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Give Your Writing Sample The Attention It Deserves

Give Your Writing Sample The Attention It Deserves

It’s easy to do. You’ve perfected your resume, carefully drafted a cover letters specifically tailored to the employer, and now you’re ready to apply. However, they’ve also requested a writing sample. “Easy enough,” you say, as you grab a few pages from a memo you did fairly well on and attach it to your application. What I’ve just described is at best a missed opportunity, and at worst a potentially fatal mistake for your candidacy.

Employers overwhelmingly list writing as a skill they most desire, and also one they have the hardest time finding. Many of them think this generation simply doesn’t know how to write in the age of texts and tweets (and keep in mind it really doesn’t matter whether this is right or wrong; it is the perception of some and must be addressed). So what can you do to prove you’re the exception to their rule? Blow them away with your writing sample (the cover letter is important as well, but we’ve addressed that in some detail in past posts).

The tricky part about advising you regarding writing samples is that the reader’s tastes can be very personal. For example, I’ve had employers suggest students consider providing non-law school writing samples such as blog posts, newspaper/magazine articles, etc. They get so many first-year memos that something unique would be welcomed.

I’ve had others mention that the first-year memo doesn’t present a challenging enough opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate their potential, so that employer prefers a law review note or anything that requires more sophisticated analysis.

Those anecdotal examples aside, the large majority of you (and I venture other law school candidates) are using a first-year legal memo as your writing sample, and it is entirely acceptable and probably the safest bet. So let’s take a moment and talk about how you can make this writing sample the best it can be.

First, you absolutely have to proof-read the sample over and over. Give it to other people and have them proof-read it as well. There is simply no excuse for having typographical or grammatical errors in your work. Don’t be the student in the opening hypothetical who simply grabs three or four pages of a legal memo and submits it without review. But don’t just take my word for this, go into the main story page and listen to an employer below who left this message for one of our professors.

Second, go back and look carefully at the professor’s comments to identify which section was your best work and should make up your sample. You should incorporate changes if they made suggestions on how you could improve the memo. Often students will read professor’s comments when they get back the memo, but never think about it again.

Last, if the writing you’re pulling from was written with a co-author, be sure to only select and include that which you wrote. Employers can tell when there are multiple authors in the same sample, and it can get complicated trying to describe who wrote what.

Writing samples are a critical piece of the application materials, and provide a great opportunity for you to stand out among the others. However they can also be a factor which harms your candidacy, if you don’t give them the attention they deserve.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: 2L Summer Clerk at Fenley & Bate (2L, Lufkin) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Where Are We With Salaries?

Where Are We With Salaries?

A year and a half ago, I wrote a two-part series discussing reasonable salary expectations (part 1, part 2). I thought it was worth updating as there have been a number of you ask me about this, and it has changed somewhat. I should also mention that employers (usually smaller and who hire every few years) ask for this information as well, so you’ll also be up to date on what we’ve shared with them. I will come back and update this information again when we have 2014 data, likely sometime in the fall.

So what hasn’t changed (and won’t for a generation)? The massive gulf that exists between what I’ll broadly call “Big Law,” and everything else. I almost look at Big Law as a separate industry, not just because of the vast salary difference, but also because there are a number of differences in what the actual job entails when compared to other legal positions (but that’s a post for another day).
You can see the gulf I’m talking about in our favorite NALP Annual Salary Chart from the graduating class of 2013:

2013 NALP Salary Chart

Notice that the Big Law firms are still paying $160,000 (relatively unchanged since the bulk of these firms went to that number in 2007), and that the next two highest points on the curve are at $50,000 and $60,000. Approximately 38% of the entry level salaries in this survey are one of those three figures. This is relatively consistent with where we’ve been.

What I continue to point out when discussing this data is how so few employers pay in the $100,000 to $155,000 range. A common misunderstanding is that if the Big Law employers are paying $160,000, the next level of employers would pay something slightly less like $140,000. As you can see from the data, that simply isn’t the case.

There are a couple of other facts to take a look at. First, the adjusted mean increased 3.5% in 2013 from $75,554 to $78,205. The prior year’s increase was just 2.1%, and we saw a significant 4.3% drop from 2010 to 2011. You can see this encouraging picture in graph form below:

2010-2013 Mean Salary Chart

Second, I don’t believe I’ve provided median salary numbers in a while (if at all), so I wanted you to see those. Mean data can be so skewed since the Big Law employers drag a lot of numbers to the right. The chart below highlights the median 1st year associate salaries based on firm size. (One big caveat to this chart is the response rate from the various groups of employers; relatively few small firms responded as opposed to the large firms, so the accuracy of the data should be considered accordingly).

2013 Median Salaries By Law Firm Size Chart

When you consider what we’ve just been discussing regarding the Big Law / everyone else salary gulf, this graph might be a bit confusing. It appears that most law firms are paying at or above $100,000. Don’t let the visual images fool you. Two major things are going on here you must consider: 1) the data from this graph is only made up of law firms (i.e. government, business, other industry are not included), which tend to be higher paying, and 2) The number of firms made up of between two and 25 attorneys far exceeds the number of firms made up of more than that. A quick search on Martindale shows 2,334 law firms made up of between two and 25 attorneys, while only 270 firms show up with more. To illustrate that point, Baylor’s 2013 class saw 71 of our 152 employed graduates (47%) obtain positions with a firm made up of between two and 25 attorneys. 30 (or 20%) obtained employment with law firms with 26 or more attorneys.

There is so much to talk about when discussing salaries, and I plan to continue picking out nuggets here and there to share with you throughout the year. I also encourage you to go back and read the Salary Expectations series I mentioned at the top, and the How to Counter post I wrote in January that ties into this. If you have specific questions about salaries you’d like me to address, please let me know.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Attorney I - Municipal Court Prosecutor (Alumni, Wichita Falls) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Yes, Not Sending A Thank You Note Could Cost You

Yes, Not Sending A Thank You Note Could Cost You

“We interviewed [x] candidates, and we received [x/2] thank you notes – th(ose) who sent thank you notes [moved forward]…we debated between two candidates for quite a while and even asked our office manager to weigh in on it. It wasn’t that we disagreed about who should get it – we just flat out couldn’t decide because they were both great, qualified candidates. However, one of the two sent a thank you note, and that candidate received the offer (it wasn’t 100% of the reason why, but it ended up being a useful factor in deciding).”

This is a quote from an employer who participated in OCI this spring. I thought it was particularly important to share with you, because it is a real world example of something we often describe in hypotheticals or in the abstract. It also wasn’t the only time an employer made reference to who had sent thank you notes and who had not, as Angela mentioned in a March 5th Facebook CDO Group post:

"An employer who recently interviewed several Baylor Law students mentioned to us that only two students sent him a thank you note after the interview. It made an impression on him and not in a good way.
I recommend that you always send a thank you note after an interview. It may not make any difference in the hiring decision, but it is a professional courtesy to the employer who took the time to meet with you.
We have thank you cards in the CDO. Please help yourself to them!"

I agree with Angela, that generally the thank you note will not make the difference in the hiring decision. More specifically, thank you notes won’t likely overcome a poor interview or inferior credentials (all other things being equal). However, I do think thank you notes can make a difference when there is a multiple-step interview process, and the employer is deciding who to move through to the next round. And as in the example above, if the margin between two candidates is razor thin, whether or not candidates sent a thank you note may go on the big board of pros/cons for each.

If you don’t take anything else away from this post, please remember to send some type (hand-written or email) of thank you note to any employer who interviews you. Interviewers have taken some amount of time out of their day to consider you for a position in their organization; that alone deserves your respect and gratitude. When you can do the right thing and benefit from it (or at least not do harm), what possible reason is there not to do it? None is the answer you’re looking for.

I mentioned the option of hand-written or email thank you notes, and I’ll close with a brief note about that since it is a frequently asked question. We’ve heard a wide variety of opinions on this topic from employers, so it seems clear that the form preference is a very personal thing. Without a general rule to follow, it’s going to be up to you to determine the best approach based on what you learned about the interviewer. That said, we do know that some employers (especially big firms) move very quickly after on-campus interviews. So to the extent a thank you note could impact your candidacy, email is the only safe harbor. My personal practice has been to send emails to interviewers after round one/on-campus/telephone/Skype interviews, when you know there is another round of interviewing still to come. I would then send handwritten thank you notes to interviewers after callback/in-person/comprehensive interviews. At the end of the day, don’t let these small practical issues paralyze you from sending something; anything is better than nothing.

If you’re in the habit of sending thank you notes, keep up the great work. If not, start now. There’s simply no reason to let an employer pass on you because you failed to do so.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Summer Associate at Sprouse Shrader Smith PC (2L, Amarillo) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

OCI Is A Tremendous Job Searching Tool: Use It!

OCI Is A Tremendous Job Searching Tool: Use It!

The combination of Spring On-Campus Interviews this week, upcoming registration for Fall On-Campus Interviews (be on the lookout for information soon) and the 1L Interviewing Skills program last week with the attorneys from Jackson Walker, created some great topics to discuss in this week’s blog. I settled on the purpose and value of OCI, particularly for those of you in the middle and bottom of the class.

A myth often makes its way across the student body which says that OCI is only for those students at the top of the class. Like many myths, they begin with some truth. The truth in this case is that big law firms, who recruit 2Ls into a summer program, which often results in a $160,000 position after graduation, tend to target the top of the class (at most law schools they go to, not just Baylor). These firms do most, if not all, of their recruiting through the law school OCI process.

There are a couple of things for you to keep in perspective here: 1) we do our best to encourage employers to widen the pool of their prospective candidates, as well as recruit employers to participate who will generally have less restrictive criteria, and 2) we’ve had some success! So let’s look at the numbers.

I pulled the data from last year’s Fall OCI Program, Session I (which is going to be the most restrictive of our three programs). We had 61 employers register to participate, and of those there were a total of 26 whose stated hiring criteria were Top 25% preferred or higher (or 43%). Those employers open to students in the Top 26% - Top 50% totaled 21 (or 34%). That left 14 (or 23% of) employers with criteria below the Top 50% mark; in fact, many of those had no objective criteria listed at all.

Put the bottom two categories together and what do you have? 57% of the opportunities at 2014 Fall OCI Session I were open to those outside the top 25%. Not bad! Of course, those at the top of the class can bid for those same opportunities, and therefore still have an advantage. But that’s not something limited to OCI; that’s simply going to be the job market in general. Those with better credentials will have more opportunities. But that fact shouldn’t lead someone to the conclusion to pass on OCI; it should have the opposite effect. Any law student, and particularly those outside the top of the class, cannot leave any tool in the job search toolbox. You simply don’t have that luxury.

Finally, keep in mind that there are tremendous benefits to participating in OCI in addition to whether or not it leads directly to a job. Here are a few: 1) forcing you to get your application materials together and in good shape so you can respond quickly when job openings occur, 2) practicing your interviewing skills, 3) building your network and 4) getting to know us in the CDO and letting us get to know you.

Those benefits aside, in what other circumstance do you have 30-70 employers, with job opportunities, coming to you?! The answer is none. There simply is no more efficient use of your job searching time than participating in OCI. So my hope is when you begin to see information pertaining to Fall 2015 OCI in the next few weeks, you’ll listen to what we have to say, and ultimately decide to participate. You may not get your job directly through the program, but you could. And in either case it will be a fantastic use of your job searching time.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Summer Clerk at Wilson, Cribbs & Goren, P.C. (2L, Houston) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Texas Is The #2 Legal Job Market In America

Texas Is The #2 Legal Job Market In America

The National Jurist recently published its analysis of the best legal job markets in the United States. It grouped the states into regions (Texas is a region unto itself; California was divided into two regions), and analyzed the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) data pertaining to the ratio of jobs to graduating lawyers.

According to their analysis, Texas was the #2 best legal job market in America, trailing the Mountain Region (consisting of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) and coming in just ahead of Georgia.

The Texas market was summarized this way:

Booming oil production and a strong mining industry have made Texas one of the strongest economies in the nation, and that is driving legal employment. In addition to energy law, financial transactions and intellectual property are needed practice areas in the state. Houston leads the state in terms of number of jobs, followed by Dallas.

“There has been a real surge in mid-sized law firms [in Dallas],” (Charles, of Robert Half Legal) Volkert said. “They are leveraging against the higher price points of bigger firms. There is a demand in litigation, lease administration, financial and banking.”

That pretty well tracks with what I’ve been seeing and hearing from the employers I talk to. The market seems to be loosening up a little bit with each month that goes by, and we have reason to be cautiously optimistic.

However, we’re still nowhere near pre-recession hiring levels, and don’t expect to be anytime soon (if ever). So by optimistic, I simply (and only) want to convey that things appear to be getting better and not worse. The improvement is slow and muted, but it is there.

So is there bad news in this report? Potentially. Notice the reference to the growth in mid-sized law firms in Dallas. Many of these are off-shoots of big law firms, and are partner/experienced associate heavy. They tend (at least at their early stages) to not be interested in hiring new lawyers for a variety of reasons, and prefer to acquire talent in the lateral market. You can get into an employer like this, but it usually takes a very strong reference from someone they really respect.

I want to specifically highlight a combination of the practice areas mentioned in the summary, Intellectual Property Litigation. While IP is a hot field, few law students have the hard science background required from most employers (usually a B.S. in Electrical Engineering or Computer Science) to do patent prosecution (i.e. filing patents). However, that requirement is much more relaxed in the area of IP litigation. The Eastern District of Texas has long been a home for IP litigation nationwide. Companies from all over usually represented by out-of-state / “big city” counsel, file their claims here and often need local counsel to step in and represent them at trial. The District also recently filled a judicial seat which had been vacant for nearly three years, and that is expected to increase the work in that court, and hopefully, the need for attorneys.

The legal market in Texas is without question in better shape than most areas of the country. We will do all we can to help you take advantage of the opportunities that exist. As always please let us know how we can help you.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: (2) Associate positions with Carnahan Thomas (Southlake, 3L/Alumni) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Where Are All The Applications?

Where Are All The Applications?

A common thread in my visits with employers over the past couple of months has been they don’t get many applications from Baylor. Alternatively they might say they rarely get applications from Baylor, or get very few. Now, sometimes that’s because we’re a small school and they had fairly limiting hiring criteria. But just as often, there isn’t an obvious explanation. It’s these circumstances I want to analyze a bit deeper, and ask all of you what is going on. After all, these employers want to interview and potentially hire you! They recognize the value of a Baylor Lawyer and are looking for one; if only you would apply!

I went back and pulled the job postings for entry-level attorneys (i.e. not On-Campus Interviews) in Symplicity over the past year, limited to Dallas, Houston and Austin. There were 84 of them. The number of applicants for these positions might surprise you:

Applicants Positions
20 or more: 1 (25 candidates)
15-19: 2
10-14: 7
5-9: 15
1-4: 35
0: 24

What does this tell us? As a starting point, it tells us that at one or more points in the calendar, at least 25 candidates were in the market looking for work. So we can use that to provide context for the number of applications each position received.

What jumps out first to me is the 24 positions which received zero applications. To be fair, the job titles of those positions were mostly comprised of post-grad clerks and interns, or alternative jobs like consultant or trust officer. However, nine of the 24 were for actual attorney positions. Nine! And it’s not like we’re talking about getting to the end of the interview process and turning down the position after a full vetting; we’re talking about zero students even submitting their application and going on an interview. (Keep in mind this does not include positions in remote or rural areas, which often tend to have fewer applications. Just imagine if I had included those!)

When I take a closer look at the 35 positions with one to four applications, I have a much harder time figuring out the cause. These are mostly full-fledged attorney positions, many with small to mid-size firms (which is where a plurality, if not a majority, of students go). What is going on?

I could see in a booming market that students would be pickier, only applying for positions they have strong interest in (and perhaps the market has improved more than it appears in other metrics). But in today’s market that just isn’t a viable job search strategy for most candidates. This is particularly true when you consider that students applying for entry-level positions as 3Ls or alumni don’t have any time left on the clock. This isn’t a 1L or 2L situation, where the student can choose to take classes, maybe do some research for a professor, etc. if they don’t find exactly what they want to do (I don’t condone that strategy for those students either). It’s a critical time for the students in this potential applicant pool, and yet few are applying.

So here is a question to leave you with: when you’ve chosen not to apply for a job which you are qualified for, what has been the primary reason?

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Policy Analyst, Center for Effective Justice (Austin, Entry Level Attorney, 3L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Spring OCI Is Around The Corner

Spring OCI Is Around The Corner

Punxsutawney Phil may have seen his shadow last week, indicating six more weeks of winter. But Spring On-Campus Interviews wait for no groundhog’s approval. On March 2—6, employers from all over the state will descend upon the law school in search of their next intern, clerk or full-time attorney. My hope is this post will provide you the essential details you need to know (which you should know already if you’ve been reading the Monday email!), as well as some thoughts on how you can get the most out of this extremely useful job search tool.

Student (and Employer) registration continues this week, so if you’re still needing to register or to get a resume approved by Angela (both a requirement for participation), do so immediately. Once you are registered, you’ll have the ability in Symplicity to view each employer that is recruiting your class year. I can tell you that right now the breakdown of employers recruiting class years is:

1L: 11
2L: 13 (plus three through Resume Collection)
3L: 12 (plus three through Resume Collection)
Alumni: seven (plus one through Resume Collection)

Bidding (i.e. applying) will take place Monday, February 16th and Tuesday, February 17th. There is absolutely no extending the bidding past 11:59pm the night of the 17th. So my advice is to prepare all your application documents well in advance, load them into Symplicity, and have everything you need ready to go when the bidding window opens.

I strongly encourage you to research each of the employers recruiting your class year to determine whether you fit their hiring criteria, and whether it’s an employer you have at least some interest in. At this point in the process, it’s important to keep your options open and not narrow them too quickly. You’ll have the opportunity to do that after the first round of interviews.

Remember what we generally say about the 1L summer: it is a networking summer. So don’t worry as much about pay (many 1L opportunities are volunteer, with government, judges, etc.) and employer type, but do prioritize practice area, geographic location and opportunities to meet people. You want to leave the end of your 1L experience with multiple leads and contacts heading into Fall On-Campus Interviews and your 2L year in general.

It’s a bit tougher to give 2Ls general advice, because you’re each in such different positions at this point. If you don’t have any part of your summer filled yet (or one half with a volunteer/networking type job), you may want to prioritize those few opportunities with law firms, which pay, and could lead directly to a job. Those of you who already have a paying clerkship are looking for something in the other half of your summer, might want to pursue a networking type opportunity for the other half that could open up more doors should the other clerkship not yield a full-time offer.

3Ls and alumni have a great opportunity during Spring OCI, because these employers need someone full-time, today or very soon. There’s no guessing about whether a job awaits after a clerkship, and what the market might do in the intervening year. They have a need right now. That doesn’t mean you apply for everything, however. A common refrain from employers these days is they cannot stand the candidate who either directly or indirectly communicates that their interest in the firm is because they need a job. That’s simply not a good enough reason for them (though it may be for you). That’s why research, preparation and careful consideration of each opportunity is so important. You must figure out if you truly want the job, why, and then how you’re going to communicate that to the employer.

We have several video tutorials to help you to navigate Symplicity before and during OCI. I encourage you to take some time to watch these, and ask us any questions you still have. We hope you have a fun and productive OCI experience!

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: 2015 Summer Internship at U.S. District Court - Northern District of Texas - Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton (Fort Worth, 2L, 3L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Drown Out The Crickets

Drown Out The Crickets

It happened again. “Joe Smith.” (crickets). Each year about this time, our office gets together with faculty to go over each recent graduate still seeking employment. One by one we go through the list, allowing faculty who know the person well to share any information that might be used to help them get a job. Sometimes the news is the person has a job and we just didn’t know it…the best news!

Unfortunately, for too many of the graduates still seeking at this point in the cycle (to be clear, this would be the Nov13-August14 cohort), a very common response to hear is…nothing. They either don’t know you, or don’t know much about you other than remember you were in their class. Now, in the 1L classes where you might have 70 or more, it’s simply not realistic that each of you is going to have a close relationship with the professor. However, the reality is you could if you really wanted to. And in the classes of smaller size there really is no excuse.

Something we talk with you about in 1Q and 2Q meetings specifically, but throughout the job search process as well, is the importance of building your network. We emphasize that the large majority of you are going to get your job through a connection, a referral or some other person-to-person assistance rather than in response to an online job posting. One of the first circles of people we suggest you develop relationships with is your professors. Faculty members are constantly being contacted by potential employers asking for recommendations or what they know about a Baylor applicant. You want them to be able to communicate a positive message to that employer, but they simply can’t if they don’t know you or perhaps only know what grade you made in their class (even if it’s a very good grade!).

So regardless of whether you’ve recently graduated and are still looking for that first job, or you’re a 1L just trying to make it through another set of finals, make it a personal goal to pick a faculty member or two to build a relationship with. At first that might just mean going in for extra help once in a while or getting feedback on your exam. At some point it should definitely include offering to do research or work in that professor’s clinic. Over the course of time you should also be sharing what your goals are and where you’d like to work after law school.

You need to start working now to make sure that when the faculty member is asked about you, the crickets are drowned out by a clear and passionate message detailing the kind of person and worker you are, the opportunities you’re interested in, and/or why you’d be the best person for a particular job. How many of you can say right now that you know one professor who could do that for you? If so, great job and do the work to keep up that relationship! If the answer is no, go see one of your professors today.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: 2L Law Clerk at Foster, LLP (Austin, 2L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

How To Counter

How To Counter

Last week I talked about the infamous entry-level salary graph, and some issues surrounding it. I hinted at implications for negotiating and making counter-offers, but didn’t really get into it. That’s what I hope to accomplish here.

So you’ve interviewed for a position at a 12 attorney firm in Dallas which does mostly transactional work with small businesses (formation, employment, real estate, etc.). They made you an offer of $58,000; what do you do?

Let’s remember back to a couple of points I mentioned last time, and take another look at the salary graph.
2013 NALP Salary Chart
First, you really do have to take the $160,000 jobs out of the equation for determining the proper salary for most other types of positions. Certainly that would be the case in our example. When I run a back-of-the-napkin calculation on the mean salary without those outliers, it comes in around $63,000. That is very near the median salary (I come up with $60,000) with or without the $160ks. So it appears the offer is coming in just under both metrics.

Second, you need to consider the location, size and practice type as you evaluate the offer. A Dallas firm would likely trend higher than similar firms in other locations, though keep in mind when comparing using the national numbers as guides they are including employers in even more expensive cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Generally speaking Texas as a whole enjoys an overall lower cost of living, and you would expect to see salaries reflect that spread. A practice catering to small businesses could fall along a wide range of sophistication, and therefore demand higher or lower priced attorneys; so this is something you’d need to feel out in the interviews.

Let’s say you’ve objectively studied this and other data, and determined that you’d really like to get at least $63,000 for the position. What do you do? How do you counter? To start, keep in mind that if they’ve made you an offer, they like you. They want you. If you say no then they have to go to their second option, if they even have one. The fact they made the offer means you do have some leverage and ability to negotiate.

Before making your counter offer, however, I believe it’s important to let the employer know how thankful you are they selected you, how excited you are to get on board, and how committed you are to make it work. You want the job and they should know you want the job. Once that foundation is laid, make your counter. You might be tempted to counter at $68,000, thinking that you’ll meet in the middle at your target number. This might work in some circumstances, but there are two problems I see: 1) You should be able to back up why any number you suggest makes sense, and in our hypothetical I haven’t done that, and 2) $10,000 is a large percentage of the original offer, and could offend or shock. A counter like that may work in certain circumstances, but in this market and an employer like I’ve described, I would go a different route.

What about countering at $65,000? This still give you some room to get your number if the employer chooses to counter. It also is a smaller percentage of the original offer, which lessens the opportunity to offend or shock. Also, remember our graph? There were two peaks on the left-hand side: one at $50,000 and one at $65,000. Clearly this employer and position is more in the latter category, and you could use the graph to show where you got the number. You could even break out the actual means of near $80,000 to show you understand the market and that you’re not even asking near what the mean is, and that Dallas is an expensive market.

Maybe they’ll accept your offer, in which case you’re $2,000 better than you needed. Maybe they’ll counter, in which case most employers would at least get to $60,000. If that’s all they are willing to do, perhaps you can talk about performance based raises to get you to the number you need. I do think it would be rare for an employer to stick with their original offer and not negotiate at all, though you should be prepared for that scenario.

Each situation and negotiation is very different, so please don’t look to this as a broad brush which will work in every scenario. I just wanted to use a hypothetical to give you some of the things you ought to be thinking about. If you have specific questions, or even if you are in a negotiation and want our assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact Angela or me.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Internship in Clinical Ethics(MD Anderson, Houston, 1L and 2L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Mean Salaries Only Tell You So Much

Mean Salaries Only Tell You So Much

If you read this blog regularly or remember anything from programs I’ve led or spoken in over the years, you’ll be familiar with the infamous entry-level salary graph.

2013 NALP Salary Chart

It shows the percentage of entry-level attorneys earning various salaries. Usually the point I’m making when showing the graph is the large valley between the $160,000 peak (paid almost exclusively by large law firms) and the $60,000 peak (paid by everyone else), where it is very rare to find an entry-level salary between $85,000 and $155,000.

Today, however, the focus is on the peaks and the mean. I’ve heard from students quite a bit lately regarding offers, what is fair, what is unfair, how the offer compares to the mean and how to go about making a counter offer. Typically this arises when a firm offers a salary that is below the mean, and the candidate feels it is either unfair of offensive.

It is important to keep in mind that a mean is just an average, and if you look closely at the graph, it is an average of a wide variety of data points. The salary curve begins its upward trajectory at $20,000, meaning there is a least some reporting of entry-level attorney jobs paying that amount. It goes all the way to $160,000. You’ll notice that very few new attorneys are earning the mean of $82,000, somewhere around 3%.

What do we learn from this? First, it is a mistake to think you’re going to earn the mean salary; hardly anyone does. Even the adjusted mean of $78,000, which takes into account the relative underreporting of lower salary positions, is only earned by around 4% of new graduates. So while knowing the mean may be helpful in negotiating with your future employer, you should be aware that far more employers are paying $50,000 and $60,000 than they are anything other than $160,000.

We also have to keep in mind that a mean is not a floor. The very nature of a mean is that there are numbers on each side which create it. To take offense at any salary offer to the left of the mean would treat a mean like a salary floor, which it is not. A very large chunk of employers pay salaries below the mean, are doing it fairly, and are paying as much as they can afford and still stay in business. They realize that if you are a superstar, they are going to have to increase your pay over time or lose you to another employer.

I think that if you’re not in the running for a big law / $160,000 position, you almost have to eliminate that side of the graph when gauging what a reasonable salary offer is. Consider what the mean would be without the $160,000 salaries going to 17% of new attorneys. I haven’t seen numbers on this, but it would likely be much closer to the left-hand peaks of $50,000 and $60,000.

There are two important caveats to this issue: 1) some of you may well be able to find a position which pays in the valley (Intellectual Property attorney comes to mind), so don’t allow what I’m saying cause you to devalue yourself if you fit into a handful of unique categories, and 2) evaluate the employer based upon the its size, type and location. A mid-size firm in Dallas with large corporate clients will often be one of the above-the-mean employers. While a five-person Waxahachie personal injury firm will likely be of the below-the-mean variety. Note that you are the same person, candidate, etc. regardless of the employer, and yet you are going to get offered different amounts based upon the employer. That’s normal, okay and should be expected.

I hope this helps provide some perspective as you approach job offers now and in the future. I’ll address related issues in the near future, and if you have specific questions about this please let me know.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Briefing Attorney or Junior Staff Attorney (Thirteenth District Court of Appeals, Edinburg) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.



Q: I met an attorney over Christmas Break who said I should stay in touch with him. What is the best way to do that? How often should I contact him?

A: First of all, great work getting out there and expanding your network! You’ve done much of the hard work already. Staying in touch with your new connection is very important, for if you don’t follow up or wait too long, it’s possible (even likely) that you’ll fade from his memory. Something you could do right away is find him on LinkedIn, and if he’s listed there, establish a connection. Then over the next month, I would reach out with a simple, “enjoyed meeting you…appreciate you taking time to visit…hope to stay in touch.” This should be very short and not requiring anything of your new contact. You want to be low maintenance at this point; someone he enjoys hearing from and communicating with. Over the next six months, there are many ways to stay in touch that would be appropriate. Offer to take him to lunch or coffee. Shoot him a note when he or his firm wins a big case. Ask his advice on classes to take or activities to participate in. Big picture: focus on developing a relationship with the long-term in mind. Don’t worry if after two or three encounters he isn’t offering you a job; it may take years, if ever! But you’re not just building this relationship for the job it might bring you. You’re also building it for the mentorship he can provide you once you have a job, the client he might refer to you as you build your own book of business, etc. Building your network takes time and is hard work, but it sounds like you are well on your way. (Don’t forget we did a practical networking program in the fall addressing these and similar issues. You can watch the presentation and get the notes here).

Q: I really want to be in the courtroom, but am otherwise open to the type of law I want to practice. What is your advice?

A: You are right to look hard to find those opportunities that will truly get you into the courtroom early on in your career. There is a misconception that litigation means “in the courtroom” or “trial lawyer.” Now, certainly trial law would be considered litigation, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true. Litigation can mean many things for a young lawyer, depending on the employer: intake, document review, discovery requests, memos and/or briefs, just to name a few. None of these gets you in the courtroom. So if that’s the most important thing for you, be sure to look deeper than just “litigation.” All that said, here are some categories of firms/types of law that will generally offer courtroom experience earlier than most: 1) criminal, 2) family, 3) probate, 4) plaintiff’s firm, 5) trial boutique firm, 6) government agencies (administrative hearings) and 7) some civil defense firms (look closely at these to make sure).

I hope these were helpful! Please send in your questions so I can answer them in the next mailbag post.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Multiple Judicial Internships (Beaumont District Court, Houston 14th Court of Appeals, Corpus Christi 13th Court of Appeals) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Get In And Win

Get In And Win

Watching the new college football playoff has reminded me of something that my high school baseball coach used to say: “You gotta be good to get there and lucky to win it.” He was referring to the high school state tournament, but unfortunately we were never good enough to even try our luck. The college football playoff is similar, though I wouldn’t call anything I saw in either Ohio State or Oregon’s wins luck. They were the better teams that day.

What does this have to do with your job search and career? Think of it this way: all that you’ve done to build your resume to this point is similar to what Oregon and Ohio State did throughout their regular seasons. In fact, at selection time, football analysts often refer to a team’s “resume.” Much like those teams, your accomplishments (as indicated on your resume) and other application materials (e.g. cover letter, writing sample) are how you make your case to an employer to be invited to compete. Note that’s not how you get the job, or in Oregon or Ohio State’s case, win the championship. There’s still work to do for both of you toward those goals.

Here’s the important part. Once you’ve been invited to interview (i.e. compete), the resume and everything in it dramatically lessens in value. In the new college football playoff, the value drops to zero: win two games and you’re the champion, regardless of resume. In your job search, you should take a similar approach, even though the resume value probably hasn’t dropped all the way to zero. Assume that anyone being interviewed, including you, has an equal chance of getting the job.

This cuts both ways. You may feel confident in your resume and candidacy with some employers and not as much with others. But in either case your approach must be that you have the same chance to win the job as the next person, and they have as good a chance to win the job as you. This will cause you to shift your focus from you and your resume, to the employer and its needs.

So if the resume is no longer of (significant) value in the interview stage and the focus shifts to the employer, how do you win the interview? Through preparation. Each employer has different needs and structure and people and culture, and you must prepare and research to appeal to each. One employer may be looking for a dynamic personality who can bring in business and charm a jury, another may need someone to grind out discovery requests or pre-trial motions. What nearly all employers will want is someone who fits in with their culture and will be pleasant to work with.

Stand out in the interview as the person who is the best fit for the employer, and you will get the job most of the time, regardless of how your resume stacked up against the other candidates. That means going into the interview you should not be overconfident in your resume, nor should you be lacking confidence in what you perceive to be a resume that doesn’t quite cut it. Like Oregon and Ohio State, or Alabama and Florida State, each candidate is there for a reason and has a chance to win the day. Just do everything you can to make sure it’s you.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Entry Level Attorney - Personal Injury at Bergquist Law Firm in Houston, TX(3L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Networking Is All About The Follow-Up

Networking Is All About The Follow-Up

The Christmas holiday is coming, and many of you will (and/or should) be making connections while you’re away from campus. I want to go ahead and plant a seed in your mind right now to create a system whereby you will be able to stay in touch with these new or recurring contacts over the following months and years.

There’s no question that just making that first call, sending that first email or initiating with any new contact is one of the most difficult things to do. If you’ve done that, or do it over the upcoming break, you're off to a great start! However, you do yourself and the work you did to make that connection a great disservice if you don’t follow up and maintain that relationship.

I referenced the example in my networking program last month (Story here, and now includes link to video of the full presentation) about the farmer sowing seeds, and how there is a lot of time, work and patience that occurs between the planting and the harvest. We didn’t get into detail about that in-between time, but this is the follow-up. If you don’t maintain the relationship, it will die out, much like a seed that goes without water. When that happens, the initial meeting that you worked so hard to get will be the high point. You don’t want that.

So what do you do after the initial meeting or contact? First, get organized. You need to have some method of tracking when the last time was you communicated with the person, what the content of that conversation was, and when you should reach back out. There isn’t a shortage of ways to do this, from hand-written notes in your planner, to Excel, to more sophisticated sales/customer-relationship-management software. They all are tools to help with the same objective: develop, maintain and improve relationships.

You also need to think about what you bring to this relationship. Sure, there are plenty of attorneys who will get personal satisfaction simply by helping or mentoring a law student. However for some, that won’t be enough (or a benefit at all). What can you do to add value and make it worth their time? Remember this is a relationship, not a one-way-street where they are the giver and you are the receiver. Sure, at this point you might stand to gain more from the relationship than they do. But it won’t be that way forever, and even now there are ways you can reciprocate the generosity they bestow on you.

How about offering to help them in some way? This doesn’t always have to take the form of a (paid) clerkship. Most attorneys do pro-bono work, and perhaps could use someone to help here and there on a volunteer basis. Or perhaps you’re knowledgeable in some area they are not, such as web design or social media. You could offer to help them with their website or write their social media content. Of course you need to be smart about how you present this; some people may not respond well to feeling like you’re calling their website a disaster. But you get my point; offering to help is a great way to add value to the relationship.

Another approach which you should be mixing in with everyone, is just communicating without asking anything at all of them. Send emails or notes just to check in and ask about their family. It's best to end these communications with no requirement or expectation at all on the other person to respond. Notice the difference between “I hope you’re doing well” and “let me know how you’re doing.” While there is a time and place for the second version, the first is great because it doesn’t place the person in the position of feeling rude if they don’t respond.

There is obviously so much more I could (and will) say on this topic. But for now, hopefully you see the importance of maintaining and cultivating these new relationships, and now have a few ideas on how to go about it.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Summer Internship with the U.S. Department of Justice in Oakdale, LA(1L, 2L, 3L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Make It All About The Employer

Make It All About The Employer

Over the past few weeks, I’ve encountered an issue from employers that I think warrants discussion here. It’s the idea that job candidates tend to present themselves in cover letters and interviews as wanting the job because of what it will do for them, rather than how hiring them will bring value to the employer.

Let’s compare a couple of examples:

1) “I am interested in Education Law and a former teacher, and this would be a great opportunity for me to get experience in this area I am passionate about.” and,

2) “I am interested in Education Law, and my teaching experience helped me develop strong communication skills and a deep knowledge of the relevant issues that make me uniquely qualified for this position.”

The first example represents what the employers brought to my attention. It may seem harmless, but the focus on you raises a concern for employers who consider the millennial generation to be self-absorbed and more interested in their warped idea of work-life balance than the well-being of their employer (their words not mine). It also does nothing to make the employer aware of your skills and abilities, nor why the employer should find them valuable.

The second example, on the other hand, takes a completely different tack. It begins the same by expressing interest in the practice area, but then goes on describe the candidate’s experience and acquired skills. It says nothing about the benefit the candidate will receive if she gets the position, but rather what the employer stands to gain if she is brought on board (and conversely what the employer will miss out on if they don’t hire her).

The idea of spelling out for an employer what skills have been acquired through experiences is not well understood, nor is its importance. During a mock interview I’ll sometimes learn about an experience someone had prior to law school that is really fantastic, such as being a teacher, but they will fail to show me what skills they therefore possess and how that will translate into making my (the employer’s) life better. While I think I know some of the skill sets teachers bring to the table, I certainly don’t know them all, and I definitely don’t know this specific teacher’s strengths. Most employers will be in the same position. So it’s critical that the teacher/candidate communicates what skills she developed as a teacher, as well as how those skills translate into the legal world for that specific employer.

Aside from the practical benefits of approaching cover letters and interviews from the employer’s perspective rather than your own (i.e. using example two rather than example one), you will also set yourself apart from the vast numbers of candidates applying for jobs. I’ve talked before about looking for ways to stand out in a positive way, and this is a perfect example of how to do that.

So as you are writing cover letters and preparing to answer interview questions, take some time to consider what is it the employer needs from me? What value do I bring to them? How can I demonstrate that I have the skills/experience/personality/work ethic necessary to benefit them? Ask these questions, make it all about the employer, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your odds of moving forward in the hiring process.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Summer Clerk at Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody in Austin(1L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Build And Work Your Networking Plan

Build And Work Your Networking Plan

Last week, I gave a presentation titled “Build and Work Your Networking Plan.” Some of you attended, which I truly appreciate. For those who didn’t, I wanted to at least summarize here what I covered, and you can also watch the video here.

The goal of this presentation was to be very practical, and give you some tools to use as you take action steps. You might recall from our quarter-by-quarter job searching plan that we suggest you add 3-6 new people to your network each quarter. This was and is meant to help you do that.

I began by laying out four different types of potential sources for adding / developing your network of contacts. The first was your personal list (family, friends), which we further subdivided into those with connection to the legal industry (likely the minority) and then those without (likely the majority). We also discussed how to leverage those contacts into more (and more helpful) contacts.

The second type is a group of contacts that come from using your job search criteria (e.g. practice area, geographic preference) to locate employers and then contacts that would make sense to reach out to. There are numerous employer search tools to begin the process, but then it will be helpful to have our office (where applicable) provide a specific contact at that employer, and/or an introduction, so it’s not a “cold call.” There will likely be some that you’ll need to reach out to without a connection, but even in those circumstances you may be able to find a Baylor alum at the employer who will be more receptive than others.

The third type is to attend law school facilitated opportunities and meet guest speakers/presenters/volunteers/etc. Every quarter, between our office, student activities, faculty and others on campus, there are numerous events which bring guests from the legal field right to you. The alumni networks also put on events in cities around Texas you have the ability to attend. What easier and better way to meet new people and build your network?

The fourth and final type we discussed was other organization events and activities. Examples were local and state bar association events, other professional organizations such as the NAPE Conference for those interested in oil/gas, volunteer organizations of any sort and law firms themselves (e.g. 1L holiday parties).

Note that of these four types of contact sources, only one (the personal list) begins with people you already know. The other three require you to initiate with new people and develop relationships with them from scratch. The remainder of my presentation walked through how to do that. We discussed how to set up appointments and how to conduct them, how to cultivate these new relationships, and then when the time is right, how to inquire about employment opportunities.

I’ll conclude this summary with something that I both began and ended the presentation with. Networking is work; work that pays dividends later rather than immediately. The example I gave was a farmer growing a crop. (Not that I would know first-hand) There is a lot of hard work that goes into planting the seed, watering, providing proper soil, removing weeds/pests/etc. Only after all that and months of time does the harvest come. Networking is very similar. And to those who say “it’s too much work without any guarantee of a job,” I would simply say the only guarantee is that without networking there is a guarantee that you won’t add to your network. That also guarantees none of those potential contacts can/will help in your job search, in addition to the long-term harm of not having those professional relationships. So commit to the work, don’t get discouraged when it feels like nothing is happening, and know that there is a harvest down the line.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Verizon Legal Department Summer Intern(1L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Getting The Interview Part III: Don't Wait And See

Getting The Interview Part III: Don't Wait And See

In Part I of this series, we talked about how to put yourself in the best position to get an interview before you even apply. Then, in Part II we discussed how to leverage your application documents for the best chance at success. In this final part of the series, we’ll address the “wait and see” period that comes after you’ve applied and before you’ve heard anything back from the employer.

So what can you do during this anxious time when it often seems there’s nothing you can do but wait? If we’re talking about dropping resumes during OCI, then you’re going to be pretty limited due to time constraints and the process in place. It should also be noted that no two circumstances are alike, and you are required to use judgment in how you approach each one. All that said, here are few actions you can take after applying to a more typical job posting:

  1. Contact/follow up with the employer directly.

    (a) If the application process is through a third party facilitator (Symplicity; State Bar), you could reach out to the firm directly just to confirm they received your application (be sure to watch out for postings which say no direct inquiries and abide by their wishes). This little gesture can do two positive things: showcase your diligence and make your name recognizable when they review the applications.

    (b) If it’s been two or three weeks since the application deadline and you haven’t heard anything, it’s entirely appropriate to follow up, reiterate your interest, and check in on their progress. If you don’t hear anything, wait another couple of weeks and then try again.

    (c) If you have a connection with the employer or if our office can provide one for you, it may not too late to reach out and do an informational interview with that contact.

  2. Have someone else contact the employer on your behalf (this of course presumes you’ve taken our advice and created a network of advocates who would be willing to do this). A reference / vote of confidence from a former employer, faculty member or other credible connection can go a long way. This could come in the form of a letter, email or even a phone call (the best in my opinion), and would simply involve the advocate telling the potential employer the reasons why you would be an outstanding employee, and should be given serious consideration. You do have to think strategically here for a number of reasons:

    (a) When it comes to the majority of the people you would have make this call, you wouldn’t want to ask them a bunch of times in a short time-frame. So for those types, getting a generic reference letter that can be used multiple times would be advisable. And then only for the positions you want the most or feel you have the best shot at would you ask them to make a direct plea to the employer.

    (b) You’re going to want to save some references to be used after the interview but before the hiring decision is made. In fact, I would almost always save direct calls from my best advocates for this phase.

  3. Target your networking. Find out where representatives of the employer are likely to be in the coming days/weeks (CLE, Bar event, etc.) and show up and meet them. Don’t forget to go up, meet the employer representative and mention that you are a candidate for the open position. What better way to indicate your interest in the practice area and the employer by doing all you can to get to know them better.

There you have it. I hope this series on Getting The Interview has been helpful. I know we’ll continue to revisit the topic in the future, as there is plenty more I could say about it. In the meantime, please let me know if you have questions or would like to talk through this issue in more detail.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Session Administrative Clerk at Texas House of Representatives - House Research Organization(1L/2L/3L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Getting The Interview Part II: Leveraging Your Documents

Getting The Interview Part II: Leveraging Your Documents

If you’ll recall where we left off two weeks ago, we were using an example of a 35 attorney Houston law firm hiring an entry-level attorney. I made the point that if nobody at the firm knows you at the time of the posting, either through an informational interview, clerkship or some other prior relationship, you’re likely starting off behind to someone they do know (not always, but you won’t know for sure so just assume there is a known candidate(s)).

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get an interview or even the job. It does mean you’ll need to work a bit harder and really make it clear the rest of the way that you’re the right person for the job. How do you do that? By what I’m going to call leveraging your application documents. Meaning you have to get the absolute most out of your resume (for sure), cover letter (probably) and writing sample (maybe). Let’s talk about the resume and cover letter.

Your resume is going to be the one document you can feel pretty good is going to at least get a cursory look from someone. It may not be the hiring attorney/manager during the first round of screening, and the person reviewing it may not read the whole thing. But in most cases it’s going to be seen. So how do you get the most out of your resume? At a minimum, meet with Angela and get her approval before you submit your resume to anyone. But go beyond that. For each employer (or perhaps during OCI each category of employer), give serious thought to how you might tweak your resume to appeal more to that employer. For example, you might detail out your job experience at an accounting firm prior to law school if the employer is hiring for a tax attorney. If, however, the employer is hiring a trial lawyer, you may list that accounting firm as just one bullet, and then add several other lines of information that highlight your advocacy skills (e.g. awards, college debate, etc.).

You can (and should) do the same type of personalization with your cover letter, catering it each employer. And remember, the cover letter isn’t your resume in narrative form. It’s your opportunity sell the employer on who you are and why you want to work for them. In many ways the cover letter is a “do no harm” document, meaning it more often eliminates candidates than elevates them. I would label it a “do no harm plus” document. It’s important to make zero mistakes and not eliminate yourself, but you also need to make a positive impression and stand out above the crowd. Imagine the employer placing candidates in three categories based on the cover letter: 1) eliminated, 2) not eliminated / consider further and 3) interesting and excited to know more. Which bucket do you want to be in? You get to #3 by demonstrating your knowledge about the employer, your sincere desire to work for them and your best argument for why your skills, abilities, etc. fit with what the employer is trying to achieve. Do your cover letters accomplish that?

Hopefully you’ve put yourself in position, through your pre-application efforts (Part I) and by leveraging your documents, to be strongly considered for an interview. But we’re not quite done. In the final part of this series, we’ll talk about what happens after you’ve submitted your documents, and what you can do to increase your chances during this apparent “all you can do is wait” period.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Litigation Clerkship Program at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, AZ (2L/3L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

Getting The Interview Part 1: It Starts Now

Getting The Interview Part 1: It Starts Now

We’ve been gathering and listening to feedback over the past few months about topics you’d like me to address in the blog, and one that has come up regularly is what I would call “getting the interview.” It was pointed out that a number of my posts focus on what to do in the interview or afterward, so I’ll attempt to balance that out moving forward starting today.

How do you get the interview? The answer is the lawyer's favorite: it depends. It depends first of all on the type of job. If we’re talking about a big law firm coming to interview at OCI for 2Ls, then the answer is simply to make good grades. But it becomes more complicated when you start talking about smaller firms, government or other employers, which may place less importance on grades and evaluate your candidacy in a broader fashion.

Let’s use a hypothetical example of a 35 attorney Houston law firm which has posted a job on Symplicity for an entry level lawyer. Their criteria are top 50% preferred, interest in litigation and strong desire to be in Houston. How do you get an interview for this job?

If this is the first time you’ve heard of or interacted with the firm, you’re unfortunately already a step behind, and may have missed your first opportunity to land the interview. What am I talking about? Did this firm have a student clerking for them over the past two years? Was that you? If not, did you try to clerk with them? At the point the firm is posting a position like this, a student who clerked or applied to clerk would have a slight to moderate advantage over someone they don’t know except on paper.

Similarly, a group of students interested in this position likely would have had some interaction with an attorney in the firm prior to applying for the job. This may have been in the form of an informational interview, attending an attorney’s presentation at a local bar meeting or on campus and visiting with them after, or perhaps interacting with them while working for another firm. These students would also have a slight to moderate advantage over someone they don’t know.

Why do I start with these points? Because for anyone reading this, including 1Ls and 2Ls, you need to understand that with every contact you make and every internships/clerkship you do or even apply for, you are laying the ground work to get interviews months or years later.

In today’s market which still heavily favors the employers, stacks of resumes are quickly whittled down based largely on two factors: 1) grades/credentials and 2) familiarity/who knows you. You have some control over the first but total control over the second. We’re going to have a CDO session on networking on November 24th that I’m going to conduct. If this is an area that you struggle with or want to understand better, I strongly encourage you to attend.

In the coming weeks we’ll continue this hypothetical job posting by taking a look at how to use your connections to get the interview, as well as what to do when you don't have any connection to the employer prior to applying. So stay tuned!

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Associate Attorney at Harrell Pailet & Associates in Dallas (3L/Alumni) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

2014 OCI Employer Feedback

OCI Employer Feedback

If you participated in On-Campus Interviews over the past few months, you were probably asked to provide our office with feedback about the experience. What you may not know is that we similarly ask employers to provide their feedback as well. I want to share some of the general themes with you today, both on the positive and negative side. Hopefully you’ll find it beneficial moving forward with future interviews.

The good news is that overall, employers were very pleased and impressed with you and their experience. We posed three questions which simply asked them to choose a response, ranging from Very Good to Very Poor. Here were the results:
  1. How were the logistics of the program? Very Good – 37; Good – 2; Fair/Poor/Very Poor – 0

  2. How did the candidates present themselves? Very good – 29; Good – 9; Fair – 1; Poor/Very Poor – 0

  3. How would you rate the preparedness of the candidates?
    Very Good – 29; Good – 10; Fair/Poor/Very Poor – 0

After these three questions, we asked the following open-ended question: How can students improve their application documents and/or interview preparedness? This question solicited a range of responses as you might imagine. But here are the ones that were the most common or that jumped out to me.
  1. I was very pleased with the students level of preparedness (5)

  2. Some interviewees did not research the firm or interviewers (3)

  3. Some resumes were not well formatted / formatted strange (2)

  4. Candidates should be prepared to carry the conversation if there is an awkward lull.

  5. Every candidate…had spent sufficient time on firm website to ask specific and thoughtful questions.

  6. Proofread cover letters.

Let’s talk about these. I’m going to group numbers one, two and five together as employer research / interview preparedness. We talk about this quite a bit in programs leading up to OCI as well as in my own blog posts, but it is clear that when students are prepared and have researched the employers, it is noticed. On the flip side and when they don’t, employers notice that too. We cannot overstate the importance of researching both the employers and, if possible, the interviewers themselves.

Response four is one that doesn’t get mentioned as often, but I think it’s more because the employer has trouble articulating the critique rather than a sign it’s not as important. What they are saying is you cannot simply be a robot in the interview, responding only when questioned and only providing the bare minimum answer. I see this some when doing mock interviews, and it is a painful experience that can easily make you memorable for the wrong reason. Responses to interview questions should be direct and answer the question, but also packaged with examples, anecdotes or experiences illustrating and providing evidence for the answer. At other points in the interview (i.e. when not responding to a direct question but there is a lull), ask questions of the interviewers that demonstrate your knowledge of the employer and/or gets them talking about their own experience.

Lastly, feedback three and six refer to mistakes which should simply never happen because they are so preventable. Cover letters continue to be a place where candidates make critical errors which, if they had just had someone else proofread them, would have been identified and corrected. Please take the time to do this going forward! This includes making sure the cover letter is addressed to the correct person, and they are addressed appropriately (i.e. Ms., Mr.). Regarding resume formatting, the reference here is a viewing/printing/possibly Symplicity issue. Symplicity is known to wreak havoc with your Word documents, so my advice is to always save all your documents into a PDF FIRST, and then upload to Symplicity. If you insist on uploading other document types, be sure to go back, open them up, and make sure Symplicity maintained your formatting. I would even print them out to make sure nothing is lost in translation from the screen a piece of paper.

I hope you will find this feedback helpful moving forward, and if you have any questions at all about these or any other OCI/employer matters please let me know.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Ethics Research Internship at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston (2L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

What Does Social Media Have To Do With Networking?

What Does Social Media Have To Do With Networking?

Last week we heard from social media guru Amanda Ellis, who presented a wide range of issues and practical suggestions for how a law student and/or lawyer can best utilize this still-emerging tool. I wanted to provide some highlights I took away from the presentation, as well as put it in context of my own social media advice, and the broader issue of networking I’m going to present in an event next quarter.

Ms. Ellis spent most of her time discussing LinkedIn and Twitter, where more users approach their platforms from a professional perspective. She and I agree it really is essential for you to have a LinkedIn profile that is substantial and impressive. A key advantage of Linkedin is once you get your profile built, you can pretty well just let it sit there and it can be effective. If you want to take it a step further you can join groups and engage other group members in conversation. Recently added is a feature where you can use LinkedIn as a platform to write your own blog posts.

So what are some practical tips for LinkedIn? If all you do is connect with each new person you meet who also has a LinkedIn profile, you’ll be ahead of the game. It’s such an easy way to follow up with someone after a meeting or encounter, and even if the person doesn’t respond or accept your invitation (which could happen), it is an appropriate way to reach out and does make a positive impression. There is a default message which accompanies the invitation that’s fine to use with people you know well. As Ms. Ellis mentioned, however, connecting with people you just met or barely know probably requires tweaking that message to make it more personal.

If you just want to keep up with someone or read their content on LinkedIn, you’re permitted to “follow” them much like you would follow someone on Twitter. This doesn’t require any action from the person being followed, and is another appropriate way to connect with someone you don’t or barely know.

Twitter, I would argue, is not as essential as LinkedIn. Employers aren’t scouring the web looking for your Twitter profile the way they are with LinkedIn. And if they are, it’s to find something disqualifying about you rather than qualifying. Twitter also requires you to be somewhat active if you’re really going to use it to advance your personal brand and authority in a subject. You can certainly use it as a news service and build lists to follow certain people (which I definitely recommend) and remain informed, but this won’t gain you followers or help you build credibility.

Ms. Ellis also had some good recommendations for third party resources to assist you with building and protecting your social media presence: 1), 2) and 3) Newsle is a website which allows you to get news alerts for anyone in your network. Followerwonk helps you identify your Twitter audience as well as identify other Twitter users in your field. Finally is a website which searches your Facebook profile for potentially damaging images/status updates/likes you’d like to clean up.

“How does any of this help me with my job search?” you might ask. It’s simple: using social media as we’re discussing it here is nothing more than networking, moved online. And as we’ve said time and again, the majority of you will get your first job through some type of personal referral or networking connection. I know you don’t want to hear that; but the fact you don’t want to hear it doesn’t make it any less true.

On November 24th, I’m going to lead a discussion on the topic of networking. We’re going to tackle all the objections to it head-on, with the goal of you coming away with practical steps you can take to increase your professional network in a steady, effective manner. I encourage you to attend, and in the meantime I would love to hear what questions you have about networking so I can include them in my presentation and/or discussion.

Whether it’s through new methods like social media, or old ones like going to a happy hour, networking is still a major source of not only jobs, but referrals of all kinds that will benefit you long after you’ve left law school. I look forward to continuing this conversation over the coming months.

Connect with Daniel at and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter.

Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week's job is: Prosecution Internship with the Williamson County District Attorney's Office(2L, 3L) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

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