After conducting a national search for its new Chancellor and Dean, UC Hastings College of the Law announces today the hire of Professor Frank Wu of Howard University and former Dean of Wayne State.
This is an extraordinary hire and it comes at a time when the law school stands at a difficult crossroad. The college has taken a bold step in this appointment and I applaud their commitment to their future. As an alumnus, I’ve never been prouder. It was an honor to have been invited to conduct this search on behalf of the law school along with my colleague, Marty Africa.
Congratulations to Hastings and to Professor Wu. We look forward to your many successes well into the future.
We’ve been engaged in an internal conversation about counseling dislocated lawyers. For better or worse, we’ve focused on the obvious: jobs are scarce, you need to work your networks, it’s time to perfect the resume, you have to do your due diligence – you know the drill. As hard as it is to write, things are getting worse and there are no indications that we will see improvements in the legal labor market any time soon – but who’s guessing these days? The advice we’ve been giving is sound. What else are we going to say to unemployed Partners and Associates?
A new message is starting to take form and it goes something like this:
Now may be the perfect time to reinvent yourself.
What? You roll your eyes. But think about it. Prospects for getting a new job doing what you’ve been doing are dimming by the hour. You are a person of many talents. And if you’re like many attorneys, you came to a career in the law out of default. Yes, default. I’ve had ivy-educated lawyers admit to as much. You probably fantasize about any number of vocations. Maybe you’re a writer, or a teacher, or maybe an urban farmer? You know better than anyone, but I suspect that when many of you get honest with yourselves and look in the mirror, you don’t see a lawyer looking back. You wish to high heaven you could find your path but you’ve been so busy at the office that you just haven’t found the time. Well, if you’re like the now thousands of displaced attorneys in the U.S. you have some time on your hands. Do something with it. Need suggestions? How about this:
Yup, that’s right. LaidOffCamp is coming to a major metro area near you. The event’s organizers are kicking off in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 3rd and the occasion promises to bring together a diverse and eclectic mix of independent spirits. This is more than a pink slip party. Its organizers describe it this way:
At LaidOffCamp, attendees will discuss topics in sessions that may include: living on an extreme budget, building your personal brand, how to be a freelance consultant and more.
Others will likely mimic the concept. The point, of course, is to get you to stop treading water and to start doing something for yourself. So start now. It’s time to clear the cobwebs and dust off your dreams. You’re more than the J.D. at the end of your electronic signature. If you can’t do what you’ve always wanted, who can?
Does your resume contain a speed bump or two? Have you made moves you now regret? Feeling tempted to omit or spin the move(s) to take the heat off? If the answer is “yes,” you’re not alone. I see plenty of resumes from professionals who have done all the right things most of the time but who, for any number of reasons, have fumbled the professional ball along the way and can’t quite figure out how to recover. It’s tough out there and companies still able to hire are looking very closely at the details of a person’s professional choices. How you present your choices on paper and in an interview will make all the difference in landing your next job.
Include, Don’t Omit
Nothing says “you can’t trust me” like omitting important gaps in your employment history. For senior professionals, there are no excuses for failing to include a description of how you’ve spent your working life over the course of a career. If you made a fortune on your options (the lucky few) and decided to take some well deserved time traveling the world, say so. If you lost your job due to layoffs or termination (the unlucky many) and had a tough time finding the next job, you’ll still need to explain how the time was spent between gigs. Maybe you’ve taken some time off to do a little soul searching. That’s fine, but be sure to include an explanation of that time off on your resume. Then, prepare to answer questions about those choices.
Spell It Out: Honestly
Don’t embellish, candy-coat or omit the unsavory details of your work history. Be honest about the moves you’ve made and articulate the rationale for each move. If you’ve been fired from a job, you don’t need to put that critical detail in your resume, but when you’re asked why you left, be honest. Tell the interviewer or screener that the employment relationship soured and that you were let go. No need for excuses or stories. Everyone assumes there’s a story and you’re probably not the most objective person to tell it. So , instead of the spin, tell the interviewer what you’ve learned from the experience and how that lesson has led to improvements in your professional life. Be positive. If you come right to the point and you’re sincere, the interviewer will be ready to move on to the next question and the squirming can end for both of you.
You know what your resume says. So, before you send it off to a prospective employer, think about how you’ll discuss the details. You can imagine, based on a job description, what an employer is looking for. Prepare to answer questions that are specific to the job, highlighting the matches between the company’s needs and your experience. This advice seems so obvious, but I’m often surprised by how poorly people prepare for interviews. If you walk into an interview with a plan to simply sell your expertise, you’re going to miss the point of the meeting. Maybe you’re an expert deal closer, but if the person you’re meeting is looking for X and X doesn’t have anything to do with closing deals, you’ve wasted everyone’s time by not being prepared to talk about X.
I’ve sat across from far too many sour faces in interviews and I don’t like it. My clients like it even less. I understand the temptation to brood. Times are tough and plenty of folks out there find themselves in unfamiliar territory. But honestly, if you aren’t prepared to walk into an interview with your head held up and a smile on your face, cancel the interview. People want to hire people who make them comfortable. They want to hire winners and they’re looking for signals that you see yourself as a winner, no matter the circumstances that brought you to the interview. Sad, grumpy, aloof candidates rarely make it through the hiring process. Why should they? Confident, friendly candidates set themselves apart. And hey, you’re going to feel better about the interview too, regardless of the outcome.
Few people have perfect records. Most of us have stumbled at some point in our careers. Owning up to those stumbles often says more about our judgment than the mistakes we’ve made. It sets us apart from those who hide behind excuses and prepares us to move forward, confident in the lessons we’ve learned. When you find yourself in the market for a new job, be honest about where you’ve been and be prepared to move on with your dignity in tact and a smile on your face.
I want you to take my calls. I want you to interview with my clients. I want you to accept their offers of employment and I want you to succeed. Hey, if you don’t move, I don’t make money. Simple, right?
Not so fast. It’s true that my business depends on successfully matching talented lawyers with my clients’ needs. But nobody wins when you jump ship before you’re ready.
Maybe you’ve seen your current employer’s warts and worry they’re too big and ugly to ignore. Or maybe you’ve grown accustomed to making a move every couple of years or so and feel it’s time to move on. Professional wanderlust is indulged today in a way that would have been inconceivable a generation ago. And why shouldn’t you let your curiosity guide your career choices? Hey, if the grass is truly greener on a new job, I say go for it.
Still, we’re witnessing an extraordinary shift in job market economics. If you’re like me, you’re hearing and seeing more bad labor news than you can stomach. It’s got me to thinking: now may not be the time to lure the well employed from their relatively safe gigs. Maybe the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. If you’re going to take my calls and seriously look at a new employment opportunity, there are a few things you should be particularly mindful of as you consider your next move.
A move should fit into your long-term career goals. Jumping from a sinking ship into a lifeboat of a job may feel safe, but if the new position doesn’t map well to your preferred career path, you’ll have a hard time getting back on track once the market recovers. And you’ll have to explain your act of desperation to a potential employer who may not “get it.” Better to work a little harder on the job search to find something that makes sense than to take anything for a paycheck.
Do your homework. If you’re employed but exploring a new opportunity, you control the conversation with the prospective employer. Go online and read whatever you can find until you’re satisfied you’ve found what’s out there. If you still have questions about the company or it’s management team after doing your due diligence, ask them and do so early in the process. Be clear about what the job is and whether the company’s culture meets your standards and expectations.
Be prepared. I’m constantly surprised by how poorly prepared people are to start a conversation about new employment opportunities. Many who have been with their employers for some time haven’t updated their resumes since, well, they were candidates for the job they’re in. Why? You plan ahead for family changes, retirement and vacations. If you’re ignoring your career preparedness because you think keeping your resume updated is disloyal, you need to get over it. If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me be the first to tell you that your employer is loyal to the bottom line, not its employees, no matter how senior or “invaluable” you think you are. It’s harsh, I know. But it’s true, and the sooner you figure that out, the sooner you’ll feel free and in control of your professional destiny.
Take my calls. Ok, this one is shamefully self-promotional, I know. But hey, if you’re busy doing the best job you can and you aren’t out there looking, you need folks like me to keep you in the loop. Most of my clients don’t advertise their open positions. They rely on us to get the word out and if you aren’t listening, you’re going to be passed over. Why take the chance? If you are in the market, consider the recruiter’s call just another tool in your arsenal.
Whether now is the time to move or stay put, only you can say. But if you’re ready when that call comes, the decision will be a little easier make.
That sinking, dizzy spiraling sensation is real. News of the continuing economic slide, crashing equities markets, mass layoffs, accelerating foreclosures and the greed and political paralysis ever present in the background have left you with a pit in your gut. Today, we’re reminded that our natural world is oblivious to our man-made messes as we labor to restore power to a million people in ice covered north eastern states and await the inevitable eruption of a massive volcano in Alaska. Uncertainty, confusion, fear … it’s enough to drive you mad.
It must be that on some primal level we feed on the dramatics of tumult. What other reason could there be for the mass consumption of terrible news and dire predictions of future disaster? Sure, there’s a bit of spoon-feeding going on here, but can we honestly say we don’t crave what we’re being fed? People all around me are animated by the latest whammy and none of us seem able to resist the temptation to armchair quarterback in the hallways or on the train. As the dental hygienist scraped away at my teeth the other day, I could overhear another patient railing against the embarrassingly large bonuses paid out by a certain Wall Street icon while accepting welfare from the public. He had a right to be confused and angry. But the banter coming from the other room wasn’t completely bereft of play. He was really getting into it and I wanted to smile (and would have had those fingers and sharp picks not been working away in my mouth).
Folks, it’s time to step away from your information sources, close your eyes and take deep, diaphragm-expanding breaths. OK, now stretch. Now, go splash some water on your face and wake up. Ask yourselves: how much of what I’m worried about can I control? Once you’ve honestly answered that question (I suspect your answer will be something like “none of it”), ask yourself what you need to do right now to move forward without the distractions of the moment. What follows is my short list:
1. Focus on the business I have, not the business I don’t.
2. Listen to my body and feed and exercise it as I know I should.
3. Spend time with the people who bring out the best in me and avoid those who perpetuate the gloom.
4. Catch up on all the things I always say I’d do if I had the time – we all have the time.
No matter what happens today, tomorrow or in a year from now, we can be sure of one thing: this will all pass. So cheer up, keep breathing and focus on what you can control. You’ll be in a better position to join in the fun when this storm passes.
Like many of you, I’ve resolved this year to use every tool available to keep my contacts up to date on my professional life. Blogs are simple, inexpensive (free!) and timely. The focus of this blog will be legal search, the market for attorney talent and current client engagements (and the occasional wandering rant). Your feedback will drive the quality of the posts and I look forward to hearing from you.
As we wade a little deeper into 2009, the messages are growing gloomier. But now is not the time to despair. Hand ringing is counter productive and nobody wants to hear a sob story. There are too many. So, take heart. Sure, all organizations become a little more selective as the pool of available lawyers grows larger. Still, opportunities exist for those able to open their minds to the possibilities that emerge from a change – in title, in geography, in industry. We’re seeing activity in some unusual places. Companies in most industries are hiring senior attorneys as they endeavor to internalize legal services and wrest control of their commercial fate from external service providers.
What am I working on? I’m happy to say I have a handful of very interesting opportunities at the moment. Here are just a few:
The University of California system, a long-standing Major, Lindsey & Africa client, has retained us in their search for the Deputy General Counsel for Education Policy and Campus Services. This is a 2nd in command position and a member of the General Counsel’s cabinet. Higher education law and policy is the focus and this person will come with significant management experience in addition to the subject matter expertise noted. These positions rarely come available and we’re meeting some very interesting lawyers in the recruitment process.
I currently represent Mattel in the company’s search for a Director of Patents. This senior counsel will be responsible for managing the company’s prestigious and growing patent portfolio as well as a number of other intellectual property matters. As the owner of the world’s premier toy brands, Mattel takes seriously the role of IP counsel. This is a true growth opportunity with a world class organization that recently saw its rank among the 100 best companies to work for rise to #48!
Now, if you’re a patent prosecution attorney with a few years of experience under your belt, I have a great opportunity to join a small but profitable company in the digital rights management space. Intertrust Technologies has a terrific spot for someone interested in joining a smart, friendly team.
If you’d like to explore these, or any of MLA’s current opportunities, please visit us. We’re happy to explore the possibilities.