Searching for a Legal Job? The Author of “From Lemons to Lemonade” Shares Some Ideas

Richard HermannToday’s interview is with Richard Hermann, the author of the new book From Lemons to Lemonade in the New Legal Job Market.

As our review noted, From Lemons to Lemonade has tons of great ideas to jump-start your job hunt, so it’s very exciting to have him here to share even MORE ideas with you!

Without further ado…

I’m a 3L without a job, and I read From Lemons to Lemonade. It had some great suggestions, but I’m interested in litigation, and a lot of that book seemed to be focused more on corporate type jobs. Do you have any special advice for wanna-be litigators?

First, let me say that the book was intended to be “practice-area neutral.”

It focuses on strategies, tactics and techniques for achieving rewarding, gainful employment.

By the way, only ten percent of attorneys ever see the inside of a courtroom.

Second, if you are interested in litigation, one of the best ways to get your feet wet is to concentrate first on administrative litigation, which has experienced an enormous growth spurt over the past several decades, with no end in sight.

The U.S. government, for example, has no fewer than 130 bodies that hear administrative cases. States are not far behind.

The advantages of going up the litigation learning curve via an administrative route are that:

  1. both the evidentiary and procedural rules are “relaxed;”
  2. trials are shorter in duration;
  3. schedules are more predictable;
  4. if you become conversant with procedural rules that govern a wide range of administrative cases, you can easily move from one topical area to another.

For example, the federal Administrative Procedure Act governs hearings before 32 federal agencies dealing with subject matter ranging from Social Security Disability Income to environmental claims.

Launching your litigation career at the administrative trial level is also a great confidence builder and will make you a far more capable litigator when you move up a notch to court trials.

I’m considering going to law school, but I’m worried about the job market and all the debt I’ll have to take on. What are the three most important things I can think about, or do, to ensure law school’s the right step for me before I apply?

First, learn as much as you can about the multitude of both “mainstream attorney” and law-related careers as you can so that you can perform the necessary due diligence that is a must for anyone contemplating law school today.

Second, talk to practitioners as well as law school career office staff about what the job market looks like and where it is likely to be heading in the near-term.

Don’t limit yourself to sole practitioners, law firm associates and partners, corporate counsel or government lawyers. Also include attorneys who are serving as compliance professionals, risk management officers, contract administrators, ethics officers and any others who work in law-related fields.

Be sure to ask about concentration programs in law schools. If you earn a certificate in a specialty practice area, such as intellectual property or insurance law, and you know that these are fields that interest you, you will have enhanced your employability credentials upon graduation.

Third, make sure that you incur only debt that you have a reasonable chance of paying off. While the standard mantra is to enroll at the best law school to which you have been accepted (which are also likely to be the most expensive), keep in mind that if you perform well at a non-Ivy League law school, for example, you will probably not have difficulty in the legal job market.

Could you talk a bit about what you do in the average day at work, and how it’s similar to (or different from) what you expected to be doing when you started law school?

I went to law school on the GI Bill with no intention of spending my entire career practicing law due to a passion for entrepreneurialism and a dislike of being someone’s employee. I did that for four years following graduation, and then launched a business that catered to attorneys with career concerns.

While the business was being built, I consulted on national security law matters for a variety of government agencies and general counsel offices. The business ultimately flourished and was sold several years ago to Thomson Reuters (the Westlaw parent company).

Since then, I have authored five books on legal careers, taught the nation’s only law school legal career management course, spoken widely to legal audiences, written a weekly legal career blog, written a weekly op-ed column on any topic I wish for a newspaper syndicate, and taught a monthly webinar on legal career matters.

I continue to do all of these activities and am branching out into a variety of other writing projects, some legal, some not.

My days are spent meeting my weekly writing deadlines while also devoting time to my longer-term book projects and preparing for my classes.

I suppose you would say that I was fortunate enough to be able to realize virtually all of my career aspirations.

If there is a lesson in this, it is to know yourself, develop detailed goals and pursue them zealously.

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Thanks, very useful! If you missed our review of From Lemons to Lemonade check it out. (And, as the review says, if you’re job hunting, you probably want this book. One great idea from it is featured here: Cool Idea for Legal Networking: Make A “Contacts Roadmap.”)

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