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Trends in California Law Firms

So many changes in the way firms do business during the last five years...some areas of practice that were dormant are now "hot", such as corporate law and real estate.  Labor and employment remains a very desirable area of practice for attorneys, given the rise of wage hour and class action matters.  The bottom line is, however, that law firms are businesses.  Therefore, what do the current trend and recent statistics tell us?  I believe they show caution, steadiness, and reflect much hope...

We expect developing trends in some of the following areas: classification(s) of Equity and Non-Equity partners, associates being encouraged (and required) to develop business at an earlier stage in their careers, and creative compensation structures at the partner level(s).  Each of these areas reflects a practical approach and will determine the future development and stability of a firm long-term.


Ten Steps to an Outstanding LinkedIn Profile

My esteemed colleague, Anabella Bonfa, is a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who writes and lectures on how to enhance your LinkedIn profile to maximize this marketing tool.  I have personally observed how Anabella works tirelessly to  help young lawyers achieve their "personal best".  She has a passion for assisting others, and with jumpstarting how to project themselves in the business world.  Can't help but to share this with you...

Special Note:
“This material is reproduced from the CEBblog™ entry, 10 Steps to an Outstanding LinkedIn Profile, (http://blog.ceb.com/2015/01/30/10-steps-to-an-outstanding-linkedin-profile/) copyright 2015 by the Regents of the University of California.  Reproduced with permission of Continuing Education of the Bar - California.  (For information about CEB publications, telephone toll free 1-800-CEB-3444 or visit our Web site, CEB.com).”

LinkedIn is an excellent marketing tool for lawyers. Here’s how to make your LinkedIn profile—your first impression there—as effective as it can be.

  1. Get a professional photo. Your photo is the first thing people see about you on LinkedIn—it will be seen every time you comment, make a recommendation, or write an update. Use a photo of your chest up that clearly shows your face. Dress professionally, as you would appear in court, and smile. Definitely don’t edit a wedding photo or have a distracting background.
  2. Use the “Professional Headline” to your advantage. Under your name, you can add a professional headline. Rather than a generic title, such as “Attorney,” use this section to your advantage by stating your practice area (e.g., “Family Law Attorney”). Let potential clients and professional connections immediately know your area of expertise.
  3. Complete the “Summary” background section. This is the most important part of your profile. You have about 10 seconds to capture the viewer’s attention and let them know who you are. Your summary section should state who your clients are and what you do for them. Make sure to describe the types of cases you handle in a way that nonlawyers can understand. A list of your specialties is also helpful. The summary is an excellent place to discuss past non-legal work that contributes to your law practice.
  4. Upload photos or videos. Below the summary section, add photos to make your profile visually interesting and make you more approachable. For example, include photos of you posing with clients, giving a professional presentation, or doing community service work. You can also add video from your website, interviews, etc.
  5. Request recommendations. Recommendations are the heart of your LinkedIn profile. Ask your past employers or clients for a personal recommendation discussing the quality of your work and service. Let past clients know that you don’t expect them to share their legal issue, just their thoughts on the level of service you provided. Remember to return the favor and recommend others who you hold in high esteem. Note that “recommendations” differ from “endorsements.” If you choose to have your skills listed and have people “endorse you,” keep the list of skills short and don’t accept endorsements from anyone you don’t know or for skills you didn’t list yourself.
  6. Invite people to connect. The quality of your contacts is far more important than the quantity. View others’ profiles and link with those with whom you intend to work in the future or who already know the quality of your past work. Personalize your invitation: “Hello: This is John Smith. We met at last night’s fundraiser. I would like you to join my LinkedIn network.” If you already know someone in common, this would be an ideal place to mention your shared connection.
  7. Complete the “Publications” section. List all articles and books you have written, as well as oral presentations you have made before professional groups.
  8. Complete the “Volunteer & Causes” section. This little-used section allows you to share the community service projects and non-profit activities in which you and your firm are involved. People enjoy working with attorneys who share their own personal causes.
  9. Join groups. There are many LinkedIn groups specifically geared toward attorneys and law practice, e.g., groups for law schools, bar associations, practice areas, legal marketing, etc. Find groups of interest and join the conversation there. Showing the groups you have joined on your profile helps others see your interests and leads to new connections.
  10. Write an update. Once you have a strong profile set up, you’re ready to start posting updates—and your interesting updates will likely bring people back to view your profile. Share updates about your law practice, changes in the law, and information of interest to your colleagues and clients. You can link to a blog post or article by inserting its URL in the update box. If you don’t have time to write a regular blog, this is an excellent way to provide relevant and insightful opinions on legal issues.

Although it’s tempting, don’t use your profile to directly ask for work. Not only might this run afoul of professional responsibility rules, it makes you sound desperate. Newer attorneys should focus on the skills they have to offer based on past work experience. For example, focus on why you excel at dealing with clients, problem solving, working in a stressful environment, and managing deadlines.

Put your best self forward in your LinkedIn profile and reap the professional benefits!
******************************************************************************

Anabella Q. Bonfa. Ms. Bonfa is a litigator with Wellman & Warren LLP, handling business and partnership disputes, theft of trade secrets, and unfair competition. She lectures extensively on trade secrets, networking, and using social media to develop business.


Make Yourself Memorable!

Summertime is almost here and numerous law students will begin jobs, many in law firms.  These are probably the lucky ones, because they will have an edge over colleagues who were unable to secure a position.    Our previous blogs discussed various strategies for these unemployed students to use to find jobs in order to avoid the summertime blues.  But how about a few pointers for those who will be working in a law firm?  Of course, you are required to do excellent work. What else do we suggest?  Make yourself memorable!

How can you make yourself memorable?

Millennials are often viewed as self-absorbed with unreasonable expectations and a sense of entitlement.  Sorry folks, it doesn’t sound pretty, and that’s the short version!  But we know they also have technological skills that previous generations don’t.  Everyone is replaceable, but position yourself such that the firm would really miss your contributions if you weren’t around.  You may wish to consider:

   - Tech Advantage: Use your special technological abilities not only to produce high quality work in a timely manner, but also to consider developing or contributing to your firm’s social networking sites.  Go beyond the standard Blog and suggest topics that are cutting edge or may be unique for a multi-generational audience - but always ensure that you have your employer’s approval prior to publication.

   - Dress Like A Professional:  while it may be acceptable to dress in jeans and Birkenstocks, it’s just not professional.  That is not the image that your firm wants intra-firm or with clients.  It’s sort of like when you had your interview and sat at lunch with several attorneys…do you think they took you out merely to feed you and ask questions? Of course not, they also observed your manner and presence, thinking about how you might appear when taking a client to lunch.  While “dress like a professional” does not necessarily mean wearing a suit or tie, dress the part.  Ask yourself this “if the partner spontaneously asked me to go to court with him, how would I want to look to represent the firm and myself to the judge?”  When in doubt, consider the three “C’s”: current, classic, conservative.  [No, these are not contradictory, you can do it!]

   - Social Abilities; Demonstrate that you can hold your own in a conversation with colleagues and clients. Maintain self-control at firm functions where alcohol is served, just as you (hopefully) would at a business lunch. Future employers are often part of a generation that wants to believe that you know how to communicate beyond the keyboard.

   - Show Respect for Generational Differences:  You’ll be working with people from several different generations.  It’s very important to recognize that you must show respect for them and their ways of doing things, even though your own opinions may differ.

   - Learn About the Firm Culture; understanding the firm’s environment will be an advantage towards determining how to best become memorable. 

Congratulations on obtaining a summer associate position….now go make yourself memorable!


What An Employer Looks For in an Applicant: The Basics

Part 3;   How to Start Networking and Get a Job

  • Submissions of application materials: Make it personal. Submissions should always be addressed to an individual – not “To Whom It May Concern”.  Methods of delivery; adhere to any requirements. Don’t use first names unless you know the recipient.  Follow up in 10 days if you have not heard from the firm.  Stay professional, and remember that they have many other responsibilities on their plates besides considering your application.  Don’t be a pest.

  • Impeccably-drafted resume; avoid flourishes and designs, excessive bolding or underlining, and pay attention to the nature of personal interests listed.  It’s preferable to keep interests off unless you have particular accomplishments that set you apart.  Examples might be language fluency, international travel or managerial positions.

  • Writing sample: If you include a writing sample, make sure that it contains absolutely no inaccuracies or misspellings.

  • Transcript: include with initial submission only if required by the firm, unless you have stellar grades.

  • Cover letters:  Covers must be concise and address why you are interested in THAT firm, and how your interest and skills can BENEFIT that firm.  They will not consider you just because you need a job.  Take the time to get to know people and their needs, because the only reason they would hire you is if you can fill those needs anyway.  Thank them for their consideration – not their time.  Tell them, primarily, some things of interest that are NOT on your resume – or you can also emphasize items of significance.  Limit the use of the word “I” – employers want to know what you can do for them NOW!

  • Activities: Keep them relevant, or that show leadership and/or managerial skills.

  • Show confidence, but not arrogance. You can accomplish this by being familiar with the firm, and comfortable with who you are. Be prepared to express your goal(s) articulately and concisely.

  • You must have a reasonable understanding of what the attorney and firm does - do your homework!

  THE BIGGEST MISTAKES STUDENTS MAKE; THE SHORT LIST

  • There is no second chance to make a first impression!  Arrive prepared for the interview.  Don’t be late.   Dress appropriately; wear a suit unless otherwise instructed (professional dress shows a potential employer how you would present to a client).

  • Prepare for questions about your skills and goals and offer examples.  Don’t embellish or get defensive, as no one expects a law student or entry level attorney to have a lot of experience.

  • Tell me what you can do for me right now!  Show initiative, be prepared to discuss your strengths, but do so in the context of examples.

  • It’s not all about YOU, or what YOU want.  Focus primarily on their needs and goals, so that you can make a more informed decision about whether that firm is a fit for you. For example, ask what the ideal candidate looks like to them.

  • Don’t talk too much! Learn to listen – listen to learn!

  • GRADES: Don’t make the mistake if thinking that achieving a J.D. is enough to get a good job.  Grades will almost always matter for approximately 7-10+ years, as well as your accomplishments.

  • Be aware of verbal and non-verbal behavior – these are both important parts of your personal presence.

  • Don’t underestimating the importance of generational differences; realize that the person interviewing you is likely from a different generation and has worked many years to achieve what he/she has, including long hours and many sacrifices.  Millennials are considered to want to achieve things quickly and want work/life balance from the start.  

REMEMBER - You are smart and have the technological savvy – but THEY have the jobs.  Educate yourself about these differences, and show respect for them.

THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME QUESTIONS FOLLOWING THE PRESENTATION

1. What are small and medium sized law firms looking for in applicants?  Applicants who have the experience in the job description, and with a personality that will mesh in a smaller firm environment.

2. What is the hiring process like for small and mid-size law firms when they hire associates or law students?  Typically 1-3 interviews, where you’ll meet main partners and associates.  If the firm extends an offer, you will typically have 48 hours to 1 week to accept.

3. How can a student stand out from the rest? Personal presence and message, consistency of brand, impressively-drafted resume, LinkedIn profile, quality of developed relationships (references).

4.  If grades are not your strongest asset, what can you do to make yourself competitive? See above, plus a professional Blog can prove valuable in many ways.

5. While in law school, what are some things I can do now that will help me later in my career? Develop an online presence, and start laying groundwork with individuals and at events.  See networking tips, above.

6. What areas of law are growing and employing more lawyers? Labor and employment, IP Patent litigation (particularly with an EE or CS degree), some corporate and real estate positions are opening up. What areas of the law are tightening and hiring less? Litigation, Bankruptcy.

6. How did networking influence the job you have (or any jobs that you've had)?  I was introduced to attorney recruiting by my brother – who had used a recruiter years before.  During law school, we were not educated about the services of recruiters, so I was unfamiliar with the benefits of working with one. We had a good synergy and I joined her business.  In 2005, I incorporated Rifkin Consulting.

Another example is that a professional colleague introduced to a journalist at a renowned legal publication.  We get together regularly, have developed a really positive personal and professional relationship, and I’ve had significant opportunities to get meaningful PR exposure as a result. 

7. After meeting someone at a networking event, what is the best way to cultivate that relationship?  Pay attention to that person’s business card, and comment on it when possible.  Too often people just discard business cards, but in Asian culture this is considered disrespectful.   Send a nice note afterwards to people with whom you wish to remain in contact – calendar follow ups.  Show value. 

8. What is the #1 thing you should and should not do at a networking event?  Ask for a job.

9. Any general tips for anyone that has not been to a networking event?

  • Choose events with intention and purpose.  Your time is valuable.
  • See if you can obtain the attendance list, and research people on the list. You can make efforts to introduce yourself to targeted attendees at the event.
  • Be genuine, smile, use direct eye contact, and develop a good handshake.  Learn how to walk up to strangers and introduce yourself.  Practice how to creatively ask about them about themselves.  An example might be to avoid saying “what do you do”, but consider something a bit more personal such as “What is the nature of your business (practice”, or “What do you enjoy most about your specialty”.
  • Have a business card made that is professional and represents your brand.  This is a wonderful tool to provide to someone who asks for your contact information.  It need not include your address. Share it with intention.
  • When it’s time to move on and talk to someone else, you need a graceful way to accomplish this.  For example, “It’s really been a pleasure speaking with you.” 
  • Follow up with a short note after the event.

I hope this information has been helpful.  Please check back for additions and modifications, and visit our Professional Resources page at www.rifkinconsulting.com .


How to Start Networking and Get a Job

PART 2; HOW TO GET STARTED NETWORKING 
 
MAKE CONNECTIONS, DEVELOP THE RELATIONSHIPS

  • Approach: Network with Intention; implement an intentional and strategic approach, both (a) online and (b) in person.
  • Lay the groundwork.  If you avail yourself of too many venues and events you will likely end up  feeling scattered, exhausted and ineffective.  Narrow your scope, set incremental goals, and strategize about methods of implementation to achieve them.


I. SOCIAL NETWORKING AND RELATED VENUES

LinkedIn: enjoy a 360 degree resume – for free!

  • Employers and other professionals view these; they often act as a preliminary “screen” 
  • Complete your profile; provide the information of a resume, yet with a slightly personal/individual touch
  • Ask for – and give - recommendations (better than endorsements). Get clients and advocates to tell your story!  
  • Take a seminar on how to make your profile very searchable, be specific in your summary
  • Develop a professional Blog and link to it
  • Get involved with Groups and participate in the discussions
  • Post relevant and appropriate photos (i.e., professional activities, charitable activities) 


TWITTER & FACEBOOK

  • Be cautious about postings, despite your privacy settings
  • Be clear with yourself and others (in the nature of the content) about the purpose of the postings/use of the site (keep it appropriately personal or professional – best not to combine these). 
     

II. IN PERSON NETWORKING

  • Personal networking has become paramount.  WHY?   The connections students might make early on can really help when it comes time to fill a position. It's never too late to start.
  • Take the time to get to know people and their needs, because the only reason they would hire you is if you can fill those needs anyway. 
  • Make it manageable!  Network with Intention – Narrow your Scope to Start: Find 10 people in the professional space that are doing something you want to do, meet them and ask how they got there. If you earn that group’s trust person by person, you’ll be well on your way to a reputation as someone with a clear purpose in the job market.
  • Practice asking meaningful questions – including with people you know, like family members.  You might be surprised at what you learn
  • Informational interviews: Contact someone whose specialty interests you and request a coffee, lunch or brief office informational meeting.  Be clear about your intention, for example, “Mr. Smith, as a student at Loyola Law School who is interested in learning more about the practice of employment law, would you be willing to meet me briefly for coffee to discuss the profession?  I am interested in learning more about the nuances, recent trends and your opinion of the future of this practice area.”  Attorneys like to talk about what they do and they'll probably take you up on it.
  • Research the person and be familiar with recent news in order to have a meaningful discussion.  Once you have their attention, you can show the value you would bring to them – regardless of whether or not you work for them in the future.
  • DO NOT ASK FOR A JOB!  Instead, ask what they would suggest for someone entering their field.  
     

FOLLOWING UP:  While you learn what those tips are, you can mention some of the things you’ve done, your skills, and other things that would show you’re a smart person working hard to accomplish your goal.

  • Follow up with a sincere thank you note. 
  • Calendar to follow up with that person periodically.
  • Keep them in mind!  For example, occasionally send them a relevant article or even a referral when possible.  Do not expect anything in return.
  • It’s crucial to remember that others have a circle of influence.  You never know when they might mention you to someone they know who can make a meaningful difference in your life.
  • Consider keeping a chart, such as Excel, with your networking efforts and status
     

VENUES FOR NETWORKING

  • Take advantage of any OCS programming, career fairs, mock interviews, etc. that are offered. This is another way to meet people and to sharpen skills in the process.
  • Often local bar organizations have a reduced (or free) rate for students to attend (usually) monthly events. This is a great way to meet attorneys and figure out what firms and practice areas might be busy/hiring.
  • Volunteer positions could lead to paying jobs... positions like a judicial externship are quite  valuable because the judge will often serve as a reference in helping to secure the next job.
  • Don't ignore public interest (and government, though they usually aren't hiring straight out of law school) because of fear of student loans.
  • Educate yourself on flexible (and generous) loan payback options such as the IBR (income based repayment) which pegs your monthly payment to a fixed percent of discretionary income and you can qualify for loan forgiveness (of federal loans) after 10 years of repayment (doesn't have to be in the same job). 
  • Don't forget to check the job postings in the Daily Journal, they often have positions that are not posted online
  • Mine the school's alumni network. Meeting with alumni could lead to a job, or if an alumni member hears of a job they might think of the student who reached out to them
 
To Be Continued In Part 3; What an Employer Looks For In an Applicant

 


How to Start Networking and Get a Job

Part One; Why You Must Network

Based on a presentation at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles on 2/12/14. 

INTRODUCTION

In 1988, I graduated from Villanova School of Law outside Philadelphia.  Villanova is viewed very much back east like Loyola is here in Los Angeles – a highly-regarded regional law school.  I worked for a large law firm, and subsequently for small firms.  When I relocated to California, I knew no one but a couple of family members.

Since I started attorney recruiting 14 years ago, more than half of those years were during a recession.

 What does this information have to do with you?  Well, in real estate you always hear the phrase “location, location, location”.  What I want you to remember is “connections, connections, connections”.  This realization changed my professional life – and I’m confident that it can change yours.

Connections, as well as hard work and a lot of patience, have contributed tremendously to my success in business.  On a similar note, developing relationships after I moved to California was critical, and it took years of effort to develop friendships and acquaintances like I had back East for so many years.  I mention this because developing connections is, in many ways, like making friends. But like friends, connections and relationships should be chosen carefully.  Therefore, it’s important that you network with intention.

Developing personal networking habits and skills will always be essential to your professional success, as there is no replacement for the human connection.  What about the importance and efficiency of social media connections and exposure, you ask? Our world is inextricably linked with Social Media.  Therefore, it’s hard to separate what you need to know to interview well and/or land a job, versus [personal] networking advice.

You want to know how to get a job, how to keep a job, and how to become secure to weather a recession in the future…b/c the only thing you can really be sure of is…there will be change.  Recession will happen again, and technology is rapidly evolving. 

Competition may seem greater than ever, with more candidates having access to information about available jobs.  However… the GOOD news is that, thanks to technology, you have more information and other resources at your fingertips than previous generations – so what are you going to do now that you are armed with these tools?
 

 NETWORK WITH INTENTION; 3 PARTS TO THIS PRESENTATION 

  • Why You Must Network
  • How Do You Get Started?
  • What an Employer Seeks in an Applicant; Do’s and Don’ts 
     

WHY YOU MUST NETWORK; THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
 

1. Networking is crucial for your career. Effective networking leads to relationships, and people tend to hire other people who they know and like. 


2. You are unique – but look to your right and to your left – those people are also unique.  You must distinguish yourself with a personal brand.

3. Brand vs. Reputation: Both your brand and reputation are important to your success

  • Your “brand’ is what people think of when they hear your name (or company) – it’s an intangible business asset that distinguishes you from others.  It can be hard to define, but until you do it’s hard to clearly articulate to others “who” you are. 

  • Your “reputation” is what they think about you as a person, such as having integrity and being reliable. 

  • How do you hone your message and how do you communicate it to those you meet?

  • I suggest working with a trusted friend or colleague to develop a brief introduction that is clear and compelling, and

  • Be patient, as this takes time and regular re-evaluation.  [More on developing your message in a future article].

  • You must provide value; the law firm world has changed.  Gone are the days when you worked for a firm, did good work, and made partner in 6 years…and remained there happily ever after.  More than ever, however, law firms are viewed as a business and so you need to provide VALUE if you want to be hired – and remain employed. The new “reality” is that your “value” will be closely connected with the clients/business that you bring to a firm.  This is achieved by networking, and developing relationships with people who will hire or refer you based on their perception of your brand and reputation.

  • Start planning now to be a business generator, by making connections and nurturing them. Doing so will not only help you now – but also in the future by enhancing your job security.  Once you have a client base that generates business, you gain independence and freedom – to make choices based on your personal needs and desires.

  • Utilize your Millennial Edge to your Advantage!  Law School students and young attorneys are typically referred to as “Millennials”.  The Millennial generation is known for being technologically savvy – it’s vital that you make sure you are also “people-savvy” if you want to succeed.

  • Learn the proper way to make a referral, and to accept a referral
  • Learn to listen – listen to learn
  • Practice following up with connections
  • Adopt an attitude of not expecting immediate results, or receiving anything in return
     

To be continued in Part 2:  How To Get Started


I Was Promised a Position in the Litigation Department But Now They Stuck Me in Corporate. What Should I Do? Can I Switch Practice Areas?

You finally found a position that you thought would be your "dream job."  The partners liked you and promised to put you right to work in litigation, an area in which you are desperate to gain experience.  However, it has been six months and you have yet to touch your first case.  Instead, they have you in the corporate department, spending your days up to your elbows in mind-numbing paperwork and boring meetings.

This scenario is not as uncommon as you might think.  The only way to "compel" a law firm to allow you to do the work you want to do is to have in hand a written contract specifying that you will be allowed to perform certain tasks, and most law firms are simply not going to give you this when you are hired.  Far more firms rely on a "gentlemen's" (or ladies') agreement and a handshake to specify your job duties.

Do you have any recourse when you find that your dream job is not what you thought it would be?  There is, of course, the possibility of quitting, but most lawyers these days are just glad they have found work and are reluctant to give up their jobs.  Should you suffer in silence?  Actually, there are ways you may change practice areas, but they require you to understand a few basic rules about working in a law firm.

  • Your skills are a commodity for which the partners are willing to pay.  The best way to change practice areas is to show that you are a valuable commodity in the area in which you want to work.  Of course, you cannot get trial experience if you are in corporate, but this may be a time when you can "volunteer" to do some of the "dirty work" for large cases in exchange for sitting in on some trials.  It is not litigation, but it is a foot in the door and will often attract the attention of the partners.
  • Talk to your boss.  The partner to whom you answer most may have some power to help you change practice areas, but it is unlikely that this will happen.  However, what you can do is to agree to do the work already assigned to you plus some extra assignments.  This shows the partners that you are willing to help where needed but do want to gain experience in other areas.  Your good attitude will go a long way to solving the problem.
  • Make no threats.  Lawyers, like most people, do not like threats.  The fastest way to be sure that you are denied what you want is to take a threatening stance, such as threatening to quit if you do not get your way.  Weigh the value of having a job against the value of doing what you want to do before you decide to resign.

While it is important to get experience in the areas in which you want to specialize, it is also important to maintain your integrity while job seeking.  If you do decide to leave, be sure to give plenty of notice and finish the cases to which you are assigned.

Rifkin Consulting can help you when the time comes to change jobs by finding the right law firm and position to match your skills and preferences.




Help! I Hate My New Job!

Sometimes the dream job you thought you would love turns out to be a nightmare position from which you feel you may never escape.  This is especially distressing when you have just started a new job and decide in a very short time that you despise the people or the position or both.  How soon is too soon to start looking for another job?  Will changing a job too quickly look bad on your resume?

The Dilemma of A Bad Job

Bad jobs create their own terrible dilemma.  If you quit the job, you risk being earmarked as a quitter or a “job hopper”; however, if you do not quit, you risk not only being miserable but perhaps being fired by the boss who likes you no better than you like him or her.

Generally, your happiness and mental health are worth more than any job.  However, you also have to be able to balance your own needs against the danger of moving from job to job whimsically.

A few things to consider when choosing whether or not to leave a job you just started:

  • Do you have another job waiting?  In some cases, attorneys take jobs only to receive a much better offer.  If you have another firm that has extended you an offer, it is much easier to jump ship with fewer negative consequences than if you simply quit abruptly with no prospects.
  • Are you being discriminated against?  There are some actions that can be construed as illegal discrimination such as sexual harassment.  If you are experiencing illegal harassment or discrimination, talk to another attorney immediately who specializes in these cases.  Never attempt to handle a situation such as this on your own.
  • Is there a chance of changing your job assignments?  Perhaps what is bothering you about your job is not the people you work with but the work itself.  Talk to your supervisor to see if your talents are being utilized fully.  If not, make suggestions for changes and be prepared to do some extra work to show your bosses where your talents lie.
  • Have you changed jobs suddenly in the past?  When it comes to a rapid job change, establishing a pattern is far more damaging than one “do over.”  While there will always be employers who will eye you askance if you quit a job after only a few weeks, most understand that anyone can get into one bad situation.  However, if you change jobs routinely, you are letting everyone know that you would rather leave than work out any problems you may have with a firm, its members or your job duties.

How Unhappy Are You?

The biggest question to answer when you are considering leaving a job you just started is:  how unhappy are you?  You may honestly have given the job a fair chance, but it is also possible that you are allowing your dislike to color your viewpoint.  One way to measure how reasonable your dislike of a job really is could be to talk with someone you trust and who is willing to give you an objective opinion of your situation.

If you find that you simply cannot stand to keep a job, of course you must move on.  However, be sure that you are making the right decision and that you are willing to accept the consequences of making a sudden job change before you turn in your notice.


Top 10 Reasons to Work with a Recruiter

There are very good reasons to work with an attorney recruiter when searching for attorney jobs in CA or when law firms have positions to fill.  Here are the top ten reasons an attorney recruiter in CA can help match the right candidate with the right job.

  1. A legal recruiter works with a select group of candidates.  Part of the screening process is already done by the time a recruiter submits a resume to a law firm.  This prevents the law firm from spending unnecessary time reviewing unsuitable candidates and avoids the problem of candidates applying for inappropriate law jobs in CA.
  2. Recruiters have networks.  Recruiters know the senior-level partners at law firms and have already established a relationship with them.  This works in both the candidate’s favor and that of the law firm seeking to fill an important position.
  3. A recruiter’s success depends on yours.  A recruiter only gets paid if a candidate is hired.  Therefore, the recruiter’s goals are the same as the law firm’s:  to find the right candidate for the job.
  4. Recruiters do more than cheerlead.  Recruiters also provide career guidance, information on law firm history and particular job criteria, resume analysis and interview tips.
  5. A legal recruiter specializes in the legal industry.  A legal recruiter focuses only on legal jobs.  Therefore, a legal recruiter is intimately connected with all the workings of both law firms in general and particular organizations.
  6. Recruiters provide interview assistance.  Recruiters have dealt with particular law firms and may know questions that are likely to be asked in the interview process as well as information on the firm itself.
  7. Recruiters have access to unpublished job openings.  Legal recruiters are often the first to hear about potential job openings and may be the only source of information on some jobs.  Law firms may choose not to publish their job openings on the Internet or in other sources and may rely solely on the services of a recruiter to fill various jobs.
  8. Recruiters know staff as well as attorneys.  A good legal recruiter has formed relationships with members of a law firm at every level.  Sometimes the staff has great influence on hiring decisions.
  9. A good recruiter can provide insights.  Legal recruiters study trends in the legal field and can provide an overall view of the hiring prospects in a given location or particular legal field.
  10. Recruiters take confidentiality seriously.  A good recruiter keeps your resume and job-seeking information private.  In today’s technologically-advanced world, this is difficult to do when you use various social media or other venues to look for jobs.

A legal recruiter can be a wonderful benefit in your legal job search.  Rifkin Consulting has many years of experience helping legal candidates look for jobs and helping law firms connect with the right candidates for their various positions.  With the help of Rifkin Consulting, quality attorneys can come together with the right law firms to benefit both.


What to Ask Your Attorney Recruiter

Hiring an attorney recruiter is a process, in some ways, similar to a job interview.  You must be sure that the attorney recruiter is a good match for your needs, and the recruiter must be sure that you are the type of candidate he or she wants to represent.  The process of “interviewing” a legal recruiter should be taken every bit as seriously as your job interviews and may well have even more lasting ramifications. 

An attorney recruiter in CA such as Rifkin Consulting serves a very important purpose.  Finding the right attorney jobs in CA is not a simple task, and hiring an attorney recruiter is one of the best ways to weed through the hundreds of law jobs in CA and find the one that best suits your goals and talents.

Therefore, there are several things you should ask your attorney recruiter before agreeing to representation.  Here are a few questions you should ask to learn the important information you need to make the right choice in legal recruiting firms from among those available.

  • How long have you been working as an attorney recruiter?  Ask to see the credentials of the person you are hiring to represent you to law firms throughout the state.  A professional attorney recruiting firm has usually been in business for years, offering you a chance to review their success stories and see their development as a key player in the legal field.

  • How do you go about choosing the right jobs for me?  This is a crucial question and is really the key to the success or failure of an attorney recruiter in terms of finding the right positions for you.  The attorney recruiter should use a verifiable method of weeding out job possibilities so that he or she focuses only on those that will fit your demands.  You do not want a recruiter who simply passes your resume to any law firm that is hiring.

  • Do you offer support services?  An attorney recruiter should offer other services such as resume editing, interview preparation and advice on choosing the right job.  Simply brokering your resume to law firms is not enough.

  • Do you have references to whom I can speak?  The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” can also be applied to references.  No matter how good a firm tells you it is, hearing it from someone who has used the firm successfully means much more.  You should also search the Internet for possible bad references; while one or two do not mean much, a number of bad reviews may signal trouble.

  • How do you calculate your fees?  An attorney recruiting firm is paid by the employer when a candidate is hired and begins employment.

It is also important to consider the necessity of maintaining confidentiality and discretion in this process. You may have other questions to ask a potential attorney recruiter.  Do not be afraid to ask for clarification or information; after all, this may be one of the most important relationships of your life. 


Benefits of Working With an Attorney Recruiter

Attorney Recruiting

With the economy in recession, it may be difficult to find career opportunities that match your criteria, experience, and academic achievement. The economic crisis has left few jobs on the market and even lawyers are having difficulty trying to find employment that matches their requirements. You may have considered working with an attorney recruiter, but are still uncertain whether or not you should. Here are several reasons why an attorney recruiter can assist you in building an enriching and successful career as an attorney:

Appearance and Presentation:

Often, applicants do not hear back from potential employers because their cover letters and resumes are unsuccessful and ineffective. Most attorneys are so busy applying to numerous jobs that they do not research each law firm’s background and goals. Ultimately, many attorneys make the awful mistake of sending out generic and plain cover letters and resumes. This usually leads to fruitless results.

Cover letters should be tailored to the law firm and used to create a connection with the firm's recruiting department. If you are not referencing your knowledge of the firm or engaging the reader within the first paragraph, your cover letter will likely be tossed.

Additionally, if your resume and cover letter contain typographical errors, you will most likely not hear back from them. Your first impression, even though on paper, needs to be completely flawless. Fortunately, an attorney recruiter can edit your resume and draft an impressive cover letter while also providing background on the law firm to ensure that your presentation catches the reader's attention.

Interview and Impression:

Numerous applicants find the interview process utterly challenging with multiple phone and in person interviews. The process can be stressful, nerve-wracking, and brutal. It is of the utmost importance that you appear to be the right candidate for the position, but most often interviewees become nervous and fail to create the right impression. An attorney recruiter can help you with the interview process by providing effective tips to guide you in selling your skills and experience.  

Networking:

Ever heard the expression: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well the statement rings completely true in searching for the right career opportunities. It is absolutely crucial to establish long-lasting connections and relationships in order to generate the best career opportunities. This may be a daunting task for a new or young attorney.  At Rifkin Consulting, we offer the benefit of more than 25 years of experience with the legal industry and have many well established relations with successful law firms and exceptional attorneys.

Contact Rifkin Consulting

Whether you are a young associate or longtime partner, we can help provide you with employment opportunities for a permanent and successful career. Our attorney recruiters have your best interest in mind and will search for top tier law firms that exceed your requirements.  Contact one of our consultants today so we can assist in achieving your long-term goals as an attorney. 


How Attorney Partner Placements Have Changed Since 2007

As an attorney search consultant, I believe that partner placements and legal recruiting have become increasingly difficult - and different - during the last five years.  The primary reason for this is that as the economy took a drastic turn, many partners' portable books of business did also.  As a result, they were faced with two very difficult and contradictory situations: (1) without significant business they may have gotten the "wink and the nod" that they should seek work elsewhere, and/or (2) making a lateral move was difficult because their portable business had diminished.  Firms are more reluctant over the last few years to take a "gamble" on partners who previously did well.

Additionally, they significantly raised the required book of "verifiable" business before considering adding them to the firm.  Whereas 1 million in portable business used to be a sought-after number, for many large firms that has been raised to 2 million in portable business.  Smaller firms generally tend to want to see candidates in at least the $400K-$500K range.

An additional change that I've seen, and continue to observe, is with attorneys who were previously "service partners".  These attorneys often did not do business development, nor were they encouraged to do so, because there was enough work from other partners.  Sometimes it was even discouraged.

Unfortunately, when the economy experienced a downturn and the work was no longer plentiful, these senior attorneys who were not self-supporting were often told to find other work.  Again, the lack of portable business was a harsh reality that has continued to plague many.  I have spoken with many attorneys in this situation - some have gone from making huge salaries to just getting by.  They have become a sad casualty of the economy – and the evolution of the law firm model - as a result of the recession.  My sense is that even when the economy rebounds, service partners will be less desirable than previously.  I always advise candidates to do whatever they can to be self-supporting - it's ultimately a matter of survival.


Ask a Recruiter – Part 2; Hello...is Anybody There?

I have sent my resume to several attorney recruiters and none of them responded.  Couldn’t they have at least said “sorry, not a fit”, “we’ll keep it on file”, or “get lost!”?  Why does it seem like a black hole when I send my resume to inquire about a job?

At Rifkin Consulting, we truly understand your frustration about the general lack of response from many recruiters.  In our office, while we make a concerted effort to respond to every resume that we receive, it’s just not feasible to expect a personal phone call or response in all cases.  Let me explain why, from my perspective…..

Most resumes that recruiters receive are unsolicited.  While this is not unusual, it’s possible for a successful recruiter to receive dozens of resumes each day.  Sometimes, the resumes we receive aren’t even from lawyers (which make us wonder if they even understand where they are sending it!).  Many others are clearly not on point for the job about which they are inquiring.  In any business, time must be used most efficiently in order to be successful – and recruiting is no exception.  Trying to balance this hard cold fact with compassion is not always easy, and a recruiter’s time must necessarily be spent primarily with candidates who they can place. 

Responding to every resume that comes in would take a huge amount of time – and would take away from our efforts and obligations to our active candidates.  Think about your own work day; would you be able to add an extra hour daily to an effort that doesn’t produce business?  No matter how much you wish you could…it’s just not feasible.  Recruiters don’t mean to be rude or lacking in compassion – they just have to prioritize their work as anyone else does.

We review every resume that reaches our desk and screen it carefully for a possible job match now – or in the future.  We try to respond to each – even if to just acknowledge its receipt.  Try not to take it personally if you don’t receive an email or a phone call – we aim for excellence in our profession and are known for good communication with candidates and law firm clients – but there are just so many hours in a day!


Ask a Recruiter - Part 1; Why Won't a Recruiter Work With Me?

"I am a new law school graduate, and I contacted a legal recruiter to help me get a job.  Why won't they work with me?"

Don’t take it personally!  Many recruiters want to be able to help new law school graduates; however, clients will only work with recruiters to hire attorneys with at least one year of post law school experience in a law firm setting.  Why?

There are several reasons that firm clients take this position. 

  • First, since clients compensate recruiters for successful placements (no charge to the attorney), they prefer associates who provide some immediate value given that they already have some training and experience (i.e., can provide even a modicum of immediate hands-on assistance). 
  • Second, it is very costly to train and support a young attorney. Therefore,  an associate with some level of proven ability gives the firm a stronger sense of confidence and reasonable anticipation that he/she will remain with the firm for awhile. 
  • Third, many law firms conduct on-campus interviews [OCI] pursuant to hiring new law school graduates.  This method is often an expedient and cost-efficient way to proactively screen and hire new graduates. 

Additionally, few law firms will use the services of recruiters to hire young attorneys with only clerking experience.  Often law firms and law clerks utilize internal connections to facilitate such hires.

It’s important to understand the aforementioned reasons why an attorney recruiter can’t assist you with your job search if you are a new graduate or Bar-admittee.   You’ll need to be very proactive on your own if you weren’t successful during OCI, or if your school does not participate in OCI recruiting.  Learning about the various venues for networking and research, such as your local Public Law Center, can provide valuable experience as well as leads.  Good luck!


“ '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. 


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...)


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.