Tag Archives: Law Clerks

Calling all law clerks!

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve PR Marketing, a firm that creates and manages a focused image of success through marketing and publicity strategies for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition. The Pro Serve Club is a members only PR Marketing resource.

In a recent alumni board meeting, I heard a college mentioning a change in the patterns of students looking for law firm jobs. Apparently, there are plenty of applicants for associate positions. Fewer students, however, respond to law clerk opportunities.

The traditional employment route when I was in law school started with the first summer job at the end of the first year. Many of my friends applied for summer associate programs with larger firms. Some people enjoyed their summer associate experience and stayed on for a second year. If you do your job right as a clerk, you have the chance to stay working with the firm and can apply for an attorney position for after graduation.

Not only have large firms offered clerk positions. Students interested in clerking often overlook smaller firms. The benefits of clerking run to the small firms as well as to the students looking for the right fit. Law students should consider that smaller firms offer a unique experience.

A smaller law firm looking to expand might use a clerkship position to add new attorneys instead of hiring associates directly. Consider that associates often need to learn the nuances of a firm’s practice and niche in law. It makes more sense for a small firm to hire and groom a law clerk for the associate position. A law clerk to associate transition is more profitable for small firm partners.

The pressure is less when law students learning the ways of a firm before becoming more significant overhead. Likewise, the buy-in from the 2L might be easier than for a more experienced student or associate who is comparing law firms by short experiences – a treacherous thing if you only have snapshot experiences.

In 2012, even in a recovering economy, managing partners cannot afford to make poor hiring decisions and law student applicants have fewer opportunities to make an impression of commitment. Remember, once you look like a job hopper, employers might see you as impatient or finicky, not good.

Small law firm advice notwithstanding, the road to big firm starts early and if you want to work for a big firm, your focus should be big firm clerkships. You can always leave a big firm later, but going small to big is a tougher ladder to climb.

Spontaneous Exclamations: Finding your niche…with bacon

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held, LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

Before we begin, I just want to say: Welcome back, I hope you enjoy your stay and feel free to leave a comment!  While I’m not offering a free continental breakfast with those deep-fried French toast sticks, lukewarm yogurt, and unlimited bacon strips, I will offer you my musings every Thursday— a close second to infinite bacon.

Today, let’s discuss an extremely important matter your law school overlords may not have emphasized: how you find your niche, aka that link under your name on your law firm profile that lops you into your “Practice Area.”

Much of the time, when attorneys discuss their “niche” they are referring to a subarea of expertise within their practice.  As I have perceived it, junior attorneys find their niche in one of three ways: (i) you know what type of law you want to practice as of day one; (ii) you get thrown into a practice group and never leave; or (iii) your niche finds you.

If you know what type of law you want to practice from the day they hand you your tassel hat, good work.  If you stay in that area for the rest of your career, I’m impressed.  If you have the opportunity, there’s no shame in branching out and trying other areas.  After completing a summer clerkship with the 2nd District Illinois Appellate Court, I was set on becoming an appellate litigator and taking on those oft-fire-breathing panels up high.  Then, I was lured away by the temptation of tortuous tax calculations, and here I am, happy as a clam.  So my advice to you is: Reach outside your comfort zone and you might be rewarded.  Also, maybe bring a calculator.

If you get thrown into your unwanted practice group, make the best of it.  If you had your heart set on M&A and you get placed in real estate litigation, you’re certainly allowed to be disappointed, but keep an open mind.  If it’s not your cup o’ tea, see last week’s blog post and start networking with attorneys who may offer you work in your desired area!  A successful transition to a new area requires that the commanding attorneys trust you and want you on their team.  Convince them!  Keep in mind that sometimes you may need to be politically savvy in the office to slowly make your way to another group.  Law firms can be made up of various personalities that have the tendency to clash over the little things.  You don’t want to be caught in the middle.

Sometimes, your niche finds you.  It did for me!  As a summer associate, I was placed on a tax matter and that was it—I was set on corporate and tax. Your niche will likely arise out of chance—one day you will handle a matter and truly enjoy it.  Over time, you may pursue the same types of matters and, voila! You earn expertise in your practice and create happiness at the same time.

Bringing that joy with you to work really does make all of the difference.  In summary, while you may not love the area you are in, be patient, grasshopper, your passion may leap out from behind a corner and tackle you at any moment… and that is better than unlimited bacon.