Tag Archives: Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Yo soy una abagada (I am a lawyer)

Angie Robertson graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2010. She has experience with public interest law, family law, legal document review and sales.  When she is not reading or writing about law, she enjoys live music, exploring Chicago, watching roller-derby, and spending time with her husband and her dog.

As anyone who is on the job market knows, speaking fluent Spanish can be a huge asset to your job search. As anyone who has ever learned or attempted to learn a second language knows, this task is no small feat. Hiring attorneys looking for bilingual, entry-level, Spanish-speaking attorneys and paralegals aren’t looking for high-school level speakers who can fluently ask clients questions such as: “Where is the hospital?” “Do you like to sing?” and “What is your name?” Typically, those hiring seek a native speaker or attorneys who just happened to spend a semester abroad in college or a few years in Peace Corps in Central or South America. Those folks are out there, but they are in high demand and they tend to swoop up jobs quickly.

Enter my brilliant idea when and I needed to find a job: I will become fluent in Spanish. I had taken four years in high school and thought this might take one month, three months max.

I started by buying a book I found on Amazon called “Spanish for Attorneys and Paralegals” (William Harvey, 2009). It comes with a CD with helpful words and phrases. I give it about three stars out of five. Half of the book is very basic, written for an audience who is completely unfamiliar with the Spanish language. But these were all things I’d learned in high school, so I continued to the legal terminology sections, but this was not very helpful either. Granted, I learned some new vocabulary, but there wasn’t a lot of direction on what to do with it. For example, one key phrase included “what happened with” followed by a list of legal nouns. I imagined myself asking: “¿Què pasò con la tarjeta de credito?” (What happened with the credit card?) It almost wouldn’t matter how the client responded, there was no way I was prepared to understand and respond effectively without asking her to repeat herself 10 times. This would not do.

I did some research for Spanish classes geared towards attorneys. I found a few private instructors, but surprisingly little. None of the bar associations have sections for bilingual attorneys—at least none that I could find. If anyone reading this knows of one that was right in front of my face and I missed, please comment to this blog and tell me. I was reminded of my days clerking in the collections courtroom at the Daley Center, where I learned there are only three Spanish translators covering all of the courtrooms.

I wrote several admissions counselors at city colleges. This seemed like exactly the type of thing a city college is intended for. I was informed that the city colleges do not provide continuing adult education in Spanish. Finally, I was lucky to find a small private language school a few blocks from where I live and immediately enrolled.

Currently, I am in Spanish Three (of five levels) and what I have learned about the complexity of the language has been surprising. Prepositions and pronouns are different and word order can be confusing. There are at least four different forms of saying things in the past tense. There are two different words for “for” and for the basic verb “to be,” and using the incorrect version can completely alter your message. Don’t get me started on the homonyms. My instructor knew that I was a lawyer and was hoping to be able to use Spanish in my practice someday, so she gave me a legal vocabulary list that was at least three times as long as the one in the book I purchased months before. I was annoyed to find that the word for “handcuffs” is the same word in as the word for “wife.” I imagined that this homonym could lend itself well to stand-up comedians and probably has for decades. As a fan of comedy, I sincerely hoped these homonyms were at least being put to use to make creative punch lines rather than obvious ones.

When I started this voyage of learning Spanish, I took it extremely seriously hoping it could help me find a job within six months. When I became more involved, I realized this would be a much longer and more intensive learning experience than what I had anticipated. It has now been six months since I began classes and, although I am now confident that I could have a conversation with a client about what happened to her credit card, I am still looking for a job and still not satisfied with my mastery of the language. Learning Spanish has been a challenge that has reshaped the way I view the world and what I imagine the future for my career—whether legal or beyond. As they might say in Buenos Aires, Madrid, Santiago, or even here in Chicago, “A veces, nuestros sueños pueden cambiar.” (Sometimes, our dreams can change.)

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Remembering where you came from …

Nancy Mackevich Glazer is the manager of Legal Launch LLC. The goal of Legal Launch is to provide uplifting career counseling for 3Ls, recent law school graduates and experienced attorneys. Nancy offers her clients endless ideas and possibilities to help land them the right job in a competitive market. For more information, visit LegalLaunch.net or e-mail Nancy@LegalLaunch.net.      

The author dedicates this writing with appreciation to Marianne Deagle, Assistant Dean of Career Services at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. Without Marianne, this writer/career counselor would never have discovered her real passions in law.

The first thing I ask a lawyer or law student who seeks my help in a job search is whether they have contacted and exhausted all possibilities with the counselors in their law school career office (“OCS”). Actually, I dig further. I also ask them if they have contacted the career counselors from their undergraduate or graduate schools. Career services from all of these institutions should be open to students and alumni, and their help shouldn’t cost a dime.

Your law school career counselor should be your BFF

In fact, I think it is impossible to “exhaust” all possibilities and opportunities with one’s law school or undergrad OCS. An attorney/ law student should be having ongoing conversations with her (a) career counselors, (b) their staffs, (c) their constantly-updated websites, (d) their alumni-bolstered job boards and (e) their alumni databases. (A jobseeker must be sensitive, however, that OCS staff are quite busy in the fall.)

Lest you answer that your OCS is unhelpful … After I cringe, I would respond, “Huh?” 

Don’t ever dismiss what the OCS folks can do for you. They are there for you and should be there for you years past your graduation date. Remember, these overworked and finely-tuned- in- to -the-market advisers weren’t the ones who brought on the recession; they didn’t promulgate the rules about your student loans; and they weren’t responsible for the glut of lawyers looking for legal work.  They are there, helping those who need it.

As jobseekers well know, all the rules of employment changed in the middle of the recent law school game. The OCS staff is learning and playing by those new rules too.

What can the OCS staff and their resources do for you? Not only does the staff become aware of openings in the market and post those positions, but the team also sees new hiring trends in changing practice areas, and they keep apprised of new hiring models for attorneys.

In addition, your alma mater has a vested interest in YOU. If you look good, so does your law school.

Bottom line — doing what’s best for you

If you badly need a job, you have to do what’s best for you, no doubt. Once you have made use of some of these valuable resources, I suggest you take it even a step further.

A novel thought … Help the OCS when you can; it will come back to you in spades

Your OCS counselors know the market. I suggest that you do what you can to become a part of that office. If you really want to benefit from the ever-alert eyes and ears of the OCS staff, create a relationship that travels a two-way street.

Maybe they need a speaker on a panel who has been out there, volunteering at the Daley Center or accepting ongoing temporary work. Maybe one of your counselors has a son interested in attending your undergraduate university; possibly you can offer her son some first-hand advice.

If you haven’t been utilizing the resources of the OCS in the best way, I suggest that you start now. The more you give, surprise, the more you may receive in return. Once you get to know these folks and they get to know you, perhaps an opportunity with your name on it will land on one of their desks. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

You may discover that it pays big to remember from where you came …

How much is my time worth?

Angie Robertson graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2010. She has experience with public interest law, family law, legal document review and sales.  When she is not reading or writing about law, she enjoys live music, exploring Chicago, watching roller-derby, and spending time with her husband and her dog.

Last week, the document review project I had been working on all summer ended abruptly.  In this industry, that just happens and there is really no one to blame. Such is the nature of temp work.

Those of us who find ourselves doing document review out of economic necessity take jobs based on a rather simple cost/benefit analysis:

  • Are reviewers treated as an important part of the litigation process?
  • Are directions clear, and are questions about the review addressed consistently?
  • Is the review in a convenient location?
  • Can we listen to podcasts or music while we work?
  • Is the office comfortable?
  • Are the hours flexible so we can go to interviews or appointments if we have them?
  • How much do we get paid?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the last factor trumps all of the rest. Having been offered contracts as low as fifteen to twenty dollars an hour for document review, I’ve asked myself several times, “Isn’t my time worth more?”  What is a recent grad to do during downtime between projects that will maintain their value as a legal professional?

My strategy is threefold, but purely experimental. First, take some time to tailor resumes and cover letters for jobs you really want. In my experience, it is important to dedicate either one day a week or a few hours per day twice a week to this task. I found that spending more time than that made my job search too broad and created unneeded additional stress. I was applying for jobs I did not really want or that I was not a good fit for and I was overwhelmed with waiting to hear back from any of the places I applied.

Next, I try to do something fun that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Who knows when you might get another chance to play video games all day, make homemade ice cream or read library books without interruption?  Someone is going to have to pay me good money pull you away from doing things you really love all day long, as well they should.

Finally, and this is something that I have to admit I have done less than I should, take the time to get coffee or beer with an old law school classmate or fellow document reviewer who is going through underemployment. Not only is it good to know that you are not alone, but it can also be helpful to bounce career ideas off of each other. You are going to meet some people through temping with really incredible backgrounds and experiences to share. You will also meet some weirdoes, but such is life.

As of yesterday, I have another document review contract starting next week, and this one pays more than any of my previous ones. Whether this is due to coincidence, strategy or the fact that I’m getting more experienced, I have no idea. But I do have peanut-butter-cup ice cream in the freezer with my name written all over it.

Financial planning and the temp attorney

Angie Robertson graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2010. She has experience with public interest law, family law, legal document review and sales.  When she is not reading or writing about law, she enjoys live music, exploring Chicago, watching roller-derby, and spending time with her husband and her dog.

I had to open a new bank account recently. My old bank was charging new fees and so I took a stance by moving whatever petty amount of money that was in my checking account to a bank with no fees. I was between temp jobs, had just made a student loan payment, and my balance was dismal. The young banker who was opening my account had to ask me a series of demographic questions, including my occupation. I let out a long sigh and murmured, “I’m a lawyer.”

The word “lawyer” switched on a “commission!” light bulb in the banker’s eyes. He exclaimed, “A lawyer? Really? That is great news for you! We have a savings account with the highest interest available with a minimum balance of $50,000!”

“Not today,” I responded, deadpan.

Doing the “right thing” financially for a new lawyer in-between jobs can be a bit of a gambit, to say the least. Sadly, contributing to a 401k, IRA, or even making a monthly health insurance payment aren’t always options when there is no stable source of income. New lawyers have the added stress of astronomical student loans. If one is lucky enough to have a few extra unspent dollars in a given month, investing that money is risky if one doesn’t know whether they will have another temp job the following month. It’s enough to make Suze Orman’s head spin.

My one piece of advice for every new attorney or recent law school grad is to consolidate your loans and take advantage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. Consolidation is a tedious process, so cross your t’s and dot your i’s. The gist of the Act is that if you work in public service for at least 10 years, your loans are forgiven if you pay 10 percent of your adjustable gross income monthly for 10 years. If you are not in public service, depending on your income,* your loans are forgiven if you pay 10 percent of your adjustable gross income monthly for 25 years. If you want to pay your loans off sooner, your options include marrying rich, winning the lottery and forming a Google-esque startup. Also, you could get promoted in your career the traditional way, continue to live modestly, and make larger loan payments, if that works into your life plan.

The promise of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act is not a complete solution to the lack of congruity between law school debt and current salaries for law grads. The benefits of the Act cannot be reaped for 10 to 25 years in the future, which makes appeal or amendment a serious threat to law graduates with loan debt. While this fairly new Act has remained intact so far, part of the recent debt-ceiling deal removes federal subsidies for interest on Stafford loans for current graduate students after 2012, which means all future law grads will have to pay interest accrued on those loans while in school.  As the loan burden for law students gets increasingly worse and our aspirations for an improvement in the legal market are somewhat speculative, we all need to come up with financial plans that include more than switching banks to avoid monthly fees.

*Here are two websites that helped me navigate the process of consolidating loans with the federal government. 

http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/resources/student-debt-relief/student-debt-relief-webinar-series

http://ibrinfo.org

Got LLM?

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Last week I had the opportunity to serve as a juror at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.  My friend Ted is a Loyola alumni and he knows me through the DuPage County Bar Association – why is that relevant?  You never know what connections and opportunities show up today as a product of networking seeds you planted some time ago.

Happy to carve out some time to volunteer for their trial, I arrived at Loyola and met some of the other jurors.  Many of us were lawyers, tasked with creating fictitious personalities for voire dire.  In the past, I have volunteered my time for moot court and other law school and college level competitions, and I have never been more impressed than I was at Loyola this past Friday.  The level of skill was impressive.   I had incorrectly assumed that some of the students were practicing attorneys going back for an LLM, they were LLM’s coming straight from JD programs.

Many schools offer LLM programs and attorneys in transition have a unique opportunity to take on more education when the economic climate creates additional time in the schedule.  Hiring partners at law firms are using increasingly rigid standards for new associates.  One of the other jurors, a trial lawyer, commented that an LLM in trial skills can supplement some of the training lawyers learn in practice with time under their belt.  I agree, and while and LLM is not an experience substitute, it is certainly a resume booster.

Advanced degree programs in trial skills, practice and advocacy are particularly valuable.  Learning these skills in an LLM setting allows for more feedback and learning opportunities than otherwise might be available in the traditional JD coursework.  During Friday’s mock trial, the jurors had the opportunity to critique counsel on their trial performance.  The comments were sincere and well received by the participants, interested in feedback and impressions as the jurors.

Attorneys in transition should consider an LLM program.  Towards the end of law school many of us just want to graduate and move forward and get to work, and I think many of us run from an LLM program because we are so sick of being in law school.  So, if we decided then not to pursue advanced legal education, are we foreclosed from doing it now?  I think not.

If you search for “LLM programs Chicago” on Google you will receive several program options at various schools and with several price points.  You may even find an online course that peaks your interest.  You may want to take a look at LLM programs where you went to law school or at another institution, and there really are no hard and fast rules on going back for more education, or staying in, if the job forecast seems bleak as graduation approaches.