November 1, 2011

Everything You Need to Know to Find a Job, You Learned in Law School

Blacks Law Dictionary Are you a lawyer? You CAN find a job. You already know how. Your legal skills are the tools you need.

Lawyers are taught to Research, Think Critically, Ask Questions and Argue Both Sides of an issue.

Know yourself, your target industry and any specific firm or company to which you are applying.

Think Critically:
How will you best serve the needs of your potential employer while also ensuring your work-life goals are reached.

Ask Questions:
Ask thoughtful questions to make clear you are interested in learning more about a person and job opportunity. Ask yourself what you enjoyed about past positions and how you can find a new position doing similar work.

Argue Both Sides:
Are there reasons why you are not the ideal candidate? It is OK, be honest. Now sell yourself. What do you offer that enables you to overcome what you lack.

This post gives examples of what you may consider a negative about your candidacy that are in fact a positive for your potential employer.

Catagories: Communication Job Search Law School Linguistics Resume
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October 25, 2011

Don’t Be So Negative…It Could be a GOOD Thing.

Positive Job SearchThink about your current or most recent job. What did you hate most?

  • You didn’t make enough money.
  • You didn’t gain the experience you hoped for.
  • You did too many different things and didn’t focus on one.
  • Your hours were too long.

To a potential employer those are all GOOD THINGS!

You didn’t make enough money. You are more likely to be hired than others with the same level of experience making more money. Your skills are the reason you will be hired, not your salary. If you come “cheap” you are a bargain! There is nothing wrong with a good deal! Just make sure you live up to it!

You didn’t gain the experience you hoped for. Your new employer can train you to be their perfect employee instead of having to undo what you already learned elsewhere. There are certain positions that require on-the-job training and you are perfect for those.

You did too many different things and didn’t focus on one. You are a renaissance person! You can tell them what you are best at, what you enjoyed most, and where you can improve. All great things to know when you are in an interview. Someone who has been trusted to do many things is often a quick learner, efficient, and is often a “people person.” You should use concrete examples on your resume, not the empty filler language.

Your hours were too long.  You are dedicated. While you may not want to work long hours again, you put in your time, learned a lot and can now use what you learned during all those hours to help your future employer.

Don’t be negative, use your past experience to your advantage.

Catagories: Communication Job Search
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October 18, 2011

Confession: I judge a book by its cover.

Judge a book by its cover

Photo Credit: Jane Mount of Ideal Bookshelf

I often judge a book by its cover. If the images on the cover don’t appeal to me I may not be the intended audience. The work above is the most perfect gift for me (hint hint). As an English major I read the classics and then fell in love with historical fiction. I have so many categories of favorite books the gorgeous work by artist Jane Mount as featured in In Style’s Valentine’s Day Gift Guide is almost too overwhelming to imagine. Relax, calm down, they are “just” book covers! Yes, but the covers are the first introduction to the characters I’ve fallen in love with and grown up with. Nothing is just a book cover!

If the author doesn’t take ownership (personally, not legally) of the cover of their book their readers may not be the group they originally intended. Similarly, if you accept a client they undoubtedly know people like themselves and will refer more of the same. It is therefore important to focus on your ideal client to get more ideal clients. If your resume doesn’t target the job you want you won’t get the job you want.

You need to be the person you want to be in life, in appearance, online and on paper. It is important to be consistent everywhere so that others who make judgments based on the 1st handshake, the 1st glance, the 1st few lines of an email and the 1st few lines of your resume will judge you the way you intend to be judged. We all judge others even if we try to be fair and impartial. There goes the law, sneaking into everything!

Catagories: Attire Communication Law and Literature Law School Personal Professional Style
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October 11, 2011

Business & Pleasure, Friends & Colleagues

Friends and Colleagues using social media

Image courtesy of Mashable

Do you consider your law school classmates your professional colleagues? Just that shift in language and attitude can make a difference. I wish that I had realized that when I was in law school. However, it is a different world now with the advent of social media. Facebook, LinkedIn and niche professional networking sites did not exist when I was in law school. Certainly not the way they do today.

Today I know that my law school friends are my colleagues and that we can work together to move our careers forward and discuss common issues. Had I known how valuable these relationships would be after graduation, had I really understood the power of networking at the time, I would worked harder at fostering relationships with people with similar interests. It is always easier to look back, to realize you were in the right place at the right time after all.

I do consider many friends colleagues and colleagues friends but I also recognize the important distinction between the two. Some of my closest friends are those I met in law school and they were friends long before they became colleagues. Being social and open to meeting people is crucial to success in life and law school. Understanding the difference between groups of people in your life is just as important. Just see how quickly people took to Google+ circles .

It is a small legal community so all connections should be treated with the respect you would give professional colleagues.

Catagories: Communication Job Search Law School Linguistics
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October 4, 2011

Resume Language is More than Action Verbs

Job Search Communication

“Tea for two, and two for tea
Just me for you and you for me”
—Irving Caesar

Here, using the same words in a different order changed the meaning of the sentence. First, one order of tea for two people and second, two people are ordering tea.

“You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto, Let’s call the whole thing off”
—Louis Armstrong

Here, it is suggested that if people disagree on how to pronounce something, it is worth breaking up. My husband is from Brooklyn, where ordering Italian food is like speaking another language….and I don’t mean Italian. We haven’t broken up yet.

Semantics, the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form, exists to show that words can mean everything. For example, The Butcher of Cadiz. Is it a profession? Is it an infamous title? That misunderstanding, from a scene in the movie Hitch, ended a date abruptly. The same words can have different interpretations depending upon who says them, the time and place in which they are spoken, and who hears them. For example, a friend was impressed that her boyfriend’s uncle was a conductor. “Wow, how interesting. Have you seen him conduct before?” she asked, already looking forward to attending a concert. “Umm, no. A conductor. Like on the 6 train.” “What? I thought you said he was a conductor.” “Yes, I did. He is a train conductor.” Same word, same time, different meanings, different people speaking and listening.

What words mean and the words people choose to say can lead to different outcomes based on different interpretations. This is especially true in the law and is just as important in resume writing.

There are lists of strong action verbs to include and lists of words to avoid. But those lists are not enough. You have to speak the same language as your audience. Every job has its own lingo. Know your target audience and speak to them. Use your words in the same way they do.

An interview is the last place you want to be left arguing over semantics.

Catagories: Communication Job Search Law School Linguistics Personal Professional Resume Style
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October 3, 2011

3 Tips for Recent Law School Grads

Tips for Law School Graduates

Thanks LushLaundry from Zazzle for this image

Tara Kachaturoff of TeachMeLaw Radio and I spoke recently about what recent law school graduates can do to increase their chances of getting hired now. If you didn’t do these three things while you were still in law school then read the bolded language in the interview transcript below to see what you can do NOW to move your job search forward. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

Tara: Can you tell us real briefly, what are three things that recent law school graduates to increase their chances of being hired? Like three really simple things that they could do? Maybe not at the level of having the internship or something but what are three other things they could do that will put them ahead of this stack of resumes sitting on somebody’s desk?

Jessica: Reaching out to people on social media, but also writing a blog and tweeting. Anybody that puts himself out there as an expert in your field, if you want to go into entertainment law…

Tara: Start blogging.

Jessica: Write about it. Be where those people are. Once they get to know you, you’re already a colleague. You’re not just starting from the bottom. I think that writing is crucial, since I’ve touched on an important skill for lawyers to have. Showing that you can do that but also with your own personality. Be careful there.

That goes also to researching. You just have to know what you’re talking about. You just mentioned lingo. If you aren’t speaking the language of the industry and the niche within law that you’re going into, you’re not going into it. Any office anyone’s worked in, you can call on your day off and speak their language. You have to know that. That’s crucial.

Talking to people in real life not just online; talking to your friends, friends from law school, friends from college. What are they doing? What’s going on in their industry? Maybe there’s an industry you don’t even know exists yet. Doing the research, writing about things that interest you; so many people put things on their resume that they hate doing. Guess what? That’s what you’re going to get hired to do.

Thank you Casting Words for this transcript.

Catagories: Law School
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September 30, 2011

The 3 Most Common Resume Mistakes

Resume Mistakes

Image from

Tara Kachaturoff of TeachMeLaw Radio and I spoke recently about the legal resume mistakes I see most often. Honestly, lawyers and laypeople make the same mistakes but the question was focused on legal resumes.

Read the bolded language in the interview transcript below to see what the three most common resume errors are that I see in my practice.

Tara: … share three mistakes that you most often see on the legal resumes that come across your desk, of people that you are working with, that you’re helping. What are some of those mistakes that you see?

Jessica: The mistakes I see most often are formatting errors. Someone who’s going to see your resume, the first thing they’re going to see is the format. They’re not even going to read it if there’s the formatting error. That’s one of the biggest problems and that can be anything from a missing comma to the dash or the hyphen in between the dates. It should all be the same. That’s the first thing I always look for.

Another problem is people having objectives. Your objective is to get the job. That’s obvious by the fact that you sent your resume. If you need to summarize your work, summarize it. Call it a summary. Call it whatever you like, but do not have an objective. It’s too easy to write, “My objective is to get a job at XYZ Firm,” and you send that to ABC Firm and then ABC calls XYZ and you’re not getting either jobs. That happens all the time.

Tara: Really?

Jessica: All the time.

Tara: That’s hard to believe.

Jessica: Yeah, it’s all the time. Check your contact information, because that may not have been updated since you’ve moved. Or you typed that quickly, because you already know that and you really want to focus on the body of your resume. Have somebody call you from the number on your resume. If they can’t get in touch with you, that’s going to be your biggest problem. Also, just listing job tasks and not what you’ve accomplished doesn’t do anything to differentiate you.

Tara: Right.

Jessica: If you’re in a large group of associates and you’re doing the group project. You’re going to do your part differently than everybody else, because you’re an individual person. That’s what you need to describe on your resume. Quantifying. You might not know every number and that’s OK. You can generalize annually, often, weekly. Try to get some numbers on your resume. They just make sense to people.

Thank you Casting Words for this transcript.

Catagories: Job Search Resume
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September 29, 2011

Alternative Legal Careers

Alternative Legal Career

Tara Kachaturoff of TeachMeLaw Radio and I spoke recently about alternative legal careers, what that means, ways to determine what you want to do and what you can look forward to.

Read the bolded language in the interview transcript below to see if an alternative legal career is right for you and let me know if you have any follow-up questions.



Tara: What are some examples, maybe two or three non-traditional legal careers that a student could possibly consider once they graduate?

Jessica: …Basically anyone who is a lawyer working at a law firm not practicing law has an alternative legal career. Alternative legal career, quasi-legal career, non-legal career, it’s a gray area. Either working with lawyers or using your law degree in a non-legal way…

I don’t think that someone that has stopped using their degree altogether, and is doing something entirely different has an alternative legal career. They just have a different career, not to exclude them from the group. But anyone at a law firm in a recruiting department that’s a lawyer and more JDs required for those positions.

Since there are fewer outside hires, a lawyer that maybe been a partner or a high level associate, they might transition into a non-legal role after a firm because they’re already inside. They know the people and the organization.

Tara: They could easily get into doing the recruiting and things like that…

Jessica: Yeah, exactly.

Tara: Even in compliance with the firm and there are a lot of other positions that don’t require you to be billing all those hours that you have to bill.


Jessica: Exactly. There are a lot of financial professionals with their law degree. Really, you can make it up. Really knowing what you enjoy doing will enable you to help you to know what to pursue. If you don’t love people, then being a legal recruiter isn’t the ideal position for you.

Tara: Exactly.

Jessica: Really knowing yourself, knowing what industry you want to go into. And that’s so crucial. Because if you’re pursuing an alternative legal career, you can’t fake it. If you’re going to an interview for a position or for informational interview you have to know what you’re talking about because the first question they’re going to ask is, “Why don’t you want to practice anymore and why do you want to do this?” You have to know why.

Tara: Definitely do your homework on those questions. Talking a little bit more about that, I know we talked about people making transitions from being an attorney to an alternative legal career. What are some things they need to consider like if somebody was at a large firm right now and they’re thinking of jumping into something else? I know you said they can go and interview people from those different areas that they’re interested in. They could take CLE, which is Continuing Legal Education.

Jessica: Right.

Tara: What are some things that they have to consider on the personal side like looking at themselves introspectively to handle that transition? For instance, I know how much I had to change in the things I had to deal with transitioning from corporate position in finance to starting my own business.

There are a lot of things you go through especially when you had a long career in the prior employ. What are your thoughts on that?

Jessica: One of the things that was most helpful when I was doing my informational interviews. And I wish I could remember who said this. He said, “If you can put your ego aside, if you are OK. Plan it with a legal recruiter in a firm. If you are OK planning the party at the partner’s house and not being invited to stay for dinner, then you can do this job. But if you cannot put your ego aside, if you’re not OK not being the lawyer and being the help, then you’ll be OK.”

If you can’t put your ego aside, then this isn’t the job for you. Also know especially if you’re at a big firm and you leave, the salary will not be the same. It’s nearly impossible to find that in any other type of legal or non-legal positions so you have to be prepared for that.

Tara: Meaning it will be lower.


Jessica: Yes. Sorry, that wasn’t clear. Yes, it will be lower.

Tara: No, it was clear. I assume that some attorneys are making especially if they’re part of the partnership. And you’re leaving that. You’re leaving your equity behind.

Jessica: Exactly. The largest part of leaving the practice of law to become a non-lawyer, especially if you’re planning to stay within a legal world and work with lawyers, is knowing that you’re always an attorney. And I do always introduce myself first as an attorney. You may not always be as respected as you once had been, right or wrong.

Thank you Casting Words for this transcript.

Catagories: Alternative Legal Careers Communication Job Search
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September 28, 2011

LAW STUDENTS: 3 Things to do NOW to Prepare You & Your Resume for a Job Search

3 Job Search Tips for Law Students
Tara Kachaturoff of TeachMeLaw Radio and I spoke recently about what law students can do now to get their resume ready for a job search post-graduation.

Read the bolded language in the interview transcript below to see what the three simple tips are and let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

Tara: The students that are in school right now, who are probably a little concerned about when they pop out of the system, and they have to get a job.

What are a couple of things or one or two things a law student can do right now to get their resume ready for a job search? What can they be doing while they’re in the classroom and studying?

Jessica: Things that they can do to help bolster their resume, definitely, take advantage of any clinical opportunity that their school offers.

Tara: Which is meaning like an internship, right?

Jessica: An internship or an externship; I don’t know what the statistics are at different law schools. Most of them offer clinical programs or the career center can put you in touch with law firms that are looking for law students.

Tara: And if not, you could just start dialing, get on line and find a law firm nearby so you could make your own internship. Be proactive.

[laughter] [Yes, there is fun in a job search]

Jessica: Yeah, everyone likes free help. And there are very many regulations and rules about what you can do and can’t do, most law firms do know that. At the City Bar we were talking about the fact that so many small firms really need the help, but they don’t have the time to train.

Approaching a small firm or maybe working with your career center to get you placed at a small firm would really be a good opportunity, because you’re definitely going to get thrown in right away and learn immediately. Because whether they have the time to really sit and train you or not, you’re going to have to learn very quickly.

Tara: Right.

Jessica: Also, I did countless informational interviews, making connections one a week, one a month. Online, Skype, over the phone making connections, and then pursuing them to gain more information. If you think you want to be a real estate lawyer, that’s great. Go talk to one. Go talk to a commercial real estate attorney at a big firm, at a small firm, all different types. I thought when I was deciding what to do, “Well, maybe I’ll practice real estate law.” I went to a real estate CLE class and wanted to kill myself.


Jessica: That’s not what I’m doing now. Just go to classes. Take CLE classes. They’re not free but there are options. Talk to the person sitting next to you. Are they happy? Do you want to be happy? Talking to people, finding out who they know. What industry publications they read.

All those things can really help you determine what you want to do which can then help you decide which elective classes you want to take, or even which clinics to pursue.

Tara: And what’s great, you could even do it taking an attorney to lunch every week, or to breakfast or buy them coffee once a week. You’d meet a lot of people in three years.

Thank you Casting Words for this transcript.

Catagories: Interview Job Search Law School Resume
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September 27, 2011

Is Law School Still a Viable Career Choice?

Law School in a Box

Still not sure? Click through to buy and let me know how it goes.

Tara Kachaturoff of TeachMeLaw Radio and I spoke recently whether law school is still a viable option given the current and continuing economic situation.

My answer is YES! Read this portion of our interview transcript to learn why.

Tara: Is going to law school still a viable or a valuable option given that the economy is in a contraction mode right now? And there are lawyers unemployed from coast to coast? What are your thoughts on that? From your perspective of getting that background, I’d like to go right now. I just don’t have time. But I love the learning and the thought process.

What it’s going to teach me and how to approach problem solving, but what are your thoughts on this?

Jessica: Law school will always be viable career option and a viable training. I don’t want to call it training because it’s really not what it is. It’s so much more than that. Anybody that goes to law school with a goal in mind whatever that goal may be, so long it’s there and even that’s a little bit too general.

But I will forever be proud to be a lawyer. It’s the way that you’re taught to learn and that’s also like your first day of law school. You’re going to be learning a new language. That didn’t mean anything to me until day two when you don’t know what everybody’s talking about. And learning to learn in a new way and as an adult because by the time you’ve graduated college, you should be an adult when you enter your professional career.

Your professional career really does begin day one of law school, and many people don’t realize that. The people that you’re in your classes with, you should already be considering your colleagues.

Tara: Right.

Jessica: I think that’s a lot easier now with social media and the connections that you’re able to make but really the way that your brain changes when you’re in law school can’t ever be looked at as a negative.

Thank you Casting Words for this transcript.

Catagories: Law School
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