Give Yourself an Advantage: Use Your Resume as a Marketing Tool

The vast majority of resumes we see are consistent with the way most of us were taught to write a resume – provide a chronological summary of your employment history and education. There is nothing incorrect about this format but is it really your best tool for marketing yourself to a potential employer?

You’re Doing It Wrong.

There really is no “right way” to hire someone or get hired. That said, there are plenty of ways that are clearly wrong. 

Keep it Positive!

Every law firm or company has aspects that are less than desirable for some people. In fact, this may be the reason that someone is considering a move. However, it is never a good to dwell on this too much in an interview.

A Higher Level of Understanding

It seems like such a simple concept but it is one that frequently gets lost in the hiring process: understanding the other side’s needs. Whether it is the employer or job candidate, both sides tend to focus a little too much on their own needs and not addressing what the other side wants.

Three Keys to Improving Your Interview Skills

Do you have an upcoming interview?  If so, make sure take a common sense approach to making a good impression by utilizing three essential P’s: preparedness, positive attitude and professionalism. There won’t be much you can add to your skills and experience prior to the interview but you can control how prepared you are coming into the interview, the attitude you convey, and your appearance and demeanor.

A Resume By Any Other Name….

When you submit a resume to a potential employer (or to a recruiter) it is important to put your best foot forward. While the resume may be perfect, the title of the resume may tell the recipient more than you want them to know.

Work Culture can be Just as Important as the Actual Work

While finding a firm or company that fits well with your actual legal practice is no doubt important, it is no more important than cultural fit or management style. In fact, the majority of attorneys that contact us are not interested in leaving their current job due to the actual work. Most often, it is the interaction with others, long-term direction, or decision-making of the firm or company that has people considering other options.

Update Your Information on LinkedIn – People Can’t Call If They Can’t Find You!

Whether searching for a job or just trying to stay in contact with current and/or potential clients in the legal field, having a LinkedIn profile should be a priority. Just as important as having the profile is keeping it up to date. Showing that you are still at an old position or, a much more common fault, failing to update your contact information so someone can get a hold of you, is a poor reflection on you.

Don’t Let Modesty Get In The Way

Attorneys are generally conservative by nature when it comes describing their practice. Whether it is the idea of promoting your skills and abilities or the potential value of your practice, most attorneys will take a modest approach. Yes, managing expectations is important but being too conservative can really be to your detriment.

What You Do Today Can Affect Your Job Search Tomorrow!

I was reminded today of the importance of protecting your reputation as a lawyer.  I was contacted by someone who wanted to apply for an attorney opportunity at a firm where she was a summer associate many years ago. 

Prepare For Anything When Interviewing

While it may be impossible to literally prepare for any and all interview questions or scenarios, you should do your best based on available information and at least be mentally prepared for the rest.

With an upcoming interview, your first priority is to do your homework. Thoroughly review the job description, any available information about the firm or company posted on the web, and bios on the people key to the job and interview process. You should also review your own resume and any supporting material you provided so you are ready to address specific questions about the material you provided. These are things within your preparedness control and the employer often is aware of it, which means your interview process could end quickly if you are not up to speed on easily accessed information.

The trickier part of interviewing is preparing for questions or scenarios for which you have no or limited access to information or control. This might be a case study posed to you by an interviewer regarding something you may or may not have experienced in the past. It might be dealing with a quirky interviewer who keeps going off-point during the interview. While you may not be able to prepare a well thought out response for everything, you can prepare for how you respond in terms of your demeanor. The key is to anticipate difficult questions or scenarios mentally so you are not completely caught off-guard when one comes your way. Often times, the interviewer is not as interested in the answer itself, but how you process information and your composure in responding.

Summer Associates (and ALL Attorneys) – Be Wary of Social Media

It’s that time of the year again. Summer associates arrive at the bigger firms and get put on projects. Sometimes those projects are exciting. The files that these soon-to-be-attorneys are handed might even have really juicy facts. Ooooh – can you believe it? He did what?! She responded how?! “Ping!” Oh, that’s just my Twitter/Facebook/email/text account. And that’s how problems start.

This post really doesn’t relate to legal resumes or your job search, but it is something that is incredibly important to think about – both for law students and for the attorneys that hire them. We’re on social media and can see that this is happening and thought it was worth a moment of your time.

Never before has the legal community faced such a high risk of confidential client information leaking out. It used to be that if details were to leak out, someone would have to pick up the phone or drag out a Banker’s box of documents. Not anymore. Not with Twitter and Facebook. Not with email and text messaging.

If you are a summer associate, think twice (or three times) before sending any information out about what you are working on at your law firm. If “I’m review documents” just isn’t exciting enough, think about not sending that Tweet. Going beyond that to say that you are working on a file for Company X and are reviewing documents (or giving even more detail) may violate client confidences. Your best course of action is to resist the temptation to micro-blog about your summer associate experience altogether.

Timing Is Critical For Employers Too

We know that timing is a key component to a job search but often think of it in terms of an applicant or candidate. The truth is timing can be just as critical for an employer looking to make a hire. Law firms and companies are often in competition for top attorneys – from an exceptional real estate associate to the partner-level attorney with a significant client base. If you can’t get to the offer in stage in a relatively short period of time, you may be missing out on some of the best people for your firm or business.

The legal market is fairly consistent in terms of hiring in that some areas are coveted more than others at certain times. For example, lately we have a seen a big push for securities attorneys (both law firm and in-house) and there are not many in the market. Someone with the requisite skills and experience is likely to have multiple options. Although every firm or company would like to think they offer something unique, to a candidate the opportunities can appear very similar so it might come down to who is able to extend an offer first. The intent may not be to force a candidate to make a decision but it can work in your favor since they know the offer might not stand too long. Likewise, the job search process can be very demanding and time consuming so many people would like to get it over with as soon as possible so they can just focus on work.

In a market that is quickly becoming competitive again for top legal talent, firms and companies should assess whether their hiring process is efficient enough not to jeopardize a hire solely based on timing. In fact, they may have seen first-hand how this can work against them. The key then is to take steps to eliminate this correctable disadvantage to become more competitive in the marketplace.

It’s A Matter of Perception – The Role of the Recruiter

The old cliché is that you should think about a problem from the perspective of the other side to gain a full understanding of the situation. Nowhere is that more true than in a job search/hiring situation. Too often deals are lost because of the problem of perception.

When a candidate applies and/or interviews with an employer, they are excited about the position. They check their email and voicemail for updates, excitedly hoping for news. If they don’t hear anything from the firm for an extended period of time, they assume the worst (that they are no longer being considered for the position) and often will come away with negative thoughts about the employer and may generally “reimagine” their perception of the firm to be one where the attorney wouldn’t have wanted the position. “It was for the best,” attorneys will often remark. From the candidate’s perspective, the process went from one of hope and excitement to an awful experience (and one which they will remember for a long time).

On the employer side, they might believe that interviews went fine but the firm just got busy and hasn’t had time to respond to the candidates that interviewed. Without nefarious intentions, they simply stopped/slowed the hiring process until there was more time to move forward. Form the firm’s perspective, everything is fine. They can’t understand why a candidate would have been turned off by the process.

The person who is in the best place to step in and help each side see the process from the others’ perspective is the recruiter. They can calm the candidate and nudge the employer to move the process forward (or at least communicate their updated timetable to the attorney). This is one of the many reasons that both attorneys and legal employers turn to a recruiter. If you find yourself in a similar position just take a deep breath and try to see it from the other side’s perspective.

Timing is everything when it comes to conflicts. Wait until you are cleared.

Congratulations! You have just received a job offer and are poised to make a great career move. You are excited to transition your practice to the new firm and have given notice to your current firm that you will be leaving. Unfortunately, conflicts haven’t been cleared with your new firm and, if there is an insurmountable conflict, you are going to be left without a job. That’s a big mistake. Don’t give your notice too soon. It is a pitfall that far too many attorneys ignore.

Client conflicts are rare, but they do occur. The best advice is to wait to give your notice until you have officially cleared conflicts at the new firm. Never give notice until this process has been completed.

Compensation in the Open Market

Compensation for attorneys can be determined by a number of objective and subjective factors including tenure, quality of work product, profitability, and information gathered from salary studies. You may know how your compensation stacks up to others at your firm or even what people make at other firms, but do know if it is comparable to what you would make in the open market?

A lot of attorneys have no idea if their compensation measures up to their true market value. By true market value, I am referring to how much you could expect to earn if you decided to explore other options in the legal market – not what a typical attorney makes after so many years of experience. Some people are actually making more than they would in the open market because they are currently being rewarded for factors that are not given the same consideration by prospective employers. Yes, loyalty and teamwork is valued by all employers, but it is often measurable attributes such as business generation and working receipts that carry the most weight in the open market. This is especially true in a post-recession economy where the ability to generate revenue is becoming expected of all.

If you are working hard to generate business and starting to see real revenue growth as a result, you should ask yourself how much of your potential income is going to others who are not as productive (especially those who make no effort). There may be other factors that make your current work experience so positive that the potential of lost income is okay, but if you could have a similar experience and make considerably more money elsewhere it might be worth your time to explore your true market value.

It’s time to think about what you actually DO as an attorney

“I’m an attorney. More specifically, I’m a litigator. Even more specifically, I’m a products defense attorney.” Great – that’s the type of law that you practice, but what do you DO?

The general type of law that you practice is important to start a discussion about a new job, but it doesn’t answer the question of what you do – which is imperative to think about when contemplating a job change.

As a legal recruiter, we always ask exactly that – what do you do? It’s an insightful question that often goes overlooked by candidates.

Thinking about your job in terms of what you actually do is important because it forces you to evaluate your specific skillset when considering a new position. It can force you to see deficiencies in your resume and can get you out of a career rut.

We recently worked with an attorney at a big firm. She is a litigator at a large, national firm and for the past seven years she has been comfortable doing what she has been asked to do – reviewing documents and researching case law. She was recently passed over for partnership and is now wondering why she isn’t attractive to other employers. She never stopped to ask what she actually did. She assumed she was a litigator. She assumed that other firms would always want to hire her because she was “litigating”. Because she never really thought about what a litigator actually does (compared with what she actually did on a day to day basis), she never thought to expand her skillset to make herself more marketable. She also learned a powerful lesson (and the topic of a future blog post) – don’t rely on your firm to advance your career; YOU need to make sure that you have the skills you need to advance.

Had this attorney taken some time to reflect on her career – that she was still doing important work, but not increasingly complicated work on litigation matters, she would have realized that what she was doing was a thin slice of what a litigator does. She was not, in fact, a seasoned litigator and her value to other firms was severely diminished as a result.

What could she have done? Maybe she could have taken on more responsibility at her firm. Maybe she could have tried to market her practice to get some of her own clients (of which she could have taken on a larger litigation role). Maybe she could have realized that her firm was making her increasingly unmarketable and tried to find a new job earlier. Whatever the case may be, the best time to think about what you actually do is NOW – not later.

Another very common example of how not understanding what someone DOES can affect their chance at career change comes in the legal resume. Too often people let their job title stand alone on the resume, not putting ample thought into parsing out what skills they have learned and what accomplishments they have had in their current (or past) roles. Simply putting “litigation attorney” on your resume doesn’t make you competent in all facets of litigation. Think about all areas of your practice and make sure they are clearly laid out in the resume. Essentially, this is forcing you to answer the question of “what do I do?”.

As many of us ramp our work schedules up with summer (sadly) behind us, take some time to really think about the question of what you do if you want to advance your career!