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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Transform Your Non-Legal Work Experience into In-Demand Skills

By Mo Chanmugham, Esq.

The majority of law students come to law school without any prior legal experience. While many have worked, their experiences range from positions in retail and restaurants to the military or general administrative work. This leaves their resume looking rather light on the type of experience legal employers are looking for when they want to make a summer hire. If only your desire to be a lawyer since you were a kid could be a worthy bullet point in times like this. Don’t fret, there is still a way for you to impress employers with that summer job as a camp counselor.

7 Professional Skills Employers Are Looking For

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey, asking hiring managers what skills they are looking for in the class of 2015, there are a handful of professional skills that are in demand across all majors and degrees.

  1.      Ability to work in a team structure
  2.      Ability to make decisions
  3.      Ability to solve problems
  4.      Ability to communicate with people inside and outside an organization
  5.      Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
  6.      Ability to obtain and process information
  7.      Ability to influence others

So while you must gain core legal skills, such as, conducting legal research, drafting memoranda, reviewing contracts, preparing trial materials, and so on, you can now highlight your non-legal work experience by framing it in the context of these seven professional skills.

Frame Your Work Experience Using These Professional Skills

Use the following format to write your work experience on your resume:

Action verb + responsibility or duty + explanation of how, why, or result

You never want to just say what you did and leave it at that because that is not enough information to make your resume stand out. You want to tell people what you did and why. You could start by looking at the official job description from your last job to help you get started. Job descriptions are written in a way that makes it easy to translate the responsibilities and duties on to your resume in a style and language that employers are used to reading. From there you will have to add your own details about how you completed your responsibilities or why you did them or what result was achieved.

For example if you worked as an administrative assistant for a real estate company and you helped manage their apartment listings, rather than say:
      - Helped manage apartment listings

You could say:
      - Managed apartment listings by collecting and organizing new listings from agents and posting them to company website to increase website traffic.

If you were the lead counselor at a summer camp, rather than say:
      - Responsible for 30 campers and organized daily activities.

You could break it up into several lines providing a more detailed and impressive picture of your experience:
      - Managed a team of 6 counselors who oversaw the well-being and safety of 30 daily campers.
          - Organized educational and athletic activities on camp grounds as well as day trips to museums and farms.
         -  Communicated effectively with parents regarding sensitive issues such as disruptive behavior.

The possibilities are endless based on how you frame your work experience. You can now effectively communicate your valuable work experience to employers by highlighting the right skills in the right way.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Answer “Tell me about yourself” in Your Next Interview

Do you ever wish you could walk into an interview feeling totally prepared and confident, knowing exactly what you want to say? How great would it be to know what questions the interviewer is going to ask you ahead of time?

Well luckily you can ace your next interview by preparing your answer to this one important question every employer will ask in some form or another. How well you answer this question may make the difference between having a short job search or a long one.

Create Your Professional Story

Since you made it to the interview, it is safe to assume that you have already impressed them with your cover letter and resume. They already think you have the right skills and experience for the job and now they want get to know you a little better.

The problem is this question tends to throw most people off because it is so vague and open ended. Where do you start? Do they really want to hear your whole life story? No. In the context of a job interview, the employer wants you to fill in the background details that your resume can’t tell them.

Your professional story should not only include “who” you are and “what” you have done, but more importantly why you chose to do those things and what you learned along the way that ultimately led you to this employer. Your story should leave the employer feeling positive about you, the skills and experience you bring, and your ability to fit in with their organization.  

Use the “Present, Past, Future” Formula

According to career expert Lily Zang, the formula looks like this; first start with the present, meaning a snapshot of where you are right now. Then move into your past explaining what you have done and what you learned from those experiences. Finally end with the future by summarizing why you are really excited and clearly a good fit for this new opportunity with the employer. The right answer, shows how well you know what the employer is looking for and how well you know what your strengths are.

For example, if you are a third year law student and you are interviewing for a post graduate position with a criminal defense firm, you could say:

Present: “Currently I am a 3L in my final semester at New England Law | Boston.”
Past: “I came to law school to become, a criminal defense attorney because I believe it is important to protect the rights of people who can’t otherwise protect themselves. Last summer I interned with the Public Defender’s office in their Youth Advocacy Division where I was 3.03 certified and was able to have my own case files, meet with clients, and represent them in court. The experience showed me how vulnerable people are against the prosecution if they do not know their rights as a citizen and reinforced my desire to be a criminal defense attorney.”
Future: “It is because of this experience that I am looking forward to continue my work in criminal defense and am excited about this opportunity with your firm.”    
Use this formula as a guide and include what is relevant to our story. Part of your story may include personal stories about where you grew up, what you studied in undergrad, and/or any work experience you had prior to law school.

Why this Formula Works

By using this formula you give the employer the exact information they are looking for in a clear and concise statement that shows them that you are confident, enthusiastic, and well prepared. It also helps you avoid giving a long, unfocused answer that would reveal your lack of understanding about what they are looking for and why you are a good fit.

How to Prepare

Step 1. Take out a piece of paper and make three columns.

Step 2. In column 1, titled “Job Description”, review the job description and write down all the skills, duties, 
responsibilities, and requirements that are included in the description.  

Step 3. In column 2, titled “Work Experience”, look at all the work experience on your resume and write down the skills and duties that are an exact match for what the employer is looking for or can be seen as a transferable skill. For example, all criminal defense attorneys must be able to “present arguments in front of the court”.

Step 4. In column 3, write out your "Past, Present, and Future" statement using the details in column 1 and 2 and practice saying it out loud to a friend. Ask your friend for feedback and continue to practice it until it makes sense and you feel comfortable and confident saying it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Summer Employment Survey Results

This year 153 New England Law students completed our 2014 Summer Employment Survey giving us valuable information about where students worked and how they found their jobs. Of the students who completed the survey, 44% were from the class of 2016 and 56% were from the class of 2015.

Types of Employment
The majority of students who responded worked in a legal job.
  • 83% worked in a summer or permanent legal job
  • 10% worked in a non-legal summer or permanent job 
  • 4% participated in a study abroad program 
  • 3% did not work
Of those who worked, 57% were in paid positions, and 43% were unpaid.

How Students Found Employment
It is important to remember to use a variety of methods when searching for employment. While many respondents found their summer employment through a job posting on the CSO's JobNet many others found their job through someone they knew, a networking connection, or by contacting the employer directly.
  • 24% found their job through a referral from someone they knew
  • 25% found employment by responding to a job posted on the CSO JobNet on Symplicity
  • 10% found their job through networking or contacting the employer directly 
  • 23% found employment through a law school program (such as a clinic or the Honors Judicial Internship Program), an outside organization, or other means not specified 
  • 5% returned to or continued with a pre-law school employer 
  • 8% found their job through an on-campus interview or job fair 
  • 5% responded to a job posting on a commercial job website
Where Students Worked
  • 80% remained in Massachusetts
  • 16% worked out of state 
  • 4% worked internationally or participated in a study abroad program
While the majority of New England Law students worked locally, a number of students gained experience in New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Texas, and Washington, DC. Students also participated in study abroad programs in Galway and Prague.

Below are just a few of the law firms and organizations who hired New England Law Students this summer:

Albany County District Attorney's Office
Beacon Hill Research
Board of Bar Overseers
Boston Housing Authority
Boston Municipal Court Department
Boston Redevelopment Authority
Braude, Margulies, Sachs and Rephan
City of Boston Law Department
City of Waltham - Law Department
Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc.
Committee for Public Counsel Services
Commonwealth of Massachusetts - Civil Service Commission
Cooley Manion Jones LLP
D'Ambrosio Brown,LLP
Deloitte Tax LLP
Falbo, Solari & Goldberg
Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Lowey LLP
Greater Boston Legal Services
Harvard Criminal Justice Institute
Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project
J. Jill Acquisition
Johnson & Borenstein, LLC
Law Office of Attorney John Himmelstein
Law Office of Robert L. Allen, Jr., LLP
Law Offices of Jeffrey B. Rubin
Law Offices of Mary Wynne Gianturco, LLC
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
Massachusetts Appeals Court
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
Massachusetts Land Court
Massachusetts Superior Court
Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
Middlesex District Attorney's Office
Moura & Moura, LLC
Office of the New York State Attorney General
Partners Healthcare System
Patriot Energy Group
PUMA North America, Inc.
RainDance Technologies
Richard C. Bardi & Associates, LLC
Rosencranz & Associates
Shelter Legal Services
Solman & Hunter, P.A.
State Street Corporation
State Street Global Advisors
Suffolk County District Attorney's Office
Suffolk, Norfolk, and Middlesex County Probate and Family Courts
Swartz & Swartz, P.C.
Tenant Advocacy Project (Harvard Law School)
Texas 34th Judicial District, District Attorney's Office
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
The Law Office of Ann Pinheiro
The Law Office of Susan T. Aguiar, LLC
The Rutherford Institute
U.S. Army JAG Corps
U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
US Department of Labor
William E. Gens Law Offices, P.C.

Where did you work last summer? If you have not already completed your 2014 Summer Employment Survey, log on to Symplicity to tell us about your experience!

Looking for a job for next summer? The Career Services Office is here to help you. Call 617-422-7229 to schedule an appointment today.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Preparing for the 2014 - 2015 Recruitment Program

On July 1, the Recruitment Instructional Packet was e-mailed to all rising 2LD/3LE and 3LD/4LE students. The first Recruitment application deadline is July 9. Each year our office receives many questions from students about this program. Please find our answers to the most frequently asked questions below.

Q: What is the Recruitment Program?

A: The Recruitment Program (RP) includes a variety of public interest, government, law firm, and judicial employers seeking 2015 summer and post-graduate associates and clerks. RP begins in July and will continue throughout the Fall semester.

Q: How do I apply for the Recruitment Programs?

A: If you are applying for an on-campus interview, resume collection, or off-campus interview, apply through the CSO’s Symplicity site. If you are applying for the National Recruitment Program, or the Government and Public Interest Interview program, apply through the Massachusetts Law School Consortium’s (MLSC) site. For detailed, step-by-step instructions, please refer to the Recruitment Instructional Packet, which was e-mailed to your New England Law account, and can also be found in the Document Library on the CSO’s Symplicity site.

Q: When I’m in Symplicity, and I click on the “OCI” tab, it says something about a summer survey and I can’t find the participating employers. Where do I go from here?

A: Every Fall, all 2LD/3LEs and 3LD/4LEs are required to complete their profiles, including summer surveys before they are able to view the OCI section. When prompted to complete the summer survey, click “Add New” and fill in the required survey fields. After you submit your survey, you should automatically be taken to the OCI section.

Q: My grades aren't great. Should I even bother applying to big firms?

A: You should be realistic when applying to large firms. They typically are very strict about their grade requirements and most likely will not interview students who do not meet the standards which they have set. That said, occasionally there are exceptions to that general rule when a student exhibits better than average grades with special skills or highly relevant experience.

Q: I will be taking a clinic in the Fall. Can I include it on my resume, even though I haven't started it yet?
A: YES. Include all future clinics, journals, and law review. When listing something that is going to happen in the future, use "Fall 2014" as your date, and "Responsibilities will include..." or "Anticipated job duties will be...". Use the employer's job posting and your knowledge of what you might do as a basis for your description. After you start your clinic, update your job description with elaborated duties and change to the present tense. Bring the updated resume to your interview.

Q: To whom should I address my cover letter?

A: Always make sure to include the recipient's name and address on your cover letter. You can find this information on Symplicity by searching under "OCI" and clicking "Review" to the left of the employer.

Q: If the employer doesn’t specifically ask for a cover letter, can I send one anyway?

A: No. When applying to employers participating in RP, only include what has been requested. The employers who have elected not to collect cover letters have done so for a reason. Sending a cover letter will merely show an inability to follow directions.

Have more questions about preparing your application? Read our blog entries on resumes, cover letters, and writing samples or e-mail us at

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Looking for a Summer Job? Check the JobNet!

If you are in the process of looking for a job this summer, be sure to check the Career Services Office's online job postings. April has always been a busy time for summer job postings on the JobNet. Currently, there are 100 summer internships posted on the CSO JobNet. Of those posted, 86 are for first year-day and second year-evening students.

In addition to checking the Career Service Office's online job postings, below are some other helpful tips for looking for a summer job.

Check other on-line resources.
Do not limit your search to one single job posting site. The Online Job Search Resources handout found in the document library on Symplicity offers a helpful list of a variety of other job search websites depending on your area of interest.

Request reciprocity.
If you are looking for employment out of state, you may be able to request reciprocal services from a law school career services office in that state. Visit our reciprocity page for more information.

Contact firms and organizations directly.
Do not wait for a job to be posted. Be proactive in your job search by contacting firms and organizations directly. Use and other online directories to do a targeted search of organizations within your area of interest.

Network. Network. Network.
According to the 2013 Summer Employment Survey, most students found their summer job through informal means, either through a referral from someone they know or through networking and self-initiated contact. Don’t know where to start? Read the networking section of our handbook available for download on our Symplicity homepage.

Be flexible.
If you have a car, look for opportunities outside of major metropolitan areas. Also consider unpaid positions. The more flexible you are regarding pay and location, the better your chances are for finding summer employment.

Have questions about your job search? Make an appointment with a Career Services Counselor. Please call 617-422-7229 to schedule an appointment.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

5 Things to Do Over Winter Break

Whether you are seeking your first legal job for the summer or looking for post-graduate employment, the winter break is a good time to organize your job search campaign.

1. Reconnect with old contacts and establish new ones. Send a holiday card to former employers and colleagues updating them on your academic and career progress. Use the networking section of the Symplicity site to contact alumni in the area and ask if they are available to meet after the New Year. Check the LinkedIn Alumni feature to identify and establish connections with fellow graduates from your undergraduate school who are practicing law.

2. Let everyone know that you are looking for a job. Use holiday parties to update old friends, relatives, and neighbors with your interests and where you would like to practice. You never know who has valuable contacts that could lead to opportunities. Listen to a free podcast by the ABA for more tips on holiday networking.

3. Update your resume. Be sure to add any clinics you are taking during the spring semester. Re-read previous blog posts on resume writing for frequently asked questions and resume suggestions. The Career Services Office will be available to review resumes and cover letters starting January 6.

4. Apply to jobs and research potential employers to contact directly. Search job postings on the JobNet and other websites listed on our “Job Search Resources” handout available on the Symplicity site. Utilize our handout “Targeting Small to Medium-Sized Law Firms Using Martindale-Hubbell” to do a targeted search for firms and organizations in your geographic area and field of interest.

5. Relax. Focus on a little rest and relaxation so that you will feel rejuvenated upon your return next semester: sleep in, catch up on your favorite TV shows, do some non-law school related reading, and spend quality time with your family and friends.

Have a happy and productive winter break, from your friends in the Career Services Office!