Hunting for a job? Maybe a ‘strategy group’ is in order

I’m currently reading “The Happiness Project” by U.S. Supreme Court clerk-turned-author Gretchen Rubin. In a chapter about seeking happiness in her work life, she reveals one of her “Secrets of Adulthood”: “It’s okay to ask for help.”

She describes how she came up with the idea of meeting with two other authors once every six weeks for two hours in order to talk shop. Hashing out her ideas with others similarly situated improved both her writing and marketing plans and made her accountable to a writing schedule. The three called themselves a “writers’ strategy group.”

 

The knowledge that you have to talk out loud to other people, or at least communicate electronically about the actions you’ve taken to further your job-hunting, will likely hold you accountable to your action plan. And the support you’ll likely receive from others in the same boat may very well keep you afloat!

Similarly, I’ve observed my wife Erin and two of her friends hold each other accountable to their running schedules. Every Sunday, each group member e-mails the other two a detailed description of the past week’s workouts, complete with no holds barred commentary like “Tuesday’s run was miserable! This hobby is stupid.” Sending an email that fesses up to missing a workout or two, or failing to send the email at all, stokes the ire of the group to the extent that the offending party rights the ship the following week.

I see some application of Rubin’s writers’ strategy group and Erin’s running support group to a legal job search. Law school is obviously a competitive place, and job-hunting often pits law student against law student in a high stakes struggle. But how about creating an informal job seekers’ support group of no more than two or three other students, preferably those who share slightly different career goals than you in order to minimize potential conflict?

Like Rubin’s group, you could meet on a regular basis to swap ideas and encouragement. Or like Erin’s group, you could commit to regularly send each other emails that detail your recent job-hunting efforts.

The knowledge that you have to talk out loud to other people, or at least communicate electronically about the actions you’ve taken to further your job-hunting, will likely hold you accountable to your action plan. And the support you’ll likely receive from others in the same boat may very well keep you afloat!

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

Bureau of Justice Statistics website makes crime stats freely available

In need of crime statistics and don’t know where to look? Try the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics!

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (B.J.S.) was first established on Dec. 27, 1979, under the Justice Systems Improvement Act of 1979. Their goal is to: “collect, analyze, publish, and disseminate information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. These data are critical to federal, state, and local policymakers in combating crime and ensuring that justice is both efficient and evenhanded.”

Using data collected by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, along with other Department of Justice statistical programs and data from other federal agencies, the B.J.S. makes this data freely available to anyone with a computer.

Data is published annually on:

  • Criminal victimization
  • Populations under correctional supervision
  • Federal criminal offenders and case processing

Periodic data series include:

  • Administration of law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities
  • Prosecutorial practices and policies
  • State court case processing
  • Felony convictions
  • Characteristics of correctional populations
  • Criminal justice expenditure and employment
  • Civil case processing in State courts
  • Special studies on other criminal justice topics

Need some old data? Well luckily B.J.S. archives data files, documents them, and makes them available through the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.

So hope on and take a look around! You just might be surprised at the various types of statistics you can find!

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Career Services: Gearing up for the fall

As June draws to a close, the Office of Career Services is busy preparing for the onset of the fall semester. Today we will post a nearly complete list of our fall Tuesday/Thursday programming on the “Events” section of Symplicity.

Our schedule includes panels on the state of the legal economy, on-campus and call-back interviewing, the bar exam and practice area-specific discussions. We will also again co-sponsor a six-part Student Success Series with the Office of Student Affairs.

For the first time, we will offer some of our programming as on-demand webinars. We’re still putting the final touches on the first two webinars: “Interviewing Tips” and “Beyond On-Campus Interviews.” The former should be ready for release in early August, with “Beyond OCI” to follow in early September.

On Thursday, July 1, students will be able to access a list of the employers currently registered for fall on-campus interviews in the “OCI” section of Symplicity. Beginning July 1, you can submit resumes and other application materials on Symplicity to the fall OCI employers. The deadline to submit resumes for consideration by Week 1 employers is 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2.

Twenty-seven employers are currently registered. Last year we topped out at 43 fall OCI employers, and we expect our final employer total to rise modestly this year with the mildly improving economy.

Three frequently asked questions about OCI:

  1. Is there any advantage to applying earlier in the OCI submission period?
    No. The employers will wait until the OCI application period closes to begin reviewing the submissions.
  2. Will more employers register for OCI?
    Yes. Due to the recession, the number of employers registering for on-campus interviews has fallen sharply nationwide. We will continue to solicit registrations and expect that 20-25 additional employers will register by the time the five-week fall OCI period has concluded.
  3. Will my revised resume that reflects my summer activities need to be approved by Career Services before it can be submitted to employers?
    Yes. We must approve your updated resume before it can be submitted to an employer, so don’t wait until the last minute to revise and upload. Once uploaded and approved, you may submit the resume by clicking on the “Apply” button in an employer’s OCI record.

If you are interested in large law firms that are not interviewing on campus at KU Law, it is important to contact those firms by cover letter and resume in the month of July. This is necessary because large firms in other cities will interview on campus in August and September at schools nearby, and you’ll want to be considered by these firms at the same time as students at those schools.

To conduct quick and easy searches for large firms and the names of their recruiting contacts, consult www.nalpdirectory.org and www.martindale.com (using the “Advanced Search” feature to search by firm size).

Also, if you are a 3L, be aware that OSCAR, the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review, is up and running. Federal judges post their judicial clerkship openings on OSCAR, and applicants can upload resumes, cover letters, reference letters and writing samples to the website.

OSCAR Version 6 debuted on Monday, May 17. Class of 2011 law school graduates gained access to OSCAR on Friday, May 21.

Tuesday, Sept. 7, is the first date when OSCAR-based applications may be accessed and reviewed by federal judges. Monday, Sept. 13, is the first date when judges may contact applicants to schedule interviews. Thursday, Sept. 16, is the first date when interviews may be held and offers made.

If you are a 2L interested in working for a federal agency during the summer of 2011, you should definitely consult the Government Honors and Internship Handbook. The 2009-10 edition may be accessed online. Please e-mail me if you need the username and password.

The 2010-11 edition should be released in the next couple of weeks. Many federal agencies will set 2L application deadlines in August, September or October 2010 for positions to begin in the summer of 2011.

Finally, you should know that the job postings of other law schools may be accessed at the Intercollegiate Job Bank. Again, if you need the username and password, please e-mail me.

We understand that the fall job-hunting season can be stressful and difficult to manage along with classes, part-time work and all of life’s other obligations. I encourage you to schedule an appointment with me or Karen so we can assist you in organizing your thoughts about your career into a logical and productive action plan.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

Law.gov would be bold experiment in one-stop shopping for legal research

Have you heard about Law.gov? No? Well then, let me tell you!

Law.gov is a proposed repository for legal materials, open-sourced and open to the public. Included would be all primary materials of the United States and international governmental bodies. Law.gov would be a portal for authoritative local, state, national, foreign and international legal and legislative information. Basically, we are talking one-stop shopping.

Primary legal materials include all materials that have the force of law and are part of the law-making process, including briefs and opinions from the judiciary; reports, hearings and laws from the legislative branch; and regulations, audits, grants and other materials from the executive branch.

This sounds like a link dump, doesn’t it? It’s not. It is much more dynamic than that. Think of it as a MySpace or Facebook for governmental entities. Just as social media sites give you web-based software systems to build your own site, Law.gov would create its system from open-source software building blocks. This would allow states and municipalities to make their materials available as well without having to hire a full-time web master.

Now if you’ve ever had me in class, you have heard me say that if you are going to rely on the language of a case or statute, you must use the printed material. Errors are more likely to exist online. To alleviate these errors, Law.gov has a very interesting proposal:

TECH TALK: A Note On Authenticity. With the law, close just isn’t good enough. Primary legal materials need to be authentic and digitally signed. As the American Association of Law Librarians said in their ground-breaking report at the AALL National Summit on Authentic Legal Information in the Digital Age, “it is time to save the legal information system.” We propose to enlist the law students of America as auditors during the startup phase of Law.gov, asking students to systematically compare online to printed materials. The students would gain reputation points in the registry, which they could use to demonstrate their public service when applying for jobs or clerkships. Would such a system work? When we tour the law schools, we intend to dig in and ask that very question.

This appears to be a very bold move, but one worth looking into.

Check out Carl Malamud’s address to the Gov 2.0 Summit on Sept. 10, 2009, in Washington, D.C., for more information.

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Small firms, big opportunities: Prepare now for hiring increase on the horizon

In the legal profession, more than 80 percent of all private practitioners work in law firms of 50 or fewer attorneys, and only 10 percent work in firms of more than 100 lawyers. Hiring at small (two-10 attorneys) and mid-sized (11-25 attorneys) firms accounted for 41.1 percent of the law firm jobs accepted nationally by the Class of 2009. More than 50 percent of 2009 KU Law grads who accepted jobs in private practice went to work for a small or mid-sized firm.

The small and mid-sized firms that employ so many lawyers tend not to recruit law clerks and associates through on-campus interviews. Indeed, over the past decade, national employment surveys reveal that only about 25 percent of graduating 3Ls reported permanent employment as the result of an on-campus interview. For the class of 2009, the national figure was 24.7 percent, and the KU Law figure was 24.6 percent.

Many more students find jobs through networking, referrals, responding to job postings and sending targeted mailings. More than 60 percent of the KU Law Class of 2009 traced its permanent employment to one of these activities.

Each summer, Karen and I visit with attorneys who work for employers who do not interview on campus, most typically small law firms. The majority of attorneys with whom I’ve spoken this summer have reported an uptick in business over the last several months and a belief that the worst of the recession may be over.

The time is ripe for law students to prepare for the increase in hiring that could potentially be on the horizon. At each of my summer meetings with attorneys, I’ve asked for advice and suggestions for law students seeking summer or permanent employment.

Ian Bartalos of Harris McCausland PC in Kansas City revealed that his firm’s most recent hire got the job because of his persistence and tact. Harris McCausland had not advertised an interest in receiving applications, but the student got in touch by a well-written letter and followed up with two phone calls over a period of several weeks. The student performed well in the interview and had sparkling references. After the interview, the student sent the firm a thank-you note.

Good trial attorneys tenaciously pursue the facts. Job candidates who aggressively, but tactfully, pursue an opening will be willing as attorneys to doggedly track down a witness or comprehensively question a deponent to prepare for trial.

Matt Merrill of Brown & Ruprechet in Kansas City mentioned when applying to law firms, students should understand that resumes and cover letters matter. Misspellings, grammatical errors and mail merge mistakes will absolutely sink an application. Attention to detail is an important trait in successful job seekers and attorneys alike.

Jeff Peier of Klenda Mitchell Austerman in Wichita stated that smaller firms are often seeking utility players who can practice in many different areas. Students should consider enrolling in a variety of classes and artfully describing their diverse skill set in both a cover letter and interview.

Jeff recommended taking full advantage of opportunities to practice interviewing skills. In a smaller firm, the ability to communicate with clients and supervising attorneys is critical, and firms will evaluate a candidate’s confidence, poise and ability to communicate clearly in an interview.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

Listbean website helps users organize life’s little details

When you prepare to study for class, get ready for vacation or create a budget, what’s the first thing you do? If you answered, “make a list,” then I have a website for you!

It’s called Listbean, and it’s awesome!

Unlike other list sites, it is completely free and jam-packed with pre-populated lists. Personally, I like the fact that these lists are already put together. Of course, they aren’t me and don’t know exactly what I need, which is why they make each list fully customizeable.

The checklists are organized into various groups:

  • Home and Organizing
  • Business and Finance
  • Kids and Family
  • Retirement
  • Vacation and Travel
  • Parties and Celebrations
  • Health and Wellness
  • Seasonal

From the Listbean website:

“We want to help make you awesome. We know you are trying to get more done now than ever before. Listbean is our first crack at helping you be awesome at whatever it is you do. Be it parenting, organizing, photography or being an outdoor fanatic, we want to help you be awesome at it. A clean and sleek site that is easy to use and full of value. This is what we set out to create, and I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s just what we ended up with with Listbean.”

A few benefits of Listbean:

  • Want to create a checklist but don’t know where to start? We do. We’ve done the hard part of pulling the lists together. You can use the lists as is or use them as inspiration to create your own customized checklists.
  • You never have to retype checklists. Create an account and you can customize any of the lists you see on the site, save them and come back to them time and time again.
  • Be more efficient, effective and deliberate in everything you do. With checklists covering most things you need right at your fingertips, you can just get on with what needs to get done.

So go check it out and let me know your favorite. Mine? Timeless Toys, of course!

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Trends in law firm profitability suggest smartest route for future law students

At the National Association for Law Placement’s annual conference in late April, Dan DiPietro of Citibank spoke to a packed house of more than 800 conference goers. DiPietro is the managing director of the Law Firm Group at Citibank and visiting professor at Harvard Law School.

Citibank’s Law Firm Group provides advice and services to over 650 law firms in the United States and London. The group lends to more than 200 law firms in the U.S. and UK, including over half of the Am Law 100.

DiPietro spoke for over an hour about trends in law firm profitability. The dominant theme was that 1998 to 2007 was a golden age of profitability, marked by strong growth in demand for legal services, double-digit revenue growth and client tolerance for steady rate increases. Associate attorneys were hired at a rate that corresponded to the strong growth in demand, productivity was relatively steady, and the largest law firms outperformed the industry.

The 1998-2007 period was also a great time for legal employment. Nationwide statistics for the class of 2007 marked a 20-year high for entry-level legal employment rates.

Fissures in this law firm profitability model began to appear even before the recession hit. Over the last two recessionary years, DiPietro described six factors that combined to place enormous stress on the profitability of private law firms.

  • Client consolidation: Consider the financial services industry. Because of mergers and failing businesses, there are fewer clients doling out business to law firms.
  • Convergence and casting a wider net: For example, GE recently cut the number of law firms it employs from 400 to 200, and then again to 112. Large clients are actively seeking more attractive rate structures from their law firms.
  • Commoditizaton: Firms can become “expert” in a practice area quickly by hiring partners from other firms.
  • Heightened client demands: Clients want increased partner time but are less willing to accept high rates. This attitude has led them to cast a wider net when considering firms.
  • Intensifying price pressure: Clients are shopping for good value in all but “bet the company” cases.

These factors resulted in 2008-09 being marked by declining demand for legal services, rates increasing at a slower pace, profits per partner declining and the largest law firms underperforming the industry.

Law firms laid off partnership-track associates and dramatically reduced summer program hiring. There were 42,700 legal sector jobs lost between Dec. 1, 2008, and Dec. 1, 2009. Of the 12,000 people laid off at the 138 largest law firms, 4,633 were lawyers.

DiPietro suggested that to control the ratio of lawyers to partners (leverage) in the near future, large law firms will hire fewer traditional, partnership-track associates because they will be looking to not increase the number of equity partners.

In closing, DiPietro noted that he has a daughter who just finished her first year of law school. As an applicant, she was admitted to a top 20 school with no scholarship, as well as a lower-ranked school with a 90 percent scholarship. She sought her dad’s advice about where to enroll, and DiPietro strongly encouraged her to enroll at the solid but lower-ranked law school where she could graduate with minimal debt.

It is his belief that due to uncertainty about the availability of jobs at large law firms paying six-figure salaries, it is wise for law students to get a good but affordable education that will enable them to consider the widest range of potential entry-level jobs.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

Happy Geek Pride Day from a Wheat Law librarian and self-proclaimed geek

My name is Blake, and I’m a geek. It’s true. For those of you who know me, this comes as no surprise. But for those who don’t, it’s not a difficult conclusion to draw. I am a law librarian. Trading in the courtroom for the library is tantamount to trading in Atticus Finch for Rupert Giles.

I let it slip, didn’t I? The real reason I’m a geek? It’s not because I’m a law librarian, although that does give me some geek street cred. What makes me a geek is that I get the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” reference. And I know that “Star Wars” premiered on this day in 1977. And, according to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” today is Towel Day. And Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” celebrates the Glorious 25th of May.

Well, today is something else. Today is Geek Pride Day! It’s a day which claims that every person can claim the right to be a geek! There is even a manifesto:

Rights:

  1. The right to be even geekier.
  2. The right to not leave your house.
  3. The right to not like football or any other sport.
  4. The right to associate with other nerds.
  5. The right to have few friends (or none at all).
  6. The right to have as many geeky friends as you want.
  7. The right to be out of style.
  8. The right to be overweight and near-sighted.
  9. The right to show off your geekiness.
  10. The right to take over the world.

Responsibilities:

  1. Be a geek, no matter what.
  2. Try to be nerdier than anyone else.
  3. If there is a discussion about something geeky, you must give your opinion.
  4. To save and protect all geeky material.
  5. Do everything you can to show off geeky stuff as a “museum of geekiness.”
  6. Don’t be a generalized geek. You must specialize in something.
  7. Attend every nerdy movie on opening night and buy every geeky book before anyone else.
  8. Wait in line on every opening night. If you can go in costume or at least with a related T-shirt, all the better.
  9. Never throw away anything related to geekdom.
  10. Try to take over the world!

So in celebration of this most joyous of days, I say to you:

  • May the Force be with you.
  • Live long and prosper.
  • Inconceivable!
  • Kneel before Zod!
  • Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler…
  • This is my Boomstick!
  • NEE!
  • Excelsior!
  • The Dude abides.
  • One ring to rule them all
  • With great power there must also come — great responsibility.

Can you guess these films? Do you have other quotes? Feel free to add by leaving a comment!

W. Blake Wilson, Instrucational & Research Services Librarian – and Geek

Library’s Kagan page provides one-stop shop for information on the Supreme Court nominee

The University of Michigan Law Library’s informational Web page for the latest nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, was created May 10 by reference librarian Kincaid Brown within hours of the announcement. It is available here.

The Web page includes biographical information about Kagan, links to her authored works, transcripts of speeches and links to confirmation hearings for her nomination as solicitor general. The site will be updated as Brown continues to compile material and as new information becomes available. When the confirmation hearings begin, the site will also include links to the hearing transcripts.

We hope this Web page will enable you to follow Kagan’s progress through the nomination process!

Enjoy!

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

How to find your dream job when you have a law degree but don’t want to practice law

So you have attained (or are working toward attaining) your Juris Doctor but have decided not to practice law. If you already have your dream job, then you are set. But not knowing what your dream job is does not have to be a nightmare. You just need to take a step back and do some groundwork.

First, try to remember why you initially decided to go to law school. Many times, the past provides a key to your future. Then consider bringing your other degrees into the mix. If you truly enjoyed your area of study in undergraduate or graduate school, you might be able to have the best of both worlds by finding a career in which you can use all of your degrees.

Second, reflect on previous jobs – paid or volunteer positions – that you have enjoyed. What did you like about these opportunities? Was it the job, the people or even the location? Next, consider those jobs you did not enjoy. Again, try to determine why it was not a good fit for you. If you need help with these reflections, there are various assessment tests you can take. As mentioned in an earlier blog, your school’s Office of Career Services may offer them at reduced rates or you may use the services of a life coach. Knowing the qualities and characteristics that provide a good working environment for you will help you to narrow down potential employment fields.

Third, talk to folks. Maybe you know what you would like to do but you’re not sure how to get there. Do your research, find out who the key players are and then conduct informational interviews with them. Most of the time, people are happy to talk with interested individuals about their careers, and they may have some ideas about how you should proceed. You may meet even more people once you join a professional association affiliated with the type of job you want. Many times the association has a job board, and the membership list can be a great networking tool.

Fourth, become an advocate for yourself. There may be some careers in which it is not obvious how a J.D. would be beneficial, so be prepared to tell the employer about the transferrable skills, education and experience you bring to the table. Having a J.D. may make your application stand out for nonlegal jobs, but make sure to stand out because you have done your research on the employer and can provide them with the qualities they seek.

Finding a job where you do not practice law does involve work, but taking these steps can help you find your dream job where you and your degrees will be valued. Good luck!

Karen Hester, Director of Career Services and Director of Diversity and Inclusion