legal process drives some of the business decisions.

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When Law Firms Turn Mean

by A. Harrison Barnes on September 9, 2013

“When Law Firms Turn Mean”

At Legal Authority, some of our Employment Advocates are former legal recruiters and they look upon the current recession-like conditions in the legal community as nothing new.One of the more interesting aspects of the current slowdown in the legal market is the fact that many firms have become increasingly meaner to their associates and partners.This is not to say that all firms are mean—they are not all mean.It is to say, however, that attorneys need to be astute to the conditions within their law firms in order to evaluate them.As this article will demonstrate, firms that are doing well economically are often not mean.

In the Year 2008 there were numerous associate layoffs throughout the United States.This, of course, contrasts with the fact that there was a massive hiring binge at firms in the Years 2003 through the first part of 2008.It is interesting to contrast these two points in time to try and gain an understanding of why law firms turn mean.

When Firms Were Nice

During the time that firms were experiencing a hiring binge, most attorneys who worked in these firms did not believe the firms were mean at all.In fact, in order to try and get associates to stay so they could do all the work, firms tended to be extremely lenient in performance reviews.Interviews were often quite casual and not too stressful. Bonuses were large.Firm perks were abundant.For many associates practicing at large firms, their biggest complaint was often that they had far too much work to do.Nevertheless, associates with strong credentials could without too much difficulty switch firms if they thought their firms was not a pleasant place to work.

For associates working at nice firms during the period between 2003 and early 2008, they often believed they could do no wrong.When looking for positions, associates were often very arrogant about the number of opportunities they had.In associate interviews, many law students associates would often grill partners and associates about what the firm could do for them.Things were very good for associates.

When Firms Turned Mean

In the Year 2008, many large law firms became extremely unpleasant places to work in.Performance reviews suddenly turned into far from casual affairs.In fact, at many performance reviews associates were outright fired.Other associates were simply laid off. For many attorneys, such as corporate associates seeking to lateral into another law firm—in contrast to what occurred in the “boom years”—there were virtually no recruiter opportunities.With respect to the few interviews many of these associates received, the firms grilled them aggressively.Bonuses?At many firms there were no bonuses.Perks were cancelled or dramatically scaled back.And as for complaints about too much work, many associates were complaining about the exact opposite.

For many associates working in law firms since middle 2008, they often believed that they could do no right.Firms were not at all happy places to work for many associates.

“What the Mean vs. Nice Dichotomy Means”

The obvious meaning of all this is that, when times are good, associates can make firms a great deal of money and are treated well.When times are bad, associates may cost firms money.What all this means, then, is that economic forces beyond an attorney’s immediate control often shape their futures.

However, for all of the criticisms of firms during bad times, the fact of the matter is that attorneys at all levels working in law firms do have control over their destiny’s and how they can confront the situations the economy creates for them.For example, even during the worst of economic times there are firms which continue to do extremely well and post high profits.Many of these firms never turn mean.Even during the worst of times, there are firms that are aggressively hiring attorneys who approach them for positions.

When attorneys are in law school, they never really know what to look for in a firm.For example, during the boom years of 1988 to 2001 (another boom time) one of the most attractive law firms to many associates in the United States was Venture Law Group in Silicon Valley.This firm was one which essentially took one aspect of a law firm’s corporate department and built it into a law firm that does nothing but a certain type of corporate work.Conversely, a firm which has been around for over 100 years, such as New York’s Sullivan & Cromwell, has survived so long because it has numerous departments which complement each other and help sustain one another through good times and bad.Incidently, Venture Law Group is a firm that “became mean” during the economic slowdown.This firm eventually disappeared, of course.

The essence of becoming a client of Legal Authority is that it can give you the ability to distinguish good firms from the mean ones—especially in a bad economic climate.By allowing you to survey the market for all of the opportunities that match what you are seeking to do, Legal Authority empowers you to find firms which are hiring in a bad economic climate.If you are a corporate associate, or practicing in an area of the law that is not in demand in a good economic climate, then finding the firms that are hiring is an extremely significant thing: You have found a firm that is likely to be in even better shape when the economy turns around.

Conclusions

When firms turn mean, they usually do so based upon economic forces which are affecting them.Different firms are set up different ways and as they evolve make many economic decisions which will have a significant effect on them in both good and bad economies.Finding the firms that are set up to whether economic storms is no easy task.The firm could be a very large law firm, or it could just as easily be a smaller one.One of the essences of becoming a client of Legal Authority is that we can assist you in finding the firms that are set up to weather—and perhaps even prosper–in economic storms.By contacting all of the firms in a given city that match precisely what you are seeking to, you can identify those firms which are hiring and then speak with them.While results typically differ for many of Legal Authority clients, it is not uncommon for many of our clients.

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The First Born Phenomenon

by A. Harrison Barnes on September 8, 2013

THE FIRST BORN PHENOMENON

●Two-thirds of all entrepreneurs are firstborns

●Twenty-one of the first twenty-three astronauts were firstborns

●Firstborns are twice as likely as laterborns to become CEOs

●Fifty-five percent of all supreme court justices have been firstborns

●Over half of U.S. Presidents have been firstborns

HOW DO WE EXPLAIN THIS PHENOMENON?

●People have higher expectations for first borns

●First borns are given more responsibility

●First borns get more encouragement, feedback and attentions

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The In-House Position Maze

by A. Harrison Barnes on September 7, 2013

Attorneys have traditionally gone in-house by accepting an offer from one of their clients (or a client of their firm). Nevertheless, unless specifically asked by a client to work for them, the traditional methods of searching for an in-house position may bring no luck. If you were to ask one of your firm’s clients if you can work for them, how does that make your current firm look? What if your request gets back to your current law firm?

A few attorneys get in-house positions by responding to ads on job posting boards or in classified sections of legal newspapers. The problem with job posting boards and legal classifieds is that most in-house employers posting positions on job posting boards receive well in excess of 1,000 emailed resumes in response to their ads. In-house employers are simply flooded with resumes of top attorneys seeking a better lifestyle, more predictable hours, and no billable hours. Indeed, many attorneys inside law firms have been looking for an in-house position for years. An in-house job is something that is coveted by many attorneys as the best environment for practicing law. For many attorneys who practiced in law firms before going in-house, this has often proven to be the case.

Probably the least common way for attorneys to get an in-house position is through a legal recruiting firm. The legal recruiting firm typically conducts an in-house search as follows:

First, the recruiter “cold calls” numerous General Counsels or corporate officers to induce them to allow the recruiter to fill an opening. More often than not, the recruiter demands a meeting and goes to the meeting with brochures and other propaganda about the search firm. The General Counsel then will often speak with other search firms to negotiate fees before choosing a search firm. The few national search firms that do in-house searches typically have a dedicated recruiter that spends their days soliciting companies for in-house opportunities (and potential placement fees).

Second, most of the times, the recruiter will demand an “exclusive” from the company to perform the in-house search. By an exclusive, the recruiter will seek to prohibit the company from using any outside sources to fill the position for a minimum length of time (usually six months to a year). When granted an “exclusive,” recruiters also require the corporation to forward to them all resumes they receive for the attorney position for the length of the exclusive. Because recruiters want to use the name of the company in advertising the company’s position, candidates are prevented from contacting the company directly (in which event the company would not have to pay the recruiter any fees).

Third, the recruiter will typically demand that the company pay them a “retainer”. The “retainer” is generally set at between 1/3 and 1/2 of the placement firm’s expected placement fee. Attorney placement firms typically charge corporations and other employers a fee to introduce you to the employer that is between 25 and 40 percent of your annual salary. The “retainer fee” is used by the placement firm to pay for advertising and other incidental expenses associated with finding candidates for the position. For example, if a recruiting firm receives a $15,000 retainer they may (1) pay $5,000 to the recruiter who “brought in” the in-house job (the recruiter who fills the position itself will be compensated individually out of the 25 to 40 percent fee which deducts the retainer), (2) spend $5,000 on advertising, and (3) keep $5,000 to cover the overhead associated with the work they did on the search.

Just like employers, when a placement firm places an ad for an in-house position, they typically receive numerous, numerous inquiries — that is why their advertising budgets are so high. Out of what is often well in excess of 1,000 inquiries (and sometimes a multiple of that in larger cities), the placement firm will very quickly whittle down the inquiries to less than 10 candidates to introduce to the corporation. A placement will then hopefully be made.

As you can see, from a recruiter’s standpoint, the beauty of doing in-house placements is that they very quickly provide them with hundreds of candidates they know are interested in alternative employment. Accordingly, while the recruiter will rarely have suitable in-house positions for these attorneys, there are far more potential law firm opportunities than in-house opportunities, and the recruiter will attempt to interest candidates in law firm positions — even if they do not want to go to another law firm.

We believe that the best method for finding an in-house position is by using Legal Authority. Legal Authority counteracts most of the traditional obstacles to getting an in-house position, which are (1) recruiters, (2) job boards, and (3) the traditional reliance upon a “network”. If you are playing games with these three methods for trying to get a position, you may be waiting a very long time indeed.

Legal Authority assists attorneys in contacting every potential in-house employer they choose in the area of the country they are interested in. The benefit of this is that your materials will arrive on the desk of every potential employer you could possibly ever want to work for. Also, most in-house employers do not use recruiters to fill attorney positions. Using Legal Authority can help you contact the employers you are most interested in, regardless of whether or not they use recruiters or typically advertise their openings on job posting boards.

Legal Authority also helps you focus your in-house search in the most appropriate way possible. For example, if you are seeking a position as in the General Counsel’s Office of a biotech company (because you have a background in doing biotech patent prosecution), Legal Authority can assist you in contacting all of the companies that do biotech in a given area. Also, we have the most appropriate information. For example, if you are a senior attorney who is currently a General Counsel, it would likely not be most appropriate to contact the General Counsel about replacing them. Instead, you would be better served by contacting a high level executive within the company. This is something that Legal Authority can assist you in doing.

We believe Legal Authority is the most effective way for getting an in-house position. Indeed, given the breadth of exposure we give attorneys — and the number of offers many Legal Authority clients receive in-house, we believe Legal Authority is the only way to get an in-house job that actually makes sense. In fact, we are aware of no other company in the world that gets more attorneys jobs in-house than Legal Authority.

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Do Not Let Your School Control the Recruiting Process

by A. Harrison Barnes on September 6, 2013

Law Students and Recent Grads: Do Not Rely on Career Services. Take Control of Your Job Search!!!

Every law student in this country is familiar with Career Services. You have probably used them to look for either a summer associate position, or a law clerk position while you attended school, or even a post-graduation position after you had taken the bar exam but before your results arrived. Some students have achieved varying degrees of success, but most students have been left dissatisfied, frustrated, and, most important, JOBLESS! If this describes your situation, Legal Authority exists to help students like you.

This article is not designed to bash Career Services or the job that they do. Rather, this article is meant to highlight the fact that while Career Services serves a function, that function is rather limited. One thing that law students are not aware of is the fact that Career Services can only be effective for the top 10% of the class!!! Unfortunately, the other 90% of the class is left struggling to find positions. Legal Authority will assist that other 90% in finding the best jobs for them.

The primary purpose of this article is to make sure that you, the job seeker, are equipped with all the information you need to take control of your job search. We will look at Career Services in terms of what do they do and whom they help the most. Next, we will look at why it does not make sense for you to place your future in the hands of Career Services. And finally, we will lay out your plan of action and determine how you can take control of your job search!

Career Services: Who are they, and what do they do?

As noted above, every law student in this country will at one time or another visit his/her Career Services office for assistance with his/her job search. In the fall, most if not all Career Services offices organize some sort of on-campus-interviewing process. Many schools refer to it as fall OCI (on-campus interviewing). During this process, many large law firms go to various law schools and recruit law students up to one year in advance to begin their positions with these firms the following summer. Career Services will help law students draft resumes and cover letters for the available positions. In addition, they will help law students get their resumes to the hiring coordinators of the large firms.

Unfortunately, your decision to work for a firm that recruits on campus is not always in your control. First, firms are usually looking for the top students with the best grades, as well as journal/moot court participation. Second, you might be a student who is looking to move to a different geographic region for the summer, and firms from that region do not recruit on your campus. For the lucky few students who land their positions through this process, the hunt is over. However, for the majority of students, the job search is only beginning, and these students can no longer rely on their school’s Career Services office.

Your Future in the Hands of Career Services???

Most students need to be proactive in their job searches and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that they find the best jobs for them. If you are one of those students, Legal Authority can help you apply directly to almost any legal employer anywhere, including law firms, corporations, judges, public interest organizations, public defender’s offices, prosecutor’s offices, state and federal governmental agencies, law schools—you name it. With the largest database of legal employers anywhere, Legal Authority has contacts for more than two million legal employers in all 50 states and more than 150 countries. It is not unusual for our clients to get 10 or more offers. The limited resources of your law school’s Career Services office simply are not designed to help you get such results.

When looking for a job as a 2L, 3L, or recent grad, it is important to note that the job that you take is critical and will set up the first stage of your legal career. Because your first job as a law clerk or a first-year associate is so important, the wisest job seekers do not leave their job searches in the hands of Career Services. They are great for helping students with the best grades land great positions. And you must remember that your Career Services office has every incentive to promote their best students in landing jobs with firms. This is primarily because it helps to increase the school’s ranking and prestige in the legal community. Nevertheless, if you are not one of those select few, Career Services can leave you feeling hopeless.

Take Control of Your Job Search: Your Plan of Action

As you might have experienced, it is very difficult to land a summer associate position if you have not been recruited. It is not, however, impossible. To maximize your chances of getting a great position, you need to first maximize both the quality and quantity of the interviews and then maximize your interview efficiency. This is where Legal Authority makes all the difference. We will help you get your resume and cover letters out to great firms that are looking for someone just like you.

This opportunity is being utilized constantly by students and attorneys alike. Many 2Ls and 3Ls use targeted mailing as a way of getting around the nightmare of fall OCI, where only the top 10% of the class is offered job opportunities. The savviest students know that they can use Legal Authority to create their own fall OCI that is tailored to their needs and targeted to those employers that are not going to dismiss them simply because they are not first or second in their class. The service has helped numerous students from all over the United States bypass Career Services and take control of their job searches!

Remember, when you conduct a job search using Legal Authority, the purpose is not to find just any job. If you sit around long enough, you will find any job. The point of this search is to find the best job for you. You will sample all of the opportunities out there and find the job that is the best fit for you and your needs. No other job search allows that. If you find a job through an advertisement, then you are at the mercy of that employer, including whatever salary and workload it dictates. There is no opportunity to weigh several offers and negotiate the best deal. Targeted mailing affords you that opportunity. Your future does not have to be governed by the lack of success during the on-campus-interviewing process. You can determine your career path and land a great position when you take the initiative with Legal Authority and take control of your job search!

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Pro Bono Legal Work and Your Legal Career

by A. Harrison Barnes on September 2, 2013

Try to list professions that inherently expect their members to give portions of their time to the underprivileged for free; it will probably be a short list. At the top of that list, however, would almost certainly be the legal profession. Pro Bono Publico: For the public good. “Pro bono” is practically synonymous with the word lawyer. But why is it that lawyers, unlike many other prominent professionals, are expected to provide free legal services to the disadvantaged? And why do law firms continue to support this endeavor?

Part of the answer probably lies in the simple fact that indoctrination regarding pro bono work begins early. From the first day of law school, students are told that with the degree comes an obligation to donate time and services to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it. They are told that it is not only a moral responsibility, but a rewarding process that will contribute to their overall practice in many ways.

While students may agree pro bono is equally rewarding for both sides, they may find it difficult to put these thoughts into action. Many choose the practice of law with aspirations of providing a needed service-changing the world so to speak-and a commitment to “righting wrong.” Those individuals may not feel the pressure to donate their time and services, as it is probably incumbent of their practice. There are others, however, who practice for the intellectual challenge, power, prestige, and/or the lure of the almighty dollar. While they don’t blame others for wanting to donate their time freely, quite frankly, it is not on the top of their priority lists.

Nonetheless, look at the law firms of the attorneys who pursued private-service careers over public-interest ones and you will be hard pressed to find a firm that does not have pro bono prominently displayed on its agenda. The question is, how focused is the firm on making pro bono work an integral part of its culture and structure?

One example of a pro bono program may provide some clues. One of Atlanta’s largest and most respected firms, Powell Goldstein LLP, recently established the Powell Goldstein Fellowship, sponsored by the firm to serve the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. At Powell Goldstein, the Fellowship is viewed as an honor, and the recipient is carefully selected by the firm.

Leah Fisher, Manager of Recruitment for Powell Goldstein, stated, “Powell Goldstein established its fellowship with Atlanta Legal Aid as a way for the firm to show its continued commitment to pro bono work while also providing an incoming associate with a demonstrated interest in pro bono work, the opportunity to work fulltime as a staff attorney at Atlanta Legal Aid for 4 to 6 months. The benefit is that the fellowship gives the associate the opportunity to develop client counseling and advocacy skills early on in his or her career while also providing valuable legal services to clients with low incomes.”

Still, fellowships and other pro bono activities appear focused on those already dedicated at some level to the work. And we know the work is important at least because of the obvious obligation to better society. Yet, given the tension between billable hours and non-paying, public-interest endeavors, one must wonder what drives firms to include pro bono commitment in their compensation and evaluation structure, initiate the creation of special committees, and sometimes create a management position dedicated solely to its pursuit? Plus, when pro bono work is integrated with the firm’s requirements for associates, why should you be forced to take part? Several areas offer answers.

For our second case example, we examined a firm with a slightly different picture. Though this firm certainly scores high marks regarding large-scale transactions and marquis clientele, it is not considered one of the more traditional firms in New York. In addition to an undeniable New York presence, this firm is more notable for significant growth in other major United States cities and metropolitan locations across several continents.

Public perception is key to the success of any law firm. What better way to market a firm and attract clients than by having your firm name associated with activities that improve the community? Pro bono is an excellent way to build rapport and be viewed as a leader by the public.

Professional Development
Given the nature of a large-firm environment, work assigned to junior attorneys can be limited and at times tedious. Pro bono offers an associate the opportunity to get autonomy and experience, not typically found early in a big-firm career. Pro bono is an excellent way to increase knowledge and develop legal skills quickly.

Recruiting
Students are very interested and will heavily research a firm’s commitment to pro bono. They look for firms who not only announce they are strong advocates of pro bono, but can demonstrate that it’s an integral part of the firm’s framework. Firms that work to create atmospheres in which the value of pro bono service is recognized and appreciated will most often attract future associates who may be the next big rainmakers.

Client Interaction
Low client contact is endemic to law firm life and often a major source of job dissatisfaction. Effectively handling a client is a key to the successful practice of law. As a result, partners are cautious about the amount of client face time associates receive. And there is the problem. Interaction with clients is a skill that has to develop right along with technical skills, but partners loathe to let junior attorneys near the firm’s valuable clients. With pro bono, young attorneys deal with the clients immediately and are viewed as project leaders.

Diversity of Practice
In mid-to-large firms, attorneys typically spend their careers focused on a specific practice area. While there are definite advantages to being an expert in one area of the law, taking on a project outside the usual realm of one’s practice can be a refreshing change. Indeed a pro bono project may be just what an attorney needs to keep the practice of law from becoming routine and stale.

So great, pro bono work will increase firms’ places in the community and how they manage their associates, but what is in the work for you as an individual?

Simple. Roll all of the above into one, and you are likely to end up a much happier, more gratified attorney. By doing pro bono work, you will service your community, your firm will prosper (and, yes, when the firm is happy, your life at the firm improves), you will deal directly with clients, your skills will broaden, and your practice will be more diverse. In the end, it is difficult to argue that committing yourself to pro bono projects will not actually benefit you more than the other party.

Indeed, firms must understand that the work benefits them and their associates because although pro bono and the law have always gone hand-in-hand, firms’ commitments to institutionalizing formal pro bono policies are becoming more common. True, firms may have offered some recognition to attorneys for committing their time to pro bono in the past, but written policies and stated goals are surfacing more and more. So for those who wonder why pro bono should be an obligatory component of your practice, just remember that not only is it for the public good, it’s good for you too.

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