Tag Archives: Pro Bono

Overcoming fear of rejection

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Something about law school changes our attitudes as we turn into lawyers. We often maintain a need to take a position and zealously defend it, regardless of its weight. This can cause us to work extra hard to avoid losing. We can learn how to take calculated risks and accept “no” without imputing failure; the lawyer might otherwise avoid potentially losing positions and might miss a great opportunity.

There are a few confidence situations where we need to remember to bring our “A” game:

Job Hunting – you can’t say the wrong thing if you’re honest.
Do you really want to work somewhere you have to lie about your values or belief systems? Why would you agree or disagree with an interviewer just to get a job? Smart lawyers recognize pandering and it serves no one well. If the job is not a match, keep hunting. It is OK not to fit with everyone.

Networking – if you are a friend first you make an easier referral.
People do business with others they know, like and trust. Spend time getting to know people at networking events as friends first. Likeable people are more likely to receive follow up phone calls. Balance your time in networking conversations between what you do and who you are and vice versa.

Volunteering – even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you still win.
Don’t shy away from volunteer and pro bono opportunities simply because you don’t have a mastery of the subject matter. If organizers expected perfection they would have hired experts. Volunteer experience also allows us to break away from our daily roles, which creates a good environment to meet others and get to know them in a neutral atmosphere.

Collaboration – none of us knows everything so roundtable your issues.
The smartest person is often the one who asks the most questions. The best lawyers know the limits of their knowledge and experience. We all benefit from floating ideas around and hearing some fresh input. By including others and seeking collective intelligence you will always come out on top.

Personality – help people remember you among the competition.
You don’t have to be dry, even despite your practice area. Some of the most dynamic attorneys work in otherwise stale practice areas. The dynamic person makes their work seem interesting. People with passion for their work get noticed. So much of life as a lawyer is a confidence game.

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Steve Jobs: “Don’t lose faith … don’t settle”

Nancy Mackevich Glazer is manager of Legal Launch LLC.  The goal of Legal Launch LLC 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.

Perhaps you’ve heard the replays of the speech Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs, now deceased, gave to Stanford University’s commencement class of 2005.  He stated:

“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

While this speech was written and given before the recession of 2008, his words have meaning for those still finding their professional footing and following their intended path.

Jobs implored the graduates, “You’ve got to find what you love … keep looking until you find it.”

His pre-2008 words, you may say, don’t apply to post-2008 times. You may be partially correct. For attorneys with this mindset, that they should land somewhere, anywhere, I might offer some additional thoughts.

First, it’s not such a bad idea to view your career development in stages. For example, if you want to practice real estate law, a practice area that surely is not practical right now, it may be possible for you to accept a position in litigation where you might be able to litigate real estate matters. If you work with a general practitioner, it may be entirely possible that some real estate matters may surface in due time.

I call this “making your own luck.” These situations do not simply fall in your lap; you can make them happen.

Second, while you are practicing litigation, it should be entirely possible for you to attend bar association meetings of real estate groups. This way, you are educating yourself and meeting practitioners who do what you want to do. You may meet real estate lawyers who have conflicts in real estate matters and want to pass clients on to you. In this way, you can get four for the price of one: you become educated in an area of law you enjoy; you get hooked up with lawyers who practice in that area; you may get your own real estate business; and perhaps, you may get the opportunity to recharge a practice area in your firm or create a new one.

Again, making your own luck while finding and doing what you love.

In this same way, while practicing litigation, you may want to accept a matter pro bono under the auspices of a Chicago legal services organization. Most nonprofit legal service providers also offer training and malpractice coverage for new attorneys. In addition, most will set up mentoring relationships with more senior attorneys. You receive tremendous benefit again, experience, training, mentorship – making your own luck.

Overall, it is helpful to view your career goals in terms of chapters in your life. If you talk to practicing attorneys, most have not stayed at the same firm or company from day one. The majority have practiced law in many capacities and worked in law-related fields over time.

So listen to the words of Steve Jobs. Keep your eye on the ball, and don’t forget the reasons why you went to law school. You can have what you want. You can remain true to yourself. It may not be next week. Despite the critics, think like Steve Jobs. Like the creation of desktop computers, the iPad or the iPhone, finding what you love sure can be possible.

Pro bono efforts can lead to new opportunities

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.

Attorneys in transition may be frustrated by a lack of work.  When most of us think of work we expect to be paid for our time.  Consider the clients with good cases who don’t have the money to hire a lawyer.  Consider the lawyers who get good cases and need help but cannot afford to hire an associate.  What is the value of work?  How do you define compensation?  I suggest there can be great value and compensation in pro bono efforts.

I wrote about a legal career event I attended at Northwestern University School of Law last summer.  Sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, the event featured a panel of distinguished professionals who spoke on their road to their current positions.  One recurring theme expressed by the panelists was the ability to recognize and seize genuine opportunities.  The benefits of pro bono service were also discussed, because you never know where they might lead.

I started engaging in pro bono service when I was an undergraduate student at Marquette University.  Knowing I wanted to go to law school, I sought an internship to gain more experience and build my resume.  My “Intro to Law” professor told me she was a prosecutor at the Milwaukee County Office of the District Attorney.  ADA, Sister Mary Johnstone, made a phone call and before I knew it I was the law clerk to the Misdemeanor Team Captain.  The key to this opportunity was that I didn’t need to be paid, and was hungry to learn.  Fifteen years later, I still rely on my experiences working in that office, and it has been surprising how often I have been glad I understood the charging and prosecution process from the inside.

One of my friends is a very well-known immigration and criminal defense attorney who, through her accomplishments, has earned the trust of several large firms who refer cases to her, some of which she takes for no fee.  My friend sometimes stops by my office and lets me know about a matter she is working on and indicates she may need additional help with research and drafting.  Knowing that she is well-connected and always on the lookout for high-quality attorneys, I send her a pro bono law student or lawyer in transition, who is willing to work pro bono.  These pro bono opportunities can open doors and introductions to new people who could help propel one’s career.

If you are an attorney in transition, consider carving out some time for a pro bono effort, because you never know what you might learn or who you might meet in the process.  I agree that the bills need to be paid and cash needs to flow – you can have the best of both worlds and earn money outside of law, where necessary, while continuing to build your resume.  My father often told me during law school, “You can become whatever you want; it is just a matter of how hard you are willing to work to get there.”

Q & A with Cliff Scott-Rudnick

Cliff Scott-Rudnick, a visiting professor and director of Continuing Education and Professionalism at The John Marshall Law School, will be participating in the May 8 panel discussion at the Attorneys in Transition event. Here are his answers to a few questions regarding his participation in the panel.

What are your top three pieces of advice for a lawyer looking for his or her next job?

He suggests asking yourself:

What do you really want to do? What are your passions for the law?  How much money do you need?

How should lawyers keep busy while they look for a job?

Network. Volunteer. Exercise.

What do you hope those who attend the event will take away from or learn from the panel discussion?

You are not alone.  It is not the end of the world or your career.  Things will get better.

A few job tips

Amy McCormack, co-president of McCormack Schreiber Legal Search Inc., offers the following tips for lawyers looking for their next position:

  • Whether you are employed or have been laid off keep a good working resume. It should be a fluid document that gets tailored to the positions that arise. Some firms receive hundreds of resumes and look for the buzzwords that set candidates apart from each other.
  • Don’t forget to network. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Touch base with college friends, law school friends, family, and colleagues from past jobs. Use social networking sites because many businesses look at profiles when looking for employees.
  • Look outside the box. Don’t go to the same job sites time and again; check out sites you wouldn’t think would have jobs. If you always go to acc.com, also check out Career Builder. Don’t forget specialty legal publications that are geared to your practice area.
  • Don’t rule out contract and temporary work, because many people land good positions through that work. At the same time, the work will help you make money.
  • Volunteer. McCormack says she knows of a number of job candidates who do pro bono work or volunteer in their communities. They often stumble across job and business development opportunities while volunteering.
  • Be flexible and open-minded. Some candidates have this mindset that they don’t want to take the first job opportunity after being laid off and they become too picky, McCormack said.

“We are in a whole new world, and you cannot evaluate new job opportunities right now as you might have evaluated them two years ago,” she said. “It’s just not necessarily realistic.”

Look at every opportunity very carefully because they will come along far less frequently than you would hope.