Job search, Journey

My first vacation!

I’m very excited to announce that I’ve accepted a full time job! I will now be a telelphonic solutions consultant for Lexis Nexis here in Dayton. I’m SO excited to start my new job and can’t wait to see what I can learn.

That being said, I have another (almost) 2 weeks before I officially start my job. That means, I have a built in 2 week vacation where I don’t have to worry about anything! No bar prep, no classes, no job searching, nothing! It’s the most liberating feeling. I’m looking forward to getting things done around the house, relaxing, and visiting family.

Advice, Job search, My Life

Rejection

The legal world is full of rejection. From not getting your dream job to losing a case, there seems to be a never-ending string of negativity. Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life and learning to deal with it is important to managing yourself in a professional environment.

There’s plenty of advice out there for dealing with professional rejection. From taking time to yourself to asking the rejector for constructive criticism, finding what works best for you can immensely help your mental health and allow you to move forward. Lately, I’ve dealt with a lot of rejection while job searching. I’m a great candidate, but there’s always someone more experienced, a better fit, etc. It’s been rough and I’ve grown tremendously since starting my job search back in May.

When I have to deal with rejection, I always think of the scene in John Tucker Must Die where Kate talks about her mom’s coping mechanisms for when guys leave her: “A quick therapy session…or two…or three. Then, we pack up and leave again”. (Of course, here a therapy session is monster bites of chocolate frosting.) To be honest, it’s not the worst way to deal with rejection. When your first rejected, the initial sting is harsh. It’s one of the most awful feelings in the world knowing that you weren’t, well, fill in the blank. But, once the initial sting wears off, it becomes a little easier to deal with the fallout.

So, how exactly do you process and deal with the constant rejection and negativity? I wish there was a one-size-fits-all approach but of course there never it. In the legal world, that’s just another “it depends”. For me, I like to take a set amount of time to just be upset. Whether it’s five minutes or an hour, I need time to be upset that I didn’t get whatever I so desperately wanted. But, my rule is when that time period is up, I move on. When I didn’t get the job I really wanted this week, I took ten minutes. After the ten minutes, I started job searching again for the day. I looked for other skills to improve my marketability. I made a plan to ask my current boss for more work or time to shadow time to learn more. By not harping on my bad feelings, I could think clearly and work toward the goal that slipped away from me this time.

In reality, my set “grieving time” doesn’t always work. I’ve slipped back into the sadness and self-doubt. I’ve felt like a failure and wanted to give up being an lawyer. So, I surround myself with people who truly believe in me. I focus on my best friends who believe I can do absolutely anything I put my mind to. I focus on my family who has watched me go from an awkward kid to a fast-tracked college kid to a licensed attorney. I focus on Patrick, who sees me working toward my goal every day. By listening to those around me instead of the voice in my head, I’m motivated to continue working. Even when I don’t believe it, I want to be the person they all think I am.

Rejection is hard. It’s one of those things I don’t think anyone ever fully gets used to and in law, there’s a whole lot of rejection. Learning proper coping mechanisms and how to move on can work wonders for your professional life. How do you deal with rejection?

Interviewing

The Unemployed Attorney

I am an un(der)employed attorney. There, I said it. I’m 5 months out from passing the bar and being sworn in and I’m still mostly unemployed. In my quest for employment, I’ve started thinking about the skills I can gain to be more competitive in my job search. While some of these are easy, finding skills that are great for a lawyer to have and honing those skills proves to be difficult.

Law school provides you with the basic skills necessary to being an attorney: reading cases, legal writing, and good problem solving skills. But, every successful law student gains those skills. When you’re up against the top of the class graduate and someone with 5 years experience, your competitive edge dissipates. With all the newfound freedom of job searching, working on soft skills and gaining experience in varying fields can prove to be beneficial in interviews.

According to IAALS, lawyers look for skills far beyond the typical professionalism and legal skills. In fact, the top skill lawyers look for in new associates is character. Character, including work ethic, integrity, and common sense were listed by over half of the survey respondents as important qualities. Along with good character, good people skills and understanding the other side prove to be valuable skills for lawyers.

So, how do you go about working on these skills and finding tangible examples for interviews? For me, focusing on being a good person has been immensely helpful. By getting involved in my community and working toward my goal of “Leslie Knope” of lawyers, I’ve found my ability to be compassionate and understanding have increased. Learning how to actively listen by quieting my mind through meditation has helped me connect with clients and see problems I may have otherwise missed. Working to keep my promises and be punctual to meetings has boosted my credentials and reliability with those who will later recommend me for jobs.

All of my changes have been small, but when added together, the overall change in my ability to interview well and show I can be a productive asset for a firm has been much easier. Instead of showing I can do XYZ motion, I can point to work with Junior League or the animal shelter to show I can be relied on and genuinely care about my community. Staying punctual and following through on what I’ve promised has show opposing counsel, who may be my future boss, that I am accountable. So, in your free time, pick a skill and work, work, work!

What skills do you think it’s important for lawyers to have in their first year?

Networking

Expanding your network

Let’s face it, networking is hard! Between knowing where to meet people and saying the right thing, there are a million ways a good networking event can be lackluster or even downright bad. Unfortunately, networking is one job that is never done and finding new places to meet people, where they are clients, other attorneys, or just other professionals, can be difficult. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to expand your network and make a name for yourself.

LinkedIn: It’s the first place people think of when they think of online networking. LinkedIn is a great resource to use to find people in a specific field or location. The search function is easy and the new app update with your connections makes it easier to find common ground to reach out on. Now a days, almost everyone has a LinkedIn profile so finding old coworkers or bosses to connect with is simple.

Bar association: The bar association is the first place lawyers suggest networking. Bar associations are tasked with bringing together attorneys for the betterment of the profession. Here, our bar association has committees for almost every practice area and puts on tons of events. The bar association committee meetings are sparsely attended so going to even one meeting puts you on other attorney’s radar.

Non-legal groups: Frequently, lawyers tend to band together and with busy work schedules, it’s easy to forget to do outside activities. But, these activities can be a great place to meet new contacts. There are groups for almost every interest and the regulars of the group are usually happy to teach you the ropes. Activities like Junior League or intramural at your local YMCA put you in reach of other young adults in a fun, non-legal context and makes it easier to connect with others.

Volunteering: There’s no greater feeling than knowing you helped someone else. Volunteering is two-fold: you help others and yourself. Because there are so many volunteer opportunities in some many different areas, you’re bound to end up working with people who have a similar mindset to yourself. In my experience, volunteering is where you meet some of the most kind-hearted, genuine individuals that can become more than just networking acquaintances.

Social media: Aside from LinkedIn, social media is a great way to reach out to people. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest there are plenty of ways to network. Each of these networks (and all the others, too!) have different ways to start the networking process and of course, have pros and cons.  By using social media, it incorporates who you are as a person along with who you are as a professional. In addition to local connections, you can find connections across the country, or even across the world, to exchange ideas and collaborate on issues.

Professional development organizations: Professional development organizations are groups that are dedicated to advancing the careers and lives of their members, usually a specific group of people. Many of these organizations are similar or the same as the ones you might find in law school. Groups like Christian Legal Society and National Association of Women Lawyers put on different events and webinars that give an inside look as how to be successful in your industry. Many members of groups such as these are experienced in their field and more than willing to share their knowledge.

When in doubt, reach out! How have you expanded your network?

 

Professionalism

“You gotta be mean”

If I had a dime for every time I was told I was “too nice” to be an attorney, I could pay my student loans off. It seems to be a regular thought process that in order to be a competent, good attorney you have to be mean. It’s one (of many) sentiments in the legal community I just do not agree with.

When I was little, I was very impatient, stubborn, and expected others to be just like me. I would get frustrated with things and get mad. My mom would always tell me to be nice because “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”. At the time, it was the worst lesson in the world and never made me feel any better. As I got older, I luckily grew up and don’t get frustrated. I try to always treat others with respect and remember that in the words of Forrest Gump “sh-t happens” and it happens to all of us.

Now, I’m not naive. I know there are simply just bad people in the world who will take advantage of you given the opportunity. I chose to think everyone is by default good until proven otherwise. Even as I practice law and I write letters to collect grossly overdue debts or advocate for criminals, I still find myself playing nice (and maybe nicer than I should). I don’t fight with other attorneys and don’t play the one-ups-man game. I try to show even my more….morally questionable…clients the utmost respect and focus on what I can do to help them in the long run as well as with their immediate legal issue.

There are times to be mean and I tend to come across as mean in writing. But, I think there’s a difference in writing a strongly worded letter versus being a complete brat in person. I know as a lawyer I will always have an opponent. I will always be the bad guy to someone. Just because I may seem nice doesn’t mean I can’t get things done and advocate any less for my clients than a “mean” lawyer. If anything, I’m making more friends and being treated nicer by others in the process.

My Life, Professionalism

I AM the lawyer

There’s a common saying that law school does not prepare you for being an attorney. I always assumed it was half right, but if you spend three years in school it better prepare you for something! Recently, I started a part time job doing civil litigation for a local attorney. I absolutely love when I’m doing and never thought I would enjoy civil litigation this much. But, that statement has proven true in entirety.

Now that I’m actually practicing, I realize how little technical knowledge I was given in law school. Sure, I can tell you what you’re rights are under Miranda and what voids a contract. But, I can’t tell you if I should admit or deny this allegation or what to file in discovery. Unfortunately, there is a large gap in legal education that misses these critical points to being an attorney. Instead, law schools rely on higher up attorneys to teach students what they are doing and in turn, these higher up attorneys dislike taking on “baby” attorneys.

At school when I ran into a law or law practice question I could go to a professor. When I couldn’t find an answer I needed for an appellate brief for class, I had someone to bail me out. Once you’re out on your own, it’s not necessarily the same. I find myself facing problems I have no clue how to tackle and thinking “I should just go ask an attorney” before realizing that I AM the attorney! Now, I know I can always ask my boss for guidance, and I frequently do. However, the pressure to be great at your job, not make mistakes, and not be too needy is overwhelming. As a new attorney, you want to impress your boss and hopefully move up the ranks and being the attorney that constantly needs hand-holding is not the way to go about that.

So, I think it’s time for attorneys and law schools to have a talk. It’s time for law schools to have a “technical knowledge” class that follows fictional cases beginning to end. It’s time for attorneys to work together and mentor each other without it being a huge career negative. And, most importantly, it’s time for law students and young attorneys to seek out opportunities to learn and mentors to show them the ropes so the legal profession continues to grow.

Professionalism

My interview with TalesFrom3LHell

She is Talesfrom3LHell at school in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and 3L

Why did you want to go to law school?

I wanted to go to law school to help people. I always felt drawn to the legal field from a young age; my parents were divorced when I was young and had a few legal issues that still impact my life today. I wanted to genuinely help others navigate the legal field.

Do you have lawyers in your family?

No. My mom’s cousin’s husband is a paralegal, and I have a cousin who is a paralegal, but I didn’t know this when I was in the middle of applying to law school, I found out afterwards.

What did you expect from law school before you started?

I expected to spend hours sitting in an old, dusty classrooms with old, dusty professors and then spend hours upon hours of studying. I also expected to get really fat.

How has law school been different?

First of all, my law school building was built in 2009, so it’s nearly brand new. We have a lot of updated technology (projectors in each room, automatic lights, automatic light shades, etc) and the rooms are pretty comfortable. My professors, for the most part, are on the younger side. I only had one or two that were older than 60. Secondly, I don’t spend hours doing my homework. I try and get it done as soon as it’s assigned, or I skim before class. I’m over spending hours of my life trying to understand cases from the 1940’s, I’d rather use that time at an externship or at the clinic. Oh, and I’ve only gotten slightly chubby, which is better than really fat.

What do you love about law school?

I love the information I’m learning and being able to apply it to the real world at externships/summer jobs. I really like all the people I’ve met.

What do you hate about it?

The fact that I have to put 3 years of my life on hold when I decided to go to law school. I have friends who have gotten married, bought houses, had children, gotten raises, and I’m still living la vida broka. It can be really discouraging sometimes.

What type of law do you want to practice?

I want to practice in the labor and employment field.

 Has law school been as much stress and work at you expected?

Simply put, yes. I’ve had a few break downs and felt like I couldn’t go on at some points. But graduating from law school and being an attorney is worth it, so I just buckle down and get my work done. Sometimes, especially during finals, I don’t have time to have the breakdown I deserve.

How have you handled the stress and work load?

It depends. Sometimes I handle it really well and it pushes me to finish my assignment/studying/whatever I need to do. Other times, I just freeze up and can’t get anything done. I’ll take a shower or go to bed because I’m so overwhelmed. When I get to that point, I call my mom and vent to her. She has no idea what law school is like, so she always assumes I’m telling the truth. Getting all of those feelings and emotions out will feel really good. On weekends, I’ll go and stay with my boyfriend. We met during law school (as my readers know) so he understands everything I’m going through and knows exactly what to stay to comfort me. Or we just lay on the couch, eat ice cream, and watch a movie.

What’s your go to way to relax?

I like to shut off my alarm, put my phone on silent, close the blinds and just lay in bed. Sometimes I’ll spend hours on twitter (@talesfrom3lhell), work on my blog (talesfrom3lhell.wordpress.com) or catch up on celebrity gossip. If I want to be active, I like yoga/pilates and occasionally running. I’ll also try and grab drinks with friends.

What has been your favorite case to read?

That’s hard. There’s one old British Crim case R. v. Dudley and Stephens, which is horrifying but I can’t forget it. Other good ones are from my employment discrimination class that were about people who were fired/demoted because of their race/sex/religion.

How do you handle the “gunners” of law school?

I try and keep a straight face, but sometimes I just have to roll my eyes. I’ll try and wait until I get home and tell somebody, usually my boyfriend or my mom, about how annoying they’ve been.

How do you take notes and organize yourself for exams?

First off, I still brief cases. I will always brief cases. I find that typing everything out in such an organized fashion helps keep the information organized in my head. I usually organize my notes by date of assignment, then I’ll try by topic. So for example, if I’m in my Employment Discrimination class and we’re talking about Religious Discrimination, I’ll try and organize all of my notes with that title in the corner, so I can quickly find what I’m looking for. For exams, I’ll organize my outline by the syllabus so all of my notes, for the most part, will be in the order of what we’ve gone over. Next, I’ll go through all of my notes and add them to the outline being sure to include key cases, holdings, and tests.

Lexis or Westlaw?

Lexis! POINTS.

A lot of the advice to future lawyers is “don’t go to law school”. Do you think that advice is still valid today?

I do think that advice is valid today. Going to law school doesn’t guarantee a job anymore, especially one that is paid $75,000 right out of law school. I say if going to law school and becoming a lawyer is a passion, do it. Don’t go to law school if you’re just looking for putting off the real world for 3 years, that’s a horrible personal and financial decision.

What advice would you give 0Ls starting in the fall?

Be serious about it. This isn’t college 2.0, you can’t show up to class hungover because you went out on a Tuesday night. Actually do the reading, all of it, and go over the reading until you understand it. Go to office hours and get to know the professors. Don’t think you’re too good to brief once you finish your first semester. Lastly, keep in contact with your family and non-law school friends. They’ll be a breath of fresh air and you’ll be able to lean on the when times are tough.

What has been the hardest class for you so far?

It’s between my first year of legal writing and Contracts. My first LW Professor was the worst professor I’ve ever had in my entire undergrad and graduate career. My contracts professor was older than the oldest building on campus and taught us how he was taught in law school back in 1910. It was brutal. I spent a lot of time on pinterest looking at recipes during that class.

What has been your favorite class?

My favorite class was Employment Discrimination. It doesn’t help that the professor who taught it was absolutely amazing and could make the most boring class interesting.

Anything else you think is interesting or want to share.

Don’t feel like staying up until 4 AM is required. The students who do that, in my opinion, are at a disadvantage during class time and that’s why they have to stay up so late. Join clubs and get to know 2/3Ls and take their outlines if they’re offered. You don’t have to use them, but it’ll be handy if you get stuck on a subject and can read somebody else’s explanation. Lastly, always pack snacks to bring to school! You’ll never know when you’ll miss lunch or dinner because of getting so involved with work, or meeting with a group.

If you want to be interviewed, please contact me!

Professionalism

The best, worst decision I’ve ever made

This is such a trivial thing that could probably be fixed by fixing my own stupidity but it is hands down the best, worst decision I’ve ever made. Patrick and I are late constantly. If we tell our parents we’ll be there for dinner at 6, it will really be 6:30. One thing I cannot stand though, is being late to class. I HATE being late to class and if I’m going to be more than 1 minute late and disrupt the class, I just won’t go.

In an effort to always be on time to class, I set my car clock and watch 10 minutes fast. Works perfectly. I can get in the car and know I have plenty of time to get to campus for my 8:30 when it’s 7:40 (but in reality 7:30). I haven’t been late to class or appointments all semester.

So what’s so bad about this set up, Cassie? I constantly forget that my watch is set fast. It’s fine when I need to be somewhere on time. It sucks when I’m in class and my watch says is 2:20 and class should be over. There is nothing worse than realizing you still have 10 minutes of class.

This happens at least once a week, if not more. The easiest fix would be to change my watch back but I like being on time and can’t do that if I think I’m actually on time. The next easiest fix would be to fix my stupidity with it, but honestly that won’t happen either, at least not in this case. I guess I can deal with 10 more minutes of evidence or crim pro.

Networking, School

The importance of pro bono

I’m a firm believer in giving back to your community. Ever since I was little, I wanted to get involved and make the world a better place. I constantly told my mom I was going to change the world. I got mad I couldn’t volunteer with Habitat for Humanity when I was 9 or 10 and got mad again when I couldn’t volunteer at a domestic violence shelter when I was 16. Now, I’m in a position to change the world and I think the community that welcomes us with open arms deserves some help.

Pro bono work in law school is so important. Currently, I’m the Executive Vice President of Administration for the law school’s Volunteer Student Law Project. We work to pair students up with lawyer in the area through clinics and their regular offices and provide pro bono opportunities for students. I’m lucky with UD. For 50 hours of pro bono work, you get an award at graduation and a notation on your transcript. They truly encourage pro bono work here and I’m glad I’m at a school that does.

Doing pro bono work is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. I’ve met people from all walks of life, helped solve problems, met attorneys, and saw different types of law I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. Not only is pro bono work good for the community, it gives you work experience without having to go through the process of finding a job. Most attorneys love to have students come in and learn from them and do some pro bono work. It’s a win-win. You meet attorneys and you get experience. I’m so grateful for the attorneys I’ve met through pro bono work and what they’ve taught me.

Another benefit to pro bono work is it just plain looks good on your resume. This is totally a superficial reason to do pro bono work but it is true. There have been OCIs on campus who want students that are highly involved in their community and pro bono work. I’ve been asked about it in every single interview I’ve done. Showing you have a commitment not only to your education but also to the community shows an employer a lot about you.

There are plenty of ways to get involved with pro bono work. See if there is a group that works with students like our VSLP group does. Reach out to the local bar associations or see if there is a local volunteer lawyers project. Talk to the public defenders office. Reach out to attorneys in general. Pro bono work isn’t just great for the community, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride doing work for people who need your help.

 

Advice, Professionalism, School

I survived: a 1L reflection

I really wanted to write this earlier but saying I passed 1L year without grades would have been a mess. Now, grades are in and I PASSED! I’m not one to get into grades or GPAs and discuss them; it’s really no one’s business. However, I have no problem telling people if I passed all my classes. After all passing is only, what, a C? Suffice to say, I got a passing grade in all my classes!

1L year was crazy. I never expected to have to work as hard to school as I did. I’m surprised my relationships stayed in tact as much as they have. I never thought finding a legal job would be this difficult. In the end, I learned a lot, substantively, about myself, and about life. I’m glad I decided to go to law school and hope that I have this much passion for the next 2 years and into my career.

What I learned in law school:

1. You can’t control everything so stop trying, relax, and worry about yourself.

You can’t control what grades other people get on an exam, where you fall in the class, or how much studying everyone else does. All you can do is worry about yourself. There will be people who basically live in the library, people who party every night, and everywhere in between. It’s up to you where you want to fall in that spectrum and what you want to do with your time. There is no sense in worrying about things out of your control, including what other people do, because in the end IT’S NOT IN YOUR CONTROL!

2. You do you

Similar to worrying about yourself, it’s important to make sure you realize no two people learn the same. I hate outlines. I love notecards. I hate briefs. I love pre-reading for the week. I have yet to find another person who does that or likes to do what I do and has it work for them. And that is perfectly fine. For a lot of our education we’re told how to take notes, how to learn, how to study and in the end it’s very counterproductive. I’ve heard about people being required to take outline form notes, notecards, and whatever this is:

Image

I rarely took notes the same way in different classes and it clearly worked for me (if you consider passing good enough, which for this sake, I do). Professors will try to give you an idea of how to study and you can always pull ideas from other students but in the end, you have to do you. If you look like an idiot with 260 note cards taped to your wall before finals, so be it.

3. There will be things you don’t understand and things no one understands.

I still to this day do not understand products liability. Maybe I’m an idiot, maybe I had a bad professor, maybe my mind just doesn’t work that way. Who knows? It is what it is and as long as you can muddle through and pass the class, you have more time and less pressure to learn it. One of my goals for the summer is to review what I learned this year, substantive and procedural, in the most basic sense just as a refresher. We’ll see if that helps. There are also things no one understands. I’m 99% sure maybe 2 people in my entire property class understood the rules against perpetuity and I’m guessing those 2 have forgotten since then. Again, it is what it is.

Don’t stress out about not understanding everything exactly.  By all means, seek professor’s help, supplements, outlines, older students, etc. but some things just will not click until way later in the semester and it’s fine!

4. Look for jobs early

I had 1L jobs looked up and bookmarked starting over midterm break in October. 1Ls can’t contact employers until December 1st and our CSO wouldn’t talk to us until November 1st. Luckily, I have family and friends that are great with resumes and cover letters and had them look it over before I met with CSO. Take 15-20 minutes a week and look at companies that will hire 1Ls. Make a list and keep that list. Apply early and hopefully you’ll be able to land an awesome position.

5. Your relationships will suffer-moderately or mildly

I’d be lying if I said my relationships with people are the same as before I started school. Patrick and I didn’t live together last year but he was over all the time. There were so many more fights and petty arguments. Constant stress and annoyance. But, we’re still together, we’re still getting married, and we still love each other more than anything. I’m lucky to have someone who understands I have a lot of work to do and don’t always have time to just “hang out”. Some people aren’t as understanding about why you can’t hang out and how you’re always working. Those relationships may suffer more but hopefully, you’ve surrounded yourself with people who are supportive of you going to law school.

Also, you’ll make new friends in law school. Most of them completely understand law school and being busy. One thing that sucks about having friends in law school is that it can be difficult to get together but it’s not terrible.

 

I could impart “knowledge” but honestly, I don’t think there is much knowledge that is completely across-the-board. If I survived, you’ll survive.