Sunday, November 1, 2009

Got a Job Interview? Better Prepare!

Among other trends in this economy, The American Lawyer reports on changing interviewing and OCI techniques:

"Law firms are also starting to take a more rigorous approach to their end of the recruiting process. "We're seeing better-prepared interviewers, more senior people" coming on campus, says Bruce Elvin, director of career and professional development at Duke University Law School. As for the interview itself, it's no longer about whether you like the same sports teams, at least not at places like Vinson & Elkins and McKenna Long & Aldridge. These firms are using behavioral interviewing techniques, in conjunction with law school rankings and grade point averages, to evaluate candidates. The idea behind behavioral interviewing -- used by consulting and other professional service firms for decades but fairly new to the legal industry -- is that the best predictor of future performance is past performance in specific situations. Interviewers are trained to ask questions such as "Tell me about a time when you had a setback and how you dealt with it," or "Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split-second decision." Vinson & Elkins hiring partner Thomas Leatherbury predicts that behavioral interviewing will be more common in the years to come. "It's much more substantive," he says. Even in traditional interviews, Elvin says, law students can and should adopt a behavioral focus: "Students can benefit themselves by talking about challenges they've overcome, decisions they've made. It shows you are taking ownership."

The moral of THIS story? In light of all the law student competition for jobs, bring your "A game!" Read the full story here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Surfin' for Bar Applicant Info

It's not exactly a surprising development: one state bar association has formally announced that it will look at applicants' online profiles and conduct in determining whether to admit an applicant to the bar.

"Among a growing number of employers and agencies surfing the Internet and accessing social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to look for adverse information about applicants is at least one bar group that has just adopted a formal policy of doing so. At a recent meeting, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners voted to review applicants' social networking sites on a case-by-case basis, focusing on those who have demonstrated problem conduct in the past, reports the Florida Bar News." Source: http://www.abajournal.com/weekly/fla._bar_overseers_to_surf_social_sites_for_adverse_applicant_info

Just one more reason for law students and recent law grads to keep things professional online!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Young Women Lawyers: Participate in a New Study by the Center for Law Student Ethics and Professionalism

There are quite a few recently published articles about women lawyers' apparent "queen bee complex," "vision issues," and various other titles depicting "cattiness" among women in the profession. For example:

Why Women Lawyers Get a Bad Rep: ‘Queen Bee Jealousy’ and ‘Vision Thing,’

"Have You Really Come a Long Way, Baby?"

“Women Lawyers Feel Betrayed When Female Bosses Aren’t Nurturing,”

"What Women Lawyers Really Think of Each Other"

“Are Professional Women Managers Sabotaging Those Who Follow?”

Backlash: Women Bullying Women at Work,”

In light of these articles, we were intrigued to find out what a potentially competitive or less-than-desirable attitude from other women may mean for new law grads and young lawyers who are looking for a connection to more experienced women lawyers in their workplaces. We're taking a closer look at women lawyers' formal and informal in-house mentoring opportunities--specifically, how women associates are faring when it comes to mentoring programs:

Who is doing the in-house mentoring "on paper?" What about informally?
Is it working, per the associates' views?
What does mentoring mean to young women lawyers?
Do they tend to see in-house mentoring by other women as any different from being mentored by other women OUTSIDE of their firms or workplaces?
If it is true that -- at least to some extent -- women undermine each other's progress at the firm, then do mentees feel that they can truly trust their in-house mentors?
Or, are young women lawyers better off finding female mentors outside of the firm? And if the answer to the previous question rings true, then what does that mean for the effectiveness of women's in-house mentoring programs? Many employers are spending a whole lot of resources on these programs--but are they working? Are associates trusting the programs enough to fully take advantage of them?
And finally, if women lawyers DO feel more comfortable being mentored by other women outside of their firms, what does that say about the importance of mentoring programs (and in many states, the lack of programs) by outside organizations such as young lawyers' committees, bar associations, lawyers' help organizations, and the like? Should those programs be receiving increased focus and resources for maximum efficiency in the mentoring of young women lawyers?--under the premise that mentoring NOT done in-house may bring with it less competition?

Interested in participating? Let us know! We're looking for voices and perspectives from young women lawyers in all work environments and practice areas. Contact Ursula Furi-Perry, Esq, at ursula at mslaw.edu

Monday, August 10, 2009

On Social Networking Sites? Careful of Your Conduct

Just one more reason lawyers and law students must watch their step when it comes to social networking sites: judges and potential employers are watching you!

In a recent article, the ABA Journal reports on a judge who "has seen lawyers on the verge of crossing, if not entirely crossing, ethical lines when they complain about clients and opposing counsel. And she admonished one family member who jeopardized her own tort case by bragging online about how much money she would get from a lawsuit...The judge's near-breathless accounts of questionable online activity by members of the bench and bar had many in the audience wondering whether Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are worth the headache."

Another article reports (yet again) that most law firms are checking out potential associates' online profiles before inviting them to interviews. As we've said before: the bottom line is that lawyers and law students must be mindful of their online conduct.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Law Schools and the Legal Meltdown: An Interesting Post

In an interesting post on the Legal Profession Blog, Indiana University School of Law professor Bill Hendrickson asks whether law schools and legal educators are both oblivious to the economic pressures faced by so many in the legal profession and don't consider themselves to be subject to the same pressures.

"Frankly, amidst the meltdown of the entry-level lawyer job market, I am surprised by the lack of significant interest or attention by legal academics, at least as judged by blogosphere traffic. It is all-too-easy to assume that the market will rebound next year, or 2011 at the latest. To this I might ask, 'What is the basis for the optimism?' The salad days of 2004 to 2008 were driven by a Wall Street juggernaut that destroyed the U.S. investment banking industry, which was the historical client basis for the industry's most prestigious law firms," Hendrickson writes. "And here is a more pointed follow-up question, 'How much does the legal economy need to recover so that our students can to support their debt load?'"

He continues: "It is one thing to acknowledge that we lack good answers--that part is forgivable. But it is quite another to ignore or minimize the problem because, quite frankly, it really does not affect us personally. All of this reminds me of my youth in Cleveland, Ohio during the 1970s and 80s. Lots of my friends' parents worked for General Motors, which offered high pay, amazing benefits, predictable hours, and long vacations. No one else seemed to have it so good. I remember thinking at the time that GM was both complacent and invincible. It turned out that I was only half right. So I worry about my own industry. Do I have the mindset of a GM employee circa 1979? God, I hope not."

Read the entire post here.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Lawyers, Hone Your Business Skills!

Supervising lawyers see a need for new associates to have better business skills and writing skills, according to a recent article in the ABA Journal online.

"Law graduates need a better understanding of law firm economics, better writing skills. more practical experience and more management training, according to a survey of practice chairs, hiring partners and recruiters," the article reads.

"Respondents pointed out that new lawyers need to realize to realize a law firm is a business, the article says, “that it lives and dies on fees; that expenses have to be monitored; that their time has to be carefully tracked; that the latter is not some torture system devised for them alone, but part of the necessary running of a law firm."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Article: 13 Job Hunt Tips for Recent Law Grads

Need help with your job hunt? This article, featuring Ursula Furi-Perry's advice, offers 13 job hunt tips for recent law grads.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Constructive Summer Plans for Law Students: Some Ideas

To add to the multitude of bad news facing legal professionals, some summer associate programs are being cut or downsized in 2010, reports a recent article in the ABA Journal.

Need to plan for your summer? Consider the following tips:

* Plan ahead, and plan early! A more competitive market means you have to be more vigilant when it comes to landing a summer position--don't get lazy; don't wait until the last minute to find a job; and don't expect a job to fall into your lap.

* Be ready to "pound the pavement." You may need to go back to basics when it comes to finding a summer job, including proactive job-searching and networking.

* Don't put all of your eggs in the OCI basket: consider smaller firms and other employers for summer employment.

* Consider an internship, externship, or law student clinic if paid employment doesn't work out. You will still add valuable practical experience to your resume, and you'll gain valuable insight into whatever job you take on.

* If you absolutely cannot find employment or gain practical skills during the summer, don't waste the summer at the beach: do something constructive to further your legal education or experience, such as taking a summer course or studying abroad and gaining insight into a more global legal environment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Case of the Week, 5.18.09

New lawyers, take note: while your supervisors have the responsibility to properly supervise your work, your ethics decisions are still your own--left for you to make!

In one Kansas case, a staff attorney received a five-day suspension for declining to accept representation in a case, even after she explained to her supervisor that she had a conflict of interest which prevented her from taking the case--the subordinate, the superior claimed, refused to elaborate on her reasons for finding a conflict. When the subordinate attorney appealed her suspension, the Court of Appeals held that a subordinate attorney retains responsibility for her own ethics decisions and does not have to defer those decisions to a supervisor. McCurdy v. Kansas Department of Transportation, 898 P.2d 650 (1995).

Of course, Rule 5.2 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct also makes it clear that subordinate attorneys have ethical and professional responsibilities: read the full text of the rule here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Case of the Week 5.11.09

An applicant's financial issues -- and the applicant's failure to disclose those issues -- will trouble the bar examiners.

An applicant was disqualified from reapplying for admission to the Florida bar for five years after he failed to disclose his divorce proceedings, failed to disclose that he attended a college to which he owed money, and failed to disclose that he was rejected for a loan due to delinquent credit. Florida Board of Bar Examiners Re. R.L.W., 793 So. 2d 918 (Fla. 2001)The court noted, “this Court should focus not solely on the initial underlying conduct which R.L.W. failed to disclose or misrepresented…but on R.L.W.’s repeated and multiple failures to disclose that conduct to multiple Bar associations, and his engagement in conduct designed to further hide the truth.” Id., at 926.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Discussion Question 5.3.09

Note: These periodic discussion questions are designed to inspire dialogue about law student ethics and professionalism, whether through in-class discussions, informal discussions, or in the form of comments online.

What is the most difficult part of staying ethical and professional as a young lawyer?

Is it...

* Not being properly trained on issues of ethics and professionalism?
* Not knowing where to seek help and support with issues of ethics and professionalism?
* Not always being properly supervised or mentored on those issues or on practical questions?
* Dealing with the stress of time and money management in an increasingly stressful practice?

Summer Associates Told to Get a Grip?

There's no shortage of stories about summer associates getting out of control after a few months of wining and dining by firms. But according to a recent article, students are increasingly being told to lose their sense of entitlement.

"As law firms adjust their programs, taking a no-frills approach, students need to adjust as well, law school career counselors say," reports the ABA Journal. "At a seminar at Stanford Law School, students were told to volunteer for work and to watch their etiquette, Forbes magazine reports. They also learned it’s not a good idea to be a no-show after signing up for social programs. And summer associates need to lose the attitude, says Susan Robinson, Stanford’s associate dean for career services."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Changes to Come...And What They May Mean for New Law Grads

Change is in the air.

An opinion piece in the New York Times recently reported, "The economic downturn is hitting the legal world hard. American Lawyer is calling it “the fire this time” and warning that big firms may be hurtling toward “a paradigm-shifting, blood-in-the-suites” future."

Still, the piece went on, "The silver lining, if there is one, is that the legal world may be inspired to draw blueprints for the 21st century."

According to an article in the ABA Journal in which the Times article is referenced, three major areas of change are imminent:

"• Compensation. The out-of-whack pay chasm in which BigLaw lawyers make $160,000 to start while state and local prosecutors start in the mid-to-upper $40,000s is likely to change, with high salaries being reined in. "One industry-watcher says it could fall as low as $100,000. And fewer firms will feel the need to pay the top salary," the Times notes.
• Tuition. Between 1990 and 2003, private law school educations costs rose at nearly three times the rate of consumer prices, with the average graduate now leaving with more than $80,000 in debt. Expect a correction on tuition and more law schools to follow Northwestern University's two-year law school model.
• Curriculum. There may also be pressure on law schools, because of the economic conditions, to retool "sometimes-aimless second and third years" of courses to be more practical in nature, with more emphasis on going into nonlegal careers."

What's your take on the article? Do you agree that major changes are imminent in the legal profession and the way lawyers do business? If so, what does that all mean for recent law grads and current law students--in particular, in what ways will they have to adapt in order to navigate and thrive among these changes?

Monday, April 20, 2009

No Training on My Dime (But How Will They Get Experience?)

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, clients at some large law firms are requesting that first-year associates not work on cases assigned to the firm.

"Among the sea changes is a reluctance by a number of clients, or even an outright ban, as far having first-year associates work on their matters," says an ABA Journal online article citing to the Philadelphia Inquirer piece and to its original interview with Morgan Lewis Chair Francis Milone:

"'It's a trend," he tells the newspaper. "We literally have some clients who are telling us they do not want us to put brand-new associates on their matters.'

The problem is, at a starting salary of $160,000 a head for the firm's first-years, such client reluctance is making the new associates less useful to Morgan Lewis, he points out. "It's going to be harder to find things for new lawyers to do."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Case of the Week 4/13/09

Law student discipline cases center around many different issues, from plagiarism to academic dishonesty to improper conduct to failing to maintain a minimum grade point average requirement.

In one case where a student was expelled for failing to maintain the minimum GPA required by her school, the court upheld the law school’s policy of counting both the first (failing) and second grade in calculating GPA. See Johnson v. Sullivan, 174 Mont. 491 (1977). The court paid particular attention to “this state’s ‘diploma privilege,’ [under which] graduates of the School of Law may be admitted to practice on motion; they are not necessarily required to take and pass the state’s bar examination. Graduation from the School of Law, therefore, virtually guarantees admission to practice. Ultimately, then, the object of measuring academic performance and allowing or precluding a law student’s continued study on the basis of that performance is to assure that graduates of the School of Law are qualified to enter practice.” Id., at 495.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Discussion Question 4/8/09

Note: These periodic discussion questions are designed to inspire dialogue about law student ethics and professionalism, whether through in-class discussions, informal discussions, or in the form of comments online.

Are law students who behave unethically or unprofessionally more likely to behave unethically or unprofessionally once they graduate? Is academic dishonesty related to unethical behavior on the job?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Case of the Week 3/30/09

The bar examiners may be concerned by an applicant's troubled personal relationships.

Domestic relationships are a frequent pattern. In one case, when a law school applicant filed his application in 1979, he included a list of 21 criminal and disciplinary actions taken against him between 1958 and 1976, including a guilty plea to an assault and battery arising out of a domestic dispute, which he later mischaracterized on his bar application as a technical and minor assault. Years later, the student’s application to take the Iowa bar examination was denied. The court held, “we must recognize the seriousness of his long history of law violations and felony convictions, his assault and battery of [the victim,] and his failure to testify truthfully before this court…This testimony displays a callous and indifferent attitude toward an explosive personal confrontation.” In re Patterson, 439 N.W. 2d 165 (Iowa, 1989).

Firm Mentoring--Not All Mentoring Created Equal?

Lawyers' life coach and work-life balance guru Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D. has written an interesting new article in which she suggests that not all programs -- formal or informal -- are created equal when it comes to mentoring of young associates.

In particular, Ostrow suggests that young women attorneys benefit most when they find a seasoned male attorney to mentor them and "sponsor" their rise up the ranks.

In her article, "What Determines Women's Advancement to Equity Partnership" in the Beyond the Billable Hour Newsletter, Ostrow writes:

"[Th]e most crucial ingredient for career advancement - especially for
a woman or minority attorney - is having an advocate: someone with power who will
watch the young attorney's back and campaign for her behind the scene.

The mentee's career benefits when her mentor provides a junior attorney
access to his network, facilitates her participation in collaborative projects,
promotes her to others thereby augmenting her visibility and credibility, protects and champions her behind the scenes, provides challenging and highly noticeable work
assignments, brings her along on client meetings and ensures that she plays an active
role, and by association signals her legitimacy to decision-makers. A mentor like this functions as a sponsor. Unfortunately, in my experience, I've found few law firm
mentoring programs that focus on this critical role.

Yet having a sponsor makes all the difference in enabling women to advance
to full equity partnership. Among the first questions I ask all the women law firm
attorneys I coach is, "Do you have a sponsor?" If the answer is "no" then, assuming
her goal is to advance, this becomes a top agenda item. Establishing mentoring
relationships with high-level, powerful insiders is essential for women pursuing career advancement in the legal profession.

Studies of the relationship between mentoring and the career success of
women in professional service firms, and law firms in particular, suggest that a
senior male attorney is likely to most effectively fill this mentoring role. If
for no other reason than the fact that the overwhelming majority of law firm
partners and leaders are men, this is probably not very surprising.

However, the gendered culture of law firms also influences the differential effects of male vs. female mentors for the careers of women attorneys. Success in most firms requires the ability to thrive in a highly competitive, aggressive, individualistic, "heroic" culture. Attributes stereotypically associated with masculine behavior are viewed as indicators of potential and "fit." Decision-makers always have imperfect information about candidates for advancement. In the absence of sufficient, objective information to allow for a rational means of discriminating among aspiring attorneys, having a powerful male mentor signals to the predominantly male leadership that a woman lawyer possesses those sought-after competencies and qualities typically associated with her male peers. In other words, a male sponsor may help a woman overcome implicit bias based upon gender stereotypes."

What's your take on this article and your experience with mentoring? What facets of a mentoring program are most beneficial to women and minority associates? What should they look for in informal mentoring relationships?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Case(s) of the Week 3/16/09

Prior conduct may bar an applicant's admission to the bar, but the applicant can still offer evidence of rehabilitation to impress upon the bar examiners why he or she should be admitted.

For example, an applicant who was previously denied admission to the Nebraska bar -- due to a prior sexual assault conviction for alleged misconduct involving the applicant’s underage niece, an inappropriate letter to another juvenile, and two arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol -- was granted admission six years later. The court held that the applicant presented sufficient evidence of rehabilitation, including: medical documentation that he has resolved his previous conditions; service in Iraq and in his community; and a substantial number of letters of support from those who knew him. In re Hartmann 276 Neb 775 (2008)

By contrast, “making good” isn’t always sufficient evidence of rehabilitation in the eyes of the court. In one Massachusetts case, the court held, “A prior conviction is not an absolute bar to admission. We have stated that no offense is so grave as to preclude a showing of present moral fitness…The commission of a felony is, however, conclusive evidence of lack of good moral character at the time of the offense.” In re Prager, 422 Mass. 86 (1996). In that case, Prager was convicted of smuggling large quantities of marijuana and subsequently fled the country; he later returned and successfully complied with the terms of his probation. The court held, “seven years of a creditable work history, and compliance with the terms of a five-year probationary period, are insufficient to show good moral character when balanced against approximately sixteen years of marihuana use, international smuggling, and living as a fugitive.” Id., at 100.

Is Cheating Contagious?

Academic dishonesty in law school is no small matter.

As one author reports, "The concern and awareness about academic misconduct is not unwarranted. Integrity is a cornerstone of the legal profession and statistics concerning cheating are real. Surveys have shown that seventy percent of high school and college students admit to having engaged in some form of cheating, and that forty-five percent of law students admit to having cheated.” See Caroline P. Jacobson, Academic Misconduct and Bar Admissions: A Proposal for a Revised Standard, 20 Geo. J. Legal Ethics at 739 (2007).

But is cheating among students contagious?

According to an article on Newsweek.com, new research suggests some interesting conclusions:

"The idea was to see how many of the students followed the cheater's example—to see if blatant dishonesty boosted cheating among students generally. And it did, dramatically. But the psychologists added another twist to the experiment: sometimes they had the actor wear the T shirt of a rival university, other times not. They wanted to see if the cheater's group identity—classmate or outsider—influenced the level of copycat cheating. That is, would students cheat more (or less) when they saw a rival cheat, as compared to seeing a compatriot cheat?

The results were unambiguous. As reported in the March issue of Psychological Science, fellow classmates had much more influence than outsiders. Indeed, seeing a rival cheat actually lowered the level of overall cheating slightly—compared to students who simply cheated on their own initiative, without any prodding. These findings argue against the "cold calculation" theory of cheating. After all, if the students only weighed the can-I-get-away-with-it factor, then they would have been influenced equally by the successful cheating of both compatriot and outsider. And they weren't."

Case of the Week 3/9/09

Perhaps the most important rule to remember when it comes to character and fitness exams? Be honest! Full disclosure is of utmost importance to the bar examiners.

For example, a 2009 Ohio applicant who had been convicted of speeding eight times, in addition to convictions for disorderly conduct and assault, was denied the chance to take the exam. In re Acton, 2009 WL 349793 The court learned that the applicant was cited for speeding four more times after he applied to take the exam, which he failed to disclose to the examiners—the Court did not buy the applicant’s explanation that he was “just forgetful” and had attention-deficit disorder. The court also noted that the applicant failed to disclose a default judgment for unpaid credit card debt in 2001.

When Career Counselors Say It's Okay to Use Humor in Job Searches...

...this is likely NOT what they mean!

Above the Law reports that an unemployed attorney took an unconventional approach to drafting a cover letter--using excerpts from nine other firms' form rejection letters sent to the applicant.

On the Above the Law website, the letter reads:

"Your colleagues from other competitive firms have had a great deal to say about me; therefore, I would like to share with you some of their opinions. Alston & Bird writes, "your qualifications are impressive." Remarkably, Blank Rome makes an identical assertion. McKee Nelson also express this view but do not limit its opinion to my qualifications. Rather, it considers my "credentials and qualifications" to be "impressive." Chadbourne & Parke takes a different focus, indicating that my "background is impressive."

Other firms convey similar opinions with a different focal point. Epstein, Becker & Green is "impressed" with "my credentials." According to King & Spalding, my "resume is impressive." Furthermore, Debevoise & Plimpton feels slightly more strongly, stating that they were "most impressed" with my resume. Uniquely commenting on both my background and credentials, Dow Lohnes indicates that they "were quite impressed." Cleverly using a more concise adjective-noun wording, Holland & Knight writes that I have an "impressive background."

The ABA Journal reports that the applicant received a tenth rejection within three days.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Case of the Week 3/2/09

Conduct during the bar examination matters to the examiners when assessing an applicant's character and fitness to practice law. Improper, untruthful, or unprofessional conduct during the bar exam -- like bringing in materials that are not allowed or cheating on the test -- can bar an applicant's admission.

A 2008 Ohio applicant was not admitted to the bar after consciously disregarding the examiners’ instructions to stop writing during the essay portion of the bar exam and continuing to write her answers for a few minutes after time was called. In re Application of Nwankwo, 2009 WL 214571. The court was not convinced by the petitioner’s explanation that she was “so invested” in passing the bar exam that she was “desperate” to write down everything she could remember.

Discussion Question 3/2/09

Note: These periodic discussion questions are designed to inspire dialogue about law student ethics and professionalism, whether through in-class discussions, informal discussions, or in the form of comments online.

In what ways can law schools teach concepts dealing with ethics and professionalism in the following areas? In what ways does your law school incorporate ethics and professionalism into the following courses or areas of academics? Please share success stories as well as areas where there may be room for improvement:

* Law student clinics
* Academic components to internships and externships
* Substantive courses
* Legal research and writing courses
* Academic counseling and support

Monday, February 23, 2009

Case of the Week 2/23/09

Engaging in any kind of intimidating, abusive, or turbulent behavior towards others is a red flag for the bar examiners.

In one case, an applicant was denied admission to the Nebraska Bar after he was charged with brandishing a deadly weapon, burglary, assault, making threats, and stalking as a college student; and with aggravated harassment stemming from an altercation with a fellow student as a law student. In re Antonini, 272 Neb. 985 (2007). The court found the applicant to be untruthful on his bar application about the charges against him. “We have held that ‘abusive, disruptive, hostile, intemperate, intimidating, irresponsible, threatening, or turbulent behavior is a proper basis for the denial of admission to the bar.’” Id., at 993. “[The applicant] has been involved in three serious incidents involving abusive, disruptive, hostile, intemperate, intimidating, irresponsible, threatening, and turbulent behavior. In each of these incidents, [the applicant] showed complete disregard for others as well as a lack of self-control.” Id., at 994.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Case of the Week, 2/16/09

Both bar examiners and law school administrators are concerned with false statements and dishonesty--whether those statements are made on law school applications, bar applications, or elsewhere.

Some law schools are taking measures to punish students for dishonesty or false statements. One student lied on his resume about his class rank and GPA, and failed to disclose on his resume that he was a transfer student; a potential employer discovered the misrepresentations and called the student’s law school dean. See Gagne v. The Trustees of Indiana University, 692 N.E.2d 489 (Ind. App. 1998). In addition, the student failed to disclose a criminal conviction and pending charges for reckless driving on his law school applications. He was expelled from his law school and then sued the school, claiming breach of contract and violation of his due process rights; he lost.

Discussion Question 2/16/09

Note: These periodic discussion questions are designed to inspire dialogue about law student ethics and professionalism, whether through in-class discussions, informal discussions, or in the form of comments online.

*** You are in charge of evaluating bar applicants' character and fitness for the practice of law in jurisdiction. To what extent does each of the following discoveries influence your decision? To what extent does each factor weigh against the applicant?

* You discover that one applicant has failed to disclose a conviction for shoplifting, which occurred when the applicant was a juvenile;
* You discover that one applicant lied about his law school GPA on a job application;
* You discover that one applicant was accused by her legal writing professor of plagiarizing a memorandum, though the applicant was never formally disciplined by her law school;
* You discover that one applicant has posted compromising pictures of herself on a social networking site, including pictures depicting the applicant taking drugs.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Guest Blogger of the Month Post: A Law Student Perspective on Ethics and Professionalism in Law School

My name is Chad Johnson, and it is my pleasure to be a guest blogger on the Law Student Ethics blog. I am a third-year law student at Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington and the 2008-2009 ABA Law Student Division liaison to the Center for Professional Responsibility.

Like many of you, when I began law school, I had little sense of what area of law my career would ultimately focus upon; I simply knew that in three years, I would become an attorney. As I have progressed through law school, I have studied various fields of law and developed interests in several different practice areas. Yet, among all the different areas of law, I have discovered an important constant: ethics and professional responsibility. It is essential that as law students we develop strong ethical principles and a sense of professional responsibility, because ethical questions will inevitably arise in your future legal career, and perhaps even during your time as a law student.

One such area that law students should learn about during (and ideally before) law school involves issues of character and fitness. Each of us will be required to meet certain standards before we are declared fit to practice law; therefore, maintaining professional conduct and avoiding unethical situations is of vital importance, even during law school before many of us have any idea where our career is headed. For example, some students succumb to the pressure and intense competition of law school and resort to cheating on exams or plagiarizing papers. Certainly these cases are the extreme, but it should be noted that plagiarism can also be committed unintentionally, resulting from poor research and writing habits or procrastination. Staying on top of assignments and managing your time effectively can reduce mistakes and errors that could become disastrous.

On a more positive note, law school affords students many opportunities to begin to develop a professional character that will enhance your career. I encourage you to get involved in school clubs, volunteer organizations, and bar associations - these provide you with opportunities to not only gain experience, but in many cases you will be able to network with important, influential attorneys who can provide advice on how to maximize your potential. Additionally, don't forget that your professional network begins with your law school peers -- getting involved in clubs and extracurricular activities will allow you to get to know other students and develop relationships that will form the foundation of your professional network.

Now I don't claim to be an expert in these substantive areas -- I continue to learn more and more as I study the Model Rules in my Legal Professions class, but I even more as I strive to conduct my life in a manner consistent with my desire to enter an honorable legal profession entrusted with the care of others and self regulation. I don't mean to sound negative as I talk about these important issues either. Quite the opposite, really: learning and practicing proper conduct, and exercising ethical behavior can lead to great happiness and success, not only in your life as a law student, but throughout your future legal career.

Please contact me if you have questions, concerns, or just want to get a fellow law student's view on the importance of ethics and professional responsibility.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Case of the Week 2/9/09

When it comes to bar applications, a student’s improper business dealings or conduct during employment may raise eyebrows.

In one case, a student was involved in a fraudulent investment scheme that resulted in civil litigation by defrauded investors against the student and his partner, as well as criminal charges against the partner, but not against the student. In re Matthews, 94 N.J. 59 (1983). After the student disclosed the pending civil case on his bar application, the court concluded that despite the lack of criminal charges and purported non-involvement, the student did not have the requisite moral character to be admitted to the bar. The court held, “It cannot be disputed that Matthews should have known of the fraudulent nature of the scheme. Even Matthews, in retrospect, recognizes that too many elements of the scheme simply reeked with illegitimacy. Any reasonable person’s suspicion would have been raised by a series of purported investment opportunities, each of which returned an exceptionally high rate of profit, yet involved no risk.” Id., at 79. The court also found Matthews’ failure to file his tax returns on time troublesome.

Job Offers and Professionalism

Getting an offer of employment may be the most exciting part of your job search process, but offers -- receiving them, accepting them, discussing them, mulling them over, and declining them -- carry with them certain professional and ethical considerations.

On its website, the Association for Legal Career Professionals lists the following considerations for offers of employment:

"Offers and Decision-Making

* An offer of employment requires you to make a very important decision. If there are particular issues that are important to you, ask about them before you accept or decline an offer.

* Become familiar with NALP's Principles and Standards for Law Placement and Recruitment Activities, which include "General Standards for the Timing of Offers and Decisions." Copies of these ethical guidelines are available in law school career services offices and from NALP.

* Keep in touch with the Recruiting Coordinator or an attorney at the organization. Let them know what you are doing, even if you are interviewing with other employers. Be honest.

* The employer's letter confirming your offer should indicate a deadline for your response. You should make every effort to meet your offer deadline. Call the employer if you need an extension. Do not wait until the day before or the day of the deadline to ask for an extension.

Accepting and Declining Offers

* All job offers, salaries, terms of employment, etc., should be made in writing by the employer, and your acceptance should always be confirmed in writing.

* If you know your decision before the deadline date, you should communicate that to the employer. If you know you are not going to accept a particular offer, you should tell the employer immediately.

* Once you have accepted an offer, do not renege. Accepting a job offer and then calling back at a later date to say you've changed your mind can be a dangerous game. There may be circumstances which force you into this kind of unfortunate action, but professional circles are small and memories are long. Treat a potential employer as fairly as you expect to be treated yourself."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Case of the Week: 2/2/09

Lying on a bar application or failing to disclose information that the bar examiners may find relevant during a character and fitness examination is almost a surefire way to guarantee that an applicant either won’t be admitted to practice or will be closely scrutinized – with his or her application delayed – before admission.

In one case, an applicant disclosed to the Nebraska bar that he was disciplined by his law school for making personal use of student funds as treasurer of a student bar association, but failed to disclose that he was previously charged with writing a bad check and taking merchandise without payment; the applicant later explained that the two charges “slipped his mind.” In re Majorek, 244 Neb. 595 (1993). The court denied his application and said, “The fact that the applicant could forget encountering the criminal justice system for writing an insufficient funds check even as long as 10 years earlier, when he was 22 years old, is, in and of itself, bothersome. Does the lack of memory indicate that he did not consider the matter serious? Does it indicate that he represses unpleasant experiences and thus does not learn from them? Does the latter hypothesis explain why he has written other insufficient funds checks? Whatever the explanation, the applicant’s self-confessed forgetfulness about so serious a matter does not inspire confidence in his fitness to practice law.” Id., at 604. The court also noted, “The applicant was 31 years old when he misappropriated his fellow students’ funds and had spent considerable time studying law—the misappropriation was hardly the act of a na├»ve and callow youth. While the applicant found himself in a difficult financial situation, the circumstance provides no excuse for his conduct.” Id., at 603.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Law Student Resumes and Ethical Issues

Resumes, cover letters, and writing samples are a staple of law student recruiting and employment applications--but drafting them in an unethical manner can get law students and recent grads in big trouble.

On its website, the Association for Legal Career Professionals provides the following tips for staying ethical while drafting your resume and cover letter:

"First impressions count - and in legal recruiting, your resume, cover letter, transcript and writing samples are your tools for being counted.

* All information provided in your resume and cover letter must be accurate. Distortion, misrepresentation, exaggeration, or intention to include inaccurate information in your resume or cover letter is unethical and inexcusable. You should be willing and able to discuss everything listed on your resume.

* Represent your grades and/or class rank accurately. You should not "round up" your grades (from a 2.5 to a 3.0, for example), or round down your class rank (from top 22% to top 20%).

* Include bar status on your resume once you have taken the bar examination. Be sure to include the date you sat for the examination, the state in which you took it, and when the results are expected. Upon passing the examination, indicate the month and year of your admission.

* You should supply employers with the most current transcript available. If you have received grades that the law school registrar has not recorded, you may attach a separate listing of the courses taken and grades received.

* Writing samples should be your own unedited work. If the writing sample has been edited, state this fact clearly. You may also explain the extent of the editing by others. If your writing sample was prepared for a previous employer, you must obtain permission from that employer and take any necessary steps to protect the confidentiality of the client." (excerpted from the NALP website.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Law Grad? Participate in a Survey--Your Answers May Be Published!

If you're a recent law school graduate, I'd like to hear from you: share your experiences and insight about the first year on the job as a new lawyer, and your answers may be published in an upcoming book. I'm surveying recent law graduates working in all different fields, practice areas, and work environments.

The survey is below; please copy and paste your answers into an email or attach them as a Word document and send to Ursula Furi-Perry at ursula at furiperry.com

PLEASE NOTE: By filling out and submitting this questionnaire, you agree to have your comments reprinted in full or in part in Ursula Furi-Perry’s book, Young Lawyer Careers Revealed (working title, Jist Publishing, forthcoming January 2010.) Please note also that your comments will be attributed to you in the book, with your name, your law school, your year of graduation, and your current position printed.


Name:

Law school you graduated from:

Year of graduation:

Please list the position you held during the first year after you graduated law school:

Please list your current position if not the same as above, and please briefly describe the “journey” that took you to it, if applicable:

Please describe briefly some of the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities that you handled on the job during your first year as a new lawyer:

How did you find your first job? What do you think helped you land the job?

What career plans would you like to make in the next few years? What are your immediate career goals?

What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your work and your career so far, and why?

What would you consider the most frustrating or challenging part of the first year on the job as a new lawyer, and why?

What makes the first year on the job potentially the most difficult?

What skills and character traits have helped you make your first year on the job a successful one?

To what extent are the following factors important to you (please describe whether they are “very important,” “somewhat important,” “not very important,” or “insignificant,” and please feel free to elaborate on your choices where applicable, describing why you chose a particular label):

1. Work-life balance:
2. Associate or new employee retention:
3. Starting salary:
4. Associate/employee training and professional development:
5. Firm or employer diversity:
6. Pro bono work or contribution to public interest work on the job:
7. Getting meaningful and varied assignments:
8. Finding the “right fit”:

To what extent are you satisfied with the following factors in your position as a young lawyer (please describe whether you are “very satisfied,” “somewhat satisfied,” “not very satisfied,” or “dissatisfied,” and please feel free to elaborate on your choices where applicable, describing why you chose a particular label):

1. Work-life balance:
2. Associate or new employee retention:
3. Starting salary:
4. Associate/employee training and professional development:
5. Firm or employer diversity:
6. Pro bono work or contribution to public interest work on the job:
7. Getting meaningful and varied assignments:
8. Finding the “right fit”:

How do you maintain balance between your work as a young lawyer and the rest of your life? What advice would you give to other young lawyers about balancing their obligations and managing their time and workload well?

What training have you received during your first year on the job?

How do you keep up to date on your field? What professional development activities do you participate in?

How important is networking to you, and why? What does networking mean to you? How do you maintain your professional network, and what networking advice would you share with others?

To what extent did your law school experience prepare you for the first year on the job as a new lawyer? Did you concentrate on any particular academic area or participate in a clinical or practical program—and if so, did it help you on the job as a new lawyer?

How would you describe your relationship with your partners or superiors during your first year on the job? What advice would you give to other young lawyers on maintaining a successful working relationship with superiors?

What makes a position the “right fit,” in your opinion? How did you determine that your first job would be the “right fit” for your early career?

In your opinion, what makes a young lawyer “professional?” What factors go into professionalism?

How do you ensure that you maintain honesty and integrity and comport with ethical rules? What advice would you give to other young lawyers on ethics and professionalism?

What advice would you give to recent grads and law students on job hunting and finding that key first position?

What surprised you most about your first year on the job?

Can you share a particular moment or task you handled during your first year that you are proud of?

Can you share a particular moment or task that made you cringe?

Is there anything about the first year on the job that you would do differently in retrospect?

What general career advice would you give to upper-level law students or recent law grads?

Please feel free to list any other insight that you think would be important to share in this book:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Projecting a Professional Image Online

Law student professionalism doesn't just include projecting a professional image in person or on paper: your online conduct and the image you present over email and on the internet also matter--so much so that it can cost you job opportunities. In fact, a February article in the National Jurist reports that about 15% of law schools consult applicants' personal websites and social networking sites when deciding whether to admit an applicant! Legal employers may also check a candidate's online profile before extending a job offer.

In one case filed against AutoAdmit, a college discussion board and website, two Yale law students claimed that they were victims of regular disparaging remarks on the site's forums, which ultimately caused them to miss out on jobs and internships.

How can law students avoid looking unprofessional online? Start with the following tips:

* Beware of your social networking habits, as employers are increasingly looking at social networking sites before making hiring decisions. Your Facebook or Linkedin profile should not include anything that you wouldn't share with a potential employer in person.

* As I wrote in my career column for the National Jurist, you can use blogging to your advantage. A blog may help you stand out in the eyes of a potential employer--but only if you blog right! Rather than maintaining a personal blog, write about professional issues: for example, a practice area that you're interested in or have studied, or your involvement in a student group. Your writing should be positive and professional.

* Remember that your postings on the internet may be permanent. Even if you delete content, it can still be cached and pulled up later.

* The basic rules of professionalism also apply to email. It's easy to view email as a relaxed, informal communication tool, but if you're using email in a professional setting, you still need to be professional--so don't send out anything that you wouldn't put in a formal letter. (Remember the "bla bla bla heard 'round the world?")

Friday, January 9, 2009

Interesting Survey Results: Law Students on Legal Ethics?

Law students may not always be thrilled to study, contemplate, or discuss legal ethics in or outside of the classroom.

According to the 2008 results of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement:

" Fewer than half of students (42%) indicate that they frequently discuss ethical issues embedded in cases during doctrinal classes.

• Similarly, fewer than half of students (47%) indicate that they frequently reflect on their professional ethics and responsibilities.

• Almost a tenth (9%) of full-time 3L male students and 8% of their female peers report that they never engage in such self-reflection regarding their professional ethics and responsibilities."

According to a 2007 report by the Carnegie Foundation titled Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, "Law schools fail to complement the focus on skill in legal analyses with effective support for developing ethical and social skills. Students need opportunities to learn about, reflect on and practice the responsibilities of legal professionals. Despite progress in making legal ethics a part of the curriculum, law schools rarely pay consistent attention to the social and cultural contexts of legal institutions and the varied forms of legal practice. To engage the moral imagination of students as they move toward professional practice, seminaries and medical, business and engineering schools employ well-elaborated case studies of professional work. Law schools, which pioneered the use of case teaching, only occasionally do so."

Still, the LSSSE survey reports encouraging news about law schools' efforts to promote ethics and professionalism:

"About three-quarters of all full-time law students (76%) report that their institution “substantially” (very much or quite a bit) encourages the ethical practice of the law.

• Nearly half of full-time students (48%) state that their law school experience substantially contributes to their development of a personal code of values and ethics.

• Part-time students are somewhat more likely than full-time students (81% and 76% respectively) to report that their law school substantially emphasizes encouraging the ethical practice of law."

Introducing the Center for Law Student Ethics and Professionalism

There's plenty of information about legal ethics for lawyers--here, for example, or here. Yet there are few resources on ethics and professionalism specifically for law students.

Law Student Ethics and Professionalism Matter Because...

...professional and ethical conduct as a law student can help you succeed during and after law school.

...professional and ethical conduct can increase your chances of employment.

...unprofessional or unethical conduct can jeopardize your chance to complete your degree or get a job after your graduate.

...unprofessional or unethical conduct can jeopardize your chances of being admitted to the bar--and in some cases, taking the bar exam.

...not understanding the kinds of conduct that can get you in trouble can have devastating consequences.

...law school offers you the first chance to learn about ethics and professionalism and practice ethical and professional conduct.

Need some more information? Visit the Center for Law Student Ethics and Professionalism website.

There, you'll find a comprehensive resource on issues dealing with ethics and professionalism as a law student and beyond. It provides information about some of the areas of susceptibility that students must avoid; examples of repercussions for unethical or unprofessional conduct by law students; and tips for avoiding unethical conduct, presenting a professional image, and overall success in law school.