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Be Ready for the Video Conference

Posted by Rich Janney on Jul 7, 2016 10:22:30 AM

Video_Conference.jpgIf you are searching for a new job, it will happen sooner or later—you will be selected to have a screening interview via video conference.  Here are some tips to make sure you have the best video conference possible:

  1. Yes, wear a suit. And wear pants, too. I know it’s funny to tell people that you didn’t wear pants for your interview, but if you have a leather chair, your bare legs might make a funny sticking sound and people will wonder what’s going on down there.
  1. Make sure you have an appropriate background for the call. If your office is a desk in your bedroom, move the computer elsewhere.  No one wants to see a bed over your shoulder, even if there are a million pillows on it.
  1. Look at the webcam instead of being fascinated with your image on the screen. Put a sticky note over your face if you have to.  No, no--on the screen.  Put the sticky note over your face which is on the screen.
  1. Experiment with the lighting to make sure you don’t look dead on camera.
  1. Don’t sit too close. Webcams are ‘fisheye’ lenses and the closer you get, the bigger your nose will look.  I may be projecting my own feelings here, as I have a prominent nose and hate webcams.
  1. Think about all the times you’ve Skyped with your parents in Florida, then avoid doing all the things they do during their calls.
  1. Give other family members the heads up that you will be having this video conference. A nude spouse in the background is thrilling, but ultimately unprofessional.

Handle the call with as few distractions as possible and you will have accomplished your mission.  Video conferencing has a long way to go before it truly is a suitable way to communicate professionally, but ready or not, here it comes.

Topics: Interview Tips

In Defense of the Big Firm

Posted by Rich Janney on Jun 1, 2016 10:06:57 AM

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Big law firms get a terrible rap.  When I was a student at Harvard Law School (I didn’t go to Harvard), we were constantly told by our peers that big firms were evil, though they paid well.  We were told that we wouldn’t get any practical experience at the big firms, that all we would be doing was document review and cleaning the toilets for the first three years.  We were told that they were sweat shops.  We were told that they ground up associates and then spit them out.  We were told that they would sneak into our rooms at night and kill us in our sleep.

At some point, it starts to sound like camp counselors telling spooky ghost stories around the campfire.  Yet, this ghost story has persisted over the years: “And then, when the associate got out of the cab on his way home at 4 a.m., he found a BLOODY HOOK STILL ATTACHED TO THE DOOR HANDLE!” 

[1st year law students screaming and crying]

But I am here to tell you, as a former big firm attorney (I really did work at a big firm), that much of these stories are bunk or that they are not stories that are limited to life at the mega firm.  The following is a breakdown of many of the perceptions of big-firm life that attorneys and law students alike might want to take into account if they are considering joining a large law firm.

#1 You Will Work Crazy Hours

There can be long hours at big firms, yes.  But there can also be super long hours at smaller firms too.  Sadly, this is the nature of the business these days.  For example, if you are working on a case that is going to trial, you are going to work long, grueling hours getting ready for it whether or not you work at a big or small firm.  If you are a transactional attorney and you’re working on a really big deal? Same thing.  And sometimes, at a small firm, because there are fewer attorneys who can bear the brunt of the case load, when it gets busy, it gets REALLY busy REALLY fast and there’s very little letup.

Furthermore, I have heard of plenty of tales of people who work at big firms and who maintain very good hours.  They bill 2000 hours and are not punished for failing to bill 2400.  The department you work in and the partners you work for will more likely affect your hours than the firm itself will.

Bottom line is that the practice of the law is a pretty tough life when you’re junior, whether you’re at a big firm or small one.

#2 You Won’t Get Any Practical Experience

Two main things determine how much hands-on experience you will get in your position if you work at a big firm: 1) your personality; and 2) who you end up working for.  With regard to point number one, if you are the type of person who is inclined to try and ‘hide’ at the big firm, you probably will be able to stay away from getting real hands-on experience.  And that, I suppose, is less stressful in the short run—if you are a ‘hider,’ that is.  However, hiding is not good for your career and it’s not the fault of the firm that you chose to avoid getting your hands dirty.  The most the big firm can be blamed for is providing a large enough biosphere in which you can successfully duck and cover.  With respect to point #2—who you end up working for—well, that’s out of your control to a large degree. If you work for partners who want to lock away their associates doing document review for the first year at the firm, then you drew the short straw, I am sorry to say.  At my former firm, I was lucky enough to be sent to court the day after I passed the bar and I never looked back (seriously, I never looked back—I have no idea what was behind me). I went to court hundreds of times in my career.  But I was lucky—I worked for a great partner who really valued having associates who knew how to do stuff, so he made us do stuff (which is good, because I would probably have tended to be a ‘hider’). If, on the other hand, you have landed in a practice where they truly intend to keep the substantive work away from the young attorneys, then you really are in a bad situation (unless you are a ‘hider’, in which case you are working for a ‘hiding enabler’). However, again, this isn’t necessarily endemic to big firms—there are ‘hiding enablers’ at smaller firms too—the good news is that if you are at a big firm, you have a better chance of finding a different partner to work for because there are lots and lots of them there.  They can’t all be hiding enablers.  Use the size of the firm to your advantage.

There’s a point I am trying to make in here somewhere.

#3 It’s a Sweatshop

Sweatshops exist in third world countries and the people who work there barely make enough money to live.  You will make enough money on your first day to buy yourself gold teeth.  Knock it off with the ‘sweatshop’ comparisons.

#4 You’re Just a Cog in a Machine

People think that at a big firm, they will be dehumanized, that they will only evaluated as a set of numbers that appear in a gigantic spreadsheet.  They think that if they don’t make their hours, they won’t be valued even if the work they do is outstanding.  Conversely, they complain that the inefficient attorney who bills 2300 hours will be considered a superstar even though their work is junk.

OK. To some degree this is true. Evaluating people by the numbers is more likely to happen at any organization where they have to manage hundreds and, perhaps, thousands of employees.  But doing high-volume, poor-quality work will only float for so long.  Eventually the system catches the clunkers, it just may react a little slower than the system at a small firm.  If you do good work and get good reviews, you will be recognized and rewarded.

Now, Let’s Talk Affirmatively About the Good Stuff

Don’t forget about all the good things that the big firm can provide that aren’t necessarily available at smaller firms.  Big firms provide a ton of CLE training right in the confines of the office.  There are experts from all over the firm who can provide amazing insight and guidance on a huge variety of subjects.  There are support systems in place that run 24 hours a day because, let’s face it, no matter where you practice, you are going to have late nights from time to time.  Better to have a whole staff of document specialists on hand to help you out when it gets super late.  Need a thousand copies after hours?  They’ve got you covered.

The benefits are usually great too.  At some firms you will likely have vision, dental, health, 401k, 501k, and some sort of shark attack insurance (optional).

Then there’s the access to people.  While I was at DLA, I was able to meet a Secretary of Defense, a couple of congressmen, Michael Jordan’s lawyer (Jordan came to the office himself once, but I missed it), Gandhi, and also God.

Pay is pretty good, too.

Long story short, there are a lot of benefits of working for the mega firm.  Don’t let the camp counselors scare you.

Topics: Career Advice

To View or Not to View... Another Person's LinkedIn Profile

Posted by The Law Recruiters Editors on Mar 30, 2016 10:08:44 AM

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To view or not to view another person's LinkedIn profile is a question that can often arise in the professional world now that LinkedIn is becoming increasingly more common as an informational resource for both job seekers and employers. When viewing the LinkedIn profile of another person, the privacy settings on your LinkedIn page, by default, will be set to show your username and headline to the party whose profile you are viewing.   This may leave you asking yourself whether or not you should actually view the user’s profile as they will be notified that you did in fact view it.  

There are many instances when this not-so-private viewing feature may be beneficial. For example, as an employer or job seeker, if you are looking to get on the radar of a specific company, you may want the employees of that company to know you are showing an interest in them. Also, as a job seeker, while preforming company research prior to an interview, it is beneficial to view the profiles of any employees that will be interviewing you.  This not only allows you to gain background information on the individuals, but also - as they will be alerted that you have viewed their LinkedIn profile page - shows the employees that you are being diligent about your interview.

On the other hand, there may be instances where you do not want your identity shown to an individual when you view his or her LinkedIn profile page. Thankfully, there is a setting on your LinkedIn profile that allows you to turn on anonymous viewing. If you want to maintain your privacy or perhaps are going to be viewing the same profile more than once in a short period of time you may want to turn on this anonymous feature.

To change your LinkedIn viewing settings, follow the steps below:

  1. While on the Home screen of your LinkedIn profile, hover your mouse over you profile picture in the top right corner.
  2. Move your arrow down to “Privacy and Settings” and click on “Manage”.
  3. Under “Privacy Controls”, click on “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile”.
  4. A window will pop-up that will allow you to select your settings. You can choose from your full name and headline, a semi-private profile that will include your industry and title, or a completely anonymous profile.
  5. Click “Save Changes”.

Now, this choice is yours, but go ahead – view the profile!

Topics: Career Advice

"Genius" Interview Tips

Posted by Rich Janney on Mar 7, 2016 10:17:28 AM

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Today, at this computer, I sat down and set out to write an article about useful interviewing tips. Not because there aren’t enough articles on the subject. There are. But the ones that are circulated throughout the year tend to repeat the same things over and over again. They tell you the importance of preparing for the interview and in particular they list a series of very obvious things you should not do or say. They have titillating titles like, “10 Things You Should NEVER Do at An Interview!” Stuff like that.

Like a sucker, I always click on them hunting for that hidden gem of a tip. But it’s always the same. They tell you a list that is as obvious as the “Grizzly Man” is dead. And somehow sensing the insult you perceive to your intelligence, they preempt your objections by saying something like, “You would be surprised at how many people actually DO these things!” To be fair, I’m sure people really do come to interviews wearing bib overalls, or chewing gum, or answer their cell phones during the meeting. But those people are idiots. Rare. Outliers. Those are not the kinds of people who are going to read an article about interview tips, anyway. They are freaks. So there’s no point in writing an article like that to help them out.

And yet the articles keep on coming. Why?

I was pondering the answer to this question the other day while I was doing bikram yoga in the dryer. And I had a thought: maybe there’s some psychological value to presenting people with a list of things they already know. Maybe it’s been proven that when you tell someone advice that they already know to be true, their self-confidence improves. And when you’re more self-confident, you are more likely to perform well in an interview. Right? So, maybe those articles are genius after all.

And if they’re genius, then why am I fighting this? Who am I to blow against the wind? I want to write genius articles too. I want to improve people’s self-confidence by telling them stuff they already know.

So, here goes:

  1. Don’t release a bat during your meeting.
  2. Leave your Hulk fists at home.
  3. Do not take out a slide whistle and play a sad, downward tone when they reveal the salary range for the position.
  4. Don’t draw on their furniture.
  5. Do not swallow a whistle just before your interview like the police officer from the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon.
  6. Don’t wear a turtle neck and suspenders.
  7. Don’t waggle your eyebrows when there is a plausible double entendre made (e.g., “In this position you will have four paralegals under you” [waggle waggle]).
  8. Don’t lift up your shirt and do the ‘dancing pecs’ thing.
  9. Don’t wear elbow-length white ballroom gloves.
  10. Don’t snatch things out of the interviewer’s hands.
  11. Don’t carry an urn of ashes into the meeting.
  12. Don’t offer your interviewers any ointments or pills.
  13. Just be yourself, unless you are an awful person.

Feel better? More confident? Then my job is done here. Go into that interview and knock them dead!

You’re welcome.

Topics: Interview Tips

Frog Thermometer

Posted by Rich Janney on Feb 10, 2016 9:39:04 AM

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We all know the expression, “it’s easier to get a job when you have a job.” Less well known is the expression, “it’s hard to make good career decisions when your hatred for your job is making you clinically bonkers.” Careers in the law are stressful. Sometimes we grin and bear it and think, “Just one more year, then I’ll make a move,” or, “Once I get my law school loans paid off, I’ll quit this job and go somewhere less stressful.” We hold on. We hold out.

But during that holding-out period, the hatred for our job grows and the ability to tolerate yet another 14-hour day in the office becomes even harder. And that hatred grows slowly, each day. So slowly that we might not even realize how bad it’s really become. At this point, I was going to make a ‘boiled frog’ analogy, but I think that image is becoming a cliché so I won’t even bother. You all know it. If not, Google it. Incidentally, why is it always a frog that gets boiled alive? Has anyone tried boiling other animals alive but they won’t put up with it? Or are frogs just the target of an inordinate amount of torture?

It’s not easy being green, I guess.

What I’m trying to say by all this is, don’t let yourself get to the breaking point with your workplace unhappiness. If you get to the breaking point—or even if you start to get close to it—you will be under so much stress that you’ll be at risk for suffering a nervous breakdown. When you get to that point, you’ll be thinking, “I don’t care if I’m sweeping up elephant dung at the circus, I just want out.” Bad decisions happen here. Who knows, you may actually end up being the elephant poo collector at Ringling Bros. Or worse—Circus Vargus.

But here’s the hard part: if you’ve started to go down that gradual path of job-loathing, how would you know? How does the frog know he’s in a hot tub that’s pushing 200 degrees? Well, I’ve put together a list of warning signs to help you out. Consider this your frog thermometer:

 

1. On your way to the office, you kind of wish the train would derail so you would have a valid excuse to not go in.

Okay. Maybe you’re not so twisted that a public transportation disaster is appealing to you. Maybe it’s more subtle than that. When I was practicing law, I knew a guy who had shattered his leg and needed to have extensive emergency surgery. However, he did tell me that it was better than having to go to court and deal with opposing counsel. He wasn’t kidding.

If it would be preferable to get painful surgery rather than going to work, your frog water is getting too hot.

2. When the alarm goes off in the morning, you cry.

I think this is pretty self-explanatory.

3. When you watch a law-related show, you get loose stools.

In 2002, I watched a movie starring Ben Affleck called “Changing Lanes.” At some point, Ben’s character, a lawyer, shows up to court and realizes that he’s forgotten a really, REALLY important document. I actually became very anxious watching Ben fumbling through his leather brief case searching for this missing document. I should have been anxious that I’d paid money to watch a Ben Affleck movie.

4. All you can think about is pounding nails into the head of “that one partner.”

It’s the man or woman in your life that makes you walk down a different hall so you won’t get noticed. When this person is scheduled to be out of the office for vacation, there is much rejoicing in your soul.

You bought a hammer. And a lot of nails.

5. You buy enough lottery tickets to have a ticker tape parade with them.

That little piece of paper is going to make it all better. Come Wednesday night, the lady with the microphone and hideous finger nails is going to draw all your numbers on television!

No she’s not. The lottery is going to be won by an ex-convict from Florida who is going to wear a snake skin suit to the press conference. He will have a pony tail.

 

If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, your frog is getting warm.  It’s best to act while the water is cool enough so you can conduct a rational and deliberative job search for the next logical career opportunity.  That is, of course, unless you really like elephants.

Topics: Career Advice

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