Friday, January 18, 2013

First Job out of Law School

Your first job after law school may not be your dream job.  I think it is important to focus on the positive...it is a job.  I encourage you to be broad in your search and even consider non-legal, but law-related positions, such applying for positions in state or federal goverment,  public policy or non-profit organizations, local legislature or lobbying firms, or businesses with compliance or contract departments. You can use these jobs to get work experience, while you network and apply for the type of job that you really want.  Newly minted law graduates are competing with lawyers with more experience and in this economy, the employers have the advantage. However, as a law graduate or a newly licensed attorney, you are much more competetive in non-legal positions.  I even know some lawyers who have decided to stay in non-legal jobs, because there was more opportunity for advancement than working as an attorney. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Student Loan Debate: Should You Pay Off Those Loans Early?

For those of you who have successfully landed and kept a job, let me say congratulations!  It could be any job at all, not necessarily a legal job. You have a job and you can pay your bills. For those of you who have not found a steady job, I still encourage you keep reading, because I think the principles of budgeting and living within your means is important no matter what your situation.
Before you decide whether you want to pay off your loans early, you need to know what is going in and out of your bank account. The first thing you need to do once you have a steady job is to set up a budget. My husband and I use Mint.com and I highly recommend it. You input all of your bank accounts, student loans, credit cards, ect and then you set up budgets for all of your expenses. There is even a mint.com app so you can track your budget on the go. The most important thing is to account for every dollar that you spend and that you don't spend more than you earn. Here is a video on how to set up a budget in Mint.
My husband and I went to a Dave Ramsey seminar and he has some great advice on how to budget. Before going to this seminar, we did not budget; we did not track our spending. We had no idea how much money was going out every month and we definitely did not have an emergency savings. We learned that if do not control your money; your money will control you. So we took control! Following his 7 Baby Steps, we were able to set up an emergency savings account, pay off our car, a credit card, and save for a vacation all within a 16 month period We still ate out and went shopping, but we did it mindfully and within our allotted budget. Now our only debt is our student loans and our mortgage. So we are faced with the question with whether to pay down some of the smaller loans off early or save up for another goal.
As a side note, if you haven't already, make sure your student loans are set up to be automatically taken out of your bank account each month. Most lenders offer a percentage reduction when you sign up or after a few months. This will definitely save you money in the long run. Also if you ever lose your job or have to take extended time off (for injury or maternity leave), you might want to sign up for a temporary 6-month deferment. I recommend trying to still make interest payments, but if you can't just know that you will pay capitalized interest once your loans come off of deferment.
My husband and I are still researching our options at this point. We don't necessarily want to make higher student loan payments at the sacrifice of some of our other goals. We also will not add additional debt and will save up for future high cost purchases. For instance, we will save up to pay for a used car rather than taking out a loan. However, it might make sense to pay off some of the smaller loans, like the Perkins loans that are not consolidated with our other loans. I know Dave Ramsey doesn't like any debt, so he might recommend that we use the snowball method and pay the smallest loan and then continue to pay apply this method until all our student loans are paid off.
Whether you choose to pay your student loans off early is a personal decision. However, as I mentioned before, you will not even have the ability to make this decision if you do not live within your means. I think the best and easiest way to live within your means is to establish a budget and stick to it. Once you take control of your money, you are on your way to a less stressful financial
Here are a couple of other articles on the subject
Listen to an attorney and his wife who paid off $145,000 worth of debt, most of it consistenting of student loans in 3 years.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Guest Blog Post: Job Search Advice

I’ve got a news flash: it’s hard to land a job you really love. You’ll see plenty of reports in the news about the unemployment numbers and about the fierce competition, especially among law school graduates, to get a job offer right out of law school. But I’m talking about not just any job. I’m talking about the job you’ll really love. And those are even harder to find.

Over the course of my career – both in helping students navigate law schools and in my current role in matching the brightest young professionals with some of the Twin Cities’ best firms and corporations – I’ve learned seven key points to succeeding in both launching and advancing your law career.

1.      Develop a career plan. While you should be open to a wide range of experiences, you must have a plan to land the job you ultimately desire. This will help you stay motivated. With each position, you should have a purpose for getting access to the skills you need to get your next job. The skill sets that you acquire early can lead to a more satisfying career later.

2.      Develop your own network. I learned very early in my own career the importance of making connections and building strong relationships. The sooner you build those lasting relationships, the better they’ll serve you in the years to come.

3.      Be your own advocate. This means you have to be a manager of your own career and career-related goals, and it’s not always easy. But if you wait for someone else to be your cheerleader, you could be sitting on the sidelines a lot longer than if you cheer for yourself.

4.      Figure out the right fit for you. This requires learning more about your new work environment and industry. For example, law students applying to a firm should learn about the business of law. You should also know about that firm’s clients and observe the work of partners in building a book of business. Understanding how your office works is key to making the most of your working environment. It can save you from making a years-long mistake.

5.      Be open to a wide range of career opportunities. So many students assume that they will find one specialty in their law program, graduate, and land in a desk chair at a law firm of their choosing faster than their fairy godmother can wave her wand. The reality often is, your first clerkship in your career is not the only one you’ll hold. By opening yourself to gaining meaningful experience through a number of job channels, you’ll have a more rounded resume that will appeal to more recruiters. I’ve done this, and have been blessed with many rich and rewarding career opportunities, from serving as Assistant Ramsey County Attorney to leading diversity efforts as an Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs at William Mitchell College of Law.

6.      Know your market. Especially if there’s one particular area of practice that appeals to you. There’s more to learning than just the textbooks. Read industry journals and publications to understand what influences it and how those changes can apply to your own career path.

7.      Clerkships are a constant interview. You should use them to showcase your best skills and talents. You will need to maintain professionalism both within your work setting and outside the office at other work-related functions. This constant interview even continues as you begin your work as a new associate since you will be establishing your professional identity in the legal community. You always want to be viewed as already doing the job you want, and make yourself promotable.

It’s easy to give in to panic and try to land any old job you can as you prepare to graduate. But trust me, it’s easier now to work for the job you really want than to work at a job you don’t love while searching for the one you do.

This has been a guest blog post by  Val Jensen, Executive Director, from Diversity in Practice (http://www.diversityinpractice.org/).  If you would like to submit a guest blog post, please email me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The 90%

You have heard of the 99% Occupy Wall Street Movement.  Similarly, in law school there should be a 90% movement. Ninety percent of you will not be in the top 10% of you class!   It is important to focus on studying and learning, especially during 1L year.   However, you also need to work on your job seeking skills or else you will find yourself in the last year of law school with only a few months to get a job and no ability to know how to do so. 
You also must be active participants in the process, be aware of your resources, and start your search early.  Many students do not access their career services office.  It is a myth that career services offices only help the top 10%. Career services offer valuable skills in how to write a law resume, network, and prepare for an interview.  These services are probably underutilized in most law schools.  They cannot help you if they do not see you and aren’t aware of your needs.   Your career services office can also set you up with alumni who are practice in your area of interest.
The other issue is that no matter how prepared you are, there are more graduates than there are openings.   Additionally with lay-offs and reorganizations, young attorneys are competing with more experienced ones.  With this in mind, as law students, you should be more aware of your options and take time to learn what you need to do to get a job.   I would also recommend that you take advantage of opportunities to get more hands-on experiences in law school.  You can work for a local legal services organization, do an externship during the second or third year of law school, or participate in a clinic if your law school offers that option.   These types of experiences will provide you will valuable practical experience, while not only building your skills, but your confidence as your approach the job market. You will be able to tell potential employers of all the skills that you can add to their organization.
If you are in the 90%, you need to start your own occupy movement.  But instead of occupying wall street, you need occupy career services, occupy the offices of your alumni networks, and occupy local legal services organizations.  Do anything you can to get a leg up on the competition, so that you don’t find yourself occupying your parent’s basement!  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Warning from a Lawyer about Going to Law School

One of my law school alumni friends just posted on Facebook that potential and current law students need to be aware of the status of the legal market. She says that the legal market has yet to recover and she doesn't think it will bounce back for at least another 5 years.  The law firm that she works at had two openings and over 2,000 people applied! They received applications from every tier- Ivy-league on down! She also stated that law schools report any work after graduation as employment for their statistics. So you will be considered "employed," even if you are working part-time at Starbucks.

If you are going to go to law school in this economy, I also recommend that you  know what you are getting into, borrow the least that you can, and even save up before hand. I also think that you should be flexible with marketing the utility of your law degree in other areas.  Lawyers can be a great asset in government , private, and non-profit organizations as policy analysts, compliance officers, administrative law judges, contracts specialists, and ethics officers just to name a few.

Lastly, I encourage you to pursue your passion, not your paycheck.  Determine a budget, live within your means, and you can make your paycheck work for you. Then go after the jobs that you want, not just ones that you think you should have.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Break is Almost Over- It is Time to Order Your Books!



It is about time to order your law school textbooks. Save yourself time and money by ordering them online on Amazon. This is where I used to order my books after I realized how much money I saved over buying them at the school bookstore.  Just grab your class syllabus, search for your textbooks online by the book's title, author, or ISBN. You can also order supplements that you might need when preparing your outlines or to help you catch up when you do not have time to read for class. Amazon also has free two-day shipping for students when you sign up for Amazon Student.  Also you can make some money on any books you are not planning on keeping when you sell them via Amazon's textbook buy back program.  Now through February 4th, 2012 when you buy $50 in new textbooks you can get $5 in MP3s.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!! What are your goals or resolutions for this new year? For law students, is it to do better this upcoming semester or to maintain your grades?  Or maybe you would like to improve your  writing or networking skills?  If you are a journal, your goal might be to get published (I recommend choosing a good advisor) Lawyers, maybe your goal is to improve your leadership skills, get more involved in the legal community or to better communicate with your clients and colleagues?    Whatever your goals might be, make a plan of action so that you can hold yourself accountable.  This is a new year!  You get another bite of the apple!  Good luck with all your goals this year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Lawyer Who Clips Coupons

Have you heard of the extreme couponing craze?  I am a lawyer who likes to clip coupons.  I love finding a sale and then matching it with a coupon and getting the item for a low price or sometimes even for free! I cut coupons from the newspaper, get coupons from my parents, print coupons online and follow several blogs that identify deals.  I do not have a huge stock pile, nor do I buy unhealthy food, but I am able to save at least $50 a month with coupons. And I am not alone. I have other attorney friends who like to coupon. It does take time to organize my coupons. I got a little expanding file to organize them and I go through the newspaper, blogs, grocery ads on a regular basis to try to find the best deals.  Often I pay little or nothing for staples such as milk, eggs, even vegetables.It is not for everybody, but as for me, I just do not like paying full price if I don't have to!

Here is a caveat. There is NO way I would have had time to do this in law school.  But I remember spending a lot of money on groceries in law school. Couponing would have helped me save money back then. But now I coupon and I try to do it strategically.  Using coupons saves money if you use them on items that you would buy anyway.  I think those of you who are law students could save some money by using coupons, but it can take a lot of time and you have better things to do with your time.  However,  if you have graduated from law school and do not have a job yet, couponing might be for you. Even if you are an attorney, you might want to make time to do it.  You could use your savings to make extra payments to your loans or save up for something that you want.


Below are buttons from a couple of the blogs that I subscribe to. You can check them out for more couponing tips.  Maybe do some couponing over Christmas break to create a small stockpile for when you go back to law school next year!


    Living Rich With Coupons

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Living Life with No Regrets

I do not regret going to law school. I would not be the woman I am today if it weren't for what I learned and experienced during those three arduous and memorable years. There were many invaluable things that I learned in law school, but I just wanted to discuss three things I learned during my tenure as a law student. You might also check out my very first post describing ten things I learned in law school.

1. I learned to think and read critically

Law school taught me how to dissect what I read and think critically about the why something was written the way it was. I learned the significance of understanding the intent or reasons why something is written. This critical eye has served me well after law school. As a side note, sometimes I think lawyers write in "legalese" just so that we are the only ones that can interpret it! Even if you work in a non-legal position, the ability to clarify legal language is an important skill. I have used my legal skills to read and interpret statutes and write policy documents to make the law more understandable to a layperson.

2. I learned how to network and market myself.

Law school taught more about the importance of networking and provided me with several opportunities to network and learn how to "sell" myself. Studying is important, but many students fail to learn how to network and market themselves. Once you leave law school, your intelligence might get you the interview, but your personality and networking skills will get you the job. The ability to market yourself is a skill that must be practiced. Think of yourself as a walking advertisement for yourself... The way your present yourself to your classmates, professors, and potential employers shows them what they will expect from you. Also keep in mind what you put on your facebook or twitter account. How you display yourself online also advertises to others what kind of employee you might be. It might paint an inaccurate picture, but you might not even get a chance to prove someone wrong.

3. I learned to live a life with no (or few) regrets

So maybe I learned this lesson once I graduated, however I believe any experience you go through teaches you something and therefore is a valuable experience in itself.  I think it is unproductive to have regrets, unless they motivate you to make positive changes in your life. For instance, although I wish I had not listened to the financial aid office when they advised me to borrow the maximum amount I could, it taught the importance of making a reasonable budget and living within my means. Some lessons you learn the hard way, but those are the lessons that you tend not to forget.  I do not regret the three years I spent learning a new way of thinking, challenging myself academically, and being part of a profession that holds itself to a high standard.

I don't see how anyone who successfully graduates from law school would regret it. If you use time in law school well, you should have all the necessary skills to utilize your education, intelligence, and experiences to obtain a job. You might have to be creative, flexible, and persistent, but I believe you will ultimately be successful once you realize how you can make a positive and valuable contribution to a potential employer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Practice Networking Early and Often

It is never too early to work and foster your networking skills.  I recommend using your Christmas, Fall, and Spring breaks as an opportunity to go out into your city or to the city where you wish to work after law school and network.   Contact local law firrms or use your career services office to build a list of potential networks.  Once you complete that list, email the lawyers and try to set up an informational interview.  Try to attend as many networking events at your law school and practice your networking skills.  A friend recently recommended the book, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, which highlights the importance of building and maintaining relationships. This is a skill that every successful lawyers needs to have whether you work in the private or public sector. It is also a skill that you have to continue to practice (unless you are a natural social butterfly!)  But like my dad always said, "practice makes perfect!"
 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Finals are Coming Up, Are you Ready?

Finals are coming up!!!  So you probably don't have time to shop.... You should be studying.  I hope you used the long weekend to organize your outlines.  Start working on condensing those outlines and once you are done begin doing practice exams.  Go over them with your professor.  Pay attention in class because anything your professor tends to focus on or spend a lot of time emphasizing will most likely appear on the exam!

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Groupon Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals


Up to 90% off top rated local fun!
Groupon will be running special Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals this weekend from 12:01a on November 25th  through 11:59p on November 28th. The links won't go live until Friday, but just wanted to give you a heads up since these deals will go fast!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas Gift Idea for the Law Student Who Loves to Bake!

I have wanted an electric mixer for awhile and recently took advantage of a Costco deal, offering $50 instant rebate for a KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  (I got the red one!)  This lovely mixer would make a This makes a great gift for the law student who likes to bake or for your mom, girlfriend, or best friend. It would also make a lovely wedding gift.  What's more, Kitchenaid is currently offering a $30 cash back rebate plus a free magazine subscription to Food & Wine Magazine or Travel & Leisure Magazine.  I looked on the fine print and you can forgo the subscription and get a $12 refund instead! You just have to make a copy of the rebate form and send it to a different address.  So that means you can save a ton of dinero on this mixer.   If you don't have a Costco membership, you get the KitchenAid Mixer from Target or Amazon.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Helpful Resume and Job Interview Advice

This JMC Resumes, Ltd. offers several resources for resume writing and preparing for job interviews.  I took a look at the sample legal resume and I am tempted to revise my own resume so it can stand out.  For instance, they suggest that you include a career profile at the top of your resume to highlight your skills and accomplishments.  In addition, JMC Resumes is offering professional resumé and cover letter services for $85 (a $215 value). If you need some extra assistance to make your resume shine in the crowd or advice to prepare for an upcoming interview, you might want to check out this deal!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Get Rewarded for Browsing and Shopping with Shopkick!

A few months ago I got a new Android phone for free.  Best Buy was offering the Nexus S for free and my contract was up for renewal.  My phone was falling apart or I would have waited 2 months for the iPhone.  Anyway, I discovered Shopkick, a fun app (android or iPhone) that lets you earn rewards for shopping.  If you haven't heard of this yet, you are missing out. You get points, called kicks for walking into your favorite stores and scanning products. Then you exchange your kicks for giftcards for your favorite retailers such as Best Buy, Target and Macy's!  I used my kicks to buy Just Dance 3 at Target!  Right now you can get 100 kicks when you sign up for Shopkick!   Just enter the promo code "date8987" after you download the app on your phone.  In addition, you will get double walk-in points on Black Friday!  I couldn't wait to share this with you all!