Practical Advice

  • October 21, 2010
    Practical Advice

    If you haven't already seen it, the video below is a must-watch for those seeking humor in the worst stereotypes about the law profession.

    The video features two animated figures with robotic voices, one a jaded lawyer and the other an aspiring law student who professes her love for the Constitution and her desire to help people.

     "It must be such a thrill to argue a constitutional issue," the girl says.

    "Listen, there are like three lawyers in America who argue constitutional issues," the lawyer responds. "They all went to Harvard and graduated in the 1970s. Did you go to Harvard?"

    "I love the privileges and immunities clause," she responds.

    Lawyer: "Do you have a time machine that you can use to go back to the 1970s and graduate with those guys?"

    Girl: "The Constitution is so amazing."

    Lawyer: "You are going to make me take all my Ambien at the same time and then chase it with a glass of scotch."

    Girl: "I really want to work on the important issues of the day."

    Lawyer: "Do you consider a breach of contract case between two giant software companies an important issue of the day?"

    Watch the video below. If the clip leaves you searching for more positive inspiration, Justice Sonia Sotomayor recommends Twelve Angry Men.


  • May 18, 2010
    Practical Advice
    For the third-year law student preparing to transition out of academia into a law firm job, Cornell law school professor Michael Dorf has published some advice at his Dorf on Law blog, well worth checking out.

    Ori J. Herstein notes in "Advice to the New Junior Associate in Big Law," that there is very little new associates can do to shape how others in their firms perceive them. "Be nice to people and try to do a good job: the rest is mostly out of your control," Herstein, a visiting assistant professor at Cornell University Law School, writes.

    Herstein's advice on interacting with partners:

    Partners like to feel that they and their work are of grave importance. Let them. In many ways associates function as a mirror for generating a flattering reflection, a sounding board for ideas and venting, and a sponge to absorb frustrations. It's just how it is.

    One's surroundings are also of great importance. Herstein encourages new associates to create "a pleasant work environment."

    That includes investing in a decent set of headphones:

    Sadly, document review and due diligence will take up much of your time and can be soul crushing. A set of earphones (with a long cord) and a registration at will prove more helpful than you think.

  • March 10, 2010
    Practical Advice
    For the attorney mulling a jump into the blogosphere to expand business by trumpeting expertise, a recent ABA article, as noted by The Wall Street Journal, provides a good starting point. In "Memoirs of a Blogger," Mark Herrmann, an attorney and one-time legal blogger, offers tips on how to launch a blog and flags some pitfalls to avoid. As the WSJ article notes, however, Herrmann, who once blogged at the Drug and Device Law Blog, illuminates many drawbacks for launching a blog, such as finding enough topics to write about, carving a niche in a blogosphere that is always expanding and already is burgeoning with hundreds of millions, and keeping and attracting readers.

    Herrmann writes:

    Be provocative; be funny; be distinctive. Perhaps most importantly, don't be staid. A blog written by a committee of starched-shirt, bureaucratic lawyers might proclaim: "Our firm has the utmost respect for our learned adversaries, whose experience in complex, multi-jurisdiction litigation nearly matches our own." We'd write: "Those clowns couldn't spell ‘FDA' if you spotted ‘em two letters." We might not have much institutional gravitas, but we sure as heck have readers.

    See the WSJ article for a link to Herrmann's pointers. 

  • February 2, 2010
    Practical Advice
    In an article for the New York State Bar Association Journal, Gerald Lebovits provides tips on how attorneys can effectively use e-mail. In "E-Mail Netiquette for Lawyers," Lebovits, a judge of the New York City Civil Court and adjunct professor at St. John's University School of Law, writes that "Despite its problems, e-mail is an essential tool. Attorneys must make the most of it - so long as the attorney follows this good advice: ‘Think. Pause. Think again. Then send.'"

    Lebovits's article, which was noted by Raymond Ward's the (new) legal writer blog, includes an array of tips for lawyers on using e-mail. For example, Lebovits stresses careful editing, before hitting send. "Editing includes more than reading for meaning. It means checking spelling and grammar," he writes. "Informality like making typos or using only lowercase letters is fine between friends. It has no place in professional correspondence. To ensure credibility and respect, avoid grammar and spelling errors. Use your e-mail program's spell-check function. Editing is necessary because ‘[c]lients often can't tell whether your legal advice is sound, but they can certainly tell if you made careless typos.'"

    [image via]


  • October 21, 2009
    Practical Advice
    Aspiring law professors should check out postings at PrawfsBlawg where Professor Jack Chin and other law school faculty members are offering advice on landing a job in legal academia. In a recent post, Chin writes:

    Candidates don't get rejected from top schools for want of an additional year of law practice, or because they don't look as good look as good as candidates who taught another semester of legal writing. A really good paper is what gives you a shot at an excellent school; if you didn't close, it may well have been because readers (or listeners) weren't sold on your paper. Another year on the market will mean looking for a job, probably in another city, while doing some other job. These sorts of demands may not be conducive to doing a lot of high quality writing.

    People are hired based on a prediction of how good they will be as mature scholars. That's based on an extrapolation from how good they are now. Two or three years at a lower ranked school may provide the opportunity for scholarship, mentoring, conferencing, etc. that will let you write the best paper you can, a paper that will let hiring committees think you are under-placed, and fantasize about how great you will be in the years to come.