Telling Yourself What to Do (Guest post by Jennifer Murphy Romig)

Today, we’re proud to bring you this guest post by Jennifer Murphy Romig, Professor of Practice at Emory Law School.


“A true scientist doesn’t perform prescribed experiments; she develops her own and thus generates wholly new knowledge. This transition between doing what you’re told and telling yourself what to do generally occurs midway through a dissertation. In many ways, it is the most difficult and terrifying thing that a student can do, and being unable or unwilling to do it is much of what weeds people out of Ph.D. programs.”

—Hope Jahren, Lab Girl, Chapter 8


When—if ever—does a lawyer transition from “doing what she’s told” to “telling herself what to do”?

In one way, never. The client reigns supreme, right?

The lawyer cannot “generate wholly new knowledge” for the sake of contributing to civilization like a scientist. This is one essential difference between practicing lawyers and law professors: law professors can identify an issue, explore it, and write scholarship, advocacy, blogs, op-eds, and so on—even if no client would ever pay them to do that.

The lawyer, however, takes clients as they are and does what they need. Continue reading “Telling Yourself What to Do (Guest post by Jennifer Murphy Romig)”

Organizational Tools for the Disorganized Lawyer (Guest post by Lauren Clark Rad)

Today, we’re delighted to bring you the #PracticeTuesday Blog’s very first guest post, courtesy of #AppellateTwitter mainstay Lauren Clark Rada litigator at Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP. 

 

Take a moment to pause and imagine your ideal lawyer or law student. What is her personality like? What is her workspace like? Most likely, the person you imagined is smart, thoughtful, thorough, and organized. She has a desk that is reasonably tidy and a good grasp of what’s coming up on her calendar. There are reasons for that.

Law is a deadline-driven profession. The consequences of missing those deadlines can be severe, even catastrophic. Clients depend on their lawyers to monitor deadlines and make sure they’re met.

Lawyers are human, though, and they span the spectrum of strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are just not born with an innate sense of how to be organized. Over the last decade, I’ve been on a mission to find the organization system that works best for me. In hopes of sparing others that same lengthy journey, I’ve compiled this list of various tools and techniques I’ve used, along with a discussion of their benefits and drawbacks. Continue reading “Organizational Tools for the Disorganized Lawyer (Guest post by Lauren Clark Rad)”

Dr. Katie Pryal and the Life of the Mind Interrupted

Today on the blog, we’re delighted to bring you a Q-and-A with Katie Rose Guest Pryal (@krgpryal). Katie is a novelist, attorney, freelance journalist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of novels, including ENTANGLEMENT and CHASING CHAOS, and nonfiction books, including her most recent, LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: ESSAYS ON MENTAL HEALTH AND DISABILITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION. She is also the co-author of two popular law school textbooks: CORE GRAMMAR FOR LAWYERS (with Ruth Ann McKinney) and THE COMPLETE LEGAL WRITER (with Alexa Z. Chew). As a journalist, Katie contributes to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, DAME MAGAZINE, WOMEN IN HIGHER EDUCATION, and other national venues.

Katie earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, her law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, and her doctorate in rhetoric from UNC Greensboro. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Terrence W. Boyle of the United States District for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

My questions to Katie are in bold; her answers follow. Continue reading “Dr. Katie Pryal and the Life of the Mind Interrupted”

“It’s not so shiny anymore”: 1Ls and the October slump

Unlike many law professors, I only teach 1Ls. It’s a role I relish, in part because I think the first year is a time when good teaching and mentoring can make a huge difference in the life of a law student, and in part because, as I’ve shared before (and again and again), 1L year was far from my finest hour. Between my experience teaching 1Ls and my experience being a 1L, I’ve learned that there are some pretty consistent messages that many first-year law students usually need to hear at about this time of year. That’s why, 1Ls, this post is for you.

So, it’s October. Soon it will be mid-October. Law school probably isn’t so shiny anymore. Maybe you’ve got midterms coming up. Maybe you’ve been talking to 2Ls and 3Ls about how to outline. Maybe you’ve been going to presentations about applying for summer jobs or how to prepare for exams, and, while helpful, they stressed you out because they made you think about The Curve and Everything You Have To Do and How Important Everything Is. Maybe, in anticipation of the end of the semester, some of your classmates aren’t being as friendly or as forthcoming with their work product as they were four weeks ago. Maybe you wrote your first memo and it was much harder than you expected, or the feedback you received wasn’t the kind of feedback you’re used to getting on your writing.

Either way, the newness is wearing off and your nerves may be wearing thin. Here are seven tips to get you through the rest of the semester. (Each of these could probably be their own post; I’ll get more specific about some of them as we get closer to December.) Continue reading ““It’s not so shiny anymore”: 1Ls and the October slump”

Recommendations on Letters

You’re a law student who’s found the perfect opportunity—a summer internship, a fellowship position, or a clerkship. You’ve suffered through drafting a cover letter. You’ve squeezed your resume onto a single page (or not, don’t @ me) and agonized over the formatting so much that you never want to see it again. But you’re not done. The application requires a letter or letters of recommendation. How can you position yourself to receive the strongest possible letters from your law school professors?

The good news is that there are steps you can and should take to increase the quality of the letters written on your behalf. The slightly-less-good news is that some of these steps should begin long before it’s time to ask a professor for a letter. Let’s break it down. Continue reading “Recommendations on Letters”

Professor Katrina Lee and the business of law

For today’s #PracticeTuesday post, we’re very excited to bring you a Q-and-A with #AppellateTwitter mainstay Professor Katrina Lee (@katrinajunelee). Professor Lee is an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where she teaches business of law, legal negotiations, and legal writing. She is also the author of several scholarly articles which you can find here. Before joining the ranks of academia, she was a litigator and law firm equity partner in San Francisco.

This summer, Professor Lee taught Business Negotiations at the University of Oxford as part of the University of Oxford-OSU summer law program. The picture of her on the left was taken in her Oxford flat. And the picture on the right is of her fantastic new business of law book, The Legal Career: Knowing the Business, Thriving in Practice. This innovative new textbook explores a constellation of topics in the business of law that are often a black box even to practicing attorneys, to say nothing of law students. Professor Lee’s book is unique in the academic textbook market, and it overlaps nicely with many of the topics we often discuss on #PracticeTuesday, so we asked her if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for us. Happily, she agreed! My questions to Professor Lee appear below in bold; her responses follow. Continue reading “Professor Katrina Lee and the business of law”

On asking for help

One day when I was a junior (but not brand new) associate, I logged into Westlaw, took one look at the search bar, and started to cry. On the one hand, I cry often. On the other hand, I love Westlaw, and crying is not my typical reaction to seeing a soothing blue screen full of databases ready to be searched. After all, I didn’t even cry when, after I steadfastly refused to install Westlaw Next for years, Westlaw finally just stopped supporting Classic and forcibly migrated me to the new system (I’m still bitter). In any event, when my reaction to opening Westlaw involved tears, I knew something was wrong.   Continue reading “On asking for help”

Paying Your Dues, Done Right

It’s often said that new lawyers need to “pay their dues” before stepping up to greater responsibility.

What the dues are can vary depending on what sort of practice setting you’re in.  For BigLaw associates, the dues might be late nights document reviewing, researching on Westlaw, and preparing documents for filing.  For prosecutors, it might be a busy misdemeanor docket.  Whatever it is, the dues are the scut work of the legal world.  In this post: A little bit about what dues shouldn’t be, why you have to pay them, and how to do them right. 

Continue reading “Paying Your Dues, Done Right”

Say “yes” to the firm: making an informed decision

Even though classes haven’t started yet, at this very moment, 2Ls across the country are making decisions about where they will spend next summer. * This decision, which many 2Ls already feel unqualified to make, can be even scarier because of the peculiar way that the legal job market is set up: after just one year of law school, students are faced with what rightly feels like a high-stakes decision about where to start their legal careers. If this sounds familiar, rest assured that it’s not just you; this feeling is real and valid.

Before I share my tips for how to navigate this situation, here are two preliminary thoughts. First, if you have the luxury of deciding between multiple offers, you’re already in a good place. Many students—for a variety of reasons—aren’t looking at that kind of a choice. It’s a good problem to have. Second, while this decision is important, if you spend next summer at a firm and determine it’s not a good fit, you will have learned something important about what you should look for the next time you’re on the market. Nor is a bad 2L summer the end of the road; although it’s a tougher path, many 3Ls find jobs at firms where they haven’t worked before. A clerkship can be a particularly good opportunity for a “re-set.” And even if you spend just a year or two as a young associate at a firm you don’t love, you can still use that time to position yourself well to make a move.

With all of that said, here are my tips for minimizing the chances of accepting a summer associate position at a firm that isn’t right for you. Continue reading “Say “yes” to the firm: making an informed decision”

Enjoy the Valleys, But Pedal Through The Plateaus

Lawyers of any seniority—but particularly new associates—worry about where the next assignment will come from.  Sure, there is enough work now, but what about tomorrow?  Or the next week?  How can I possibly make hours? 

That often leads new attorneys to look for work even when they are pleasantly busy, and then that additional work becomes a crush of work which leads to getting assignments done within a hairsbreadth of the deadline.  At worst, it leads to avoidable errors.  At best, even if you never miss a deadline, the constant relentless pace can lead to cynicism and burnout. 

The common advice—and advice I whole-heartedly subscribe to—is to enjoy the valleys.  If you are busy, push through it.  But once you do, you don’t need to set out looking for new work immediately.  Take a few quiet days; catch up on business development; go to the movies.  Whatever.  If you are good at what you do (and if you are conscientious and keeping up on #PracticeTuesday, I bet you are), the work will find you and you will get busy once more.  2,000 billable hours (or whatever your goal is) doesn’t occur in 50 equal weeks of 40 hours each, and you shouldn’t expect it to.   

But there’s an advanced lesson, too, for attorneys who have learned to enjoy the valleys.

Continue reading “Enjoy the Valleys, But Pedal Through The Plateaus”