Monthly Archives: February 2010

Job Search Strategy: Plan B

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

During this legal jobs semi-draught a number of people I know have come up with creative and effective ways to supplement their income, or, in some cases, let’s admit it, make a living. But if it gets you through the downturn and to the other side of the economic tumble, it works. The idea is to tap into skills that you have used in the past. It helps to have some credentials in the area of endeavor.

For example, attorneys have built in credentials for teaching. Having a doctoral degree should qualify you for teaching as an adjunct at a junior college or a trade school. The topics that an attorney can teach are numerous. From civics to the Constitution to writing, lawyers have the training to do this.

When it comes to teaching, some of us can also count on previous life learnings and experiences to pass on to others. One colleague majored in history undergrad and teaches U.S. history at a loop junior college, enjoys it and with enough classes can make a great supplemental income from it.

Teaching is just one example. Your own educational and work background will serve to guide you in developing ideas for supplemental or alternate income. Maybe some of you are athletes and can coach or do personal training in some way. As a law school student I turned my language abilities into income by interpreting for depositions and trials and translating foreign documents. In some instances you need a certificate or a license of some kind, but I did not have one and I was consistently busy.

Prior to attending law school, when I was between jobs, I talked my way into doing the bookkeeping for the restaurant at my health club. I do admit, the MBA helped me get this gig and I had done some bookkeeping for a manufacturing company in the distant past. I got a reduction of my membership fee and had great fun, besides learning a lot about food service costing, not to mention the delicious free lunches.

Here’s a way to do this — take a writing pad and a free afternoon and go back in time, either using your resume, or whatever method works for you to recall past jobs and skills. Start with your first job and break down the responsibilities in great detail, what functions you performed, what skills were required, what training you used to perform the functions. Maybe it was tutoring, or life guard or working in a restaurant, helping in a parent’s law office, the possibilities are as many as there are careers.

Really focus on the list you create following the above system and write down the skills you have that can possibly parlay into a paid endeavor right now. Then think about where you could apply those skills without having to get a certificate or degree or any other additional credential. Make a list of possible work scenarios and get cracking calling people you know or businesses that might have what you need, or, that might need what you have.

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Gaining insight about European law

By Melissa Birks

Amy M. Gardner’s adventure starts Thursday, when she heads to Washington D.C. From there, it’s on to Brussels, then Amsterdam, Lisbon, and Sarejevo.

But she’s much more than a tourist building a passport portfolio. She is one of four Illinois residents, and the only Illinois attorney, among 54 Americans selected by the German Marshall Fund of the United States to receive a 2010 Marshall Memorial Fellowship.

In Europe, Gardner will meet leaders in the legal community, government, business, public policy, non-governmental organizations and more. Once back on American soil, Gardner plans to share what she’s learned with her colleagues and clients at Ungaretti & Harris, where she concentrates in general commercial litigation and intellectual property litigation.

Gardner’s idea in applying for the fellowship was to help the firm’s European clients as well as American clients who want to do business in Europe.

Boosting her application was a nomination by Ronald S. Miller, name partner in Miller, Shakman & Beem LLP. Gardner met Miller through their involvement with the Chicago Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society; Gardner helped found the chapter. Miller first nominated Gardner for the fellowship two years ago. She wasn’t selected, and he nominated her again.

“I was very impressed,” Miller said of working with Gardner. “She took from scratch this chapter into one that’s considered among the best in the nation.”

In Washington, D.C., Gardner will gather with 17 other fellows (the program apportions the fellows into three groups that travel at different times of the year to different sites). Her group will fly to Brussels and then subdivide into groups of six, each investigating points north, south, and east throughout Europe. They will rendezvous in Bucharest before returning to the States on March 26.

“You meet with a wide range of people to get the flavor of the cities and countries that you are in,” Gardner said. “They want to strengthen trans-Atlantic relations. They set up a schedule for everyone, and then you get individual appointments. For example, I’ve requested that my individual appointments include lawyers and judges related to issues I’m interested in.”

Among other interests, Gardner hopes to learn about issues of intellectual property rights and piracy, a growing topic of concern in the European Union.

“In talking with past fellows, it’s interesting. Some have gone to same the cities. I’ve been hearing how it’s made them more well-rounded, better lawyers …  I’m really excited and grateful for this opportunity. I hope that I can use what I learn to share along with other lawyers, not just at Ungaretti, when I get back.”

Q & A with one of our speakers

Jeff Berkowitz, President of JB Consulting Group, Inc., will be one of our speakers at our Wednesday Attorneys in Transition event. He took some time to answer some of our questions.

What do you hope people learn from your presentations about the job market?

Although the legal market is still a down market, there are many opportunities out there.  We’ll talk a little bit about the market for law firm partners, associates and in house counsel, but the most important thing for anyone engaged in a search is to understand his or her strengths and to know how to package, present and persuade about those strengths.  Those aspects of the search are all controllable by the candidate and therefore merit a great deal of time and energy, irrespective of the state of the job market.  Of course, all of that should be done with a sensitivity to market trends and market appetites for skills, traits and attributes.

What is your biggest piece of advice for finding that next job?

Spend considerable time thinking about what you can do, what you want to do and how you can best contribute to a prospective employer.  If you think you appear to be short of what the employer wants, ask yourself if it can be remedied.  For example, for a law firm partner making a move, a threshold of  portable business is, of course, key.  However, sometimes strong business and marketing plans can bridge the gap between what the law firm wants and what you have.  If so, develop those plans, test the plans, start executing the plans and sell the plans. Similarly, corporate law departments often want their potential hires to have in-house experience.  If you lack it, try to learn what might compensate for that and if you possess those traits or skills.

Why is networking so important?

A large number of jobs never make their way to want ads, search firms or Internet postings. Instead, they are often communicated by word of mouth.  And for those that do take the form of postings, etc., employers will often be more impressed by the candidate than the candidate’s resume. Also, if you meet the potential employer in person, you have the opportunity to adapt and emphasize the appropriate skills and traits as you learn about the position.  Further, a person you are meeting with may decide, because of who you are and what you are saying, that they should be thinking of hiring someone like you. If that happens, you have an extreme jump on being offered the job. And, of course, if you do effective networking, you will be constantly acquiring new names of people to meet, thereby constantly expanding your network. Additionally, networking is a way of preparing you indirectly for job interviews and sharpening your social skills.

Finally, networking is not about exchanging cards with or handing out your resume to as many people as you can, or telling everyone you meet you are looking for a job. No, it is almost the reverse of that. We’ll talk about that.

How should lawyers adapt their careers to this changing legal environment?

For a long time, the legal market has been changing to encourage lawyers to become individual career managers. The current, changing legal environment simply places greater emphasis on this. It is incumbent on every lawyer to ask yearly, if not more frequently, what are your personal goals for that year and how do you achieve them. You may work for an entity that does that for or with you.  However, even if that is the case, you should also do it separately. Sometimes, your targeted goals and paths will be congruent and sometimes they will diverge from those of your employer. However, it is your career. You need to set your targets and to monitor your progress.

Q & A with Britt Miller

Britt Miller is a partner in the Chicago office, where she practices in the areas of antitrust litigation and complex commercial litigation. Britt focuses on representing domestic and international corporations in price-fixing, market allocation, monopolization, and conspiracy cases, and has also counseled clients on general antitrust issues.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

I am not sure that I can pick one thing about my practice that I would label as “the most interesting.”  Moreover, I’m not sure that the answer to that question wouldn’t change on any given day depending on what I’m working on.  Many things about the practice of law— both on a substantive and procedural level — fascinate me.  But if I had narrow it down, and setting aside the substantive areas of law that I find the most interesting, I would have to say the following:

1)  The people I encounter in my practice.  Not just those I work with, but those I litigate against and those I litigate for.  I have heard people say that practicing “corporate” law removes the human element from the equation.  In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.  “Corporate” law (and by that I mean representing corporations as opposed to individuals) is dealing with the human element on a grand scale.  Colleagues, clients, opposing counsel, co-counsel, and even Courts — they all have different personalities, different opinions, different priorities.  And we, as counselors and lawyers, have to be able to read and understand all of those different, very human elements in order to effectively do our jobs.

2)  The complexity of the issues we deal with. I am constantly fascinated and challenged by the sophistication and complexity of the legal issues our clients face on a daily basis.

3)  The businesses of our clients. In order to truly understand your client’s legal needs, you have to understand your client.  That means immersing yourself in their business and truly understanding where they’ve been, where they are, and where they want to go.  It’s always an interesting undertaking.

What makes a good lawyer?

The short answer is honesty, integrity, drive, passion, creativity, perseverance, patience, resolve, responsiveness, understanding, and a lot of other qualities that not only make someone a good lawyer, but a good person.

The longer answer is that in addition to all of these qualities, you also have to be able to:  be attuned to your clients’ goals and needs, add value, think on your feet, craft a good argument, read people well (your client, your adversary, etc.), be able to communicate effectively, thrive under pressure (both internal and external), think outside of the box, lead (but know when to follow), follow (but know when to lead), be part of a team, mentor the next generation, contribute to your community (i.e., give back) — I could go on and on.

What is the biggest legal news right now, and what is its impact?

From an over-arching perspective, the answer is the economy — it obviously has affected every industry and every individual, and the legal industry has had to adapt and become even more adept at providing quality legal services in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

From a substantive perspective, and as someone who specializes in antitrust law, it would have to be the heightened level of antitrust activity across the globe.  Just this past year, for example, we have seen a renewed interest in antitrust issues by the Department of Justice, a marked increase (double-digits) in the number of enforcement actions and second request investigations filed by the FTC, and a slew of important judicial decisions, not the least of which are Iqbal (pleading standards) and Hydrogen Peroxide (class certification).  In Europe, we saw record-setting fines imposed against Intel and several natural gas manufacturers, and the European Court of Justice endorse the proposition that a parent company may be held liable for anticompetitive behavior of its subsidiaries.  And in Asia, we saw a Chinese court dismiss the first-ever private damages action brought under the country’s Anti-Monopoly Law and saw India’s Competition Act dealing with abuse of dominance and cartels finally go into effect.

As for what will be the impact of these events— I think that really remains to be seen.  But I do think, at least here in the U.S., we’re going to continue to see an increase in antitrust activity.   I think, for example, we will see in increase in criminal price-fixing investigations — something that usually accompanies recessionary times; an increased number of mergers which, given the “too big to fail” concern, will be under heightened scrutiny; and, depending on the speed of the economic recovery and the timing of any enforcement actions by government agencies, an increase in private litigation filings.

Q & A with one of our event’s speakers

Our next Attorneys in Transition event is Feb. 24. One of our speakers, Nicole Nehama Auerbach, founding member of the Valorem Law Group, took some time to answer some of our questions.

What do you hope people learn from your presentations about the job market?

My presentation will be more about things that I’ve learned about the industry and things that have worked for me. So it’s not necessarily a true presentation “about the job market.” My hope is that something I say resonates with at least one person in the audience, and that I perhaps say something that makes someone think about things in a new or different way and that change helps them in their search.

What is your biggest piece of advice for finding that next job?

Stay focused and positive. It is a tough market and it may be a while until you find the next thing. In the meantime, consider temp attorney work or other things to bring in some income if necessary.  Don’t fixate or obsess on this search (even though it is an extremely important thing). I find that when I most desperate – for a win, for a client, for something — it comes across subliminally, and not in a positive way. Remember to take some time for yourself, to do something you never could do when you were working all the time – even if that means sneaking off to see a movie or a museum exhibit for an afternoon.  The more human you become, the more you will relate to others, and the more you will open your eyes to opportunities you might not have otherwise thought of.

Why is networking so important?

You just never know who you will meet who might have a job for you, have a suggestion for you, have a kind word for you, or have a friend of a friend with a cousin once removed who may have something.  I can’t underestimate it, but there is a fine line between effective networking and desperately trying to amass as many business cards as possible at any given time.  Possibilities arise when people genuinely are interested in you or what you can do. Relationships can’t be forced – so just be yourself. And follow up – but DO NOT STALK!

How should lawyers adapt their careers to this changing legal environment?

I consider myself a bit of an “apple-cart upsetter” – meaning that I have always felt that the status quo should be challenged if it isn’t working right or isn’t sustainable.  I think in this changing legal environment you simply have to be willing to think outside of the box. You must be flexible, and I think you have to come to terms with the idea that life may not be as easy as it used to be. I also happen to think that change – sometimes even drastic or unwanted change – ends up causing people to do things that they never would have done, and usually that’s a positive thing.

CTA loses fight to ban ads for violent video games

By Melissa Birks

The Chicago Transit Authority must now accept advertisements for mature and adult-only rated video games. The change comes as a result of a preliminary injunction won last month on behalf of the Entertainment Software Association.

The issue was borne of a flap a couple of years ago when the CTA, in response to public complaints, took down advertisements for the game “Grand Theft Auto,” according to Paul M. Smith of Jenner & Block’s Washington D.C. office. Smith led the team that represented the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group for the video game industry.

After the CTA took down the “Grand Theft Auto” advertisements, the game’s manufacturers sued; there was a settlement that allowed the game to be advertised for an additional period of time, Smith said. That prompted the CTA to institute a policy prohibiting advertisements for games rated mature (M), described as suitable for ages 17 and older, and adult only (AO). “Grand Theft Auto” includes a series of popular games rated M due to their violence and sexual content.

In January 2009, the Entertainment Software Association filed a complaint, arguing that the CTA policy violated its members’ First Amendment rights.

“[The CTA] said it was because these games cause people to become violent. We’ve litigated this issue over and over, and the evidence is extremely weak on that,” said Smith, who added that the CTA policy on advertising is the first in the nation that the entertainment group has challenged.

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that the CTA’s advertising guidelines likely restrict speech in a public forum that is otherwise open to all speakers. According to the order, “the CTA singled out for prohibition all advertising references to a solitary class of product — mature and adult video games — which (unlike alcohol and tobacco) are themselves protected speech and which are legal for people of all ages to purchase.”

The entertainment group’s argument was strengthened by  precedent set some 25 years ago, when the CTA and Planned Parenthood battled over Planned Parenthood’s request to advertise. The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals determined then that the CTA is a “public forum.”

“They take ads from everybody else. Since there’s almost no other product they won’t advertise, it’s a public forum. You can’t just make exceptions…Video games have been held to be the equivalent of books and movies,” Smith said. “The only thing they won’t advertise are alcohol and cigarettes, which are illegal for some percentage of people, whereas M-rated games, people have a perfect constitutional right to buy.”

The CTA could still fight the injunction, Smith said, although “the judge’s opinion is pretty strong. There’s not a lot of leeway.”

Be pro on pro bono

Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.

Non-lawyers always laugh when I tell them what pro bono legal services are.

They say, “Lawyers giving something away for free?  What’s the catch?”  Sheesh, when did lawyers get such a bad rap? Most of us became lawyers because we wanted to help people.  As a former pro bono coordinator, I have seen volunteer attorneys change the lives of people who could not otherwise afford legal services.  I have also seen attorneys grow professionally after handling cases in areas of law they would not otherwise have gotten experience in.

Pro bono work is an excellent way to gain experience.  Although the economy is less than desirable, employers still want to know that you’ve handled cases on your own.  If you are in transition, it’s a bit hard to get that kind of “hands on” experience.  Luckily, pro bono work allows you to be an attorney in transition but still get much needed court room or transactional experience to nail a job interview.

Many attorneys choose to do pro bono work because they are interested in a certain area of law but chose a different career path.  I have attorney friends who are artists that maintain “traditional” law jobs.  Some of them volunteer with Lawyers for the Creative Arts and do pro bono work for other artists.

On the other hand, some pro bono attorneys have a great deal of experience in a certain area and like to volunteer their expertise helping people who could not otherwise afford their services.  For example, I volunteered at a program though the Chicago Bar Association called “Wills for Heroes” and I met some veteran estate planning attorneys.

There are tons of organizations in Chicago that work with pro bono attorneys.  Generally, these organizations have an intake process so before you would meet with a potential client there will already be great deal of information about his or her case.  I recommend contacting several organizations and asking them what areas of law their volunteers handle.  Organizations like Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS) handle several areas of law ranging from adoption to consumer law.  CVLS offers an orientation session, as well as training materials for volunteers.

Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS) is another great place to volunteer.  CRPLS volunteers help staff pro se desks at the Daley Center and field hotline calls from people in need of legal advice.  If you work at a firm, go talk to your Pro Bono Coordinator and ask about volunteer opportunities.  Most firms have relationships with legal service organizations.

Make sure you choose the organizations that you volunteer with carefully.  If you are someone who feels most comfortable working with a mentor, make sure that the organization can connect you with someone who is willing to walk you through a case.  I would suggest making sure that the organization locks in a mentor before you even begin working on the case.  That way, you can prepare questions from the very start.  If mentoring is something you are interested in doing, it is an excellent way to help pro bono clients.  Not only are you helping someone with limited means, you are also helping one of your colleagues learn from your knowledge and experience.

There are a lot of people out there who need your help.  Your challenge this week is to give it.