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The List: Professional Development for Law Students and other Young Professionals

I wrote most of these posts with law students in mind, but the information works for any young professional who wants to network effectively and stand out in their professional community.

Photo by AJ Grucky

Photo by AJ Grucky

Don’t Lose Your Personality When You Get Your JD

How Networking Works

LinkedIn for Law Students

Twitter – The Untapped Resource for Law Students

Business Cards for Law Students

Lawyers’ Bad Reputations Start with Arrogant Law Students

Top 3 Tools for Establishing a Name for Yourself

Top 10 Blogging Tips for Law Students

Scheduling Lunch with a Litigator Made Me Never Want to be One

Why Are Lawyers so Bitchy?

Going Pantsless was the Best Thing I Did in Law School

I hope these have been helpful!

Other Lists:
Law School Survival
Bar Exam Survival and Domination

LinkedIn for Law Students – The Follow Up Questions

I had the pleasure of being part of LexisNexis’ webcast on how to use LinkedIn for law students. I was there to talk about how I use LinkedIn in my professional life. We had over 1000 students tune in for the webcast and they had the option to ask questions during the show, but we didn’t have time to get to all of them, so here are my responses to some of those questions.

LinkedIn Chocolates by Nan Palmero from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

LinkedIn Chocolates by Nan Palmero from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

How Important is it to Include my Photo in my Profile?
Very important. If you don’t have a photo on your profile, I will assume that you haven’t been active on LinkedIn since the day you created your account. Why would I want to connect with someone on a platform where they don’t want to connect with anyone? I don’t. So yes, you need to put your photo on your profile, and make a picture of you, not your pet or your kids. This is a professional forum. (And some of us are really bad at remembering what people look like so having your photo on your profile is a big help.)

I’m hesitant to Enable Endorsements because of the potential Ethical Problems. Any Advice?
I enabled endorsements but I don’t give them a lot of weight in general because people can endorse you for skills that they have no actual knowledge if you have them. If someone tries to endorse me for a skill I don’t have or a topic that is outside my areas of practice, I don’t allow it.

How much of a Job Description should I include for each Position that I have held?  I do not want it to be a Restatement of my Resume.
I think mine are basically cut and pasted from my resume. If you don’t want to do that, be as brief as you can while giving an accurate description of each job.

How do I Tailor my Profile to keep my Options Open and Not Turn Off Potential Employers or those I am looking to Maximize Opportunities with even when they Conflict?
Keep your descriptions focused on your skills and interests that will appeal to most people. Avoid the specifics that might make you a turnoff to a particular audience. For example, you can say you’re interested in a certain practice area without stating which side of the fence you’re on.

How do you Feel about the “Request an Introduction” function in LinkedIn?
Introductions are basically endorsements so definitely ask for introductions if you know someone who knows the person you want to meet. On LinkedIn, I connect with anyone who doesn’t look like spam, and a lot of other people do the same. Don’t be upset if you request an introduction and the person responds that they can’t help you because they don’t actually know the person you want to meet.

My LinkedIn Connections as of Nov. 17, 2013

My LinkedIn Connections as of November 17, 2013

How Often should I Post to LinkedIn?
As often as it’s relevant. It may not be relevant to post on a regular basis. I do because I post links on my blogs and videos, but not much more than that.

How do we Connect when we Don’t Know the Person? LinkedIn requires you know the person as a Friend, Colleague, etc. when attempting to Create a Connection.
I’ll say I’m a friend even if I don’t know the person but I personalize the request to connect so they know why I want to connect with them. This appears to be a generally accepted practice.

Do you Recommend putting Less ‘Formal’ Forms of Contact (such as Twitter) on LinkedIn?
I would put all your contact information for all the forums where you want to connect with people. Always include an email address and they it’s your choice to add your phone number, Twitter handle, blog, etc.

When should I get a LinkedIn Account?
Yesterday.

Always remember that LinkedIn, like all social media platforms, is a communications tool. Having an account is not enough; it’s what you do with it that matters.

I hope this has been helpful. If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, feel free.

The Unexpected Benefits of Law School

When you’re accepted to law school, you can expect to obtain an incredible education, have the opportunity to meet phenomenal people, and take on a mountain of debt. No one tells you about the other benefits that come with being a law student.

Photo by Sheila Dee

Photo by Sheila Dee

New Glasses: Don’t waste your money and get Lasik right before starting law school. If you don’t wear glasses when you start law school, you’ll have them when you finish. If you’re already a four-eyes when you start, you’ll have a stronger prescription by graduation day. I had to get new glasses twice in law school.

Night GuardNew Wardrobe: It seemed like everyone in my class either lost 10 pounds during law school or gained 15 pounds or more depending on what happened to our appetites when we got stressed. I think every law school should do an annual suit exchange for students need a bigger or smaller suit and donate whatever’s left to charity. Whatever size you were when you started law school will not be your size by the time you graduate.

Night Guard: I promise you’re going to be stressed out. Some of you might start grinding your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist might recommend a $500 custom night guard. I opted to get a Sleep Right night guard instead. It cost less than 90% of what a custom-fit guard costs and works just as well. Don’t bother with the over-the-counter night guard that you boil and mold to your teeth. If you’re like me, you’ll bite through it within weeks.

Rolling BagDorky Rolling Bag: You might think these bags are super dorky. I did when I first started law school. I was perfectly happy lugging my books and laptop around in my backpack . . . until I was in a car accident. And then I couldn’t carry my books on my back. I swallowed my pride and bought a rolling bag – and it’s great. It’s a bit bulky, but it made dragging around two books, my laptop, and almost everything else I needed in a day much easier. If you’re going to get one of these bags, look for function over fashion. Some of my classmates got really cute bags, but they barely held anything.

New Signature: I don’t know when it happened but law school ate my signature. I can sign things with my old signature if I really think about it, but otherwise it’s a squiggle at best.

I asked some of my legal eagle friends what unexpected benefits they got from law schools. Here’s what they said:

  • “One heck of a collection of highlighters.” – Hal
  • “My husband.” – Christine
  • “Law school launched my triathlon career!” – Adam

What about you? What were some of the unexpected “benefits” that you got during law school?

Top 3 Tools to Establish a Name for Yourself

When I was a law student and now as a young lawyer, I go to a lot of networking events. They’re a great way to meet people in your community. There are other tools that will help you make a name for yourself online and at the national level. I wanted to share my three favorite tools. There are other ways to make a name for yourself, but these are the top three that work for me.

The Twitter Bird by eldh

1. Twitter
I’ve been a huge proponent of Twitter for a long time. It’s my primary networking tool when there’s someone new I want to meet. All you have to do is follow the person you want to meet and wait for an opportunity to respond to one of their tweets. It’s a great and easy way to break the ice with someone without feeling forced or fake.

If the person is going to be at an upcoming event, tweet at them about how excited you are to see or meet them. Then during the event tweet a quote from them or an accolade about them. After the event, be sure to tweet about how awesome they were/are.

2. Maintain a Blog
Having a blog is a great way to showcase your expertise and interests. At networking events and interviews you can talk about your interests or you can prove it by referencing past blog posts you’ve written on a topic. Maintaining a blog is a lot of work but it’s worth it. It’s not enough to start a blog. You have to update it regularly – preferably weekly – and be patient while you build a following. It takes a while to get there.

If you are someone who is lucky enough to have an assistant, it’s ok to let them take care of posting your work to your website, finding images for your posts, and taking care of your SEO stuff, but don’t let them write your verbiage. Your readers want to hear your unique voice so write your posts yourself.

3. Help A Reporter Out (HARO)
HARO is one of the best ways to get local and national exposure as a potential expert in your field. HARO is a service that connects reporters with potential sources. You can subscribe to HARO for free and you will get 3 emails a day, 5 days per week with dozens of opportunities to share your experience or expertise.

Most of the requests won’t apply to you, but some of them will – and you need to respond quickly if you want to be a contributor. A lot of the reporters who use HARO are on tight deadlines. I usually respond to at least one HARO every week. It’s especially beneficial when I can include a link to a blog post I’ve written on a topic – I think it increases the odds that a reporter will use me for a story over a lawyer who doesn’t blog on the topic.

You can also use HARO to network by referring a reporter to others who might be a good fit for their needs or by referring contact to HARO if a reporter is looking for input that they can provide.

There are lots of ways to make yourself stand out within your profession and the business community. These are some of my favorite tools, but it is definitely not an exhaustive list. If you have a tool or technique that you’d like to share, please leave it as a comment.

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Don’t Lose Your Personality When You Get Your JD

Foot tattoos Ruth Carter

My Awesome Tattoos

I got an interesting email from a friend over the weekend. He just graduated from law school and is studying for the bar. He’s also training for an ironman race. He’s been in fabulous shape for as long as I’ve known him and his preferred running outfit is teeny tiny running shorts and sneakers. He doesn’t put a shirt over his tattooed chest. When he was in school he lived near campus but now he lives downtown near the courthouses and a lot of the big law firms. He was concerned that his running attire could have a negative impact on his career if judges and lawyers saw him. He wrote to me asking for my thoughts.

I told him the same thing I tell everyone: “Don’t do anything in public that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the paper.” If you’re ok with being seen shirtless and in little shorts in the newspaper, why would you have a problem with judges and lawyers seeing you? They’re just people. And who’s to say they haven’t already seen you? Most people are so oblivious that they wouldn’t figure out that you were the shirtless guy if they met you at a professional event.

My friend’s question made me reflect on my early days as a law student. I was told that I should change my clothes, my hair, and even my sunglasses before I started law school. I took out my excess piercings and kept the tattoos on my feet covered with shoes, dark socks, and tattoo concealer. I gave all that up and was back to being 100% myself by the end of my 2L year. I was happier for it and got more professional opportunities as a result of being me instead of trying to fit the law student mold.

Why are lawyers seemingly held to a different social standard than other people? When we graduate from law school, we don’t suddenly all become interested in golf, going to tea, or smoking cigars. Lawyers should never give up their personality or interests because they’re lawyers. I see nothing wrong with a lawyer being a shirtless runner in their free time, or even something more daring like a burlesque dancer or a nudist. It’s no more shocking than any other fringe activity like having extreme religious beliefs or seeing your favorite band live in concert 33 times. As long as you’re not hurting anyone or breaking the law, let your freak flag fly!

I can see where my friend might be concerned because he doesn’t have a job lined up after the bar. Bug here’s something else to think about – if you have to hide who you are to get a job, is it a job you really want? I’m not saying that you should flaunt your eccentricities, but you shouldn’t have to hide them either.

The only other advice I can offer of this topic is the wisdom that was bestowed upon me by my friend Evo Terra. He said to figure out whose opinions truly matter to you and then don’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks. It’s easier said than done, but those are definitely words to live by.

I Was Cyberbullied – Part 4 of 4

This is the final installation of my four-part story with cyberbullying. You can read it from the beginning here. Back to the story . . .

After finals were over, I filed a formal report with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. They said there was nothing they could do at that point, but that people like her engage in the same behavior repeatedly. They suggested that I send my bully an email informing her that any future contact was unwanted and would be reported to the university as harassment. If she contacted me again, it would be actionable. I disagreed with their assessment, but I sent my bully the email.

Seclusion & Serenity by Iwona Erskine-Kellie

Thankfully, my bully only had one more semester of school and we didn’t have any classes together. If we had been in any of the same classes, I would have asked the school to make her change. It was still nerve-wracking to see her on campus, but we never had direct contact again. Last I heard, she moved to California. Shortly after graduation, I blocked my bully and my other former exec on Facebook. Doing that made me feel like I was closing the door on that chapter of my life.

I had an unsettling experience last week with my bully – she asked to connect on LinkedIn! I was surprised she would want to be a connection given her animosity towards me. I suspect she uploaded all her contacts to her LinkedIn account and requested to connect with all of them, not thinking that there might be people in her contacts list that she doesn’t want to be connected to. I looked for the ability to block someone on LinkedIn and was shocked to learn that LinkedIn doesn’t provide that ability. The best you can do is deny someone the ability to connect with you. I expected them to have a stronger anti-harassment provision. I would like to block her on that site too, but that is not an option at this time.

So there’s my story. It was hellaciously stressful to be the victim of cyberbullying. I’m so grateful that I had support from my friends, my family, and the law school. I can’t imagine how much worse it could have been if I had to endure it alone. Unfortunately, that’s what happens to too many children. They’re ostracized from their peers and they’re too afraid to ask for help from their parents or teachers.

To all the victims of cyberbullying, I know it’s hard to admit that you’re being bullied, and I know it’s scary to ask for help, but do it. You don’t have to go through this alone and you don’t have to continue to be the victim.

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 3 of 4

This is the third part of my four-part story with cyberbullying. You can read it from the beginning here. Back to the story . . .

Walking Away by Jeremy Raff-Reynolds

At that point, I was done with her harassment. I investigated whether I had options for recourse through the school given that I was experiencing student-on-student harassment and all the emails were sent over the ASU email system. My research revealed provisions of the Arizona Board of Regents Student Code of Conduct that prohibited harassment and discriminatory activities.

I set up a meeting with the Assistant Dean of the law school where I explained what had been occurring and showed him all her emails. By then the semester was drawing to a close. He and I decided that the best course of action was for him to meet with my bully after she was finished with finals to discuss the inappropriateness of her behavior. At the end of the meeting, I turned over my copies of the emails to him to put in her permanent file. If anyone calls the school to ask for a reference for my bully, they may be told a report was made against her for cyberharassment.

My bully reportedly left town immediately after her last final, so the assistant dean was unable to get her into his office for a meeting. Instead, he spoke with her by phone. According to him, she wasn’t very receptive to what he had to say and didn’t take any responsibility for her behavior. Shortly after the call ended, she made the following post on Facebook:

“ruth carter is a giant cunt and a poor person. tell the world I said this.”

She must have realized that creating that post was a poor decision and removed it, but not before I took a screenshot of it and sent it to the school.

The assistant dean and I were astonished by her behavior, and I had concerns about her level of impulsivity. I still had one final to go, and the finals schedule is post publicly, so she had access to information regarding when/where I would be on campus. We weren’t certain that she had actually left town or that she wouldn’t come back.

We decided it was be better to be safe than dead. To protect my physical safety, we decided it would be best if I took my last final in a different location, so I took it in a windowless room, by myself, where only one other person knew where I was.

Read the conclusion to my cyberbullying story in Part 4 of I Was Cyberbullied.

 

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 2 of 4

This is the second of my four-part experience with cyberbullying. You can read Part 1 here. Back to the story . . .

Alone by Tanya Little

For weeks, I was anxious every time I went to campus. I was so nervous that it made me sweat profusely. I stopped wearing professional clothes to school out of fear I would ruin them with sweat stains. Instead, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, and kept a fresh shirt in my locker. It was common for me to change my shirt during lunch because my first one was soaked with sweat. I got down to my lowest weight in law school that semester because I was too anxious to eat and I was sweating so much.

My bully was in one of my classes that semester – trial advocacy – and she sat right next to me. There were only 12 of us in the class and only 12 seats in our seating area. I didn’t want to ask someone to exchange seats because it would have brought up questions about the situation. So every day we had class, I sat there, sweating like crazy, but refusing to let her know how much she bothered me.

My trial advocacy final was a mock trial. Thankfully my bully wasn’t my co-counsel or the opposing counsel for my mock trial. Our trials were on a Friday night, and we didn’t finish until after 10pm. Her group finished before mine. I was petrified walking to the parking garage that night. I didn’t know if she’d be waiting there for me. I was so relieved when I didn’t see anyone in the garage.

My goal for the student club that my bully and I were executives for became to get the club through the end of the school year, pass it off the next year’s executives, and be done with my bully and the other executive. The club’s faculty advisor caught wind of what was going on and asked to meet with me. When I told her about the emails, she said my bully was out of line and she would do what she could to help get the club through the end of the year.

Our advisor called a meeting for all the executives to plan the remaining weeks of the semester. When my bully and the other exec tried to bring up the gala invitations, she immediately cut them off and refocused on the club’s future. I walked out of the meeting with the impression that my bully and the other exec were not going to stop trying to turn the gala invitations into a group decision and that they were going to view everything I did in a negative light. I decided at that point to resign my leadership role. It wasn’t worth my effort to keep putting up with them.

All the executives in this club were equals when I was in it. We didn’t have designated roles like president and vice president. All club decisions were made by a majority vote. However, I was often the point person on projects and a lot of people sought me out when they had a question about the club. After I resigned, I had nothing to do with the club. When anyone asked me about the club, I referred them to the club’s email address.

Shortly before I got my bully, I was the point person on an event put on by my and another law student club. The post-event paperwork didn’t get done until after I resigned. An exec from the other club started it and asked for my help, but by then I couldn’t sign off on anything because I wasn’t a leader anymore. I referred her to the club’s remaining execs.

I could have done the work in less than 3 minutes, but I wanted to take a stand. I wanted my bully and the other exec to know that when they make it impossible to work with them, I’m not going to work with them. By then, I had no obligations to them or the club. I responded to all their emails by politely informing them that it would be inappropriate for a non-executive to fill out executive paperwork. That resulted in my bully sending me the nastiest email to date:

“Ruth you are a giant cunt and a poor person.”

Read how I responded to her nastiness in Part 3 of I Was Cyberbullied.

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 1 of 4

Cyberbullying sucks. I know because I’ve been through it.

I’m sharing my story to show that it can happen to anyone, at any age, and that there are things you can do to combat it.

My story begins in February 2010, the spring semester of my second year of law school at Arizona State University. I had a full load of classes and an internship at a large Phoenix law firm. I was also an executive officer on multiple student clubs at the law school. It was because of the connections I made in a leadership position that lead to me receiving an invitation to attend the HRC gala. The invite was written and sent to me in an email that was to my personal email account, not the club’s email address.

One of the other execs, another law student, did not receive such an invitation. She became my bully.

For the following three months, I dreaded seeing the notification that I had new email in my inbox.  Every email from her was filled with anger and disrespect. She called me dishonest, unethical, phony, dumb, seedy, a poor leader, and made discriminatory statements about my sexual orientation.

From the beginning, I sensed this could be a heated situation and may not end well. I elicited the help of four of my friends:

  • Michael: former assistant dean of the law school who has a wealth of knowledge regarding law students and the ASU system,
  • Jeff: my friend who has experience with handling public criticism,
  • Andrea: was the president of an LGBT student group at Oregon State University when I was a student there, and
  • Julia: my classmate who is a former national speech champion. She is the most articulate person I know, and she’s brilliant at handling difficult people.

Project 365: Day 57 by Cara Photography

Every time I got an email from my bully, I forwarded it to these four. After her first email, I never sent a response without giving myself several hours to let my emotional response subside and to formulate the best response based on the goal of getting the harassment to end.

My bully’s impulsiveness scared me. She reacted to every email with such anger. She responded without taking any time to think through her response. I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t shift from being verbally impulsive to physically impulsive, but I wasn’t completely convinced.

After one particularly cruel email that I forwarded to my support team, I got a one line email response from Michael: “Ruth, you need to stay away from this person.” Michael has counseled thousands of law students in his career. A warning like that from him carried significant weight for me.

I reached out to Gavin de Becker and Associates, a firm that assesses threats in personal relationships and the workplace. De Becker is the author of the bestselling book, The Gift of Fear, a book I recommend everyone read to identify and respond to people who threaten your safety. I explained the situation to an associate, and he responded that I likely had cause for concern.

I was 30 years old, and for the first time in my life, I was afraid to go to school.

Read more about my experience with cyberbullying and how I fought back in Part 2 of I Was Cyberbullied.

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Twitter – The Untapped Resource for Law Students

I joined Twitter about 16 months ago.  I originally joined to keep in touch with my friends while I was in Missouri with the U.S. Army JAG last summer.  Since then, it has become one of my primary networking tools.  It is the easiest way I know to start a conversation with someone.  I’m surprised by how few students at my law school are using it.

Free twitter badge
Image via Wikipedia

A few months ago, Twitter helped me break the ice with Sam Glover when he spoke at my school.  Recently, it helped me create a connection with Tim Eigo and Arizona Attorney Magazine.  I don’t know how he found me, but he started following me in August and said that he liked this blog.  I went on LinkedIn and the Arizona Bar Association website to confirm his identity and then started a conversation with him.  That led to a lunch and hopefully this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Twitter has given me the ability to connect with a vast number of people, entities, and information that I otherwise would not have the time to seek out on my own.  It is the main way that I keep up with developments in the legal profession.  It also helps me stay informed about what my friends, local businesses, and celebrities are doing.

Online Best Colleges.com and Rasmussen College published their lists for the Top 100 Legal Twitter Feeds.  These are all wonderful people to follow.  Like them, I also want to acknowledge some of my favorite legal people and entities on Twitter who consistently post informative and entertaining content.

I also want to give props to Erin Biencourt, a 2L at Arizona State University, who is new to Twitter.  She claims that she needs me to give her Twitter lessons because she’s still figuring out how retweets and replies work.  She’s doing better than she realizes because she’s already overcome the biggest hurdle just by becoming part of the conversation.

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