August 2013

For reasons entirely unbeknownst to me, professors, law deans and others in law school frequently refer law school grads to me to suggest approaches to the legal workforce.  Valorem doesn’t hire new law school graduates (or even recent ones), but I end up seeing an awful lot of resumes.  I’ve put together a few thoughts here that may be of interest to recent graduates.

1.   Put yourself in the shoes of the lawyer/firm.  How many resumes do you think an average lawyer sees in a year.  The total is likely to be in the hundreds.  Resumes in one year blend together.  When you consider that 99.9% of the resumes I have seen since 1983 when I got involved in the hiring process look exactly the same, you can better understand how resumes blend together.  If yours looks just like 1000 others, why should I care?  How can I possibly remember you?

2.  Remember the grains of sand.  Picture a person surveying a lovely sandy beach.  You are a grain of sand.  You might well be the finest grain of sand in the history of sand, but how do you expect the person surveying the beach to pick you out from amongst the trillions of other grains of sand?  You can’t afford to appear to be like the other grains of sand.

3.  If you aim to not offend anyone, you will impress no one.  So many people, and virtually all law firms, are afraid of offending anyone.  You create a persona stripped anything vaguely rough and unpolished and you end up stripping away the real you.  Look at law firm websites–they are all so unbelievably vanilla.  And so utterly BORING.  You need to be the real you, the kind your friends see.  You need to do something so different that it captures attention.  A custom YouTube video presenting yourself?  Why not?  A parody to introduce yourself?  Give it a shot.  BE CREATIVE.   A lot of prospective employers may be turned off.  But you are far more likely to catch the eye of somebody that way.  That’s a key to getting an interview and even more so getting an offer.

4.   Understand the importance of “what’s in it for me?”  When firms hire a prospect, particularly when smaller firms do, there is a very real “what is the value to us” that enters the hiring calculus.  You need to make a business case for a decision to hire you.  Not a business case for a firm to hire a new lawyer–the firm has already done that–but why the lawyer they hire should be you.  You need to think like a business person, not like a lawyer on this one.

5.  Understand that you are not a good writer.  Most young lawyers I speak with talk about how well they write and how good they would be trying cases.  Trust me, you are not a good writer. At least you’re not so much better than others I’ve seen that writing skills would drive that decision.  When clients interview lawyers, quality is a given.  You would not have made it the interview if the client didn’t think you were good enough.  Likewise, good writing is a necessary skill set, but it is not sufficient.  Understand and embrace that idea.  On the flip side, your interest in trying cases is great, but my mother wants to try cases.  Tell me instead about what you’ve done to master the forum.  And by that, I don’t mean mock trials or other stuff in law school.  How have you learned to think on your feet?  To perform before an audience? To plot strategy like an elite senior military officer?  And so on.  There is a huge amount that goes into being a trial lawyer.  Don’t be so condescending as to think you’ve mastered it based on handling a moot court case.

Remember, free advice may only be worth what you pay for it. But I hope something in this post sparks a helpful thought.

Those familiar with my writings know that I am a huge fan of Jordan Furlong.  His thinking is illuminating and his writing is extraordinary.  Jordan, who is both a partner with Edge International and a consultant with Stem Legal, has teamed with Stem Legal’s Founder Steve Matthews to produce Content Marketing and Publishing Strategies for Law Firms.  The book is a quick read–it is only 75 pages–but don’t let the length of the book mislead you about the value of its content.  In five chapters, Jordan and Steve cover strategy, content, distribution, culture and metrics.  They include several case studies that help illustrate the points they are making. While Valorem’s inclusion as a case study may color my strong feelings about the value of Content Marketing, Jordan’s and Steve’s stature in the legal community and the history of their thoughtful contributions more than justifies a trip to the website to take a look at the book and judge for yourself.