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

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.


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. 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.