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Venjuris

Day 36/90 – Sitting Second Chair

Day 36 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got sit second chair for the first time in a courtroom!

Sunset Scenes, Sedona, AZ 7-30-13zzm by inkknife_2000 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sunset Scenes, Sedona, AZ 7-30-13zzm by inkknife_2000 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

When I started Carter Law Firm right out of law school, I restricted my practice to transactional work: contracts, copyrights, and trademarks. I didn’t want to take a case that could go to litigation because I was afraid, as a new solo lawyer, that I would screw up the case. I never wanted to take that type of risk with my clients. Now that I’m with Venjuris, where I have colleagues who are experienced litigators, I am expanding the scope of my practice.

Today, I made my first court appearance as a lawyer. It was a small hearing in Sedona regarding an injunction against harassment (a.k.a. a restraining order). I was there mainly to observe and learn, and it was a fantastic experience to see how the law plays out in real life. My colleague reminded me that you should never go into a court appearance thinking that anything is a for sure deal, because you always want to be on your toes and ready for anything.

One thing I’ve learned this year since joining a firm that does litigation is that the law provides a framework to achieve resolutions to problems; however, it takes a certain level of creativity and finesse to practice law exceptionally well.

In case you missed it: Day 35 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Being a Model for Bodyscaping Photography!

Day 32/90 – Raising my Game

Day 32 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I feel like I raised my game as a lawyer.

This is how I look when I'm working - me & my laptop. (Photo by Brandon Larkin)

This is how I look when I’m working – me & my laptop. (Photo by Brandon Larkin)

When I started Carter Law Firm, my work mainly consisted of client consultations, drafting and reviewing documents, and intellectual property registrations. I limited the scope of my solo practice to consultations and transactional work because I didn’t want to screw up a case that might go to litigation, and I definitely wasn’t prepared to handle a litigation case alone. Now that I am with Venjuris, where we have seasoned litigators on the team, I have the proper entity to expand my practice areas to include potential litigation matters.

Today I drafted a cease and desist letter for a client. It was a solid effort and sufficient as a first draft. I took the draft to one of our litigators who sat down with me and went through it sentence by sentence, suggesting minor changes throughout that significantly raised the quality of my writing.

I went back to my desk bubbling with energy. My first draft was covered in notes in my chicken scratch handwriting. I was excited to integrate the changes into my work.

I love working with amazing writers. I appreciate it when they review my work and they return my drafted covered, almost dripping, with ink. And I consider myself to be a good writer! Working with these people gives me the opportunity to raise my own game, which leaves me ecstatic to know that I’m becoming a better writer and a better lawyer.

I feel a little weird using the phrase “raise my game” in reference to legal work because I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t take my work seriously. On the contrary, I am always aware that when someone comes to meet with a problem, their life and/or their livelihood is on the line. I have the deepest respect for the trust they have in me and my abilities. But I felt this phrase was appropriate because it embodies the energy and desire I have to improve my skills.

In case you missed it: Day 31 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I love listening to the way lawyers speak when they analyze cases.

Day 31/90 – Listening to Lawyers Speak

Day 31 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Listening to a seasoned litigator talk about a case.

Giant Gavel by Sam Howzit from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Giant Gavel by Sam Howzit from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Have you ever listened to a lawyer analyze a particular case? I’m not talking about the egotistical ambulance chaser stereotype of a lawyer, but I thoughtful articulate lawyer. They are so smart when it comes to their practice area that it is almost mesmerizing to listen to them process strategy ideas and ways to phrase documents.

I popped by one of my colleague’s office today to discuss a case I’m working on and a demand letter that I’m drafting. I wanted to get his take on the situation to make sure that I wasn’t missing any legal issues. My pen flew across my legal pad as I tried to scribble down every word that seemed to flow out of his mouth like butter.

At one point in our conversation I paused, and he started to explain his previous statement because he thought I didn’t understand. I smiled and said something like, “Oh I know. I just like hearing the way you speak.”

Joining Venjuris has provided so many amazing opportunities for me in terms of expanding my scope of practice and I get to be surrounded by super smart people every day who below my mind with their knowledge, eloquence, and work ethic.

In case you missed it: Day 30 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Real Conversations with my Friends.

How to Get a Job at a Small Law Firm

I had the pleasure of participating in my law school alma mater’s Small Firm Week. One of the activities was an event featuring eight small firm lawyers who each had had table and a small group of students got to have lunch with them. It was a great way for students to meet local lawyers and learn about what it’s like to work at a small firm. For those of you who don’t know, I gave up my solo practice to become one of nine lawyers at Venjuris. I only use Carter Law Firm for professional speaking and writing.

One of the students at my table is interested in bankruptcy law and he asked me what he should do to try to get a job at a small firm. Here’s what I told him to do. This is also what I wish I did more of when I was a law student:

Social Media Camp 2009- Social Media for the Job Search by Dean Meyers from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Social Media Camp 2009- Social Media for the Job Search by Dean Meyers from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

1. My law school’s career services office maintains a list of all the law firms in Maricopa County (where Phoenix is located) that includes each firm’s practice areas and how many lawyers work in the local office. I told him to get a copy of this list.

2. Go through the list and find all the bankruptcy firms. Then do some research on the lawyers who work at each one and try to identify which ones might be people that you would want to have as your professional friends. I actually told him to look for lawyers that he would want to hang out and drink with. Networking is all about building your professional social circles.

3. Reach out to the lawyers you want to meet and asked them to lunch or coffee, or even just a 20-minute meeting in their office. (Lawyers are busy.) Ask them what it’s really liked to work in their practice area and if they have any tips for getting a job.

Notice I didn’t say ask them for a job. They will probably ask you if you have a summer job lined up or if you have secured a job for after you graduate. It’s a given that most law students are looking for a job. Unless a firm is advertising a job opening, asking for a job the first time you meet somebody is like trying to sleep with a person on the first date. It’s too forward and aggressive. I’ve heard some lawyers don’t go to the networking events with law students because they don’t like being hit up for jobs.

4. Instead, you want to foster relationships with the people you hope will be your friends when you graduate and pass the bar so they will think of you when they hear of a job opportunity. There are many firms that never advertise when they’re looking to add an associate. They just ask their network if anybody knows anyone who might be a good fit.

At the end of lunch I asked the students at my table for their cards, and I was surprised that none of them had business cards. Every law student needs a business card. You may be able to get them through your law school or there are plenty of places you can get them online. It just needs to have your name, your email address, your phone number, your school, and when you’re graduating.

I have a terrible memory when it comes to remembering names, but I use a contact database where I keep track of everyone I meet and where I meet them. Had the students given me their cards, I would have added them and they could have been on the list of people I would look up and recommend if I heard of a job opening or internship. But they didn’t give me their cards, so they’re not in my database, so unless they send me an email I will probably never have contact with them again.