Career Exploration

Free Podcast for 3Ls and Alums: Managing A Career Transition In Tough Times

As a public service, NALP and ALI-ABA are offering Managing a Legal Career Transition in Tough Times — a 75-minute presentation by Marcia Pennington Shannon and Susan G. Manch of Shannon & Manch LLP, who generously donated their time and talent to this special project to assist lawyers and 3Ls who are currently seeking employment.

The presentation addresses the current state of the legal employment market, the five basic steps for an effective job search, and such additional considerations as financial assessments, emotional ups and downs, gaining experience while waiting for the next job, and negotiating in a down market.

Watch it here

What Law Firm Q1 2009 Numbers Reveal

Great article in Thursday’s Recorder (sorry to be only catching up to it now) about trends in the demand for legal services.

Comparing the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2008, it appears the demand for legal services dropped much more in NY and LA (9.5% and 8% respectively) than it did in SF  (which, granted is a much, much smaller legal market to begin with), which saw only a 1% fall.

Looking at practice areas nationally, the article reports that bankruptcy, not surprisingly, is up (13%) (though my understanding is that there isn’t that much bankruptcy work in SF –relative to NY and LA).  Also, litigation remains flat on a nationwide basis.  Everything else, according to the article, is “down significantly.”  

These numbers come from the Peer Monitor system, a service that allows law firms to access their peers’ financial data (in the aggregate) in exchange for supplying their own data to the system for others to access (on a normalized and aggregated basis).  The article reports that there are 35 Am Law 100 firms, 35 Am Law 200 firms and 30 NLJ 250 firms in the system.  

Law Recruiters’ Tips to Associates on the Job Market – Just As Useful To Students

A round up of comments from legal recuiters in the DC area recently appeared in the Legal Times.  You should read the whole thing, but here are some interesting insights:

Networking is key, but remember its not just your professional network that can help you — your personal contacts can be a fruitful source of leads.  Also, don’t limit yourself to online networking tactics.  A handwritten letter or phone call may work better with some.

The most marketable associates are the ones with a niche practice (areas that don’t have alot of competition and where it would be difficult to try to re-train an existing under-utilized associate from another practice area).  Examples mentioned in the article were: FDA, energy, export control, Section 337/patent litigation before the ITC, patent prosecution, bankruptcy, SEC enforcement, antitrust and health care.

Don’t assume the only jobs out there are the ones that are posted on a jobs site.  Your network is critical in identifying opportunities because, in today’s economy, if an employer posts a position, they will be inundated with resumes that they can’t possibly work their way through.

Certain Pockets of Real Estate Practice Get A Boost from the ‘Stimulus’ Package

Yesterday’s New York Lawyer reported on some firms actually adding partners to their real estate practices.  While real estate practices are generally slow, there are some areas where growth is expected.  They include:  public/private development projects (e.g., roads, buildings, remodeling), construction projects for local governments, and representing lenders and developers in loan restructurings and foreclosures.   

Some Big Law Partners Finding A Home In Mid-Sized Firms

The National Law Journal has a great article about how some big firm partners are moving over to smaller firms and finding them to be better places for their clients during the current economic crisis.  Smaller firms can be more flexible in their billing amounts and arrangements and often present fewer conflicts of interest when partners move there (as opposed to going to another large law firm).      

Climate Change Practice Groups

An article in the Recorder from last week, which was posted on talks about the creation of Climate Change practice groups at law firms as a response to changine federal and state regulations in this area. 

We’ve mentioned before the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC) has put together a really useful career guide for Energy, Climate and Clean Tech Law.  

Networking: 70+% of Jobs Come Through Contacts

Some excellent thoughts about the importance of networking recently appeared in Law Practice Today, the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s webzine.  Three prominent career experts share their thoughts finding and keeping a job in an economic downturn.  Read the whole thing here

Some key quotes:

Shelley Canter [author of Make the Right Career Move: 28 Critical Insights And Strategies to Land Your Dream Job]:

Over the past 20 years, studies have consistently shown that at least 70-80% of jobs come through one’s network. My experience is that in bad economies, this statistic is even higher.

Kathleen Brady [author of Navigating Detours on the Road to Success]:

The internet is a great way to learn about where the opportunities are but simply submitting resumes on line yields a pretty low rate of return. Job seeks should definitely use the internet but they should not hide behind their computer screens. Use the internet to learn about other careers and compile lists of target companies. Visit web pages, read press releases; know what career opportunities exist (even if they are not at your level.)

At the same time, begin to compile lists of people who might be able to help you. Consider family members, former classmates and colleagues as well as people “on the other side” of deals or projects you have met throughout your career. Strategize how they might be helpful. Can they provide information about a job posting you found? Can they introduce you to someone on your target list or help you expand your target list? Perhaps they can offer feedback on your resume or approach tactics. Be prepared to ask people for something specific they can do to be helpful. You have to do your homework first, but the bulk of your time should be spent talking to people.

It is one thing to understand the concept of networking. It is quite another to know HOW to do it. Start with the easy ones, those friends and colleagues you feel comfortable calling. Invite them to lunch and say, “I’m thinking about making a job chance and wanted to bounce some ideas off you.” During these initial meetings you will begin to become more comfortable talking about yourself, and, because these are your friends, they will be more forgiving if you stumble slightly as you craft your message.

The ability to communicate your qualifications to potential employers entails more than just informing them of your technical competence. You must be able to illustrate that you have the requisite personal attributes–things like problem solving abilities, analytical skills, assessment and planning capabilities–to perform the job. The examples you use to talk about your accomplish­ments should elucidate your thinking and problem solving style. The more con­crete and specific you are, the better able your contact will be to think of possibili­ties for you and suggest addition­al people you should meet. That’s why it is critical that job seekers engage in the self-assessment process before they launch into the networking process.

A common mistake people make when job prospecting is to use the meeting as a therapy session. You do not want to inspire guilt, pity or dread. Your goal should be to make your contacts feel good about their ability to help you. It is important that you present yourself as posi­tive, confident and self-assured, not negative, needy and desper­ate. Never make your contacts feel sorry for you or responsi­ble for your situation. Do not scoff at their suggestions by saying “I’ve tried that and it does not work,” otherwise your contacts will doubt their ability to help and begin to avoid you. If you need to express anger, bitterness, anxiety, etc., talk to a career counselor or seek out a member of the clergy or a sympathetic friend before meeting with your contacts.

Employment Law Work On The Increase

Here’s a link to a recent article talking about how business for employment law practice groups — particularly in the Bay Area — is up. 

New Resource: Law and Journalism

We recently became aware of a website dedicated to students interested in media law and legal journalism.  It contains links to some job opportunities.   Its called and you can find it here.

FYI — we link to other legal practice area career resources, such as the Entertainment Law Guide (courtesy of the Boalt student organization SELS), and the Career Guide for Energy, Climate and Clean Tech Law (courtesy of the Berkeley Energy and Resources Colalborative, or BERC) , in the Career Exploration section of the CDO website.   We’ll be adding a link there to shortly.   

Many Small Firms Doing OK in the Downturn

The New York Lawyer profiles some small firm practitioners who are thriving despite the current state of the economy.  The article suggests at least a couple of reasons for this:  first, they are leaner and may be able to provide better value to clients who have become even more cost sensitive.  Second, many have niche practices which are less subject to ebbs and flows in the market.  You can read the article here.