Category Archives: Practice Tips

Should You Go Solo?

Hillary Mantis in The National Jurist recently commented on the increase in recent law school graduates going directly into solo practice right after law school.  In fact, in the Class of 2011, 6% went solo.  If you are considering going that route, there are pros and cons you should be aware of:

These days doing legal research is easier and less expensive than it used to be, and with digital technology, you may not even need an office, further cutting expenses.  While you may not get training, mentoring, or have partners available to answer questions, Bar Associations have resources and committees to help you set up your own practice.  The biggest drawback of a solo practice is finding a way to attract clients.

If you do decide to become a solo practitioner you should start making connections while in law school, take practical courses so you’ll have as many skills as possible and look for practice areas that are expanding.  To read the article in it’s entirety, click here.

Core Competency for the Solo or Small Firm

Core competency is a set of expectations employers now require about knowledge, capability, behavior, skills and attributes.  The practice of law is a profession, but operates on a business model and you must be prepared in many different arenas.

According to Jordan Furlong, a consultant writing for Law21, the necessary and sufficient skill set for attorneys has always included logical reasoning, persuasiveness, analytical ability, attention to detail, sound judgment and writing ability.  Not anymore.  In addition to the aforementioned skills, today’s lawyer must also possess Collaboration Skills, Project Management Skills, Financial Literacy, Technological Skills, Time Management and perhaps most importantly, Emotional Intelligence.

Learning these core skills will allow you to practice law competently, effectively and competively, and in the world of solo and small firm practice, where there may not be extensive training, you will be expected to show up with these skills.   

To read the entire article, click here.

Please join me. . .

I will be attending the 6th Annual Solo and Small Firm Conference, entitled “The Extraordinary Lawyer:  Minding your own Business”, September 21-22 (this Friday and Saturday) in Orlando.  This conference has features designed for law students and is a great chance to meet attorneys and judges while learning about succeeding in your future practice. 

•   Law student price at $60 includes full registration for 1 ½ day of programming, two breakfasts, two lunches, cocktail reception, entertainment & prizes.

•   Each law student will be assigned a mentor for the conference.

•   A special law student, recent graduate program – “Succeeding as a New Law Clerk or Associate in a Smaller Firm” will be offered on Saturday, September 22 at 10:45 a.m.

•   Chances to interact with solo and small firm practitioners to learn about practice areas and opportunities.

For more information, click here.  I hope to see you there!

The Value of First Impressions

If you will be clerking with a law firm this summer, it is important to understand the value of your first impression.  Each partner, associate, and staff member will be sizing you up when they meet you.  To make a good impression, dress professionally and have a confident demeanor.  You can bolster this confidence by meeting with a Career Services Counselor prior to your clerkship to discuss how to ensure your success.  For example, you can discuss what questions to ask when you receive an assignment and how best to approach a partner when you have a tricky question.  To schedule an appointment, log into Symplicity or email us at careerservices@fcsl.edu.

Tips For Law Firm Clerks or Associates

Students often focus intensely on landing a  position with a law firm, but fail to focus on what they need to do once they are at the firm to make themselves successful.  Follow these tips to maximize your experience.

1.  When you receive an assignment, if the attorney does not give you a deadline, ask when it is needed and agree on a specific date.  This ensures a meeting of the minds regarding expectations on the assignment. 

2.  If the attorney asks when you think you can have an assignment ready, add an extra day or two when possible.  You may have unexpected, urgent assignments come up in the meantime.  It is extremely important to always meet any deadline since timeliness is key in law firms.

3.  Understand the role of billable hours in what you do.  Talk with your managing attorney about key phrases to use for various activities when describing your work.  Most firms expect you to include ALL time you spend on a project on your timesheet, but you should understand that they will likely cut a good portion of it since it understandably takes you longer than a seasoned attorney.

4.  Always write down every detail of an assignment when it is given to you.  Do NOT rely on your memory. 

5.  Carry a legal pad with you everywhere you go in the firm.  I can’t tell you how many times I received assignments as an associate from partners who stopped me as they passed me in the hall, while I was heating my lunch in the break room, or even at birthday celebrations.

Preparing for the Law Firm Experience

If you will be clerking with a law firm this summer, schedule an appointment with your Career Services Counselor to discuss how you should prepare.  We can educate you regarding how law firms work and provide tips to ensure a successful experience.  For example, always pin down a due date for each assignment and be mindful of which assignments are billable.  Also, if you have an interest in a particular case, express it to your supervising attorney, and you may have an opportunity to work on it.  In addition, conduct informational meetings with attorneys in the firm to learn more about the local legal market.

Tip #5 for a Successful Internship

This week, I am featuring a guest blogger who is a student in the Atlanta Networking Club, Andrew Weegar.  Andrew did an amazing job of networking last year to find internships with two firms last summer.  Andrew will share his insight from a student’s perspective on how to have a successful internship.               

Be professional, have fun, be social, and NETWORK while you are at the firm. Being professional means showing up early or on time everyday and being dressed appropriately, which means business dress unless you are told otherwise. It is a good idea to drive by the office that you will be working at before you start there to make sure you have parking and the location figured out. On your first day you will likely be asked if you had any problems finding the place or parking, and being able to say you came up a day before to make sure you knew where everything was is a good way to show your employer that you’re taking the internship seriously. Also, go out to lunch with your co-workers whenever possible and talk with them when things are slow, making sure you steer away from legal/work issues when appropriate. Ask the attorneys you are working with if you can go to meetings with them or meet other lawyers they know. Go to bar events with the lawyers  and ask them to introduce you to others. During the summer, bar sections expect interns to attend events, so they can be a great way to meet other lawyers in the area. Also, it may be a good idea to get business cards made with your contact information on them. It is convenient to just hand someone a card with all your information on it so they will remember you when you contact them. Networking should be one of your top priorities at your internship, and most attorneys are more than willing to help you network whenever possible.

Tip #4 for a Successful Internship

This week, I am featuring a guest blogger who is a student in the Atlanta Networking Club, Andrew Weegar.  Andrew did an amazing job of networking last year to find internships with two firms last summer.  Andrew will share his insight from a student’s perspective on how to have a successful internship.        

Another good tip for your first internship is to ask questions about your assignments if you are unsure exactly what you should do.  However, it is just as important to understand who you should ask certain types of questions. For example, at my internships I quickly learned that I shouldn’t waste the attorneys’ time with questions about where files are, very general stylistic writing questions, or basic questions regarding very common and routine issues the firm deals with. In these situations it is best to ask a paralegal or secretary for their help, assuming you cannot find the answer yourself first. During your internship you will see how busy attorneys really are and how much they charge for their time.  It is ideal if you waste as little of their time as possible with issues that other people in the office can address. This is not to say that paralegals’ and secretaries’ time is not important, and you need to figure out what you should and should not ask support staff, as well, as they can be just as busy as the attorneys. Remember, you were hired to help make everyone’s work load a little easier and to learn about how the legal profession actually works. Figuring out who to ask and when to ask questions can be the hardest part of your internship.  Of course, most people are very understanding with new law students, so don’t be afraid to ask if you really need the help.

Stay tuned for more tips…

Tip #3 for a Successful Internship

This week, I am featuring a guest blogger who is a student in the Atlanta Networking Club, Andrew Weegar.  Andrew did an amazing job of networking last year to find internships with two firms last summer.  Andrew will share his insight from a student’s perspective on how to have a successful internship.

Take on all assignments offered to you and don’t be afraid to ask to do something. The first part is easy.  You want to be busy and get as much experience as possible, and taking on all tasks offered is a great way to do that. When taking on a new task, either ask for or offer your own timeline for when you will complete the task. Setting your own timeline may be tricky if you have never worked on that type of project before so you should err on the side of caution and set a longer timeline than you think is necessary. Also, ask to assist in writing articles that the attorney will be publishing. At my internship with the larger firm, I was able to write an article for one of the partners that will be published in a local legal magazine in the area. The partner liked my first article so much that she invited me to write more articles for the magazine on a regular basis. Attorneys like to have assistance with these types of writing assignments since they will not produce any direct revenue for the firm and can be time consuming. However, for me and other law students, this is a great way to get your name published in the market.

Stay tuned for more tips…

Tip #2 for a Successful Internship

This week, I am featuring a guest blogger who is a student in the Atlanta Networking Club, Andrew Weegar.  Andrew did an amazing job of networking last year to find internships with two firms last summer.  Andrew will share his insight from a student’s perspective on how to have a successful internship.

Once you start your internship, keep a notebook or legal pad with you at all times to write down assignments you are given. You will likely be given tasks from everyone in the office, often when you are away from your desk, so having something to write on will ensure you don’t have to bother the assigning attorneys by asking them to repeat the instructions later. Also, you should write down questions you want to ask the attorneys when they aren’t busy. Remember to focus some of these questions on how the law firm operates and the business practice of law. During my internship at the larger firm, I sat down and had an hour conversation with one of the partners where she explained to me, in detail, how billable hours work, how the firm attracts and gets new clients, and how the track to partnership works at most firms. This was my first exposure to any of these topics, and the information I gained showed me a whole different side of practicing law. If I had not kept a legal pad on me at all times while I was at work, I would have forgotten these questions and never asked them.

Stay tuned for more tips…