Friday, February 22, 2008

Resolving the lack of mentors at law firms

by Zebroid (c) 2008

Associates at leading law firms often ask the ever so important question, “How do I find a mentor?!” A plea for advice.

"I am getting good experience but I get NO mentoring. I get given work I have no experience doing. With a little mentoring I would be able to do it better. No one reviews my work it goes directly to the client. I am very stressed"

Although there are several different approaches to solving this problem, I’ve collected a few ideas of ways to deal with the issue.

Answer 1
Find who at your firm is in charge of ‘Professional development’. Arrange a meeting, if they are in a different office, arrange a time to speak on the phone. If this does not work Go speak to the practice chair/leader.

Open with:

“I really want to grow and learn. I want to be as effective and productive as I can be”

Remember it is all about “them” what you can do for “them”, never about you and how frustrated you are.

Prepare some examples of where a mentor would have made you more effective and reduced the institutional risk.

Identify individuals that would be good mentors prior, as you maybe asked

Then sit back and “listen”.

Answer 2
I think that despite the popularity of the topic, real mentorships are just tough to come by. Select carefully, but identify an individual within your business that is accessible to you and who has demonstrated success in their career. Observe their personal style for a while and ask yourself if this is a style you would like to emulate. Finally, approach the individual and explain that you are seeking guidance from some kind of informal mentorship and are interested in exploring with them how you might take advantage of their experience and knowledge from time to time. Ask them if they have an experience with mentoring and how such a relationship might or might not work for them.

Answer 3
I’m not sure there is a universally acceptable solution to this. So many factors come into play.
1. Experienced lawyers become frustrated by spending time to teach new lawyers, where the probability of those new lawyers moving on to other jobs is high.
2. Few firms actually set their rewards systems to encourage any conduct not seen as a direct revenue generator.
3. Time and billing pressures on lawyers make any serious teaching effort seem counterproductive, particularly given point numbers 1 & 2.
4. The level of attention that a new lawyer might desire as “mentoring” can sometimes be seen by an experienced lawyer as a demand for needless hand-holding or coddling. The best route that I’ve found so far is to encourage experienced lawyers to pick out one newer person to work with and “mentor.” Letting the experienced lawyer select the person seems to reduce the effects of point 4. Having the new person directly assist the experienced lawyer on a consistent basis, seems to reduce point 3.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

So you think a recruiter can find you a job?

By Zebriod (c) 2008
(planning to find a new job)

If it has not happened to you yet, it happens more and more often, the work disappears and you need to find a new job. When this happens the first thing you need is a plan, a plan to land a new job. It is always easier to land a new job when you have a job, but you don’t have the time and that is not the situation I intend to cover here.

The plan needs to be more than finding a recruiter and sitting back. You need to be in control of your search, a recruiter can only help if they have the right client.

Step 1. Ground work
Get you paperwork in order:
1a. Review your resume (See my article on writing your resume)
1b. Review all your accomplishments – write them up, no one is going to hire you because you need a job, they will only hire you if you bring something they need (See my article on accomplishments)
1c. Make a personal marketing statement (see creating your elevator pitch)
1d. Get copies of transcripts – many companies require these if you have post grad education.
1e. Prepare your references – this is very important, networking can land you the job you need. Call everyone you know and ask them if they would be willing to provide you a professional reference if needed – don’t be proud.

Step 2. How to stay in control
Make sure all recruiters have your permission directly from you prior to submitting your resume to any employer. Recruiters have a natural incentive to send your resume to as many companies as possible, just in case you get hired. Normally they can claim a fee if you go to work for any of these within a year of submitting your resume.

Create a spreadsheet of possible companies. Use the internet to research companies in your location or in your sector

Number Co Name Website Co Contact Recruiter Date sent Notes--->

Only self submit through the website as a last resort. Try to place a call into the company, use you marketing pitch and attempt to get someone in the company to get you in. If you submit through the website will be joining hundreds of “chef s and chauffeurs” and as a result your resume will first be read by a machine, so make sure you have as many “key words” as possible.

Step 3. Network

Most mid career job changes are a result of “networking” not recruiters, it is expensive for companies to find quality staff and as a result networking has a distinct advantage over using a recruiter. It maybe difficult to call previous colleagues and admit that you are searching for a new job, but it has to be done. Call them all, make sure you are prepared to market yourself even when you think they know you. Use an indirect approach “Do you know anyone that is hiring”, “Do you have anyone over at xyz company that I can call?”.

This is difficult, but do it. Finding the next job is a full time job.

Step 4. Be prepared

The first step is to get an interview, but an interview is not the end, just the end of the beginning. Be prepared to interview well.

Try to be nice and well mannered at all times.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What Makes For a Good Resume?

by Zebriod (c) 2007

1. Don't use tables; I scream every time I see an overly complicated tabled resume! Resume are distributed via email and rarely printed any more. The resume must look good on a screen, tables make it too busy, work at a simple clean look.

2. The purpose of a resume is to get you the interview! Actual the object is just to get them interested enough to “read” it.

A resume is not the best historical document of your life! No one reads, so why do you expect anyone to read your resume? The best you can hope for is someone to scan it; you better make every word count.

3. Avoid long paragraphs. Let’s call it the three line rule. If you have to use more than three lines to describe any role you should go back to the drawing board. Re-read it asking “who would be interested”

Example: (taken from an actual resume, you don't have to read it! - it makes the point)

Primary responsibility for advising OTC and Listed Equity Trading Desks, Equity Sales, International Trading, Equity Option Trading, and securities exchange floor trading operations, with coverage responsibilities for Transaction Services, Research, and Retail Equity. Developed legal structure for 10b5-1 trading program, and negotiated transactions thereunder; also negotiated prime brokerage, service, and various other agreements. Development and implementation of firm-wide policies and communications in connection with extended-hours trading, decimalization, best execution, payment for order flow, electronic trading, etc., as well as preparation and implementation of supervisory procedures for desk and floor operations. Antitrust attorney in charge of supervising Compliance officers engaged in Department of Justice stipulated taping. Provided transactional and trading support to equity and fixed income businesses in London office, both from New York and in London.

Did you get any of that? I did not follow it at all, how about the following re-write?

· Advising OTC, Listed and Option Equity Sales and Trading Desks, and exchange floor trading operations of all legal matters.
· Establishing 10b5-1 trading program and prime brokerage services.
· Communicating firm-wide policies in connection with extended-hours trading, decimalization, best execution electronic trading, and payment for order flow.

4. Make every word count. It is a good goal to get your resume on to one page, (and that is the case when you have had a 25 year career or are only just starting out.) Allocate more space to the most relevant and more recent stuff; don't be put off by creating a specially tailored version of your resume for each job opportunity.

A resume has three main components: (Features; Education; Accomplishments)

(i) Features - these are dates, companies and titles;
JP Morgan Chase, Dec 2002 - Present Vice President, Global Trading Foreign Exchange
(ii) Education - This can be placed at the start or at the end depending on how stellar it is. If you have a P.hD why not highlight it.
(iii) Accomplishment at each position; Avoid long paragraphs, attempt to use action words to describe your accomplishments using bullets, it is all about what you can do for the next company!
4. Don't Clog it up. I hate the poor pitch a lot of people add under "Objectives" or "Skill" and clog up the resume - don't do it.... Do you think anyone believes you when the resume says "good communicator" "good team player" etc... this is just hot air. If you feel the urge to do this spend the time drafing a good cover letter.


First Surname
1500 May Blvd. Arlington VA 22201 ♦ (900) 367-8614 ♦

University School of Law, Atlanta, GA
Juris Doctor Degree, May 2002. Highest Grade in Dispute Resolution
Moot Court, Intellectual Property. Emory Award Scholarship
London School of Economics, London, England
Masters in Economics, June 1999
Graduated With Distinction. London Friends Scholarship
Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and Economics, May 1998
Graduated Summa Cum Laude. Margaret C. Peabody Fellowship. W. C. Rockefeller Grant

Bar Memberships
Admitted to the New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C. Bar Associations, eligible to waive into Massachusetts
Law firn, L.L.P., Washington D.C. August 2003 - Present
· Research and writing in government procurement, international contracts, corporate structuring, export and intellectual property law
· Litigated before the Government Accountability Office and Court of Federal Claims regarding organizational conflicts of interest and corporate compliance issues
· Reviewed contracts for joint venture between two film studios and litigated against claims of dilution and misappropriation of commercial likeness
· Drafted negotiated license rights for software package to be sold to the Department of Defense
· Negotiated assignment of rights of multi-media software from Swedish based entertainment company to major U.S. entertainment consulting group
· Advised international clients on Buy American Act, Trade Agreement Act, Berry Amendment
· Litigated claims of trademark infringement and deceptive trade practice for website based company regarding video streaming of news and entertainment clips
· Defended music company product line and packaging from trade dress infringement claims

US Corporate Inc., New York, NY and Newark, NJ January 2003 – August 2003
Assistant General Counsel
· Worked exclusively with client regarding licensing, trademark/domain litigation
· Drafted shareholder agreements, employment / consulting contracts, non-disclosure agreements, licensing and sub-licensing contracts for data rights, manuals and software tutorials
· Filed company trademark and assisted with patent provisionals
· Drafted proposals for STTR, SBIR and DARPA regarding portable medical devices funding

Law firm, P.C., New York, NY and West Orange, NJ May 2002 – January 2003
· Drafted performance and payment bond documents for surety entities
· Litigated state and city contractual claims on behalf of construction companies working in NY

Publications: Contributor, ……………………..

Language Skills: Spanish; German (conversational); learning Russian

ABC of good interviewing

ABC’s of Good Interviewing.

The purpose of a resume is to get the interview; the purpose of the interview is to receive any offer.

A. Your perspective.
An interview should be hard work and you must be prepared. However let’s understand first what you are trying to accomplish. When you have completed the interview you should be able to answer the following three questions:
Do you understand the opportunity
Can you do the job, and
Do you want the job?
We can flip these and easy understand what the interviewer is trying to accomplish!

B. The basics.
Never forget the basics. That is know where you have to be, be there 15 minutes early, be well presented, that is have clean shoes, be well prepared, know all you can about the interviewers and company. And above all be respectful. Wear a suit even if the company has a casual dress code.

People hire people they like, people like people with energy. So have good posture, eye contact, listening skills! and use words such as contribute, enhance, and improve in your responses.

C. Be prepared for the Ice-breakers.
Over 80% of interviews start off with an icebreaker like “tell me about yourself”. These are dangerous and you need to be on guard. Interviews are rarely interested in you to the extent that they are will to sit a listen to where you grew up and irrelevant stories – so we have to keep it relevant at all times. So how do you answer it? You need to do some homework.

Prepare your own marketing statement the night before. Everyone needs this at all times, it is sometimes referred to as your elevator speech or pitch. Imagine you get caught in the elevator with the boss between floors; you would not want to miss the opportunity…

This is what it looks like, prepare a 3 part statement:
Part 1 – One sentence summary of career to date.
Part 2 – Accomplishment you are proud of that will capture the employer’s attention.
Part 3 – One sentence summary of what you want to do next in your career.

Example “I’ve had 16 years of experience in the industry while serving as a {job title} with company ABC for the last five years. While at ABC, I led the successful {accomplishment} which resulted in us achieving {bottom line impact…saving money, saving time, awards/recognition}. For my next career move, I desire to move to a company with more prestige where I can continue to add value for the long term.”

Tips. We always need to do our homework and this statement is a good demonstration. Part 1 needs to be relevant and most people have to work at making this short, easy to ramble on here – the interviewer is not interested.

Part 2 is very telling, prepare as many accomplishments from your career as possible, select the best for your marketing statement and use the remainder through out the interview to answer other question. For example if you get a skill question “what do you know about ..?” You can have a specific accomplishment that highlights your knowledge.

Part 3 allows you to answer “why am I here and why you should hire me?” right up front. Don’t miss the chance.

**An Extra Tip: If given the opportunity to ask a question at the very beginning of the interview – Ask, “What exactly are you looking for in a (title of position)?” Listen Carefully! You should target the rest of your interview answers so that they cover what the hiring manager’s response was to that question.

D. How to answer behavioral questions.

You are going to get many questions in interviews that are skill, knowledge or behavioral based. For example, what’s the most difficult situation you ever faced on a job?

Answer questions with examples, so you will be glad you did your homework. Remember rule 1 – it is all about them, how do you joining them benefit them? How do your previous accomplishments and experiences benefit them?
One way you want to think of this answer using the SOAR or STAR principles.

Situation Situation
Obstacle Task
Action Action
Result Result

“I was in this situation, I was given this task, I took the following actions and result was…”

See how all the accomplishments you prepared for your marketing statement will be very useful?

Each discipline will have their own skill requirement so be prepared, we can’t cover that here but all employers are looking for the same three things:

Skills, Experience and Stability

But be prepared to highlight the “intangible” using accomplishments. Saying you are a “good team player, good communicator, hard worker, cultural fit, internally motivated” with no context is hollow.
E. Be ready to ask good questions.

When finally the interviewer will ask “have you any questions for me?” The wrong answer is “No”. Interviewers like to talk about themselves and they get as much out of you questions as the answer to their questions.

Prepare questions in these 3 categories:
Questions about the job / opportunity
Questions about the company, however never ask something that is publicly available.
Questions about the interviewer, how about testing them with “tell me about yourself”

Sample Questions:
-What would you expect me to achieve in the first 6 months?
-Is there anything I can tell you about my qualifications that I haven’t said yet?
-What are the principal challenges I would face in this job?