Alternative Careers – Investigator for Workplace Complaints

Please welcome Joanna Sattler, Law School Toolbox tutor, to discuss her alternative legal career as a workplace investigator.

I’m the child of no fewer than three lawyers (if you count my stepmother, that is). All three practiced law upon graduating from law school and pursued “traditional” legal careers (two at large firms, the third in-house). As such, I had a certain view of what lawyers did and a (fairly) certain path I planned to pursue: work at a large law firm after graduating and then, maybe, try to work in-house. (At the time, I didn’t realize I could go in-house straight from law school; I truly thought there was one path and one path only!)

A planner by nature, I followed my plan. I worked hard in law school. I summered at a large firm and received an offer of post-graduation employment. Although I didn’t take that job (I didn’t love the firm’s satellite office in the city where I planned to live), I took another firm job soon after passing the California bar.

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Are You Going to Law School Because You’re a Good Writer?

Are You Going to Law School Because You're a Good Writer?This week we welcome back Law School Toolbox Tutor Whitney Weatherly to discuss how writing in law school can be very different from writing you’ve done before (and how to best learn how to write for legal practice).

I can’t even pick out one specific memory of this conversation, because I had it so many times with so many people. Here’s the rough transcript:

Me: So, why did you decide to go to law school?

Law Student: Well, all of my professors at [university] said that I was such a good writer that I should go to law school. So here I am!

Me: Right. OK…so how’s that working out for you?

Okay, so maybe that last reply was (usually) internal. When I first started law school, I certainly didn’t realize what was expected of me from a writing perspective. Like most of my fellow classmates, I usually did well on writing assignments in undergrad, but I’d had the benefit of working for an attorney before law school. Just the fact of working for her helped me shift my mode of writing from “creative” to “professional”, but she also gave me some tips along the way that made me more open to input once I got to my legal writing class. If you’re going into law school with the confidence of a good writer, consider this your wake-up call.

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I am a Rising 3L and STILL Haven’t Taken the MPRE

Help: I am a rising 3L and I haven't taken the MPRE yet!This week we welcome back guest writer, and rising 3L, Shirlene Armstrong, to talk about the MPRE and why she’s taking it her 3L year.

If you were about to listen in on many 2L’s minds, you would hear a variety of topics. “I need to practice for my upcoming mock trial…” or “After evidence, I need to run to the office to complete some interrogatories and meet with a client…” or “The MPRE is only a week away and I’m freaking out…” are just some of the daily conversations 2Ls have with themselves. As I close out my 2L year, I think back to all that I have accomplished, the stress of the year, and countless hours that I studied or worked. There is one quintessential 2L experience that I have yet to accomplish: taking the MPRE. [Read more…]

The Ultimate Guide to the Law in Pop Culture Part II: Movies & Documentaries

Ultimate Guide to the Law in Pop Culture Part II - Movies & DocumentariesPlease welcome back 2L guest writer Jaclyn Wishnia to discuss the best movies and documentaries to look for when you want to find some legal entertainment.

In the first installment of our ultimate guide to the law in pop culture series, we curated a list of top TV shows that involve various legal themes and span multiple genres. For law students who either prefer full-length films to hour-long episodes, or are simply looking for some good legal entertainment during a law school break, the second part of our series focuses on the law found in the forms of movies and documentaries. [Read more…]

The Challenges for Women in In-House Legal Roles

Challenges of being a woman and an in-house attorneyThis week our guest writer, an in-house attorney, discusses the unique challenges of being a woman attorney in an in-house legal role and how she has dealt with these challenges.

Even as more women graduate from law school than ever before, carving out a successful legal career as a woman can be an extremely challenging undertaking. A recent report showed that women make up just 35 percent of lawyers at law firms. There are few comprehensive studies about the overall percentage of women in in-house roles, but one statistic paints a stark picture: as of 2015, just 22% of Fortune 500 companies had a woman in the top legal position.

An in-house legal career offers some enticing advantages over the traditional law firm track. Compared to their counterparts at law firms, in-house lawyers generally enjoy an improved work-life balance, have more leadership opportunities, aren’t under pressure to bring in new clients, and are free from the billable hour (and all of the paperwork that goes with it). But even with these perks, there are many challenges faced by women in in-house legal departments. If you’re considering taking an in-house legal position, here’s what you can do to confront these challenges head-on. [Read more…]

Lessons Learned While Preparing for Parental Leave

Maternity Leave Part 1Please welcome back Jennifer Warren, attorney and Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law, to discuss her own experience preparing for her second parental leave and the lessons she learned after her first leave.

During my first pregnancy I was working in-house as a litigator for a governmental entity. I was extremely fortunate to work in a family friendly environmental with other lawyers who were willing to help cover cases or issues that arose during my maternity leave. But even in a supportive office like mine, I remember feeling guilty about taking such a long leave (11 weeks!) and potentially causing my colleagues more work. I completed as many assignments as possible prior to taking my leave and rearranged scheduling deadlines to compensate for my absence, but I knew there would be at least a few seemingly minor tasks that would arise while I was away. No problem, I thought, I can manage a few small assignments while on maternity leave.

Flash forward to a month later, only 2 weeks post-partum, and I find myself cradling my new baby with one hand while typing emails on my phone with the other hand at 4:00 a.m. My precious bundle of joy was adorable, but I was an exhausted, emotional mess. What had seemed like some fairly routine work tasks a few months ago when I was sitting in my office (and still sleeping eight blissful hours a night) was now an overwhelming obligation.

I learned a lot from my first experience with parental leave and now appreciate that good advance planning can make the unique, fleeting challenging experience of caring for a newborn more enjoyable. Here are a few lessons I learned that may help you prepare for your own parental leave.

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Collaboration vs. Competition

Collaboration vs. CompetitionPlease welcome guest writer, Whitney Weatherly, to discuss how to balance the competitive legal world with the need for collaboration and working together.

A student recently requested my help with something, and I declined, deferring to a colleague who specializes in the type of help that she needed. It was a positive interaction, though, and I told one of my coworkers about it. She suggested that I could have done the work, but I insisted that I was right to decline. In a way, my coworker was right. With training, I probably could provide the help that the student needed. But would that have been the best way to serve her and my company?

We live in a world where people are too apt to claim expertise for fear of appearing weak or inadequate. As lawyers and law students, our culture seems to reward all-around experts rather than people who are willing to acknowledge their limitations, defer to the superior knowledge of others, and collaborate when appropriate. It’s time to think about the spectrum between competition and collaboration, and how attorneys can move the industry standard in a way that fosters information sharing for the benefit of clients. [Read more…]

How to Go In-House Straight from Law School

MotivationToday’s guest writer discusses how you can make the jump from law school to an in-house position without stopping at a law firm first!

If you’ve been following news coverage of the legal job market lately, you may be aware of a new development in legal hiring. In recent years, more and more companies have been willing to hire early-career attorneys to work in their in-house legal departments who are either new graduates or have just a few years’ experience. Gone are the days when landing an in-house position requires several years of prior law firm practice. So how can law students take advantage of this emerging trend and best prepare themselves to go in-house immediately or shortly after graduation? [Read more…]

5 Ways to Prepare for a Job Fair

5 Ways to Prepare for a Job FairPlease welcome back guest writer John Passmore, an assistant managing legal editor in Houston, Texas, to offer advice on how to get ready for a job fair. These can be great opportunities to find positions from 1L summer employment all the way through post grad positions.

Whether it is an internship fair your first semester of law school or a job fair your last semester, such events present a high stakes speed-dating-like opportunity to meet with potential employers. These events are made tougher because they inevitably fall during a hectic law school week, on a crazy law school day. Finding the time to actually prepare for a job fair that carries no GPA weight may seem like a waste of time, but some upfront effort could pay big dividends in the long run. A little preparation can make you stand out among your peers. Here are a few ideas for putting your best foot forward: [Read more…]

Law School Study Abroad: To Go or Not To Go?

Pros and Cons of Study Abroad During Law SchoolPlease welcome back Jennifer Warren, attorney and Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law, to discuss what you should consider when deciding if studying abroad during law school is a good idea.

If there’s anyone who appreciates the value of studying abroad in college, it’s me. During my sophomore year, I spent a semester in Madrid that was truly a life changing experience. For me, studying abroad turned out to be so much more than a chance to travel and live in a new place. I was in Madrid in spring 2004, when, just days before Spain’s general elections, al Qaeda inspired terrorists bombed four commuter trains. The bombings were so close to my apartment that the explosions woke me up. Over the following days and weeks, I not only participated in the deep mourning for the victims of the attacks but also witnessed the significant political reverberations that played out in the Spanish elections. It was a significant occasion for Spain – and the world – that influenced my own beliefs and views.

In addition to experiencing this historical moment, studying abroad had a huge impact on my personal and professional life. I met my husband (another American student) while studying abroad and found myself completely altering my plans so that I could follow him to his home state of Oklahoma. As a native Californian and recent New York City resident, this was a drastic change, to say the least. Studying abroad set me down a path that I never contemplated, but it’s one I have never regretted.

So, if studying abroad is so fulfilling and life changing, it only makes sense to pursue that same type of experience in law school, right? Well, maybe, maybe not.

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