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Ask an Interviewer: What Common Mistakes Should I Avoid?

You might not even be realizing that you’re making them, but there are many mistakes that even the most experienced candidates make during interviews. Some of these common mistakes are so glaringly obvious, and yet many people are guilty of them all the time. Below, we list some of the most common mistakes, how to avoid them, and how to recover if you can’t.

Inappropriate Dressing. Everyone says that what you wear to an interview can make a big impression—and it’s true. Yet, so many men and women wear unprofessional outfits or casual attire to an interview. It doesn’t matter if the business is a startup company or a large corporation. Or even if the interviewer told you to dress casually. Until you have the job, professional appearance is mandatory.

Being Distracted. Cell phones, food, drinks—why anyone thinks these are appropriate during a work interview is beyond us. And yet, people bring their coffees, sodas, and snacks to interviews all the time. Some candidates even text or browse their cell phones, completely ignoring—and thus, disrespecting—the interviewer. Avoid this. If you must fuel up before the meeting, ditch your food and drink before entering the building. Silence your cell phone, and focus all your attention on the interviewer.

Not Paying Attention. And while we're on the subject, interviewers loooove when you are distracted and not paying attention--not. A common pet peeve is when candidates fail to focus on what the interviewer is saying. Their eyes glaze over, they start viewing the scenery. If you're bored during the interview, what makes the potential employer think that you won't be bored at your job? If you really are having a terrible time paying attention, then perhaps you should re-evaluate your work options. If it's some fluke that you tuned out the interviewer, then re-focus and pay attention. 

Fuzzy Work History. Right, so we understand that job descriptions from ten years ago may be a bit difficult to recall. But when you don’t know the details of your own work history, it’s a bit of a red flag for potential employers. Brush up your resume beforehand so you’re not stumped by questions about your own past.

Knowing Nothing about the Company. While you're brushing up your own work history, don't forget to learn about the company as well. One of the easiest questions asked during any interview is, “What do you know about our company?” It’s easy because you could have done your research beforehand. In fact, you’re expected to. With today’s technological opportunities, it’s not difficult to browse the company’s profile online—at the very least. Don’t let the interviewer stump you with history’s easiest question. Do your homework and be prepared.

I’m Late, I’m Late, I’m Late. Arriving late is indicative of your poor time management skills and shows that you don’t care about your interviewer’s time. It ultimately comes down to a lack of respect for the company. Sometimes, you simply can’t help it due to an unforeseeable event, such as a traffic accident. In that case, study the traffic route to the interview location, and leave early.

Too Much Information. Answer the question. It’s simply that easy. Though your future employer is looking for more than the monosyllabic answer, don’t ramble, don’t go on and on about your life and future goals. Answer the question as specifically and directly as possible.

Taking Too Long. In other words, being unprepared. Interview questions are pretty standard and common, and while some interviewers will understand if you don’t know the answer to a question instantly, taking too long can be annoying. Some might let you skip the question, and though we advise against this, if you must, then you must. But it’s always best to prepare and anticipate standard questions before the interview, and know how to answer them. (We’ll be reviewing these common interview queries in a future blog, so stay tuned.)

Nothing but Complaints. It’s obvious that you want to leave your job for a reason. Why else would you be interviewing at a new company? But badmouthing a previous boss is simply bad form. It will reflect on how you might view your potential position at the new company. What if your interviewer turns out to be your future boss? He or she might wonder if you would badmouth them in the same way. Avoid it at all costs, and if your interviewer asks you a question about your former supervisor, answer it directly and professionally.


Keep in Mind: Be Prepared. Throughout all our advice on interviewing and preparing for a job, there is one prominent tip that will always remain. Always do your research and prepare for the interview in the best way you can. Don’t let anyone stump you when you could easily avoid the awkward situation by doing your research. Avoid these common interview pitfalls and you’ll be nailing that next interview.


We're on Law Info!

Happy holidays, everyone! It's difficult to believe that the end of the year is just a few weeks away. While you're preparing for the family dinners and events, we wish you the best of luck and hope you make a great jumpstart into the new year.

This week, we're happy to announce that Rifkin Consulting appeared in The Law Info! Check out our article on "Deciding between Working for a Law Firm or In House." If you're on the fence between which position is best for you, stop by and read what our attorney recruiter and CEO Diane Rifkin has to say. 

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season! While you're enjoying the festivities, don't forget to check back with us for updates and advice.


Ask an Interviewer: 4 Ways to Make a Stellar First Impression

Most attorney recruiters will warn applicants that the company’s reps immediately start grading you the moment you step foot in the building. It’s a human instinct to read someone based on their looks and the way they act—and usually the first impressions are the ones that last. It’s incredibly important to make a good first impression because, after all, there’s only one chance to do it. Below, our legal recruiters talk about five ways you can make a stellar impact during your interview.

Have a Plan. What is it you want to accomplish? What message do you want to convey? It’s always best to plan these strategies beforehand. Pick your outfit and appearance carefully. If you want to come off as professional, then dress conservatively. As you’re getting ready, keep in mind that your appearance says a lot about you, and prepare accordingly, keeping in mind the language you want to speak.

Be Cool. As opposed to boring. If you are interested in other people and show it, your enthusiasm and energy will be contagious. Your interviewer will want to share your interest, especially if it’s a genuine one. During an interview, your enthusiasm for the job will reflect on your potential work ethic. If you’re excited for this chance to be a part of the company, don’t be afraid to show it. Just be careful not to go too over the top, and stay genuine and true to yourself.

Grin and Bear it. Obviously, it is not a good idea to make a good impression when you simply don’t feel like it. However, if you already have an interview scheduled for a bad-mood day, there’s no avoiding it. The best way to get over your bad mood is to fake it: pretend that you’re having one of the best days of your life. Psychologists say that simply smiling can brighten up a negative attitude. So keep a positive outlook and you'll be surprised how much better you'll feel.

Think Straight. Be conscious of your body language and posture. You might not even realize that you are slouching, but your interviewer will—and so will anyone else who can see you. Body language conveys a strong message. Keep your posture straight, your shoulders back and relaxed, and point your feet toward the interviewer to show interest. And again, don't forget to smile.


To make a killer first impression on your interviewer, keep these tips in mind. They don’t apply exclusively to job interviews. Whether you’re simply trying to make a first impression with a friend, relative, or coworker, these steps are imperative. First impressions are essential in any new relationship—so make the ones you create count.


Ask a Recruiter: How Should I Prepare for an Interview?

Interviewing tips are a dime a dozen, but you might be surprised at how many candidates fail to follow some of the most simple advice. Potential employers are going to begin gauging you the moment you step foot into their building, and you only have about half an hour or so to prove them right or wrong. That's why it's imperative that you conduct the best interview you possibly can.

Here are a few tips from our recruiters on how to nail that interview and land the job.

Dress for the part. Once you land the job and understand the culture of the firm, you will be able to work with more freedom when it comes to fashion. Even if the interviewer mentions that the firm is “casual,” you should consider that it is always best to look too professional than not professional enough. It is a human instinct to judge upon first glance—and while you’ll get the chance to show the interviewer who you are, it is always best to set a positive foundation. Keep your appearance conservative and polished.

Know who you’re working for. Always research the company and position before you interview. It doesn’t speak well for you if you don’t know much about the company you supposedly want to work for. Today’s technology provides easy ways to research—open a tab in your browser and do a quick query on your next dream job. Don’t just stop at the company website. You might be surprised at how much more information you’ll find when you look through articles, comments, forums, and discussions about the company.

Prepare your own questions. Have you ever been in that position when the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions…and you actually…don’t? We’ve all been there—and it’s awkward. While some natural questions can develop during the interview, it is always best to prepare your own beforehand. During your research on the company, think of several things that you can ask the interviewer. It will make you seem even more enthusiastic and interested in working for them.

Anticipate standard, open questions. The dreaded standards queries of interviews—you know the ones we’re talking about. “Tell us about yourself.” “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” You won’t be able to avoid them. The best way to answer these is to stay on topic. Focus on your career goals and try to answer the question with the position description in mind.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. It is important to stay confident and know what you’re good at and what you’re not. The trick is to not come off over-confident, pompous or unbelievable. Rather, stay true to yourself, and understand that you also have weaknesses. During the interview, use those weaknesses to your advantage by explaining how you’ve overcome some challenges and used your insecurities to better yourself as a professional.

Stay enthusiastic. You’d be surprised at how bored many applicants appear during interviews. Yes, employers know you want the job. You wouldn’t have applied otherwise. But there are also at least a dozen other candidates who want the job just as much as you do, maybe even more. When you show enthusiasm and passion for a position, it shows that you are truly interested, and it will reflect on your attitude toward the position if they do choose to hire you.

Last of all, don’t forget to relax. Before an interview, take a deep breath and keep calm. It’s important to be prepared and do your best during an interview, but don’t stress about it so much that you are unable to prove your credibility to your interviewer. Your dreams aren’t going anywhere, so there’s no need to rush. You’ll reach them one day, as long as you keep working hard to make them come true.


“ 'Tis the Season When Gifts Become Bribes”?

This was my week to drop by and say hello to attorneys and recruiting personnel  in law firms with whom I work all year long - but rarely see.  I like to bring a little something to leave with them to show my appreciation for their business and support throughout the year.  More often than not, it's gourmet chocolate, wine or champagne, in a glittery box and wrapped with a shiny bow.  The gesture always results in a smile, and sometimes I am told that the recipient looks forward to my annual visit...and that makes me  smile! 

Some recruiters I know have told me that they don't give gifts anymore; they don't feel that gifts are appreciated or are a worthwhile expenditure.  After all, mailing is expensive these days and time is money, right?!?  I feel differently - the gesture extends way beyond marketing or expenses - it's about appreciation.   I look forward to this trek all year long - I value these relationships.  "Thank you" can be magical words.

Therefore, it was particularly timely this morning when I read a very straightforward article on the “art” of corporate gift-giving.  Written by a compliance officer, this author presents views from countering sides about what is an appropriate gift to give – if you give a gift at all.

Is corporate gift-giving crafty – or strategic?  Is the gift being given out of generosity or with appreciation? Although gifts are given throughout the year for various reasons, through the years it is still commonly regarded that giving a gift to a valuable client is an accepted method of showing appreciation for one’s loyalty and business.  As competitive as the market is, you might wonder whether the largest and most dramatic gifts are those that turn heads…and get the business.  I believe that there will always be a market for elaborate demonstrations such as cars, box seats to a popular venue, expensive wine and champagne – you name it.  However, for most people I believe it’s about tastefulness, appropriateness and primarily about genuineness.  I am convinced that there’s just no substitute for using good judgment and showing appreciation for our professional relationships!

You may find this helpful - Alexandra provides some “near-universal guidelines based on research that [her] organization TRACE has undertaken for over a decade:

  • Gifts should be modest, tokens of esteem.
  • Ideally, they should bear the corporate logo or reflect the company’s products and they should be provided openly and transparently.
  • Delivering to an office is preferable to sending to a home address.
  • One gift-giving holiday or event should be observed. It doesn’t matter if it’s Diwali, Eid, the Lunar New Year, July 4th, or Christmas, but pick (only) one.
  • Perishable gifts of flowers or food are generally thought to be less risky, in part because they can’t be resold.
  • Give consistently and without regard to pending or recent procurement or other official decisions.
  • Follow corporate policy.
  • Document everything.
  • Give in good faith and without expectation of any quid pro quo.
  • A moderate annual affirmation of both new and longstanding relationships is not a bribe.”

Enjoy developing relationships and gift-giving…there is always an appropriate time and way to say  (and show) “thanks’!

Read the entire article By Alexandra Wrage http://www.law.com/corporatecounsel/PubArticleCC.jsp?id=1202581247691


How Overqualified Attorney Candidates Can Market Themselves as a Right Fit

Part 2: How Overqualified Attorney Candidates Can Market Themselves as a Right Fit

The key is to be able to justify the employer’s consideration. An attorney candidate should be able to give the law firm a reasonable explanation for considering the adjustment.  If a candidate is confident that he/she can do so, then “presentation” is the next hurdle to overcome.

In order for a job seeker to assure potential employers that they can adjust to the role and be a good fit, they should:

  • Prepare a succinct cover letter that emphasizes why you are interested in this particular position and how your skills can benefit this specific company.
  • Work with a professional to ensure that your resume is spot-on: form, experience, skills required for the job.  This is particularly important since many companies today use online applicant tracking systems to review candidates electronically – many resumes are automatically eliminated during the screening process if they don’t contain the relevant “buzzwords”.  Caution – it’s important to sound genuine, as well as to be honest, in your representations.
  • Present your industry knowledge and transferrable skills clearly and concisely to the employer, with specific examples of situations where you were successful.  These examples should be relevant to the potential employer’s business, goals and culture.  Quantify your successes or accomplishments, where possible.  If presented with the opportunity to interview, preparation and presentation are crucial, and must be consistent with your written application. Add something here about the importance of both articulation and non-verbal communication.

Overqualified attorney candidates are up against a hurdle in the job market.  But with a little moxy, some preparation and determination, this is a hurdle that is possible to overcome. 


The New Skills Attorneys Need to Thrive

Recently, we came across a wonderful candidate who was a shrewd attorney. However, he was not very technologically savvy. And it got me thinking, what are the new skills that attorneys need to remain competitive in today’s market?

Certainly legal abilities and a breadth of legal knowledge are required to perform well in an attorney position. But beyond the reason you fell in love with the law in the first place, there are often skills that attorneys discover they need along the way in order to remain competitive.

5 New Required Legal Core Competencies

Society has changed rapidly in the past decade, let alone over the past 4 decades. And during this time, the skills required of attorneys have changed with it. The new normal is an attorney who is a jack of all trades beyond just the legal competencies, including:

• Computer literate. In today’s society, an attorney needs to know how to use a computer. There’s just no getting around it anymore. Common programs such as Microsoft Office are standards in a law office environment these days as are skills like email and internet search capabilities. Many attorneys have in depth technological skills, but the basics remain the ability to type, print, and send an email.

• Customer service skills. The business of law is a service based industry. Today’s attorney understands that customer service is important and by providing the client with excellent service, they’ll be doing their part to ensure this client comes back for their next legal need.

• Networking pro. There are literally more legal graduates every year than there are spaces for new attorneys. To remain competitive in a saturated market, attorneys need to know how to market themselves as well as their legal skills. What sets you apart from the pack could be your ability to market yourself.

• Exceptional communication skills. Attorneys are often precise with their statements, but fail to grasp the communication style differences between people. To one person, the attorney can appear concise and to another, that same attorney can appear rude. Being aware of how to effectively communicate with different groups of people can ensure the correct message is heard every time.

• Time management. In days gone by, attorneys worked 12+ hour days in the dim of night to achieve results on behalf of the firm. Today’s new attorneys don’t want to sacrifice their free time in this manner, relying instead upon new technology to manage their time effectively. Attorneys can use updated technology that scans, sends, and receives items at the speed of light in order to do their job more efficiently. With a variety of excellent tools at their disposal, attorneys don’t need to lose track of time at the office all night.

Top tier law firms often seek flexible and intelligent candidates with these kinds of competencies. Try familiarizing yourself with these and see how you can add to your body of skills.

Tags: attorney, career

OVER-QUALIFIED FOR THE JOB YOU WANT?

Part I: Understanding the Challenge

Why do hiring managers care one way or another if a job candidate is overqualified or over-educated?  I think it’s important to understand some of the reasons that employers are reluctant to hire overqualified people.  Uniquely, as an attorney recruiter, I work with both employers and attorney candidates to make the best professional match.  We assist attorneys seeking more fulfilling employment that meets their long term goals.  Employers use our services to identify, qualify, attract and engage stellar attorney talent to meet critical needs in their organizations.

Law firms are often reluctant to hire over-qualified people for several reasons.  One of these is that lateral hiring is typically based on year of law school graduation and affects track for promotion to  partnership.  Additionally, “lateral level” usually reflects compensation and experience.  It’s easy to see how adjustment of lateral level may cause colleagues to become resentful and result in conflict in the workplace.   Alternatively, candidates themselves often end up resentful, as resentment can also result from (1) working on tasks that are too simplistic or unchallenging, or (2) feeling underpaid over time.

We also see that overqualified people are often from a different generation and, therefore, may have different work ethic issues and expectations than the Millenials.  Some of our firm clients will consider a lateral adjustment of 1-2 years (based on year of graduation from law school, which is the gauge for our industry).  However, if they go much beyond that, the aforementioned issues are likely to arise and the result is discord in the workplace environment. Overqualified candidates should seriously consider these possible career pitfalls before applying. 

Part 2: Overcoming the Hurdle of Being Over-Qualified (stay tuned...)


Will the Legal Community Embrace Facebook’s New Job Board?

The business of legal recruiting is always evolving. Today, Facebook announced a new job board and on its first morning, recruiters have already posted 1.7 million jobs from 5 different internet recruiting portals. These portals include:

• BranchOut

• DirectEmployers Association

• Work4Labs

• Jobvite

• Monster.com

This new application was initially developed to offer job seekers one central location to look for work and interact. As a social recruitment site for legal professionals, the jury may still be out. What appears to be lacking is the caliber of professionalism that legal recruiting targets.

Facebook Lacks the Professionalism that LinkedIn is Known For

What’s missing in Facebook’s job board is the community of professionals that LinkedIn attracts. As an aggregate of current job postings around the net, it’s great. But as a legal recruiter, the level of professionalism inherent to a site like LinkedIn may be more appropriate. Many Facebook users treat their pages like a fun zone. That profile picture of someone downing shots on their last vacation doesn’t scream hire me.

The reason legal professionals keep coming back to LinkedIn is the professional community. In this forum, you can network, share tips and tricks, peruse articles about topics relevant to your career and gain support from a community of professionals. Legal professionals are comfortable in this setting and have embraced the forum as a professional space in which to interact. As a legal recruiter, you need to hang out in the spaces where your clients gather. And LinkedIn appears to dominate this space.

Until Facebook embraces a more professional atmosphere, its value may simply be as an advertisement space. As a legal recruiting space, the jury is still out.


Attorney’s Guide To Personal Branding

A close friend of mine specializes in branding and marketing, so I often hear about the importance of a company having a strong brand.  Equally as important – maybe even more so – is personal branding.  Personal branding follows you wherever you work, live and play. 

The latest trends in business dress or grooming are rarely appropriate for the workplace.  While geographic location, type of firm and general company policy may be casual, be aware that the business suit is still the gold standard, and that there are times when it’s best to transcend business casual attire.  It’s not as much an issue of formality as it is one of impression; a client wants to feel confident that it is represented by an attorney who exudes authority and stability.

Your personal brand is how you present yourself to the world.  Personal branding goes beyond a blog, Bio or website.  It is also gleaned from Facebook, Linkedin and other social networking venues.    Your personal brand extends to your personal grooming, demeanor and even etiquette.  Although the term “etiquette’ is not used very often these days, good manners leave a strong impression with employers, potential clients and also possible referral sources.  Venture further in to your private life, and you will realize that it is also an impression that you give family, friends and acquaintances.

It’s extremely worthwhile to give significant thought regarding how you can stay true to yourself, while also consistently strengthening your personal brand.

By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
President
RIFKIN CONSULTING

LEGAL INSIGHT. PREMIER TALENT.

**************************************************************

Rifkin Consulting assists employers seeking to hire top lawyers, and attorney candidates looking to work for highly-regarded law firms and companies.


BEAT BACK BOREDOM ON THE JOB

How do you react at work when your job no longer excites you?  At Rifkin Consulting, we frequently receive calls from attorneys who are experiencing lulls in work, or a change in personnel, that affects their daily level of satisfaction. Sometimes these attorneys think that moving to another firm is the answer – and it often is.  However, during both economic downturns and even the normal business cycle, stagnation can occur.  Determining which the cause of your discontent is crucial, and will help you implement a course of action.

If you determine that changes have occurred in your firm that will prevent you from advancing long term, then exploring your options is the answer.  Rifkin Consulting thoroughly discusses the factors that contribute to attorney dissatisfaction and helps candidates desiring change to navigate the recruiting process. 

Should you determine that the lull is temporary and things will improve, find ways to beat back boredom on the job?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. DIVERSIFY AND DEVELOP SUPPLEMENTARY SKILLS; Such skills can be gained through courses that will enhance your knowledge, provide networking opportunities, assuming a leadership role outside of work, and reaching out to other departments for new and challenging matters.
  2. VALUE OF LIFE OUTSIDE OF WORK; Do you live to work – or work to live? Exploring new hobbies, physical fitness routines, and rewarding outside charitable activities can provide added value to your life, and helps to keep boredom at work I perspective.
  3. SEEK NEW CHALLENGES; Speak with the appropriate parties about your desire to excel and accept challenging matters.  Expressing enthusiasm for projects that will stretch your abilities and present skills can set you apart from co-workers.
  4. TAKE A BREAK; make a list of things that you have wanted to do for a long time – whether it’s a vacation to some new destination, volunteer work, visiting old friends and family, or reading a good book. Once relaxed, it’s much easier to better evaluate your situation objectively AND to face it with renewed enthusiasm.

Evaluate your situation and find a way to get enthused again!


Employment Placement Services at Skadden

If you aspire to be a successful attorney, then you might heard of a law firm known as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom, LLP. A titan among mortals, Skadden was named as Wall Street’s most powerful law firm by Forbes Magazine. The firm was the first to report $1 billion in annual revenue and receives consistently stellar reviews from industry publications.

The question needs to be asked: What is their secret? How did they earn this reputation?

It’s not difficult to see that Skadden owes its success to its team of attorneys and associates. The firm reaches out to potential lawyers who have been ranked in publications like Chambers, the American Lawyer, the National Law Journal, and the Financial Times. Skadden even offers a top-tier associate program that provides excellent training, mentoring, and guidance for its future attorneys.

We can understand, then, why graduates are tripping over their feet for a chance to nab a seat in the summer associate classes. The hiring process at Skadden is vigorous and tough (and understandably so, considering their reputation). What exactly is the best way to earn a coveted spot within Skadden’s prestigious firm?

 Associates can increase their chances of recruitment by seeking help from law firm and attorney recruiters who know the ins and outs of the firm. Legal recruiting firms, like Rifkin Consulting, have mastered the art of attorney search and placement.

These firms use their expertise to match associates with the right firms. Rifkin Consulting has a rich history of success in the industry, and has been known to create trusted candidate relationships. By utilizing a legal recruiter, associates not only increase their chances of job placement, but they will also build professional relationships that will continue to benefit them in the years to come.


Employment Opportunities at Latham & Watkins Law Firm

One of the largest global law firms in the world, Latham & Watkins, LLP, employs approximately 2,000 attorneys in the United States as well as in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The company was founded in 1934, and though it initially focused its practice in the U.S., the attorneys began to take on cases outside of the nation.

Latham & Watkins started in Los Angeles, California, but its biggest office is now located in New York City. It is not difficult to recognize that Latham & Watkins hires only the top accolades to join their team of successful attorneys. Considering the fact that it is historically one of the most profitable firms in the globe, Latham & Watkins selects its future attorneys sparingly.

Landing a job at Latham can be quite the mission, but it is not impossible. Why else would the company boast of more than 2,000 associates? Nevertheless, it can be a long and vigorous journey to earn a coveted position at any prestigious law firm.

This is why it is so important that you develop a relationship with a legal recruiter. Legal recruiters have already developed relationships with attorneys at these firms. They know the ins and outs of the industry. By taking a single glance at your resume and experience, a legal recruiter, like Diane Rifkin and the recruiters at Rifkin Consulting, will know which firm to match you with and where you will fit best.

Contacting a legal recruiter could be one of the best things you do for your career. The benefits are invaluable. Not only will you increase your chances of landing a job, but you will also develop lasting relationships that will benefit you in the future.


Employment Opportunities at Baker & McKenzie

Baker & McKenzie is one of the most influential law firms in the globe. In fact, the legal group practically defined the term “global law firm” when it was founded in 1949. The company practices international, with over 80 percent of the 4,000 associates practicing outside the United States.

With a diverse background and a rich history of successful associates, it’s no wonder that Baker & McKenzie is one of the most powerful law firms in the industry. It’s no wonder that associates look up to these giants as role models.

Earning a coveted position at Baker & McKenzie or any prestigious firm is no easy matter. One of the best ways to tunnel through the vigorous screening is to reach out to a legal consulting service, like Rifkin Consulting. Legal recruiters are familiar and experienced with the law firm hiring process. Associates who are represented by a legal recruiter increase their chances of job placements at prestigious law firms.

Representation by a legal recruiter can be beneficial to associates for many reasons. Your legal recruiter has already developed valuable relationships with law firm partners and attorneys. You can use these relationships to your advantage, and even make long-term and lasting partnerships of your own.


Nurturing Talent: 5 Ways to Empower Your Associates and Attract Clients

Your law firm’s overall objective is to please the client, and you can’t do that unless you have top tier talent. Nurturing and encouraging talented, new attorneys is one of the best investments of your time. Who knows—that associate you just hired could be your firm’s next partner.

Attracting and retaining top performers to your firm is paramount to running a successful business. Talented associates are critical to pleasing clients, who will want to know that their cases are being handled by the leaders of the industry.

Sure, talking about investing in time in your new employee is easy. But how exactly do you make it happen? Take a look at these six tips.

  1. Know their strengths. Find out more about your new hire. Figure out what he or she is good at, and encourage them to further develop those skills.

  2. Encourage new strengths. Empower your employees and push them to hone new skills. Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into a comfort zone, but you’ll never find out what your associates are good at unless you push them to test new ropes.

  3. Give them space. Chances are that the associates you’ve picked up are still a bit wet behind the ears. No one likes to be micro-managed. The best way to figure out their strengths and weaknesses is to provide them with the freedom to pursue their passions and interests.

  4. Motivate productivity. By giving associates space and freedom, you are promoting productivity in an encouraging manner. Incentives and constructive feedback are the best way to help your associates find their optimal productivity level.

  5. Creating role models. Strong leaders breed strong associates who grow into strong leaders. By investing time into helping your associate develop his or her strengths, you are creating better role models for future hires.


IS A CLERKSHIP VALUABLE EVEN IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE A LITIGATOR?

Above the Law’s Susan Moon wrote a thought-provoking and practical article “Should You Do a Clerkship If You Don’t Want to Practice Litigation?”  At Rifkin Consulting, we have worked with many attorneys who clerked either immediately after law school - or – a few years into practice.  There are two basic issues to consider (1) is a clerkship valuable even if you don’t want to practice litigation?  (2) when is the best time to do a clerkship?

Some attorneys opine that a clerkship is not worth one year of your life unless you want to litigate.  Apparently, they have the believe that a transactional attorney has nothing to learn from the clerkship experience and that the time could be better spent learning to draft contracts, etc.  A clerkship, however, can provide insight into the workings of the court, including how a judge may rule on issues.  Additionally, Susan Moon rightfully points out that if an attorney eventually goes in house, the position will often include litigation management responsibilities.  This is one of many ways in which familiarity with the court system can be valuable.

Other attorneys have a different take on the clerkship experience and, based on years of attorney recruiting, I agree that there is value and long term benefit.  When is the best time to do a clerkship?  The answer depends on your goals and, depending on the economy, the availability of jobs. 

If jobs are readily available, a clerkship immediately after law school may prove interesting, but it can be more challenging to get your first law firm job.  One reason is that many firms will have already brought on junior associates through OCI and offers, so the firm and the junior associates are already familiar with each other.  Additionally, many firms do not compensate clerks per their lateral year, as they would with an associate attorney with previous law firm experience. This hurdle is easier to overcome if the attorney waits a few years after law school to practice.  ”ATL columnist David Mowry, who’s completed two federal clerkships, also recommends that you wait until a few years after law school to clerk, “so you don’t take such a hit paywise. By waiting a few years, you’d be compensated with the higher salary that clerks coming in with experience are paid. Plus, you’ll have the added advantage of living more comfortably off some of the income you made prior to clerking.”

Case in point: One of my strongest candidates worked for a top New York law firm for two years and then completed a Federal Court clerkship.  She enjoyed the experience tremendously.  Importantly, there were three additional benefits to her strategy.  First, she became extremely marketable to prestigious firms (receiving an offer at nearly ever firm that interviewed her).  Second, although she did not have the State Bar, she had enough years of experience under her belt that she was only required to take the Attorney portion of the California Bar exam.  Third, she was able to utilize the services of a recruiter to get back into a law firm environment; most firms will not use a recruiter to hire a clerk without law firm experience.  This proved to be a highly successful strategy for her, and the process overall was much smoother than if she had clerked right out of law school.

Click here to read more about this subject. 

By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
President, Rifkin Consulting
Visit me on LinkedIn

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Rifkin Consulting assists attorneys with finding fulfilling employment, and works closely with employers seeking to hire stellar attorney talent to fill critical positions in their organizations.

Law firms turn to Rifkin Consulting for counsel regarding attorney retention, compensation analysis, and strategic growth to maintain a competitive edge in the legal market. www.rifkinconsulting.com


FINDING A JOB; BLEND THE OLD AND THE NEW

Recently I read an article that counseled job-seekers to skip some of the traditional methods of finding a job, such as having business cards and actively networking.  Instead, this author insisted that the internet was the sole effective venue to connect with others, thereby enhancing your job potential. I strongly disagree!

We are fortunate to live and work in an age where we have the opportunity to connect both personally and electronically.  While the message may be similar, the methods of communication are very different!  Accordingly, our messages and strategies should accommodate and incorporate these differences.

I’m a firm believer that there is no substitute for meeting with someone face to face, speaking eye to eye, experiencing a handshake, experiencing one’s physicality and body language - particularly when a disagreement needs to be discussed.  Similarly, experiencing and assessing another’s social skills are often crucial to an employer’s business hiring decision.  Smart, strategic networking in your local area affords you the opportunity to make an impression that can’t be accomplished in an equal way online.

Make sure that, if you do have a business card, it’s very professional (avoid cheap paper stock, use a reputable company).  This doesn’t mean you need to spend a small fortune, especially if you are in-between jobs, but you always want to put your best foot forward.  It’s nice to be able to provide a potential employer (as well as other advocates and sources), with your contact information.

New methods of recruiting and self-marketing include a variety of online social media sources.   It’s true that you can reach a larger audience to get your name and skills “out there”, however, you will need to be strategic unless you are open to relocation.  Linkedin offers you the advantage of Search options for researching and contacting professionals that best meet your needs.  You can also ask contacts for other introductions, and post your resume and other appropriate documents on this site using Dropbox.  Pay proper attention to your profile for SEO purposes.  Always remember that the web is very impersonal, even if many people are viewing your photo as well as your profile. Should you choose to connect or respond online or by email, it’s important to remember that the written word rarely is taken as it was intended.  Therefore, a great deal of thought should go into any printed word.

Two more things to keep in mind, no matter which venue you use – find a way to set yourself apart, and try to pursue your passion in your work.  The first can be accomplished by utilizing professional coaching services and asking those you know best for honest assessments of your personality and strengths.  If you can combine your passion with your profession, the challenges of each day will certainly be minimized.  Unfortunately, too many people accept work in an area in which they have no interest – and often this is necessary.  However, you have nothing to lose by trying to pursue your passion through your work – and everything to gain!

By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
President, Rifkin Consulting
Visit me on LinkedIn

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Rifkin Consulting assists attorneys with finding fulfilling employment, and works closely with employers seeking to hire stellar attorney talent to fill critical positions in their organizations.

Law firms turn to Rifkin Consulting for counsel regarding attorney retention, compensation analysis, and strategic growth to maintain a competitive edge in the legal market. www.rifkinconsulting.com


CURRENT TRENDS IN ATTORNEY COMPENSATION

During the economic downturn of the early 2000’s, there were whispers that associate salaries would be lowered permanently because they just weren’t sustainable.  At that time, they had been bumped up by the trendsetter firms in California – particularly in Silicon Valley.  While a handful of firms lowered associate salaries, most did not – instead they just laid off scores of attorneys.  Does this have a familiar ring to it?

Fast forward…from 2008-2012 firms again realized that these high salaries were unsupportable.  Clients do not want junior associates working on their matters, preferring fewer billed hours at a higher rate to complete the job. 

What was different in this modern economic climate is that firms have been more aggressive by implementing various compensation models, including a bifurcated system offering the choice of reduced hours for lower salary.  Others have tried using the entry level years as training, at a lower salary rate, with the hope of retaining the talent who they mentored.  This was the plan at the now-defunct Howrey LLP and, although it made some sense, it never really got off the ground. 

It quickly became clear that firms were going to have to be fiscally creative, as well as responsible; many firms said goodbye to set bonuses and migrated to an elusive discretionary bonus system.  As a result, the security of a higher base compensation has become more important to attorneys.   Importantly, many firms are now operating on a merit system, which has drawn mixed reviews from attorneys at all levels. This is ironic, as almost every other profession rates employees on merit, so it seems very reasonable to use such a system.

With an uncertain economy and law firms still making decisions whether to operate leanly or ramp up, compensation at law firms is still in somewhat of a state of flux.   Firms desiring the best talent must still pay top dollar, yet must now scrutinize their bottom line(s) more than ever.

Personally, I am a believer in the merit system for both compensation and advancement.  Sometimes one must step backward in order to move ahead…and law firms (which are businesses) must continually reevaluate the model that works best for them.  It’s also more important than ever that smaller firms continue to add value to employees and clients alike, in order to justify the lower compensation that they offer attorneys.  My hope is that law firms continue trying to balance these considerations and ultimately arrive at a system that seems fair to most,  so that attorneys will once again view remaining long-term with an employer an a true opportunity for growth and career advancement.

Read more about trends in law firm compensation…" The $160,000 starting salary at large firms falling out of favor"

By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
President, Rifkin Consulting
Visit me on LinkedIn

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Rifkin Consulting assists attorneys with finding fulfilling employment, and works closely with employers seeking to hire stellar attorney talent to fill critical positions in their organizations. 

Law firms turn to Rifkin Consulting for counsel regarding attorney retention, compensation analysis, and strategic growth to maintain a competitive edge in the legal market.  www.rifkinconsulting.com




TEACHING WHAT IT TAKES

As an attorney and Legal Recruiter, I've always been an advocate for including more extensive training during law school.  So many law firm clients tell us that entry level and junior attorneys don’t have even the basic skills to do an associate’s job.  Ironically, many of our young attorney candidates complain because they don’t receive the mentoring that they need for professional development.  Partners are busy with their own work and, unfortunately, time spent mentoring is not at the top of their list of priorities.

What if law students obtained more practical skills that would provide them with a better start within a law firm structure?  How much sooner would a partner feel comfortable including and utilizing them in depositions and courtroom appearances?  This is a topic being discussed by legal periodicals such as Law.com, and is increasingly being implemented by numerous law schools around the nation, including University of California School of Law, Irvine, in California.

Read this encouraging new update about teaching more practical skills in law schools... "Teaching What It Takes" [California Lawyer]...  What programs do you think should be added to curricula?

By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
President
RIFKIN CONSULTING

LEGAL INSIGHT.  PREMIER TALENT.

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Rifkin Consulting  assists employers seeking to hire top lawyers, and attorney candidates looking to work for highly-regarded law firms and companies. 

REVISE YOUR RESUME TODAY, BENEFIT IMMEDIATELY

Have you been too busy at work or with your personal life to give thought to revising your resume?  If you think that your position seems secure, then you might believe that you can always update it when the “time” arrives.  At Rifkin Consulting, we find that being pro-active with regard to your resume on a regular basis is crucial for several reasons:

  • One obvious reason is for you to be prepared to act when a special opportunity arises.

  • A less obvious reason is that keeping your resume up to date reminds you of what you have accomplished, as well as where you need to make improvements.

Let’s discuss making your resume stand out from others!  Most resumes are experience-oriented, and follow a standard format.  An example of this would be:

  • Experience in wide range of civil litigation matters including residential real estate breach of contract disputes; easement, zoning and riparian right disputes; and construction defect cases

  • Experience in all stages of pre-trial civil litigation including drafting complaints, serving and responding to discovery requests, drafting motions and settlement agreements

  • Drafted and reviewed purchase contracts and drafted easements for residential real estate transactions

How can you change your resume to make it more dynamic, more interesting, and more meaningful?  Quantify your accomplishments!  Here is an example:

  • Experience in more than two dozen civil litigation matters including residential real estate breach of contract disputes;

  • Responsible for managing pre-trial litigation including drafting  dozens of complaints, serving and responding to more than twenty (20) discovery requests, drafting numerous motions and settlement agreements,

  • Personally drafted and reviewed fifteen (15) purchase contracts and drafted ten (10) easements for residential real estate transactions.

As a result, a potential employer will not only see it in writing - they will feel it.  Your experience becomes less vague and more tangible. The employer can better assess whether your expertise might meet their needs.  We see on a daily basis that a dynamic resume catches the eye more than a passive one.

Here is the key:  ask yourself two (2) things:

  • Would YOU hire this person? 

  • Could your resume be submitted by nearly anyone in your practice area and at your lateral level?  If so, then you should discard it and begin anew.

It is human nature to become complacent when we are busy and feel relatively productive.  Reviewing our accomplishments regularly in this manner keeps us on our toes…which is exactly where we need to be – in any kind of economy!

Rifkin Consulting offers complimentary resume guidance to our candidates.  Confidentiality remains of the utmost importance.

By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
President, Rifkin Consultlng
Follow me on Linkedin

Visit www.rifkinconsulting.com to learn more about how our attorney recruiters can advance your career!

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Rifkin Consulting attorney recruiters offer complimentary resume guidance to our candidates.  Confidentiality remains of the utmost importance.