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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Elephant in the Room: Your Job Search in Today's Economy

With the recent events on Wall Street, many students are wondering how the current economy will affect their job search. How hard will it be to find a job upon graduation? Will there be any jobs available for new attorneys? Are there some practice areas that are recession-proof? These are all good questions. While certain practice areas such as real estate and corporate transactions have been detrimentally affected by today's economy, there are a number of fields that are not drastically affected by the current climate as well as others that do especially well when the economy dips.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, there is nothing certain in this world except death and taxes. We can also add two other items to this list of certainties: crime and divorce. Because there will always be taxes, divorce, crime, and death, law practices involving tax, family law, criminal law and probate are relatively unaffected by economic downturns. Family, criminal defense, and probate law practices are most common among smaller firms and solo practitioners while tax law may be practiced in both a small or large firm setting as well as within government organizations. An obvious legal field that is getting a lot more work at the moment is bankruptcy. Large firm bankruptcy practices are especially busy in light of current events. Bankruptcy cases can also generate work for other practice groups within a firm, including litigation, tax, and securities.

While a job search may take longer during a weak economy than it would during boom times, the same job search resources and strategies should be applied. Every successful job search includes not only applying for jobs that are posted but also contacting employers directly, conducting informational interviews, getting referrals from family and friends, and networking. Most importantly, students should not wait until graduation to begin looking for employment. Taking an active role in your job search now and doing more than just applying to job postings is the best way to guarantee employment under any economic condition.

Questions or concerns on this subject? Feel free to post them in our comments section!

For further reading...
"Crisis gives and takes away at law firms" (Boston Business Journal)
"Boom Time for Bankruptcy?" (The New York Lawyer)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Law Clerk or Paralegal?

This week's question in the "Crossroads" column of the New York Lawyer asks whether or not it is a hindrance for a student to work as a paralegal as opposed to a law clerk. This is a question we get a lot in the Career Services Office, especially from evening students who are working full- time. Below is the answer from Linda E. Laufer, the Director of Career Development at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

"One of the difficulties for many evening students is the inability to give up the financial stability of their current position so that they can gain legal experience. As a paralegal, you are in a position to mitigate that issue. How much advantage you gain can depend on factors such as your responsibilities and the type of matters that you handle.

In looking at your resume and comparing to other candidates in your class year, employers will be particularly interested in the exact nature of your legal skills and substantive knowledge. For example, they are likely to look for legal research and writing. Without the opportunity to exercise those skills, or engage in other work similar to that performed by your classmates, you can be at a disadvantage.

[...]Consider whether you can ask your current employer for assignments that will enable you to accomplish that goal. If your employer hires law clerks, perhaps you could be placed in one of those positions. "

In short, it is the work you are doing rather than the job title that is important. The danger of becoming a paralegal instead of a law clerk is that the substantial bulk of your work will be administrative. However, if your employer is also able to assign you in-depth legal research and writing assignments, then serving as a full-time paralegal while attending law school is a good way to gain legal experience.

For more advice from the Crossroads column, visit the New York Lawyer website. You will need to register to access the site, however registration is free.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What are memorandums? Frequent Resume Mistakes and Questions

During the Fall Recruitment Season our office receives many resume questions and requests for critiques. From our experience, below are the most frequent resume errors and questions.

Juris Doctor or Juris Doctorate?
When you receive your diploma from New England Law it will say that you received a "Juris Doctor degree." Thus, we advise all students to list their degree as "Juris Doctor" instead of "Juris Doctorate."

Memorandum and Memoranda
If you drafted one memo, refer to it as a memorandum. If you drafted more than one memo, refer to them as memoranda. The use of memo and memos is considerably less formal and there is no such word as "memorandums".

Words Not Caught Bye Spellcheck
We all know that spellcheck is not perfect. It may want to turn your Juris Doctor into a Jurist Doctor and it does not catch misuse of homonyms (i.e. bye instead of by) . It will also miss those misspellings that also happen to be words. Below are a couple of frequent errors we find on student resumes:
Trail instead of Trial
Complied instead of Compiled
...and Public without the "l" is a completely different word and probably not one you'd like to have on your resume!

Spellcheck can be great, but please remember to have one or two others look over your resume for those errors that spellcheck may not find.

Listing your Clinic and Study Abroad Program
Your clinic should be listed under your legal experience section. Ask the clinical office for information about how to list your job description and job title.

You may list your study abroad two ways: either as a subsection under your school section or as a separate school. Here are two examples:

New England School of Law, Boston, MA
Candidate for Juris Doctor, May 2010
Study Abroad: National University of Ireland, Program in International and Comparative Human Rights Law, Galway, Ireland, Summer 2008
National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Study Abroad Program in International and
Human Rights Comparative Law, Summer 2008

Listing Publications
Publications should be listed as a subsection under your school like so:

Subsidize Housing and HUD Projects: Economic Confinement on Low-Income Families, New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement, Volume 31, Winter 2004-2005

If you do not yet know the publication date, write Publication Pending where you would normally list the volume and issue.

One page or two?
Your resume should be one page. The only exception to this rule is if you have five years or more of professional work experience between college and starting law school.

But I have a lot of experience and it won't fit onto one page!
Try the following:
  1. Make your margins smaller. Adjust your margins to at least .5" on each side.
  2. Make your font size smaller. The smallest your font size can be is 10 points.
  3. List your address on one line running across the page.
It is still going onto a second page.
Send it to us! The career counselors in the CSO are well versed in the tricks to the trade as to how to get a resume onto one page. We are always here to help. Please feel free to email your resume to to be reviewed by a counselor.

For more tips on how to write the perfect legal resume, read the resume section of our handbook!

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Talking Stain and Other Interview Downfalls

Some of you may remember this commercial from the Superbowl. While a bit extreme, it is still a good illustration of the importance of your appearance during an interview. Every detail counts! The last thing you want is for an interviewer to be distracted from what you are saying because of a piercing, bad breath, a tattoo, strong cologne or perfume...or a coffee stain.

For a complete list of interview Do's and Don'ts, read the interview section of our handbook!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Where did you work this summer?

The results from our 2008 Summer Employment Survey are in! Thanks to all who completed the Survey on the Recruitment Programming Center (RPC). You gave us valuable information on what students did this summer and how they found their jobs. For those of you who did not fill out the Survey - it's not too late! Log on to RPC today to tell us how you spent the Summer of 2008.

Summer Employment Statistics
229 students completed the 2008 Summer Survey.

  • 82% worked in a legal job.
  • 8% worked in a non-legal job.
  • 5% participated in a summer abroad program.
  • 5% did not work.

How did students find summer legal employment?

  • 32% found their job through networking.
  • 18% found their job through the CSO Job Postings.
  • 10% obtained summer employment through a job fair or on-campus interview.
  • 12% found their job through self-initiated contact.
  • 21% found their job through a referral by a friend, family member or colleague.

Where did students work this summer?

  • 75% worked in Massachusetts.
  • 20% worked outside of Massachusetts.
  • 5% worked abroad and/or participated in a study abroad program.

Below are just a few of the employers who hired New England School of Law students this summer:

Adler, Pollock & Sheehan
Committee for Public Counsel Services
Crowe & Mulvey, LLP
Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge
Greater Boston Legal Services
Harvard Law School Tenant Advocacy Project
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
Lubin & Meyer, P.C.
MA Court of Appeals
MA Housing and Shelter Alliance
Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office
New England Pension Action Center
Parker Scheer LLP
Philadelphia Law Department
Ropes & Gray
Robinson & Cole
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
Suffolk Superior Court
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
U.S. Air Force JAG
U.S. Attorney’s Office
U.S. Department of the Navy, General Counsel
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Wiggin & Nourie