How To Avoid Burnout

How To Avoid BurnoutThis week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about what to do if you’re facing burnout as a law or bar student.

Going to law school, studying for the bar exam, and practicing law (or doing much of anything, frankly) has been a stressful experience since 2020 began over a year ago. To say the least, right? Law school and the bar exam are stressful enough to begin with let alone without the added issues 2020, and now 2021, bring to us.

I can relate. Since the end of 2019, I have taken the bar exam, changed jobs, almost lost my brother to a mysterious illness, renovated a house, started my own law practice, moved into a new house, been pregnant, gave birth, had my stepson move in with my family, and had a newborn…all during the pandemic, and all while caring for a toddler.

Honestly, one thing I can say with certainty is I fully understand stress.

Here’s the thing about stress: when you don’t even realize it, it can become too much. It piles on incrementally until one day you don’t feel like doing anything. Not one thing. But, that stack of papers, those practice exams, none of that goes away so easily. You still have to do your job, take care of your family, and get through your day. Now into 2021, stress is still going to be around.

But, there are healthy ways to deal with stress so you don’t get burned out to a crispy crunch.

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Summer 2021 Job Search Tips for Law Students in the New COVID-19 Landscape

Summer 2021 Job Search Tips for Law Students in the New COVID-19 LandscapeThis week we welcome back guest writer Christen Morgan to talk about what to consider if you’re a law student in a job search during the pandemic.

The year 2020 is now behind us, and as law students gear up for their summer 2021 job search, it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the legal job market is here to stay. At least for a while.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the legal landscape into a virtual arena. Gone are the days of in-person networking events and in-person interviews including OCIs, etc.

So, what now? How does one navigate this novel landscape in an industry that has been entrenched in an “old-school” culture?

Like the legal industry has done over the past year, law students will need to adapt to these new measures. However, a successful job search will require that law students are strategic in their approach, as the industry is still adjusting.

Here are some job search tips to help you in summer 2021 and beyond.

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What to Expect When You’ve Landed a Clerkship with the Public Defender’s Office

What to Expect When You’ve Landed a Clerkship with the Public Defender’s OfficeThis week we welcome back guest writer Raneta Mack to talk about what to expect with a position at the public defender’s office.

If you’re like many students, you entered law school not quite knowing how you might use your law degree and perhaps thinking that you wanted to somehow make a difference. Your first year classes are designed to provide you with a strong legal foundation across a broad area of interests. In many instances, these classes help students discover their passion.

For example, Criminal Law, a required course in most law schools, takes you through the workings of the criminal justice system, focusing on crimes, mental states and defenses. While taking this class, many students realize for the first time that a career as a public defender might fulfill their desire to make a difference while also engaging in very challenging legal work. These students often take a further leap into this area by applying for summer clerkships with public defender offices to see if this is where they’d like to launch their legal career. Once the job offer comes in, there is the usual excitement about a new job opportunity, but there may also be some doubt. Doubt? Read on. [Read more…]

How To Navigate Law And Politics During The Holidays

How To Navigate Law And Politics During The HolidaysThis week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about managing some difficult topics at the holidays – including politics!

Several months ago I applied to work as a contract attorney for a bankruptcy firm. I needed to be admitted to a federal bankruptcy court, however, and another attorney in the firm offered to sponsor me for admission to the federal bankruptcy court. For over an hour, I chatted with this attorney, and we had a lovely conversation. He sponsored me for the court, and we said goodbye.

A few weeks after I was admitted to the bar, I had a legal question in this attorney’s jurisdiction. I called him, he took the time to talk with me and answer my question, and then out of the blue, he asked, “What’s your opinion on wearing masks?” [Read more…]

Young Lawyer Perspective – Budgeting for the Young Lawyer

Young Lawyer Perspective – Budgeting for the Young LawyerThis week we welcome back guest writer Shirlene Brown to discuss how to budget as a new lawyer.

Congrats! You have graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, have been sworn-in as a practicing lawyer, and you landed your first “big girl/boy/gender-noncomforming” job! With a new job and more income comes additional responsibilities, including (but definitely not limited to) managing your finances! Personally, I am an attorney at a small-medium sized law firm that specializes in personal injury. I have been officially working at the firm as an attorney for about a year now, however I started at my office in my first year of law school as a law clerk/paralegal. I am also a first-generation college student and the only lawyer in my family. My husband and I both come from very working-class backgrounds and have had jobs since the age of 16. So it should suffice to say that we “ball on a budget.” When I graduated from law school and passed the bar, I started working as an attorney and made more money than I had ever before in my life.

However, I also had to start paying my student loans and managing all my other finances. So what are some tips and tricks to budgeting, especially after you first become an attorney? And how can you best manage your finances at your new lawyer pay rate? Here is my advice to young lawyers on how to budget and be a financial all-star!

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Young Professional Perspective – Thoughts on How Our Professional Lives and Looks Are Affected By Social Media

Young Professional Perspective - Thoughts on How Our Professional Lives and Looks Are Affected By Social MediaThis week we welcome back guest writer Shirlene Brown to talk about your social media and your professional image.

When you enter law school and later when you get sworn in as an attorney, you take an oath of professionalism. This oath even covers situations not relating to the practice of law or situations outside of the lawyer’s traditional duties. In general, lawyers are expected to look, act, and be professional. However, the oath doesn’t necessarily mean you need to dress professionally 24/7 or cannot have a personal life outside of your professional career. Not only are people looking at you and how you present yourself in person, they are also looking at your social media. In the last few decades, the rise of online platforms and social media has allowed people to connect and share posts with people from all walks of life. With this comes an “online presence” and questions surrounding professionalism online. How does social media affect an attorney’s or law student’s professional life? Do you need to keep your personal life completely off social media? What can you do to “be professional” but also “be yourself”? Today I am trying to tackle these very complicated but sensitive topics. [Read more…]

Emailing Your Professors for Help with Work-Related Projects: Proceed with Caution

Emailing Your Professors for Help with Work-Related Projects: Proceed with CautionThis week we welcome guest writer and tutor Raneta Mack to talk about getting help from professors with work projects.

You’ve just finished your first year of law school, and you’re about to embark on your first legal job: a coveted summer clerkship. You did well in your first year classes and now you’re eager to make a good impression on everyone in the office.

On your first day, shortly after getting comfortable in your new office, you’re given your first research project. You vaguely remember hearing something about the research topic in your Contracts class. Or was it your Torts class? During the meeting, you were a bit too intimidated to ask the senior attorney any questions, and if you go back now with questions, maybe she’ll think you’re not up to the task. [Read more…]

How To Practice Law As A New Mom

How To Practice Law As A New Mom

This week we welcome guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about balancing a law career and a new baby.

As a new attorney starting out, I had gone straight from undergrad to law school to private practice. I was in my early 20’s, single, and willing and eager to work as much as possible. 

I happily put in long hours at the office including weekends and on holidays. I enjoyed my work and the feeling of being needed by clients and my boss. 

After a six-year break in practicing law, I got back into the industry. This time, I was sworn in to the New York Bar on my son’s second birthday with my husband by my side. Needless to say, my day-to-day life is extremely different this time around now that I’m married and have a child (and one on the way!). 

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Juggling Kids in Remote School and Law School Life

Juggling Kids in Remote School and Law School LifeThis week we welcome guest writer Emily Carter to talk about managing your kid’s remote schooling and your own law school responsibilities.

As I type these very words, I am remote schooling my children. Now, rest assured, I say this with no pride, no smugness, not even a hair of belief that I am succeeding in this balancing act that somehow, the confluence of a virus, parenting, and work responsibilities has loaded on me and many others.

No, please, be assured, my floor is dirty (macaroni, cheerios, and freshly snipped paper cuttings from an elementary schooler’s project are in the current floor assortment). My meal choices lack nutritional value (hot pretzels for lunch, anyone?). And my oldest son, having just emerged from the bathroom at this very moment, reports that the hand towel is soaking wet, soap scum coats the sink, and, in his words, “it stinks in there.” I blame the toddler, who having quickly graduated from potty training to mostly independent bathroom use, lacks a full respect for cleanliness. [Read more…]

Courage is Rehearsed: Managing Fear During Public Performances

Courage is Rehearsed: Managing Fear During Public PerformancesThis week we welcome guest writer Paul Dumont to talk about lessons learned from coaching gymnastics and how those can apply to law school and the bar exam.

From 1988 until 2016, for fun, income, and my own development, I devoted more than 10,000 hours to coaching boys in the Junior Olympic Competitive Program, primarily at Redwood Empire Gymnastics in Petaluma, CA (1988 – 2002), attending approximately 150 competitions and leading 9 teams to state championship titles. During the same decades, I earned degrees in liberal studies, English composition, and law, passed the CA bar exam, and went on to a 20-year career in family law while teaching legal writing on the side. Both journeys were intimidating for a young professional.

Both professions required years of disciplined training and participation in challenging public contests showcasing a performer’s ability to perform competently under myriad pressures. Both professions required management of serious risk. Risks of injury. Liability risks. Risks to self-esteem, reputation, employment, and finances. Risks to ego and id. Success was measured through timed performances evaluated by neutral licensed examiners. All of the results were published. Glad I got into coaching before my legal training scared me away.

This post distills essential lessons gained over 30 years competing in two disparate public arenas, specifically the concrete steps I followed to manage fear during important performances.

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