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July, 2010:

Targeted Networking

When I first moved to Phoenix in 2004, I didn’t have a job. Catherine Marsh, a woman who was a leader in the financial industry back when women leaders were a rare occurrence, told me that 85% of getting a job is who you know, not what you. This has been true in every profession I’ve encountered, especially when you’re the new guy.

Despite my adventurous attitude, I’m a fairly introverted person. I don’t like big crowds of people, especially when I hardly know anyone. The idea of going to networking events makes me groan. I much prefer to meet one-on-one with people or in small groups where our gathering has a purpose. I have, however, found a few ways to network that seem to work for me.

I prefer to avoid big dog-and-pony-show networking events. I prefer panel discussions and guest speaker events instead. I usually bring my laptop with me, and if there is someone I want to meet afterwards, I look them up on the internet. Most older lawyers don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account, but many of them have LinkedIn profiles. I’ll request to connect with them, while the event is going on and say how much I’m enjoying their talk. If they have a Twitter account, I’ll follow them. I tend to stay away from people I don’t know on Facebook until I have established a dialogue them unless they say, “Find me on Facebook.”

Last semester my school had an awesome panel of lawyers who are on the ABA’s Legal Rebels list. Since I am not a traditional law student, I was excited to see my fellow non-conformists. Sam Glover from The Lawyerist was particularly interesting to me. I remembering sitting in the audience thinking, “I need to meet this guy.” I hopped on Google and searched for him. By the time he was done describing what he does in his professional life, I was following him and his blog on Twitter and I had tweeted out how much I was enjoying his talk. I was so grateful to hear from someone who was making their law degree work for them in a way that complimented their personality.

While the other presenters were sharing their stories, I watched Sam tinker with his cell phone. I giddily hoped that he was checking his Twitter and saw that I was following him. After the event was over, a handful of people gathered around Sam. As I approached the group Sam looked at me and said, “You must be Ruth.” I was elated. Since then we’ve connected through this blog and Twitter. He’s been a great resource for me.

Targeted networking is a strategy that seems to work best for me. When I hear someone or hear about someone I want to meet, I look for ways to connect with them either online or in person. It’s much less stressful and often more successful than going to general networking events where I may not meet anyone who shares any of my interests in the legal profession. Most lawyers I’ve met are happy to help the neophytes coming down the pike, but usually I have to initiate the conversation.

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This Week’s Non-post Post

The purpose of this week’s blog is to tell you that there’s going to be a real blog next week.

I’m sorry kids, but I’ve had no inspiration this week, and what few ideas I have are being brutally bashed by my overtaxed mind.  My friend gave me a slew of great law-related ideas to write about.  I tucked them away for future use.  Today it feels like everything I do is law related – working at my internship, applying for judicial clerkships, and contemplating my future in the legal profession.  I know that not everything I do is law related, but it feels that way today.  I need a mental break from writing about the law.

Captain Kirk said, “The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.”  He is absolutely right.  I am, therefore, giving myself the week off from blogging.   I’ll be back next week.  Instead I’m going to go sit in my backyard, with my feet dangling in my pool, and relax while watching the stars.

So I don’t feel like I’m not completely neglecting my readers, I’m sharing the lyrics of my law school theme song:  The Beauty of Your Dreams.  The music was written by Joan Szymko and the lyrics were adapted from the writings of Eleanor Roosevelt.  My choir performed this song years ago.  It helps calm me down when the world gets stressful.

I will make a prayer to ask what I can do,

I will make a prayer to ask for courage to follow the light

as it is given to me.

You gain courage and strength and confidence

every time you look fear in the face.

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Life must be lived!

Cast out fear and face the unknown.

Face the unknown with courage

and integrity and a high heart.

Believe in your dreams,

believe in the beauty of your dreams.

The future belongs to those who do believe

in the beauty of their dreams.

See you next week.

– Ruthie

Summer School 2010: Improv Acting Class

I spent a significant amount of time this past semester applying for summer positions.  With the economy still on the rebound, they were hard to come by.  I made a promise to myself that no matter what I did during the summer before my last year of law school, I got to take improv acting classes.  I had a few experiences in the last year that inspired me to take a formal class:

  1. Captain Eric Mayer, U.S. Army JAG:  I had the pleasure of spending last summer with the Army JAG in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  Captain Mayer was the defense attorney in the office, and he was phenomenal in the courtroom.  Whenever there was a court martial, I sat in the audience and watched him in complete awe.  He never seemed uncomfortable or at a loss for words.  I don’t think he ever wrote a script for anything he did, not even his opening statement.  When he questioned a witness, he didn’t have a list of questions.  He put a list of the information he needed to get out of the witness to build his case and would check off each one once he got the answer he needed.  I was intimidated by his skills just from sitting in the audience.
  2. Professor Dallyn’s Applied Evidence Class:  This course taught us how to apply the rules of evidence to a courtroom situation.  Every day we did role plays where we took turns playing the parts of the questioning attorney, the opposing counsel, and the witness who on the stand.   The final for the class was a fake trial.  I tried to use Captain Mayer’s approach to questioning a witness, but found myself needing a script of questions and feeling flustered while the opposing counsel and I were making objections.
  3. Improv AZ’s Coroner Prank #2:  I’m a founding member of Improv AZ, a local performance troupe in the Phoenix area.  After our success with the Coroner Prank on the light rail in October 2009, we decided to repeat it at a local mall.  Things did not go according to plan, and we were confronted by the mall cops who called the real cops.  My fellow coroners were former professional improv actors.  When things turned sour, they slipped back into improv mode.  I turned seven shades of white and tried not to pass out while reserving my right to remain silent.  Thankfully the cops let us go after questioning us and the mall cops banned us from the mall for three months.  Check out my legal analysis of the event and the video.

My class started a little over two weeks ago with Jester’Z Improv and it has been amazing.  It’s a 12-week course that ends with a showcase for our friends and family.  I hope that taking this class will help improve my ability to think on my feet.

Having been a gymnast and a singer for most of my life, you might think that taking improv acting would be easy. However, in both of these activities, the performance is completely scripted.  With improv, you don’t know what’s going to happen until you’re up on the stage.  It’s a bit unsettling when you don’t know what your partner is going to say or what scenario you might be playing out.

I went to the Jester’Z Improv show featuring the regular cast and nearly peed my pants from laughing.  Part of me simply enjoyed the show and part of me was a student trying to absorb ideas from the actors and thinking, “Oh geez, these are the games I might be in during my showcase!  How am I going to pull this off?”  It’s going to be awesome.

Photo courtesy of Jester’Z Improv Comedy Troupe.

Survival Tips for Incoming 1Ls

I remember feeling very excited and scared during the weeks before I started law school.  I remember having a lot of questions and not always having a clear answer for many of them.  I want to share some of the wisdom that I’m glad people told me and some that I wished I had been told before I started law school.

Enjoy Your Pre-law School Summer
You will have offers to take special pre-law school prep courses to help prepare you to take law classes.  You probably don’t need this.  Enjoy spending your time relaxing with family and friends instead.

Law School is Overwhelming – at first
You might feel like a deer-in-the-headlights for the first month of school while you’re getting used to classes and studying.  This is normal and temporary.

Your Reading Speed will Decrease
Reading legal cases is a lot different than reading other textbooks.  Don’t freak out if you are only able to read 6-10 pages per hour your first semester.

You Can Still Have a Life
Going to law school does not mean you have to give up having a personal life, but you will have to prioritize your activities.  I strongly encourage every law student to have a life away from school.  I was the most miserable the semester I spent the least amount of time participating in non-law school activities.

Studying will take up a lot of time.  However, a disciplined person can regularly be done with studying for the day by 5pm or 6pm.  One of my classmates was known for getting all of his studying done between Monday and Friday and was able to spend his weekends relaxing with his wife.

Don’t Even Think of Trying to Work During Your First Semester
The ABA prohibits 1Ls from working their first semester, and this is one time where the ABA and I agree.  Having worked 2 jobs (13 hours/day) in the past, I thought I could try working a few hours a week when classes started.  My first week of classes proved to me that this wasn’t an option.  Law school is mentally draining your first semester.  Let your free time be devoted to rest and enjoyment.

Form Relationships with your Professors
Professors are great people when you need advice or someone to listen to your frustrations.  They are also awesome resources for networking in your local community and glowing letters of recommendation that make you stand out from your peers when you’re applying for jobs and scholarships.  Professors are a highly beneficial and often under-utilized resource for students.

You Don’t Have to Change Who You Are to be Successful
The legal profession is generally conservative and traditional, and I am neither of those things.  When I was accepted to law school, people suggested that I change my wardrobe, my hair, my sunglasses, and cover my tattoos when I started school.  This was loving advice from people who didn’t want me to be judged by my appearance and bold personality.  I can understand why people might want to “tone it down” during the first few days of school to see how people who don’t fit the norms are treated, but in general, you don’t have to change who you are to be successful in law school.  For me, the best experiences and opportunities have come when I have stayed genuine to myself and not followed the traditional path.

Attitude is Everything
In law school, as in life, you will be as happy or as miserable as you choose to be.  If you simply accept that sometimes life will be challenging and stressful, but don’t let it get you down, you’ll be a happier person.  I have a classmate who embodies this.  No matter what is going on in his life, whenever I ask him, “How are you?,” he answers, “I’m living the dream.”  A positive attitude will always carry you through.

Good luck!  If you have any questions about law school or if you have been a law student and have your own tips or experiences to add to this list, please leave them as comments to this post.