Monthly Archives: September 2009

Job Search Strategies: What communication?

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

It mortifies me to write about it, but I did not get an offer from my great interview last week. In fact, I got nothing, not even a return call when I phoned after a week (I know, too long, I was afraid the news was bad) to find out the status of the search.

This is not the first time this has happened to me, or to everyone I know who is interviewing. What I am seeing is a lack of real communication among us. We are fortunate to have great communication tools available, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace etc. We can talk to each other in a dozen different ways, and we do, all day and probably, for some, all night long. But is there more concealment than communicating going on? I know that sounds strange, since the websites are all about disclosure.

But from what I see, there is little real disclosure going on (except for some very young people of all ages who do not yet have much sense). Most people are putting their information out there in a very calculated fashion and often with ulterior motives and making themselves look a certain way, while acting insouciant.

The downside of this is that the site users feel that they are living a very full life, by using Twitter and Facebook, but is that real communication? There is lacking the real communication that is conveyed a hundred times better by the briefest chat, in person or on the phone. My friend, who is a social website addict, is delighted to find old classmates and to talk to people online, and she feels totally involved with their lives and that they are involved in hers.

But the truth is, she is only telling them a little piece of the story, the part she wants them to know, that makes her look the way she wants to look. She is absolutely appalled at any suggestion I make that she actually meet these people in person and have a real conversation with them, actually go out into the world and deal with the good and the bad out there.

Anyway, forgive the digression, the bottom line for me at this time is that the person with whom I interviewed last week, for an hour and a half, after traveling to a far suburb, had a dozen ways to let me know not to agonize over the job any longer. He could have put me out of my misery of hope very quickly — with a phone call, a voicemail, an email or a fax. Instead he chose not to communicate at all and to let me stew for a week and maybe forever, because I doubt I will ever hear from him. I am not at all sure now that I would want to work with someone who shirks difficult communications.

As lawyers we know that communicating difficult messages and receiving them intelligently is crucial to our work as professionals and that sucking it up and communicating with them appropriately and timely is the “lawyerly” thing to do.

A Mayer Brown lawyer’s busy day

Mayer Brown partner Jeff Sarles will argue two Federal Circuit cases on the same day — Monday, Oct. 5.  This is the second consecutive year where he has had two appellate arguments on the same day. Last year, it was at the 7th Circuit.

This time around, the parties are the same and they both concern claims of infringement of slot machine patents. But they arise from separate district court proceedings before different judges and involve different patents.

The cases are Bally Gaming, Inc. v. IGT, No. 2009-1072 (Fed. Cir.), and IGT v. Alliance Gaming Corp., No. 2009-1110 (Fed. Cir.).  Mayer Brown represents the appellee in the first and the appellant in the second.

The two cases involve a dispute between two of the world’s largest gaming companies over the validity of patents underlying the world’s the most popular slot machine – the Wheel of Fortune.  While Sarles will be arguing both cases for IGT, different attorneys from Quinn Emanuel will argue the two cases for Bally Gaming.

When asked how Sarles keeps both cases separate in his mind, he said, “You have to be careful, and make sure the two piles on your desk don’t get intermingled.”

“There is enough of a relationship [between the patent infringement appeal] to hear them right after the other,” he said. “The two cases I will be arguing, it requires a little different mindset … One case, I’m trying to say that the district court got it right, and in the other case that the district court got it wrong. Even through the two judges are different, they do involve different approaches.”

He’s been preparing for both cases by alternating his preparation days – working on one case one day and the other case the next day until the issues are crystallized in his mind. After that, he said there is no fear of him mixing things up.

His goal for the day, he said, “is hopefully to achieve a double victory for my clients. These are important matters. There is a lot at stake, and if I can accomplish that my client will be happy, and hopefully we will have contributed to the development of the law as well.”

Approaching the interview

Sandra J. Bishop, president of Executive Solutions, is an executive coach and career strategist. She will periodically answer questions that can help lawyers get that next position.

How should I approach an interview?

You should approach and interview as a sales call, because that’s what an interview is.  You are both the salesman and the product.

Questions to consider:

Who are you interviewing with?  This is important because there will be a wide range of people screening you.  Usually the process begins with the HR person, followed by the hiring manager and a select group of colleagues. The HR screening is typically a stand-alone meeting done frequently as a phone-conference.

What kind of interview are you having?  Is it a one on one phone with the hiring manager?  Will you meeting with the entire team.

Perhaps it is a panel interview.  A panel interview is a more progressive form during which all the candidates are sitting on one side of the table, and all the hiring managers on the other – it is essentially a face off.  Not pleasant for any of the candidates, but an efficient forum for the employer.  My advice is if you find yourself in this situation, simply play your own game.  Do not listen to what anyone around you is saying; be true to yourself.

How long is the interview is going to last? This is important because you need to schedule your time appropriately.  It also helps to level-set your expectations, and pace yourself throughout the interview. 

When you go into the interview, your resume tells your story.  Your credentials and education are also important.  But, your over-arching goal is deliver enough integrated information to the firm that you can do the job and do it well.

How will the interviewer assess me?

You are assessed on two levels:

Personally:  your behavior/ conduct, personality, likeability, values, appearance and, yes — your energy will be scrutinized.  Optimistic people tend to project a certain aura; it’s upbeat, energetic and inviting. On the other hand, negative people tend to project a guarded, sometimes angry, bitter and resentful vibe; one that is definitely exclusive.

Professional: your credentials/ experience/ expertise/ distinctive qualities, education, aptitude for the profession and the position will be scrutinized.  Make sure everything in your resume and everything you convey/ portray is direct and accurate.

How should I prepare myself for the interview?

There is no such thing as being over-prepared.

Before the Interview: request an “Organizational Chart” and “Position Description” and study it. Do the web-research:  know the history of the firm/ company.  If it is a publicly-traded company, know the price of the stock and its performance over the recent year.  When working with a recruiter, ask:  “What is it I need to know about this company/ firm before I interview?”

Ask if the position you are interviewing for is a newly-created position.  If so, why?  Otherwise, ask why the position was vacated.  These two questions will help give you a sense of the current climate in the area in which you are interviewing.

Bringing clients together

Lawyers Christine Svenson and Daliah Saper not only share a building, but they also share a common interest in bringing their clients together.

Svenson, of Svenson Law Offices, and Saper, of Saper Law Offices, recently hosted a fashion trunk show that was attended by about 100 people. The fashions were provided by Tali Kogan, who runs Tel Aviv Couture.

Saper said she does a seminar every month to highlight a different practice area. Every five months she has a fashion event, such as a fashion show or a fashion roundtable, because she represents clients from the fashion industry. She likes bringing her clients together.

It is important to treat the law as a business, and create ways to build a niche and a brand around the firm so that the practice stays in people’s minds, she said.

“It’s just a lot of fun and an opportunity to give my clients something fun to go to. And my clients get to meet each other,” Saper said. “More importantly it’s another way to promote Saper Law, and show that it’s a firm doing interesting things.”

Svenson said she has divorce clients that she also helps with employment and family law issues. She sometimes sets her clients up on dates, and she thought the event would help lift their spirits.

“It really was a great way for women to feel good about themselves again,” Svenson said. “I’m helping [my clients] not only get back on their feet financially, but also back into the social scene.

“I only take cases from individually that I actually personally believe in and like because you have this bond with your client. You want to help them not just with the financial implications of what they’re going through. I want to see the aftermath. I want them to have a good outcome five year or 10 years down the road.”

Q & A with Gary Levenstein

Gary Levenstein, a partner at Ungaretti & Harris, will be one of our speakers at our Sept. 30 event.  There is still time to sign up.

He took some time to answer a few of our questions.

What do you hope people get from your presentation?

I hope that people get comfort, encouragement, hope and ideas.

What is the biggest challenge for lawyers when looking for a position?

The biggest challenge is presenting themselves as viable candidates based on skill, presence, character and attitude.  In certain circumstances, it may overcome the lack of their own clients.

What is one piece of advice you have for lawyers looking to make a career transition?

Develop client opportunities or expertise.  The best situation would be establishing both ASAP.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your own career?

Survival in recessions.

McDermott lawyers give of their time

Over the past few months employees at McDermott Will & Emery have done four different Day of Caring projects with the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.

For example, they’ve bagged and distributed food that was delivered from the Greater Chicago Food Depository to the North Lawndale YMCA, said Nancy Ross, a partner in the trial department. About 35 volunteers, include Ross, gathered together and took the huge volumes of food and assembled them into individual portions.

“It was just a wonderful feeling,” Ross said. “We were able to look them in the eye and provide them with their groceries. It was just a terrific feeling of giving back to the community and providing our actual physical labor and assistance.”

A group from the firm also worked at Inspiration Café, which is a restaurant that serves low-income individuals without charging any money. Members of the group served as waiters, cooks, servers and dish washers, she said. They also volunteered at Jane Addams Hull House and the Chicago Youth Centers.

“The feedback has been terrific, but the reward for doing it is just tremendous,” Ross said. “I think so many of us are in our ivory towers. I know I am. … You’re getting out and seeing two things. One, the really desperate need for this kind of community service, and secondly, the reward that comes with it is almost indescribable. I’m a firm believer in mandatory community service.”

The firm says it’s made a concerted effort to encourage its employees to volunteer their time. In 2008, McDermott lawyers and staff devoted more than 94,900 hours to pro bono matters and community service, and more than 70 percent of our lawyers provided pro bono legal services to the poor, to organizations that serve the indigent and to certain not-for-profit organizations and small businesses focused on serving low-income communities.

Job Search Strategies: a(n unnerving) waiting game

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

So, last week I had a great interview.  At least I thought it was great.

I enjoyed the conversation, I thought the interviewer did too.  It lasted an hour and a half.  The qualifications he explained he needs were very much in line with mine, and I even have some that were not asked for, like being fluent in a couple of languages and somewhat fluent in a couple of others, which seemed to be a plus for the interviewer.

The area of law is very unusual and of course immediately appeals to me, since I always want to learn something new and flex my research muscles, and of course, never want anything easy.  The idea of practicing in federal court also appeals greatly, since, with all due respect, state court can be something of a zoo.

I would be very pleased to be back in federal court, where things are more dignified and the rules of procedure are both enforced and more streamlined.

All is well except that following my own advice is proving hard.  I tried all weekend not to focus on the possibility that I might/might not get an offer and tried just as hard not to repeatedly re-examine the details of the interview.  I find it difficult to avoid planning for how I will get to the office (it is in a suburb), finding a convenient place to work out and a dozen other details that are completely irrelevant until I DO get an offer, if I do.

Also running through my head all weekend is, do I want to work for someone else, again, after having my own law office, and not be the arbiter of my own day and direction. Compared to having to find my own clients, do the work my way and try to collect fees.

It may be a hard decision and at this point an unnecessary one, since I don’t have an offer.  I am seriously looking forward to having to make it.