Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 To Dos for Law Students This Winter Break

Photo Credit

Finals are done!  Time for the twenty-four hour marathon of The Christmas Story, a little Jack Frost nipping at your nose, and plenty of sleep so those sugar plums can dance up a storm in your head.  Oh wait, you’re a law student.  If you want to give yourself every advantage, you’ll be spending your break working towards your goal – to be an employed attorney upon graduation.  Slip on your Snuggie, buckle down with a cup of hot cocoa, and check these items off your winter break to do list.
1.      For 3Ls:  You will have a little extra work ahead of you this break.
a.       Complete Your Bar Application:   The bar application takes up a lot of time and isn’t something you will want to add to your already busy semester.  Use your break to track down all of your employers and addresses.  Secure your references.  Get your finger prints and get forms notarized.  Check with your state’s bar admissions for directions, required documents, and deadlines.
b.      Review Graduation Requirements:  Make sure you have all of the credits and courses required to graduate completed.
c.       Plan Your Budget:  This next semester, you will want to scrimp as much as you can.  Big expenses such as bar applications, bar prep courses, and graduation fees can put a significant dent in your financial plan.  Not to mention, you will need to plan for unemployment during bar study and possibly afterward.
2.      Get Ready for Interview Season: Update your résumé to include any changes in your rank, GPA, and any new experience or activities from the fall semester.  Polish your writing sample. Get in touch with your career counselors to have them review and critique your documents.  See if they are available during break or schedule an appointment upon your return to have a mock interview and critique session.  If you need interview attire, the sales for suits are awesome this time of year.
3.      Create a Financial Plan:  As many applications for student financial aid are due for the next academic year in the early spring semester, use this time to figure out your best options, fill out applications, and submit them.  Look for scholarship opportunities and try to finance the majority of your education with them.  Government loans aren’t what they used to be, so shop around for the best deal.  Establish your budget.  How was your spending last semester?  Are there areas that you can cut back on?  If so, maybe you can ask for fewer loans for next year or even accept less this upcoming semester.
4.      Hunt For Opportunities:  Can you get your Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) training or certification?  Having this experience lends to your résumé and may even provide you income down the road when you might need it.  Participate in any CLEs or bar association meetings where you can gain some experience in a niche field or to help you build a network.  Are you planning on practicing law in your hometown, but go to school elsewhere?  Hit the pavement hard while you’re home.  Not only can you make face-to-face contact when dropping off your information (which can be better than a cold email or letter), you might save yourself travel costs during the semester.
5.      Start Reading:  Get ahead by reading supplements for your upcoming courses.  Organize for the upcoming semester.  If you didn’t do well last semester, reevaluate how you study and manage time  or even whether you want to go back to law school.  Start on your outlines or flash cards.  Shop around for your textbooks early to get the best prices.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Tips for The Jobless Lawyer This Holiday Season

Photo Credit
You’re already feeling the pressure.  Six months since graduation, five since you took the bar – even less since you passed.  Your student loan grace periods are ending.  And on top of it all, it’s the holidays and you still don’t have a job as an attorney!  Try to keep your Grinch at bay, and try these tips to get you through this holiday season.

1.      Take Advantage of Temporary Employment:  Part-time work is abundant during the holidays.  Yes, the whole point of getting an advanced degree was so you wouldn’t have to fold one more sweater, but hear me out.  It is imperative that you can pay your upcoming bar membership fees and CLEs so you can keep an active license.  Going inactive will not get you a job as an attorney.  These things add up and stowing away as much income from a holiday job can really help.  The bonus – it’s temporary!  You aren’t committed.  You will have time to look for your career job, and it’s less likely that there will be hurt feelings if you quit the temp job on short notice.
2.      Gifts:  This is a two-sided tip.  Don’t spend money that you don’t have.  Talk to your friends and family and explain that you may only be able to give something small or nothing at all this year.  You can always offer a helping hand (best if kept non-legal) with something around the house or babysitting for a friend as a gift instead.  On the other side, if your friends and family are cool with not getting something from you and are feeling generous any way, ask for them to chip in towards bar association memberships, an online CLE course, a student loan payment, or a ream of paper so you can print more résumés.  Do you really need a blender or an iPod?  No, you need a job.
3.      Holiday Events:  If you’re a member of a bar association, there may be a holiday gathering you can attend for free or at little cost.  Maybe you have a friend who is working at a firm.  If their firm is having a holiday party, see if you can go as a date.  Use the opportunity to mingle and expand your network.  Avoid going in guns blazing for that job; it will turn people off.  Just relax and try to get to know people, expecting nothing in return.  Make a good impression – dress appropriately and don’t overdo it on the cocktails.
4.      Prevent Gaps:  It’s very important to keep the gaps out of your résumé and to keep your skills sharp.  Volunteer on a bar association committee or offer to do a presentation.  See if a firm needs help with a pro bono case.  Get your Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) certification and sign up with the court to offer your services.
5.      Keep Searching:  People tend to get wrapped up in the holiday spirit, slowing down and humming Christmas tunes, and that spirit is starting earlier each year.  Take advantage of that lag when others aren’t putting forth effort.  Plus, why waste any moment not looking?  Sometimes all it takes is lucky timing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

8 Gift Ideas for Law Students This Holiday Season

Photo Credit
The holidays are finally here!  If you’re a pre-law or law student, you’re likely to receive the typical desk gavels, novelty mugs, or leather briefcases which never receive much use.  Instead, whether you are doing the shopping or creating a wish list, aim for gifts that truly keep on giving – ones that will help with studying, budgeting, or reducing dependence on student loans.  Here are just a few ideas.

1.      Textbooks and Supplements:  If you have your book list for next semester, create an Amazon Wish List (it’s like a gift registry) that family and friends can use to purchase books as gifts.  Students will rely less on loans to make these purchases, reducing their debt in the future.  My book Barrister on a Budget:  Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank is a must for your list.  This Amazon Bestseller offers advice to help students save money and set them up for financial success before, during and after law school.  This book is guaranteed to be a gift that keeps giving.
2.      Gift Cards:  Gift cards for, coffee shops, grocery stores, and restaurants are great gifts that students can use throughout the semester and save a little dough.
3.      Items for Studying:  Law students sit for long periods of time reading and writing.  A transportable lumbar support pad is a great way to make studying more comfortable and relieve lower back pain.  Or, when study areas are noisy and distracting, noise cancellation headphones can help students stay in their study zone.
4.      A New Suit:  Early spring semester until summer break is interview season for law students.  Help the student make a great first impression by outfitting them with a new suit, ties, or dress shirts.  Choosing a traditional, solid color suit will allow the student to mix-and-match for multiple interviews.
5.      Pay for Membership Dues:  Bar associations, law fraternities, student law organizations, and maybe even gym memberships may require dues and other fees.  Many of these memberships can create networks and open doors for future employment.
6.      LSAT or Bar prep course registrations:  These are two of the most important exams for pre-law and law students.  These exam courses can cost a pretty penny, but are a great investment to help students ace the exam on the first try.  Additionally, a deposit on most bar courses will give the student a locked in course price, possible early-registrant discounts, and free study materials for core classes.
7.      Electronics:  A helpful electronic is an eReader.  Most textbooks and supplements are now available for eBook capable equipment.  Most eBooks cost less than their printed counterpart and are easier to tote to class.  If you're feeling generous, other electronics such as laptops or printers are extremely useful, too.
8.  Stocking Stuffers:  Pens, highlighters, and jump drives among other office supplies make awesome stocking stuffers and are heavily used throughout the semester.  You’ll never see anyone more excited over sticky tabs and post-it notes than a law student!