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Do Law Firms Generally Have Hiring Freezes During the Holiday Season, or is This as Good a Time as Any to Aggressively Pursue a New Job?

Do law firms generally have hiring freezes during the holiday season, or is this as good a time as any to aggressively pursue a new job?

Law firms generally do not have hiring freezes during the holidays, although many do wait to see what their needs are in January. That being said, we have found the holiday period to be a wonderful time to find a new position, as there are always a number of immediate openings with very few candidates applying. There is less competition during the holiday season, and firms are more likely to move quickly on a candidate’s application. Furthermore, it is best to get yourself out in the market during the slower season so that as soon as the firm has an immediate opening that is not yet advertised, they can call you!

How to Handle Counter Offers

My current firm is loathe to let go of me. When I went to the partner in charge of my practice group to ask for a reference for my job search, he offered to match the salary that any firm offers me. How should I handle this?

Well, there are many things to consider when weighing multiple offers – and you should look at what the partner at your current firm said as a job offer equivalent to what you are receiving on the job market. First and foremost, you will have to consider why you wanted to leave your current firm in the first place. If you were just testing the market to see how much you were worth and stumbled upon something exciting, then chances are you were not necessarily unhappy with your current situation, and this may not be that big of an issue. However, if you were leaving because the hours are too long, the work is too boring, or the partner wants to keep you around because he really would miss directing his tyranny at you, then there is not much of a choice to be made. Since you are asking this question, however, I doubt that you are extremely unhappy here. If you are, though, don’t let this extremely flattering gesture cloud your thinking.

In terms of your long term career, there are many advantages of sticking it out at your old job, especially if you are going to be equally compensated. First, if they like you enough to make a matching offer, then they will probably treat you pretty well if you decide to stay, maybe even let you sneak out of the office before 8 pm on a Friday night. If you leave your firm, you will be starting over and you will have to prove yourself yet again, and since you have already made a great impression at your current firm, maybe that isn’t something you want to have to do again. Second, it sounds like you have an excellent chance of making partner at this firm if they are that interested in keeping you. In case you are under the impression that your firm does this with all of their associates who try to leave, let me clear that up without knowing anything about your firm – they definitely don’t. This is extremely unorthodox. Third, if you eventually do want to leave this firm, the more time you spend in one location will make your resume stronger than if you continually are moving around.

The advantages of moving to a new firm depend entirely on the firm you are considering. A more prestigious firm is always a lure with attorneys and can be a good career move for the long term, as well. A change of scenery and a change of the type of work you are doing are some other reasons why moving might be a good idea. One of the main reasons that another firm’s offer could be more enticing than your current firm’s is that at a new firm, you can remold your image. As previously discussed, having to reprove yourself can be awfully tedious, but if what you really seek is to make it so they don’t expect the same things of you (e.g. your willingness to handle grunt work without complaining, your willingness to work national holidays, etc.), then moving firms may be your only option.

Either way, you clearly have a lot to think about. The most important consideration, though, is whether or not more money is what you were after in the first place. If not, then you should most likely not consider your current firm’s offer at all.

Factors to Consider while Evaluating an Offer

You’ve spent the last few months updating your resume, working with your recruiter, evaluating firms, and interviewing. Finally, all of the hard work has paid off and what you have been waiting for has arrived: the offer. However, while you may feel a sense of relief, accomplishment, and happiness, you may also feel a sense of anxiety and uncertainty. This is a serious decision to make, and before making it, you should weigh certain factors carefully.

Each of us, of course, is different, and determining what factors are important may vary greatly, depending on the individual. You may attempt to negotiate a higher salary, additional vacation time, and better health benefits. However, these items are often part of a standard package determined by the firm’s compensation structure, and you may or may not be able to effectively negotiate them. In addition, other factors, such as a firm’s “culture,” are also unlikely to change. Determining whether you can accept the offer and the firm for what they are can tend to be as difficult a decision as any you will have to make during your job search. The following factors should be considered when deciding whether or not to accept an offer.

Compensation
Even if money isn’t what gives you the most job satisfaction, no one can argue its importance. Most of us want to make sure we are being paid what we’re worth and what the going rate is for jobs similar to ours. This is where your recruiter can be of invaluable assistance. Your recruiter can provide you with information as to whether the offer is in step with the firm’s compensation structure, negotiate on your behalf when appropriate, and provide you with information on how your offer compares to what others are making at the same level, in the same practice area, in firms of similar size and status, and in the same geographic region.

Firm Culture
Every firm possesses a culture which can range from the traditional and conservative to the entrepreneurial and liberal. This is where the impressions that you formed during your interview will help you determine whether the particular firm environment is right for you. Were people talking to each other when you walked the halls? Were the doors closed or open? Was the staff treated with respect? How did the partners and associates interact with each other? How formal or informal was the interview? How did people dress? Was the office decorated in traditional oak panels, dull colors, or was it modern, with bright art and lights? Finding an environment that reflects not only your personality, but also your ability to effectively develop professionally is a key element in your future success as an attorney. Certainly, many attorneys can be happy and thrive personally and professional in completely different environments. What you need to determine is what environment would be the right fit for you.

Sharing a Common Goal
Firm culture also comprises other factors, including shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize a firm. If you value your time away from the office, a firm with a high billable requirement that consistently requires late hours and weekend sessions may not be right for you. On the other hand, the type of work you seek, the mentoring you require, the opportunities for growth, and the sophistication of the practice may also translate directly into more hours spent at the office. What you need to determine is whether this is a firm that shares your values, goals, and ambitions.

Fitting In
Another factor that you should focus on is whether the people you met when you interviewed with the firm are the type of people you want to work with. You are going to be spending a great deal of time at the office, working very closely with your colleagues, and the ability to get along with them may be critical to your success. The interview will provide you with insight to help you make that determination. This is also where you may want to consult with your recruiter to provide you with additional information about the firm and its particular practice groups. Networking can also be useful, and you may want to call your list of contacts and gather additional information about the firm.

Each of these factors taken alone may not make or break your decision to accept or decline a job offer. Moreover, these are but a few factors to consider when making a decision. You may also need to consider additional factors that are particularly relevant to your job search. Whether you choose to accept or reject a job offer, you should first inform your recruiter about your decision, and discuss these and other factors with your recruiter directly. Then, you should contact the employer who made that offer in a timely fashion. Your rejection or acceptance should be done formally, in writing, as well as by telephone. The legal community is a small one, and you may at some point develop a relationship with that employer albeit as a superior, a colleague, a client, or even your next-door neighbor. Therefore, irrespective of your decision, one of the most important things you should consider when mulling over a job offer is the importance of safeguarding the relationships that were created during this process.

See Opportunities Where Others See Obstacles

If you are looking for a job then one of the most important things you can do is see opportunities where others see huge obstacles.  Most of the world sees huge obstacles to everything.  There are always obstacles to anyone and everyone doing the absolute best that can be done at something.  If you want to get the best possible job and go as far as possible in your career then you need to insure that you are not seeing obstacles and that every obstacle you see is, in fact, an opportunity.  When you look at the lives of people who have done exceptionally well in the law and in most fields you will generally find that they see opportunities where most of us see obstacles.

George McGovern was nominated by the Democratic convention in 1972 as a candidate to run against Richard Nixon.  In the midst of the convention, McGovern decided that he no longer wanted Senator Eagleton to be his vice-presidential running mate. At the time there were thousands of bumper stickers and pins that had been made up that said “McGovern-Eagleton”.  A young sixteen-year-old entrepreneur bought up approximately 5,000 of these buttons and stickers for around 5-cents each.  Within a short time the same entrepreneur sold individual buttons and stickers as historical memorabilia for as much as $25 each.  The person’s name?  Bill Gates.

People like Bill Gates have massive lessons to teach the world because they can see opportunities where others may simply see obstacles.  In order to do well in a job search you absolutely need to make sure you are looking out for where the opportunities are to succeed.

“I did not go to the right school”
This is ridiculous.  Most of the highest paid attorneys in the United States did not go to good schools either.  In fact, the very, very highest paid attorneys may have barely made it through law school.  What these attorneys did is they focused on their strengths and made the absolute most they could of them.

The law school you went to simply does not matter.  Yes, the law school you went to may hold some importance for the very highest paying law firms; however, for the most part your law school should be looked upon as a positive.

If you went to a terrible law school, find people who also went to this law school and connect with them.  Find the most successful attorneys and learn from them and ask them all sorts of questions about how they overcame the law school they went to.  Send them letters thanking them for the lessons they taught you.  Incorporate what they told you. Work hard to overcome what you may lack in an exceptional school pedigree by working on your personality, reading books about how to bring in business, making sure you work harder on your legal skills than someone else does.

Nothing is more common than people who go to a good law school and believe based on this that they can stop trying harder.  The best thing that ever happened to me personally was not getting into a certain ivy league school my father and a lot of my family went to.  This taught me right then and there that I could never rest on my laurels and needed to keep working and working.  Not getting into that school was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.  People who go to the best schools often believe they can simply rest on their laurels due to that one achievement.

If you did not go to the best school then realize that while those who may have gone to a better school may rest on their laurels you are going to keep working on yourself and getting better and better.  You will surpass them and when you do they will not even have seen you coming and you will not need to look back.

“I do not have the right experience”
Regardless of the experience you have, you have some experience doing something.  The experience excuse is crazy to me.  Everyone has experience!

Maybe you used to work in an oil field as a roughneck and put yourself through night law school.  You then could then use you knowledge and connection to oil workers to connect with people injured in accidents in oil fields and then represent them.

Regardless of your experience, there is some sort of experience you have that you can put to use to get the position you want.  You need to think of what you have done that is related to what you want to do. You need to connect with others in the law who have had similar experiences to you.

Perhaps, however, you truly do not have any experience which is relevant to what you want to do.  I doubt this-however, it is possible.  If this is the case then the way to look at this is to take the experience you do have as something that is a fantastic lesson that you need to find ways to get the experience you want to get the sort of position you want.  This may mean taking on a given responsibility in your current job, or seeking out new sorts of work.  Whatever you are seeking to do, you can get the experience.

For example, one of the most attractive things to potential employers is when someone is so serious about doing something that they have taken classes, volunteered, or done something extraordinary to the experience that they need in order to do a job.  People (naturally) want to assist those who are trying hard to advance.

“I live in the wrong part of the country”
Regardless of where you live in the United States there is tons of legal work to be done-and the sort of legal work you want to do.  The belief that you cannot get a job because of where you live is completely fallacious.

One of the most important abilities of anyone-in any profession—is the ability to create work.  Very good lawyers are experts at creating work for themselves and are constantly doing it and able to create this work.

Imagine, for example, you are in a small rural town and want to practice patent law.  You could find local inventors and get to know them and also ask them for referrals.  You could also put up a website.  You could write attorneys in other small law firms around the country for work.  The list of possibilities is endless.  In order to get the work you need you do need to find opportunities and you can find them wherever you are.

One of the secrets of selling anything is you need to put people in pain by identifying a need they may have that they did not know they had.  This is something you can do quite easily once you adopt the mindset of seeing the sorts of work people are likely to need done.  If you see an inventor discussing something he is working on you could go up to him and say “Are you crazy?  You need to patent this before you talk about it!”  A solid and good attorney is always creating demand and finding ways to get work no matter where they are.

In a small town this could be traveling to other towns and giving talks.  This could be speaking with local organization.  There are tons of ways that people can get business.  You simply need to insure that you are making the most of each opportunity you have to get the work you want.  It does not matter where you are-you can do anything if you try hard enough.

“I do not have the right personality to fit in”
Then change your personality-or better yet, do not change your personality.

I remember listening to a lawyer talk about business generation once and hearing him say that the biggest nerd in Los Angeles was also the biggest business generator.  That is to day: Just be who you are-it is probably good enough.

Everyone fits in wherever they are because there are a variety of people everywhere.  You need to look for reasons why you fit in.

“I have a learning disability”
Incredibly, I heard an attorney say this once and use this as a reason for not succeeding.  You know what this guy did?  He found a job representing foreigners who did not speak English and they never caught on that he was not the sharpest tack around.  This guy is having more fun and making more money than the majority of attorneys out there.  And while the work he is doing is not that difficult, he is charging a fair price for it and doing good work.

“My grades were not good enough in law school”
Who cares.  I know someone who got a “C-” average at a mediocre law school who got a clerkship with a Federal Appellate Judge and also got a job at a firm routinely ranked as one of the top 10 most prestigious firms in the United States.  The judge and firm never asked for her grades!  Then I placed the same girl at an AmLaw 20 firm and the firm that hired her never asked for her grades either.  To answer your suspicions, this girl was no “knockout”.  She just got lucky.  You can too.  Lots of attorneys do.  The secret is applying to as many jobs as possible and looking the part.  In this girl’s case she had written herself onto the law review at her school and was also elected managing editor.

“The Best Recruiters Will Not Work With Me” Who cares.  I do not have as an exciting life as a rock star.  There are lots of things you could have that you do not.  If the best recruiters will not work with you then find a job on your own.  There are some easy places you can find opportunities when you are seeking for a job regardless of whether or not you use a recruiter:

LawCrossing.  Yes, I am the founder of LawCrossing.  Yes, LawCrossing costs money each month.  Nevertheless, LawCrossing does have over 250 people working for it looking for jobs for you each day.  It has a multimillion dollar database that searches every legal employer’s website daily and the people at LawCrossing also do a ton of this work manually as well.  LawCrossing also searches literally thousands of newspapers around the United States each day in search of jobs.  LawCrossing is an excellent way to put hundreds of people to work for you finding opportunities.  The fact that many people do not want to pay the nominal amount this service charges is fine. Those are the same people who are not competing with LawCrossing members for jobs!

Legal Authority.  Yes, I am also the Founder of Legal Authority.  I happen to really believe in the service and am quite passionate about it.  Legal Authority is probably the most effective method of finding a position out there.  With Legal Authority you can literally apply to all of the firms of a size you choose and in a interested in practicing litigation in Aurora, Illinois with a firm of less than 10 attorneys you can apply to all of these firms at one time.  The benefit of practice area you choose in an area you specify.  For example, if you are using a service like this is huge because you will find firms with a need that might not even be advertising.  In addition, as part of the Legal Authority service you will have your resume and cover letter professionally done.  This can make a huge difference when you are applying for jobs

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Regardless of how you are doing your job search, if you are looking for a position the very last thing you should do is limit the number of places you are applying to.  The more places you are applying to the more opportunities you are likely to get.  You need to look for a position in a comprehensive and far-reaching way.  The more places you apply to the better chance you will have of getting another position. In addition, the employer you are applying to may put you in touch with someone else who does have excellent opportunities.  Insure you are applying to many places at once.

“My resume stinks”  Then make your resume better.  Buy a book about attorney resumes such as one I wrote (Attorney Resume Secrets Revealed available from my company Attorney Research Group (www.attorneyresearchgroup.com)) and make your resume perfect.  Better yet, hire a professional resume service such as Attorney Resume (www.attorneyresume.com) to do your resume (yes, this is also a company I founded).  Set professionals to work on your resume and make your resume outstanding.  You owe it to yourself to get a fantastic resume completed.

Regardless of whether you hire a company like Attorney Resume or work on your resume yourself, you need to get the most professional resume possible done.  A professional can help you bring out your strengths.

Conclusions
The best possible thing you can do with your career is start seeing opportunities where the rest of the world is seeing obstacles.  Even obstacles should be something that you see as actual opportunities.  Do not let the world get you down-take action and improve and go where you want to go.

I firmly believe that you can accomplish whatever you set out to do and to be.  I believe in you and have dedicated my life to providing you with the inspiration and career tools to get to where you want to go.  Take your career to the next level and become who you want to become. Never let any perceived obstacle hold you back.  You deserve better than that.

Legal Veterans Advise Newbies How Not to Blow Their Job Search

Here’s a valuable excerpt from today’s Legal Times entitled “How to Land that First Job.” Veterans from top firms offer advice on how to avoid common goofs and gaffes and how to nail your interview. To read the full article, go to this site: http://www.law.com/jsp/law/careercenter/lawArticleCareerCenter.jsp?id=1202424212239

Law firm partners: George Bostick, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan; Christopher Davies, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; Katherine Fallow, Jenner & Block; Julia Kazaks, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Julie McEvoy, Jones Day; Elissa Preheim, Arnold & Porter.

1. What do you look for when hiring summer and first-year associates?

“The most important factor is whether this is someone whose academic or work performance thus far indicates an ability to juggle multiple tasks and to achieve deadline-driven success.” — Julie McEvoy

“Excellent grades and strong writing skills and strong interpersonal skills and a demonstrated interest in being in D.C. and in the firm’s practice areas.” — Julia Kazaks

“The first thing we look for is a self-starter. … Prizes don’t go to wallflowers.”
–Christopher Davies

“Three key factors are: (1) students with strong academic records who are critical thinkers; (2) people who take ownership of projects and (3) those who work well on teams.” — Elissa Preheim
“Experience that will convince me the person can work as part of a team.” — George Bostick

“The question is if this is someone I would feel comfortable bringing to a client meeting as a summer or first-year associate. … That’s a pretty important benchmark.” — Julie McEvoy

2. What do you seek to avoid? Any big mistakes on resumes or in interviews?

“Resumes that are unattractive or have typos or are just strange will attract attorney discussion.” — Christopher Davies

“Anything you list on your resume you should be prepared to talk about.” — Katherine Fallow

“Law firms are full of Luddites, and we are amazed at what students will post about themselves on the Internet.” — Julie McEvoy

“Too Much Information Syndrome. … I recall thinking, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe someone said that.’ “– Christopher Davies

“It’s important to us that people actually care about the law and not just focus on the $165,000 or whatever it is today.” — George Bostick

“The main mistake is seeming bored or uninterested, either with things you have done or in the firm. … Find a way to show enthusiasm.” — Katherine Fallow

“About the worst thing a candidate can do is to ignore the junior person [in an interview]. … One time, I had to step out to handle a client phone call, and I told them to go ahead and start. I later heard that while I was out, the guy hadn’t engaged on much of anything short of shopping at Costco.” — George Bostick

“Don’t waste time on cover letters and thank-you notes. They can create more problems than they solve.” — Julie McEvoy

3. What could law students do most easily to improve their chances of being hired?

“Pay attention to comments made by interviewers in the early part of the day and incorporate them into interviews in the later part of day. … It’s important to show that you picked up on what others have said. Interviewers talk to each other afterward.” — Julia Kazaks

“Invest in a comfortable or well-fitting suit. A flashy or ill-fitting suit can highlight a student’s lack of comfort or familiarity with a professional workplace.” — Julie McEvoy

“Schedule morning interviews with firms that you are most interested in. Both candidates and interviewers are more tired in the afternoon.” — Christopher Davies

“Come to an interview prepared with a range of questions. … There’s nothing more terrifying than reaching the point in the interview when the interviewer asks if the student has any questions and the student says, ‘No, I think I’ve asked them all already.’ The interview comes to a screeching halt.” — Julie McEvoy

“Educate yourself about the firm or place where you’ll be interviewing. Educate yourself to see if it’s a good fit.” — Katherine Fallow

“It does matter if someone [at the firm] who’s well regarded will vouch for you. … It generally helps people who are on the margin.” — Christopher Davies