Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday Parties - Let's Mingle

by Sabrina M. Johnson
LCS Graduate Fellow

Holiday Party season is upon us. This is a great way to meet new attorneys in a welcoming and casual environment. Enjoy the season and boast your network.

Click here to view a list of upcoming holiday season events!

Keeping these holiday party tips in mind will allow you to enjoy your time:
  1. Have an Entrance Plan. When you walk into a room, make sure you know where you are going. Head to the bar/food area or take a quick walk around the room. Having an initial plan helps alleviate anxiety and boost confidence. 
  2. Prepare to Talk. Be able to talk about yourself. This includes both your professional self and other interests. "How about those Giants?" I am willing to bet that the Giants are a hot topic of conversation in San Francisco this season. 
  3. Prepare to Listen. Listen to what others are saying, and use their name when appropriate. Active listening (eye contact and smiling) is an easy way to win over your audience. 
  4. Dress the Part. Your outfit is your first impression, and while people don't necessarily notice a good outfit, they definitely judge an inappropriate one. Make sure your festive holiday attire is still professional. Remember, you can never go wrong with slacks and a collared shirt. 
  5. Collect the Card. Casual conversations at holiday events tend to last 5 - 20 minutes. When you have a connection with someone or want to learn more, ask if you can follow-up with them at a later time. Be sure to get their business card. 
  6. Follow Up with the individuals you enjoyed speaking with to wish them a happy holiday, invite them to join your LinkedIn network or to schedule an informational interview.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pursuing a Career in Litigation

by Melanie McCormick, GGU 1L

Editor’s Note: Thank you to 1L Melanie McCormick for sharing her impressions of last week’s panel on Pursuing a Career In Litigation. If you missed the program, you can watch a video recording here. A special thank you to the ABA Section on Litigation for sponsoring the event. You can learn more about the Litigation Section here.

When you hear the word “Attorney,” it conjures for me an impassioned trial advocate emphatically arguing the guilt or innocence of their client, like that scene in A Few Good Men, where Lt. Dan Kaffee attacks Jack Nicholson’s Col. Jessup, “I want the truth!” The reality is that many attorneys do not practice in a courtroom (and many try to avoid it). Those that do, the real life litigators, do not resemble the crazed, you-can’t-handle-the-truth types. As was made very apparent at last week’s panel on “Pursuing a Career in Litigation,” real litigators are poised, calm, and clear. Their arguments are planned and organized. The panelists helped clarify a few things about the nature and philosophy of the world of litigation, and the path I, and other future litigators, need to go to reach it.

1. The Cover Letter

According to panelist Zesara Chan from Shartsis Friese LLP, attorneys looking for interns really do read our cover letters. A re-used cover letter lacks the personalization necessary to stand out. In contrast, a cover letter that shows that you have done your research on the employer makes a strong impression. Chan says she looks for a resume that shows a track record of achievement and hard work. The recruiting attorneys often sift through thousands of resumes and cover letters, and the panelists admitted to us that a typo can very easily remove someone from consideration.

2. The Interview

Again, do your research. GGU alumnus Robert L. “Buzz” Hines of Farella Braun-Martell LLP says that doing research on the company you are interviewing with provides the knowledge you need to be dynamic in an interview. It is the interviewee who can make that personal connection with the interviewer that will stand out. Zesara Chan says that she likes to ask unexpected questions. “I want to see the wheels turn,” says Chan, “something that will allow your multi-dimensional self to shine through.”

3. The Internship

As we all know, making a good impression is so important. Paul Henderson, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, says that he works with hundreds of interns a year. The interns that stand out to him are those who are independently responsible, and are always looking to do more than what is required. “Proactive engagement defines opportunities,” says Henderson. He recommends finding out who handles the long-term hiring and making sure they know who you are. “I had an intern that came and asked me the process of how to get hired two weeks before the end of his six month internship,” says Henderson, “I thought, you have been working here for almost six months, and you don’t know who is on the hiring committee?”

Robert Hines says, “You have clients inside the firm as well as outside the firm.” The other attorneys you work with should be treated similar to your billable clients. Each attorney has a specific work styles that should be noticed and considered.

Zesara Chan also advises students to “understand the assignment.” Every assignment given may have a different use, and understanding what the attorney is looking for will allow you to be more effective. 

4. High Impact Career Advice

Robert Hines encourages students to get involved in professional associations. “There are only 24 hours in a day, so spend as much time as you can with like-minded folks.” Associations like the ABA Litigation Section can be used to identify groups of people to whom you have a lot in common.

Zesara Chan recommends that you “Build your Brand.” Craft how you want others to perceive you and then be consistent with the brand you have created. Chan decided she would ask at least one question at every meeting. This was a way for her, in a room full of male attorneys, to stand out and it successfully branded her in the firm as someone who was engaged and asked intelligent questions.

Paul Henderson developed his career by seeking any opportunity that would get him into a courtroom. He stated that by the time he was looking for a post-law school job, he had been inside a courtroom about 200 times. “I had a marked measurement of skill at communicating in a courtroom,” says Henderson. He recommends that you get to court and practice!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

TED to the Interview Rescue

by Sabrina M. Johnson
LCS Graduate Fellow
Photo courtesy of TED

Are you looking for something fun to include when preparing for your next interview? Try these TED talks, mentioned by Lily Zhang in “5 TED Talks to Watch Before Your Next Interview.” You can prepare for an interview in more ways than research about where you are interviewing, and practice questions. I love TED talks because they are short and usually interesting. I have practiced some of these techniques for interview preparation, and even while taking the bar to boost my confidence. In particular the now famous Wonder Woman pose from Amy Cuddy’s talk. I also found the talk, “How to Spot a Liar,” very informative about techniques that could be used during an interview to make sure that the interviewer is telling you the truth about what it is like to work there. Each talk can help you to identify areas that can be changed slightly to achieve a different result from your next interview. 
  1. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, by Amy Cuddy
  2. How to Speak So That People Want to Listen, by Julian Treasure
  3. Talk Nerdy to Me, by Melissa Marshall 
  4. How to Spot a Liar, by Pamela Meyer
  5. The Optimism Bias, by Tali Sharot

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review of "How to Succeed as a Freelance Attorney" by Marina Modlin Esq.

by Sabrina M. Johnson
LCS Graduate Fellow

How to Succeed As a Freelance Attorney
available at the LCS Library
You have graduated law school, hurdled the bar, and now it is time to work. The ability to find employment taking you in the direction you want to go can be a challenge. Some difficulties in finding employment range from not really knowing what you want to do, to not having enough experience to work in a particular area of law. A solution could be to work as a freelance attorney. A freelance attorney is an independent contractor, your client is a law firm, and you work on projects.

How to Succeed as a Freelance Attorney is conversational and easy to digest. In reading it, I found that I had a mindset that limited my employment options, and this book helped me to see other opportunities available in starting my legal career. Many graduates leave law school with this idea that there is a normal path to follow, and this thinking keeps new lawyers ‘inside the box’, but as Ms. Modlin has said, “freelancing is really a fantastic and very doable path that gives great results.”

One thing that helped to solidify the importance of what this book is about happened as I was leaving class in my LL.M. program. A fellow student was asking the adjunct professors how to find work. Part of their response was to do some freelance work to get experience and to get your name out there.

You should check out How to Succeed as a Freelance Attorney, there might be an opportunity that you have been overlooking that can bring you closer to your career goals. This book is available for check out in the LCS library.

Recently, Ms. Modlin was a guest blogger on Trebuchet and described her experience when she was a recent licensed attorney and student loan payments coming, in a post entitled, When I Hit Rock Bottom as a Young Lawyer.

Marina Modlin emigrated from Saint Petersburg, Russia. She received her B.A. from UC Davis, and her J.D. from Univ. of San Francisco. Immediately after passing the bar, Ms. Modlin founded Modlin Legal Services, Inc., a freelance practice, and grew it through referrals. By January 2010 she felt she had learned enough through her freelance practice to represent her own clients, and converted Modlin Legal to a full-service wills & trust firm with offices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. In her spare time, Ms. Modlin loves to cycle, hike, and practice yoga.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Bare Basics of Networking Events

The following is reposted from the CEB blog, October 15, 2014. This is a post by Elizabeth G. Blust, who is a solo practitioner in San Diego. 
This material is reproduced from the CEBblog™, The Bare Basics of Networking Events ( copyright 2014 by the Regents of the University of California. Reproduced with permission of Continuing Education of the Bar - California. (For information about CEB publications, telephone toll free 1-800-CEB-3444 or visit our Web site,

So you want to attend that networking event at the local bar association but you’ve never done this before? Not to worry. Here are five tips to help you survive that first trek into networking.
  1. Take a buddy. I remember walking into my first San Diego County Bar Association meeting back in September 2006. I have a photo from that night, and even though I was already in my 30s, I still looked like a deer in the headlights. In hindsight, I was glad to have attended with a friend; another student and I found ourselves walking to the Bar event together, so, although we hadn’t planned it, we had each other as we walked into the room. I recommend taking along a law school or work colleague because having a buddy can really help; first, we talked between ourselves and then people started coming over to us, which brings me to my next tip. 
  2. Arrive early to get a good spot. If you’re already in the room when other people arrive, they’ll come to you. They don’t want to stand around awkwardly any more than you do, so you’ll give them a place to go. Make eye contact. Smile. If you get to the event on the later side and have to enter a crowded room, it might be harder to break into the existing conversation circles. If there’s food, position yourself a few feet away from the end of the buffet, or near a popular food station. These areas have a bit more “turnover,” so people here are less likely already to be in a conversation with someone else. 
  3. Begin with small talk. If you happen to meet an attorney whose work you’re familiar with, feel free to launch right in with an introduction like: “Hi, I’m Elizabeth. I’m a law student/new attorney. I was really impressed with how you handled the Dinkins case last spring.” If you don’t know anything about the person—as will most often be the case—it’s perfectly acceptable to start with something like: “This food is really good.” If you’re young (like I wasn’t), you can probably get away with a self-deprecating remark about being a starving law student (although I used that one a few times anyway). Comments about the weather and the city (especially if you’re a recent transplant) are also OK. For a follow-up, ask what kind of law the other person practices, what the advantages are of joining the local bar association (or whatever organization is hosting the event), or what kinds of resources they would recommend to a new lawyer (full disclosure: I discovered the value of CEB materials by asking this question). 
  4. Have business cards and a pen. My law school had an arrangement with a local printer to provide us with nice cards, bearing the school’s crest, at a reasonable price. If you don’t have this option, you could buy sheets of perforated cards you run through your own printer. The self-printing option allows you to tailor the information for a specific event. I used to put a mini résumé on the back of my card, or list the areas of practice I wanted to learn more about. Don’t pack it too full, and don’t make it too glossy—you want some white space to write on. Which is why you’ll also want to have a pen handy. 
  5. Collect business cards. After chatting for a few moments, ask: “Do you have a business card?” Most people will, but if they don’t, you’ll have yours. And yours will have blank space where you can write their contact info. And then don’t forget to follow-up. If you had only a brief encounter, an email the next day is a suitable way to keep that connection going. If you spent half the evening talking with just one or two people, handwritten cards thanking them for their time will go a long way to cement you into their brains—and them into yours! 
If you’re not sure where to start, look for programs and networking events tailored to your needs, especially those advertised for law students or new lawyers. Keep in mind that these events aren’t job interviews; although you might be hoping for a connection that will lead to work, the real point is to get to know people and to let them get to know you. Try to relax and—I know this may seem impossible—enjoy yourself. Before you know it, you’ll be networking like a pro.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Social Media for Recent Graduates

by Sabrina M. Johnson
LCS Graduate Fellow

The job market is tough out there. It’s not just about getting the interview, but also leaving a lasting impression so employers want to work with you. Good, old fashioned in-person networking is still a great way to communicate your value to a prospective employer, but you can also use social media very effectively to enhance your presence outside of the interview room.

Throughout law school you received advice to make sure your online presence was professional, and to Google yourself to make sure you were presenting to future employers and clients the person you wanted them to see. Don’t stop there! You can use social media to enhance your professional persona by showing that you are aware of what is going on your chosen area of law.

Leverage your LinkedIn presence by joining groups that discuss your areas of interest. This can be defined by practice areas (such as estate planning or intellectual property), affinity group (such as women lawyers), or other defining characteristics. You can start by joining Golden Gate University Law’s group. Law Career Services has a couple of handouts, LinkedIn – Make it Work for You, and LinkedIn: Facebook for Lawyers that can assist you further in making your LinkedIn presence strong.

LinkedIn is not the only way to create a presence online. Recently the ABA hosted “Putting Social Media to Work For You,” a presentation through their Career Advice section. Presenters Nicole Black and Kevin O’Keefe discussed using blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other forms of social media to get your name out there, and to educate yourself on what is going on in your field of interest. Ms. Black shared an article, Tips on Standing Out in a Competitive Market, in which she discusses how to be active in searching for more than just job posts. Mr. O’Keefe uses his own blog, Real Lawyers Have Blogs, to share strategies on blogging and using social media to increase your online presence and be part of discussions.

This presentation was part of the Free Career Advice Series put on by the ABA Career Center. Every second Friday, there is an hour-long free webinar. The topic on November 14 is, “Choosing and Pursuing Alternative Careers.” One thing I enjoy about the presentations is that you can do them anywhere that you have internet access, and get access to information without the stress of “working the room.” The ABA’s Career Center has job postings, advice, and other materials, and it’s all free.

Social media is part of how you can enhance your networking skills and get to know attorneys. It can also be your gateway into what to discuss when you go to those live networking events and you are meeting new people.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Law School Fashion Statement, Part I

by Hengameh Poya 
LCS Intern

Remember college? Rolling out of bed 10 minutes before class and throwing on the closest pair of sweats. Fine for college, not so much in law school. This doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit to every class, but you probably shouldn’t wear flip flops. Why? Law school is a professional school. Are you presenting yourself in a way that supports your professional ideals? How might you be received by others?

There isn’t a precise guideline for everyday attire. There are, however, some things to avoid, such as, clothing that is tight fitted or revealing. In addition to what you wear to class, there are those events that require more thought, such as: career panels, receptions, informational interviews, and formal interviews. What do you wear to those? Again, there is no rulebook, but here are some things to keep in mind:

Networking Events: Any event that gives you the opportunity to network with attorneys should have you looking your professional best. This is your chance to make a good first impression on attorneys who may have internship or employment connections, so dressing the part can reveal your professionalism. Business casual is probably a safe bet. You can also play it really safe (depending on the event) and wear interview attire since some events turn into on the spot interviews. Informational

Interviews: When appearing for an informational interview, you always want to put your best foot forward. Even if the attorney you are meeting with is not offering you a job, informational interviews are an opportunity to establish your network. We recommend that you wear formal business attire so the person you are meeting with can be confident in the impression you'll create if he or she refers you to a colleague.

Formal Interviews: Ahh, interviews. This is it. Palms sweating, heart racing, IT’S TIME. Although you may not have to wear a suit to work every day or your interviewer is in jeans and flip-flops, it is absolutely necessary to wear a suit that projects confidence and professionalism. Suits can become pricey, but there are some tricks:
  • Buy various shirts and accessories (which are a lot cheaper than suits) to let you create a different look with the same suit. 
  • Plan ahead and browse for sales and promotions. 
  • Browse in discount and consignment stores. 
  • Add a suit to your birthday/holiday wish list. 
  • Make an investment on a higher quality item so that it not only looks better, but lasts longer. 
  • Take good care of your suits to minimize dry cleaning and replacement costs. 
  • Wear shoes that are clean, polished, and in good repair by keeping them in a dust bag or shoe-box when they are not in use and wiping them off after each use. (Always wear close-toed shoes, no sandals!) 

Just remember, you are asking professional colleagues and prospective employers to see you as a lawyer. Make it easy by looking the part! If you need suggestions or aren’t sure, make an appointment with an LCS counselor and they will help guide you.

Stay tuned for Part II: Attorney Suggested Guidelines for Formal Attire, and Part III: Law Student Shopping Experience

Friday, September 26, 2014

How To Write The Perfect Networking Email

by Susanne Aronowitz 
Associate Dean for Law Career Services 

So you just attended another networking event, met some interesting people, and came home with a stack of new business cards. Now what?

The magic to networking is in effective follow through. Our own Sandra Derian recently found a terrific article that offers clever tips on writing the perfect networking email to convert your new acquaintances into long-term professional relationships.

What follow-up strategies work best for you? Send us a message at to let us know!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Facebook Cautionary Tale or Professional Opportunity—You Choose!

By Susanne Aronowitz
Associate Dean for Law Career Services

We have all heard the admonitions about maintaining a “professional” image on Facebook and other social media platforms to avoid limiting our opportunities with prospective employers and clients. Unfortunately, what constitutes “professional” is often in the eye of the beholder. What then, is a law student to do to maintain a clean digital footprint? Even more important, how can a burgeoning legal professional use social media to enhance their digital footprint and online image? 

Our friends at the Culture and Manners Institute offer some practical examples and suggestions below: 

Another story from an employer. The company was getting ready to tender an offer to a young man who just graduated from college. The last step in the process was a quick check of his Facebook page.

On the Facebook page, he was bragging about his third DUI. The offer was never offered.

"Never" is not completely accurate -- the offer went to the next candidate, whose Facebook page checked out.

If you are going to be on Facebook, what positive things can you do while growing your career? Show you can communicate in complete sentences. Have pictures with friends who don't have beers in their hands. Stay out of politics -- unless you plan to spend the rest of your life in politics. Wear clothes. Not swimsuits. Let some of the activities on your resume be reflected in your Facebook content.

The most important part: don't put everything out there. A little mystery makes a person interesting. When you publish everything you do, think and feel, your mystery is history.

One last tip: search your name and email address on Google periodically to avoid any surprises. For specific guidance on cleaning up your digital dirt and using other forms of social media effectively, check out NALP’s e-Guides on E-Professionalism.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Interview for "Fit"

by Susanne Aronowitz
Associate Dean of Law Career Services and Alumni Relations

Today’s interview advice comes from Mary Crane, author of 100 Things You Need to Know--Business Etiquette for Students and New Professionals, and focuses on interviewing for “fit.” While most employers will use your application materials to assess your job qualifications, they rely on the interview to determine if you are a good “fit” for their organization. While Mary’s advice is not specific to the legal profession, she offers clarity to the nebulous concept of “fit” so that you can be effective when communicating with employers.

Employers generally acknowledge that technical skills account for only 25% of any new professional’s success at work. The employees who thrive possess a series of soft skills—communication, networking, time management, teamwork—and they naturally “fit.”

“Fit” relates to how well a potential new hire syncs with the culture or the core values, behaviors and personalities that make up an organization. Where fit occurs, new hires comfortably slide into positions. They share the beliefs, attitudes and priorities that drive the organization. Frustration is minimized. Retention improves. (For more on “fit,” click and view business psychologist Natalie Baumgartner’s TED Talk.)

Many “fit” questions sound like the queries James Lipton might pose to a guest of Inside the Actors Studio: Star Wars or Star Trek? If you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be? What motivates you the most—money, power or fame? However, a blog entry posted on lists five “fit” questions that your on-campus recruiters should consider, including:

Describe your ideal work environment. What is the single most important factor that will help make you a success?

Years ago, I interviewed for a staff position on Capitol Hill. Although I was well qualified for the job, upon seeing the work environment, I knew I would be challenged to succeed. Legislative staffers frequently work in extremely cramped quarters, sometimes share desk space, and must tune out a constant cacophony of phone calls. For me to thrive, I need a quiet, undisturbed space where I can work uninterrupted. I knew our unique work environment needs would never mesh.

How do you feel about working as a member of a team? If you had complete control of your time, what percentage would you prefer to allocate to teamwork vs. solo performance?

While most jobs require employees to work solo and participate in team activities, most individuals have a preference for one form of work over the other. Hiring someone who likes and needs to interact with other people and placing him or her in a position where opportunities to interact are limited ensures frustration and disappointment.

What management style brings out your best performance?

You have likely observed a variety of management styles at work, including paternalistic, authoritarian, collaborative, agile, etc. While each style can succeed, much depends on the receptiveness of workers to a manager’s particular style. For example, an authoritarian manager is unlikely to sync well with a junior employee who prefers a collaborative management style. Elicit information that helps match job candidates with existing management styles.

When working on a team, what role do you typically play?

Many of us have roles that we play through the entirety of our lives: leader; implementer; compiler of data; pleaser. Ascertain a job candidate’s preferred role as well as his or her ability to discern others' wants and needs.

When working on a team, what relationship do you prefer to develop with other team members?

Some organizations place a high level of importance on the interpersonal connections employees develop and maintain. Others expect employees to come to work, do a job, and go home. The job candidate who seeks a clear separation between their professional and personal lives is unlikely to feel comfortable in a work atmosphere in which employees are expected to work and play together.

Job candidates should keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer to a cultural fit question. However, to the extent students do the following, they can help ensure “fit” with a prospective employer:

Long before you head to an interview, go on-line and research prospective employers to discern their values. Incorporate references to specific values in your answers to interview questions.

Prepare questions that elicit information regarding an employer’s ability to sync with your own core values and needs. If you genuinely value time-off on weekends to spend with family and friends, a high-pressure position on Wall Street may not be a good fit.

Ask questions that help you understand how people work together within the organization. If you are a collaborative team builder and the prospective employer only rewards individual performance, you may wish to look for a better fit.