Tag Archives: Resumes

Testimonials and recommendations – 7 tips

J. Nick Augustine J.D., “The Law Publicist,” is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Incorporated agency. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations, marketing and practice management. Nick shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition often have impressive resumes. Anyone can write or pay someone to put together a nice resume. Consider the greater weight of testimonials and recommendations from others in the community. What do people say about you? If they offer to back you in writing, take them up on it and see if they will go further and chat with a potential client or employer. Here are 7 tips on testimonials and recommendations:

Who do you ask?

  1. Employers who really know what you can do. Remember that recommendations are for the people considering you for a position, or when making another hiring or referral decision. Most professionals can spot a canned recommendation, and if the person you ask doesn’t know you well enough, that is what you are going to receive. Try asking am employer who worked with you closely, who knows the quality of your work best. Before you ask for a testimonial or recommendation, ask yourself first if this person can easily recall and tell a story about you.
  2. Clients who think you did a great job. If you are hanging your shingle and looking for content to place on the testimonial section of your website, consider using the clients who say the best things, often about the simplest of projects. Think about the client’s experience before you remember the result of the underlying matter. A happy client who lost a battle, but respected and trusted their lawyer is likely to give you a glowing review.

Where should you publish them?

  1. There are several places to share testimonials and recommendations online. A common practice today is to seek recommendations on LinkedIn and repurpose them on a website. If you do this, contact the author first, and ask permission to repost their statement about you. Most people will thank you for having the respect to ask for consent, which can elicit a positive thought about you and they might update their statement. Broad permission to publish testimonials on a variety of social networking and listing sites is a good thing.
  2. Printed references can include a section for testimonials. Smart marketers and promoters know that printed material is a valuable resource. Don’t forget to include your earned testimonial statements and letters of recommendation in printed materials. I would rather receive your content peppered with nice things people say about you and your services.

How do you use them professionally?

  1. If someone recommends you, recommend them. Social networking websites like LinkedIn already prompt us to reciprocate a recommendation. Just like referrals, recommendations and testimonials are earned. If you are asked or are the one asking, first consider whether the recommendation is appropriate. Don’t give another person a bogus testimonial just because you earned one from them. Rather, earn the opportunity to give an honest statement.
  2. With consent, offer a potential employer or client the opportunity to talk to those who recommend you. A wise salesman once taught me, when trying to close new business, offer the phone number of a client who agrees to verify your credibility and reputation upon request. Try setting up a few of these relations and make sure you humbly thank others who support you.
  3. Keep the love alive and stay in touch with your supporters. Lawyers and business professionals are not inherently altruistic; make sure you keep in touch and continue earning supportive comments and testimonials. Even if you think you do not have clients to send along, maintain and communicate your effort to spot and make referrals when appropriate.

92 days of summer

Nancy Mackevich Glazer is manager of Legal Launch LLC.  The mission of Legal Launch is to give uplifting and creative career advice to 3Ls, recent law school grads and experienced attorneys.  Nancy helps her clients land gratifying employment – legal and nonlegal  – in a competitive market.           

                       www.LegalLaunch.netNancy@LegalLaunch.net

 Summer is here.  For many lawyers, the season brings a long-anticipated sigh of relief.  There is finally reason to be outside and away from one’s desk.  The air is warmer.  The mood is lighter.  The atmosphere is more festive.

Generally speaking, the legal community slows down.  Judges, partners in law firms, in-house counsel, and yes, even associates, take vacations.  Bar associations, law schools and networking organizations all tend to turn their attention away from the legal world and slow down.  Summer becomes a time of regeneration.

In the glory days, when firms actually filled their empty offices with summer associates, the mood was always lighter during the summer months.  Today, despite operating drastically different entertainment budgets, law firms’ summer psyche does remain the same.

While most 2011 law school graduates are refocusing their energies and hitting their Bar Bri manuals, many licensed 2009/2010 grads continue to pound a softer law firm pavement.

What happens in the summer season for job seekers?  If you are an attorney looking for your next opportunity, here are a few suggestions for your summer “To Do” list:

1.  Be ready to hit the ground and run on Sept. 1.  Make sure your resume has specific descriptions of what you did as a law clerk or intern/extern.  This means that you have included (a) the specific subject matter area(s) and legal issues about which you are now an expert, and (b) your quantifiable successes, i.e., you detail how your research and your written brief helped convince the judge to dismiss X number of counts of the plaintiff’s complaint or strike Y number of your opponent’s jury instructions.

If your resume generically states that you drafted complaints, motions, and discovery — you are failing to separate yourself from the crowd.  You need to tell a prospective employer what you exactly know how to do, what legal subject areas you understand., and what skills you have mastered. Your goal is to add value to an employer’s practice and make her look good.  The more a prospective employer knows about your exact skills, the less she has to train you.  In today’s competitive market, that’s a huge advantage.

2.  Gain legal experience. Volunteer.  While some legal organizations are spread to capacity with volunteer attorneys looking for more legal experience, some cam always use more help.  If you are interested in litigation,  The John Marshall Law School runs a first-rate Veteran’s Legal Clinic to train you and help veterans advocate for benefits.  If you like estate planning, volunteer to research and update the planned giving materials for a non-profit’s website.   See if they can enlist a seasoned estate planner to bless your work. If you know how to mediate, offer your services to a neighborhood housing organization.  If you would like to learn to mediate, the summer might be a great time to be trained and certified.

3.  Continue to keep every door open. If an opportunity comes along and it’s not exactly what you are looking for, be open-minded.  Gaining experience in another area (in a down market) may not be the worst thing.  The key for you is gaining legal experience.  That’s not to say that you must stay in an unfavored position for the long haul.

4.  Check out areas of law where there actually is demand. Are you interested in health law?  Have you considered health-care compliance work?  Have you noticed how many compliance positions have been posted over myriad pharmaceutical web sites?  If you are a stickler for following rules and regulations, this may be a great area of law for you to pursue.  The demand is great and only continues to grow.

There are other kinds of compliance as well.  Investment and brokerage firms must always be in compliance with SEC regulations.  As most attorneys are not clamoring to this area of law, the chances are good that demand for these skills is quite high.

5.  Take a break. Even though I’m making suggestions about how to land legal work in this competitive market, I am also going to talk out of the other side of my mouth.  Take a break from your search.  Put this on the “To Don’t Do” list.  You must acknowledge to yourself that finding legal work is stressful.   Summer is a great time to be kind to yourself.  Finances depending, take a break, get away, and regenerate.

We all know how quickly the days of summer fly.  There are so many more activities available to fill our time.  Perhaps, just getting out there under the warm sun, meeting people and enjoying outdoor life is one of the best networking avenues we have.  Do what you love, and don’t even call it “networking.”

There are about 92 days of summer.  Please pass the lemonade.

Being true to yourself

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.  www.LegalLaunch.net;    Nancy@LegalLaunch.net

Throughout your life, no doubt, you’ve heard people advise you to “be true to yourself.”   Even Shakespeare admonished, “To thine own self be true …”

From Shakespeare’s Elizabethan era, fast forward to now, April 2011.  I’ll bet that the following description sounds familiar to many of you:

  • You’ve graduated law school, even passed the Illinois Bar Exam.
  • You’re looking for a job in law that will provide sound footing to begin your career while also helping sustain you, your landlord, and your lender(s).
  • You’ve sent out a ridiculous number of resumes, each with its own custom crafted cover letter.  (You don’t care to count how many.)
  • Like so many of your law school friends, you haven’t had one response — not even a “Thank you, Mr./Ms. _________.   We have received your resume, and you will hear from us by __________…”   Nothing.

I take pride in a similar demoralizing experience I had as a 2L, back in the day.  I was active in a Chicago-based civil liberties organization.  This organization was honoring a man who had once served as a past president and who, in my eyes, changed the world as I knew it.   This man, high upon my pedestal, was also a name partner in his own Chicago law firm.

I wrote this nameless partner a congratulatory note for being honored, and he subsequently invited me to his firm to get acquainted.     As we discussed the state of the legal profession back then, in the Dark Ages, he explained to me that I would never stand a chance of being hired at his law firm.  The reason:  I wasn’t good enough.   I had not attended Harvard, University of Chicago, Northwestern or Stanford as an undergrad or as a law student.  Simply put, I wasn’t in “The Club.”

While I truly didn’t meet with him to prospect for a job, I was rather startled and somewhat offended.  Okay, if you go to law school, you have to be able to withstand blows of this sort.  So I did just that.  I picked myself up off the floor, smiled sweetly, looked him straight in the eye with appreciation for his time, and started putting one foot in front of the other again.

My point is this:  we’ve all been kicked in life and in our job searches.  No doubt, no one is getting kicked more than the graduates of recent years.

The key is:  How are you going to handle being kicked around?  Will you become a tougher, bolder person?  Or, will you become a tougher, more calloused person?

It may be extremely difficult, but if you do nothing else, take some comfort here:  Attorneys who approach me for help with their job searches have endured many blows.  I hear these stories repeatedly:

  • How new attorneys and law students spend time crafting e-mails to lawyers, asking for informational interviews.  Even if there is a connection through family, friends or law school, often, these requests asking for only 10-15 minutes of non-billable time, go unanswered.
  • About recent graduates sending time-consuming, customized cover letters and resumes (x 3.14) in response to posts of available jobs.   Responses of any kind are rarely inspired.
  • How graduates sign on for temporary assignments to start on a date certain.  The coordinators for these projects string along their temporary hires week after week, explaining that the project continues to be delayed.  As a result of these attorneys’ loyalty and keeping of their word, they have missed out on 4-6 other temporary assignments.  Needless to say, these folks fear their landlords and their loan officers.

I repeat, take comfort here.

What I’m suggesting is that the legal world’s pendulum is off its center.  If you are reading this, nodding your head in agreement, you are the victim of simple oversupply v. no demand economics.  You’re smack dab in the middle of a lopsided scale of justice.

You knew this already, but here’s what you might not know: You’re not crazy.

Hopefully, you can look yourself in the mirror and know that market forces have taken over; what you’ve got is the mirror on the wall, your own good reflection and your gut telling you that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

My advice amidst the madness is, try to stay true to yourself.  Try to think about the reasons why you went to law school in the first place.  Put yourself above the imbalance, if possible.

While you’re out there pounding pavement, during or post- law school, know that it will not always be easy to hold fast to who you really are.  Today, you are considered fortunate to have a potential employer simply read your resume.  If you get a written response via snail mail or email , that’s huge (even if you were not accepted).  An interview?  An exceedingly rare event!

If you’re out there looking for work, no doubt your head has been lost in this familiar breeze of a pendulum-gone-mad.  You are probably accustomed to it.  Accustomed to no responses … Accustomed to being strung along …

Sadly, it is inevitable that job seekers today might lose a part of themselves in an unbalanced market runneth over.  If this sounds familiar, don’t do it.  Don’t forget yourself.  Don’t forget why you aspired to study law, even though the law school-to-profession model changed in the middle of the game.  This still isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

*Back to that name partner. Funny enough in the following year, the hiring committee of this man’s very own firm ironically extended me an offer to work post graduation — summer stipend, bar review course tuition and a raise-before-I-even-walked-in-the-door, all included.  (This guy was obviously not on his own firm’s hiring committee)  For other reasons, I did not accept this offer.  Again, it was market forces causing the firm to break old rules and change the way the game had to be played.

In life, you have learned to be bigger than this.  You learned it in kindergarten, when you were admonished, “When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.”

The lawyers in our lawyers club, riding the supply-side pendulum, don’t seem to be watching out for us, holding our hands or sticking together.  There is no tattling, and no teacher is present.

Later in law school, the very core of the Socratic Method taught us to toughen up.  We have all learned how to take an intellectual beating in front of our peers.  As a result, we then showed up to class better prepared.  We also became more analytical, and eventually, better lawyers.

Job-seekers, you’re not crazy.  Don’t ever grow accustomed to the silence following the submission of a job application.  That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

Even for those of us who never made it to the Ivy League, we lawyers belong to a very fine club.  This is true despite the lack of recognition I received from a once-highly–pedestalled civil rights honoree.   We’ve earned our membership.  We’re in, no matter how the pendulum happens to swing.

Do not lie on your resume

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Inc. agency.  Law Publicist Communications is a public relations agency also offering coaching and consulting.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations, marketing and practice management.  Nick shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition must never print misleading content on their resume.  Some people say that everybody lies a little on their resume and people anticipate puffery.  A lawyer in Massachusetts was recently suspended from practice for six months for misrepresentations on his resume.  “Wade Jensen never earned an LLM degree in taxation from Boston University, although he was enrolled and attended classes there.  Nor did the 1997 Purdue University graduate earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Tufts University in 1997.” ABA Journal. News. Legal Ethics (2011, April 11). Mass. Lawyer Is Suspended for 6 Months Due to Multiple Misrepresentations on Resume, Retrieved April 8, 2011.

The truth is often avoided in resume review and during the recruiting process.  Recruiters do not have time to check every reference and credential reported on a candidate’s resume.  When it comes down to a decision among candidate finalists, the past employers and listed references are often contacted for their comment.  When the references don’t exist and things are not matching up, the candidate might anticipate the kiss of death.  In the case of Wade Jensen, credibility may suffer indefinitely.

The discovery of one misstatement on a resume usually prompts additional inquiry into the candidate’s actual credentials.  Outsourced candidate auditing firms verify candidate representations.  A few verification phone calls would have quickly led to the discovery that Wade Jensen did not “…letter in hockey and lacrosse or even earn a place on the “dean’s honor list,” among other purported academic awards, according to a Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers summary of a Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts opinion.” Id.  While this may be a more egregious example of credential fabrication, any discovery of a material representation could earn a bar inquiry.

Recruiting and staffing professionals process resumes quickly and can easily spot something that looks out of place.  Most people have career path that follows themes and rhythms.  Generalizing and profiling is often necessary in vetting candidates.  Savvy recruiters can often spot a fabricated resume; it makes one wonder why someone who looks like a perfect candidate has trouble finding or keeping a job, which begs the question, what is really going on with this person?

Why do candidates assume they know what really puts their resume on the top of the pile?  Do the career services offices always know best?  Career services can offer examples, templates and tips, but they cannot anticipate specific employer queries.  When it comes to the employer’s preference, anything could be possible.  Consider that some employers want to hire talented candidates who sound like interesting people, as opposed to “perfect” people.

As you accurately portray your credentials on your resume, do not sell yourself short.  Things often happen in life and a truthful resume paints a picture.  How you paint your picture depends on your creative writing skills.  Most resume line items can be phrased to put the candidate in their best light.  Just be yourself and remember that your resume represents a career in progress.

Checking out the resume — Part II

Nancy Mackevich Glazer is manager of Legal Launch LLC.  The mission of Legal Launch is to give uplifting and creative career advice to 3Ls, recent law school grads and experienced attorneys.  Nancy helps her clients land gratifying employment – legal or nonlegal  – in a competitive market. www.LegalLaunch.netNancy@LegalLaunch.net

Last week, I discussed how your resume’s descriptions of your past legal work should “add value” to the clients, firms or companies where you were employed.  This week’s continuation of the “adding value” theme requires you to look at your many-times- revised-and- it’s-getting-close-to–perfection resume.

This week, I ask:  Do you have a section in your resume that describes your experience drafting motions or briefs while clerking for a firm?

If your answer to the question above is “yes,” take a look at that section of your resume again.  I’m sure you started out the paragraph with a past tense action verb, such as:

“Researched and wrote summary judgment motions, motions in limine and motions to dismiss.”

The past tense action verbs are great; leave them in.

However, if your entry looks like the one above, there is no description of what you did or what value you gave to your former employer or client.  Good impressions about your law school or grade point aside, the partner looking at your resume needs to know exactly what you can do for her.

For example, let’s say she’s has to file a complex motion to dismiss in chancery court in next month and needs some help.  From your resume, noted above, she doesn’t really know if you can handle this task.  Instead of offering generic experience on your resume, “Researched and wrote … motions to dismiss,” try something like this instead:

Researched and wrote summary judgment motion in complex insurance coverage matter on behalf of insured, prevailing on three counts of a four-count complaint; analyzed law and drafted motions in limine and briefs in an employment matter, successfully convincing U.S. District Court  judge to rule against 6 of opposing party’s 10 jury instructions.

By writing your resume in a way that describes exactly what you have done and how you were successful in the past helps a prospective employer make her decision.  She knows you wrote a similarly complex brief in your experience and that you were successful. She sees what kinds of subject matter you have researched and analyzed.  She sees that you added value to the brief, to your former client and to your former firm.

Phrasing your experience as I have done above allows a future employer to see that you can hit the ground running!    Showcasing your talent in this way can help you land a job – even ahead of students who received better grades or who graduated from higher-ranked law schools. In this way, you provide a decision-maker with the tools she needs to go to bat for you in the hiring meeting.

Needing more work on your resume — Part I

Nancy Mackevich Glazer is manager of Legal Launch LLC.  The mission of Legal Launch is to give uplifting and creative career advice to 3Ls, recent law school grads and experienced attorneys.  Nancy helps her clients land gratifying employment – legal or nonlegal  – in a competitive market. www.LegalLaunch.netNancy@LegalLaunch.net

My name is Nancy Glazer.   I have been helping law students and recent grads find jobs in law for 25 years, although this is my first contribution to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s blog, Attorneys in Transition.

As I’m new around here, you might expect me to write an uplifting piece about how great your chances are to land the job of your dreams.  My clients know, “uplifting” is what I typically do best, making their job searches exciting, “upbeat” even.

What I’d like to do with this introductory writing is give you something of value that will actually improve your resume and help get you an interview.  My suggestions always require more work on your part.

I know you have finally crossed off the “revise resume” entry from your lengthy “to do” list.  Here I am, new kid on the block, saying, “Take another look!”  (I know, too, that you’ve revised your resume nearly 100 times and that you just can’t even look at it any more without getting dizzy …)

Okay.  Do you have your resume in hand?  Let’s check to see if your resume is cutting-edge:

1.  Does your resume add value or “quantify” what work you performed for a past employer or client?    A cutting-edge resume for 2011 helps a prospective employer see in real numbers how your past work was valued.   For example, if you clerked in-house for an insurance company, your resume might say:

“Creatively helped resolve a multi-party lawsuit.”

This is a great entry.  However, to add value and show a future employer how you are even more valuable, consider changing the entry to read:

“Saved company $200,000 in legal fees by creatively resolving a complex, multi-party coverage lawsuit.”

By adding more detail (provided you can remember the resulting successes you actually had), you have now quantified the value of your work.   Everyone is looking to save money; this entry now hits a chord with the reader.

In addition, you have now described to a hiring attorney that you handled a specific kind of case regarding a coverage issue and that that it was complex.  These details, especially the cost savings, help a prospective employer see that you are the one he wants to hire.

 

2.     On your resume, did you indicate that you observed trials or depositions? If the answer to this question is “yes,” know this:  the attorneys reading your resume or sitting on the other side of the desk from you don’t really care that you watched courtroom action.  While seeing trials and depositions may have been quite exciting for you, if you worked for a judge or for litigators, this experience is simply assumed.

If you are fighting for room in every line of your resume, this is where to cut in this section.  If you must include the phrase about your talents “observing” in any part of your resume, try to bury it, perhaps in the middle of the section or at the end.

If these strategies were helpful to you, watch for Part II of this blog next week.  That entry will discuss how you describe your experience writing motions and briefs in your resume.

 

Highlighting relevant experience on your resume

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.

When presenting their talents to potential employers, Attorneys in transition should identify and highlight past relevant skills sets.  Last week I volunteered to answer questions at the Law Practice Management table for ABA Law Day at a local law school.  I asked a student about her experience prior to law school.  She told me she worked in sales but had taken that off her resume!

Sales and marketing backgrounds are very important in today’s legal job market.  If I were a hiring partner, I would strongly consider a candidate who submitted a resume highlighting sales skills.  Client generation in law is no different from other industries.

Whether you are selling insurance or high-end transactional or litigation services, people are going to hire attorneys with the appropriate skill sets to get the job done. Very often, the client needs to be convinced your law firm is the right one. If skill and practical understanding are lacking, the likelihood of attracting and signing new clients drops.  Be able to sell it!

Skill and shrewdness accompany reputation.  A solid reputation and referral system are vital to client engagement.  In an interview setting, it cannot hurt to offer some credible references that can strengthen your candidacy for a certain position.

A military background is also favorable to a hiring partner.  Attorneys in different stages of their career play different roles and need to be ready to assume a leadership or subordinate position depending on the nature of the work setting.   Additionally, past military experience prepares attorneys for those strategic activities – think about litigation.

Humility, frequently an afterthought for most young attorneys, can be a valuable asset.  Out of law school for 10 years, I still notice some of my peers dropping the typical attorney attitude; trying too hard to be perceived as hyper-professional and ultimately ethical.  Too often, the result is alienation from other lawyers, professionals and friends who find such an individual overbearing and stressful.

Leadership skills in management settings are also very marketable.  If you tell the hiring partner you managed a chain of fast food restaurants in college, and you just demonstrated the skills needed to supervise paralegals and law clerks.

At the end of the day, law is a service profession. Many overlooked qualities you can highlight could make you a more attractive hire. Remember, law review and moot court are not the sole indicators of success.