law school

Those of you who don’t work in the legal field may not be familiar with AboveTheLaw, a law gossip website. (I know! Dorkitude at its finest! I also read a Supreme Court watch blog!  I am too cool for words!)

Anyway, ATL used to be largely a place where lawyer-on-lawyer weddings were reported, and where law firm sex scandals first broke, or where you could hear the best stories about summer associates getting wasted and doing stupid things.   These days, though, ATL is widely-read by people looking for news of the latest round of lawyer layoffs. While there are doubtless many people who take some pleasure in watching pompous BigLaw associates tumble, I derive no joy from this news.  These are my friends (some of them), and losing your job sucks no matter what your industry.

But it’s not just layoffs.  Many firms are delaying start dates for their incoming class of associates, and this has led to some interesting new developments.  As this story and others explain, many firms are offering their incoming associates substantial sums of money – $5000 a month from some firms, others $75,000 a year – to go work for a non-profit. It’s not quite the $160,000 they’d have made as first year BigLaw associates, but it’s nothing to scoff at.

On the one hand, I think this is great.  Non-profit legal agencies are chronically underfunded, and in times like these the need for their services is even greater.  Programs like this essentially give these agencies much-needed help for free.  Win-win.

On the other hand, and I don’t want to be a total grouch about this, I feel a little miffed.  Getting a non-profit legal job out of law school in ordinary times is hard, often way harder than getting a firm job.  In tough economic times its even harder.  I worked my ass off to get my job, and I know several excellent public service-minded lawyers who struggled even harder than I did in the job market.  It’s hard not to feel a little grumpy that these BigLaw associates, some of whom initially turned up their noses at doing poverty work, are now getting paid (literally) twice as much as I am to do it while they wait for their firm position to open up.

But that’s not the point of this post.  The point of this post is to provide a very few quick tips for any laid-off or deferred law firm associate types who may suddenly find themselves on the public interest job market.  I’ve seen a couple of these resumes already, I will doubtless see more, and I can already identify some mistakes that I’ve seen multiple people make.

Pseudo’s hot tips for lawyers who suddenly find themselves on the non-profit job market:

1. You should probably be able to say why you want to work here beyond “my firm is paying me if I can find some non-profit work.”  We like free labor, we do, but we’d like to see some indication that you are actually at least kinda sorta interested in the work we do.  You don’t need to have lots of experience in public interest (though that’s a huge plus), but you do need to show that you’re interested in learning and doing a good job with the kind of work we do.  If you aren’t, it’s not really worth it for us to bring you on board, free or not.

2. Don’t tell us the name of the fancypants designer who made your suit.  And probably leave the Tiffany cufflinks at home.

3.   Actually, there is no 3.

Really, that’s it!  Seriously!  Not many tips, but you’d be amazed how many people blow it on #1. Please think about the story you want to tell us before you send us your stuff!  Find a way to explain how the corporate for-profit work you’ve done has given you skills that will help us and our clients.  Please don’t just assume that we’ll be grateful to have such a stellar former BigLaw candidate as yourself offering to help out.  Non-profits are often small, people skills matter, and we want to believe you’re not going to be a total pain in the ass to work with.

Good luck out there.


A note to any employers out there considering legal action against former employees:  before you send a letter threatening to sue your former employees for allegedly possessing company information that is only accessible to current employees, which they should have given back when they left the company, you should probably make sure that they are, in fact, former employees.  When 2 minutes of research reveals that they are actually current employees whose contracts do not expire until September, and you have taken no action to fire them, it makes it awfully easy to rebut your allegation.

This helpful tip brought to you by the “No Shit, Sherlock” department of Lawyer & Counsel, LLP.

I was sworn in as a real lawyer by the Supreme Court of Illinois this week.   With about 1500 other people.

Because there were so many of us, they convened the court in a huge basketball arena to get all of us done at once.  If you have never been in full business dress in a basketball arena, you’re really missing out.  The slightly sticky floor of the concession area feels really awesome in heels.

During the ceremony, there were speeches.  They were predictably awful.  One man from a bar association misquoted Robert Frost and then commended us for taking “the road less traveled.”  (Perhaps he missed the earlier speaker who announcing the record number of people getting sworn in that day.)  Another speaker told us that good lawyers are like ducks- smooth on the surface, but paddling like hell underneath.  (Polite laughter.)  A third pointed out someone who had overcome a major disability to become a lawyer. Didn’t tell any of her story, really, just said “look! this person with a disability became a lawyer!” (Polite applause.)  Then we all stood up, raised our right hands, and repeated the oath after the judge (mumbled, really- the sound system wasn’t great and I couldn’t actually hear all the words I was being asked to repeat.)

Then we filed out, scattered to find the table where our last name was in the alphabetical listings, and collected our certificates.  And we are lawyers.  So if you need legal advice, you can, technically, come to me.

So I passed the bar. Whee!

I actually found out on Monday, sort of.  But that was just an online list of the seat numbers of people who passed, so it didn’t quite feel real yet.

Then, on Wednesday, I got the letter in the mail saying I had passed.  Except the letter also said that I had not passed the character and fitness evaluation yet, so I was not yet cleared for admission and maybe I should call this number to sort that out?  So it didn’t quite feel real yet.

Finally, yesterday, a letter came in the mail informing me that I had cleared character and fitness and I had now officially satisfied all requirements for admission to the bar.

And yet somehow, it doesn’t quite feel real.  Maybe because my boss, when I said “hey! I’m a lawyer now!” said to me “you graduated law school and passed the bar, but that doesn’t make you a lawyer.  You’re not a lawyer.  Talk to me in ten years.  Maybe then you’ll have the experience to be called a lawyer.”

I say eff that.  From now on, I respectfully request that you address all correspondence to Pseudostoops, Esq.

Words I should probably learn how to spell without the help of Word’s auto-correct function, before Tuesday’s essay exam:







Words that Word’s auto-correct function actually auto-screws up, because only lawyers think they are real words:

– indorsement

– obligee

– pro quod


(Am I the only 12 year old in the room who giggles a little whenever someone says “factum”?  It just *sounds* naughty, doesn’t it?)

I was invited to join an academic society when I graduated from law school.

“Cool!” I thought.

“Pay us twenty-five dollars for membership!” said school.

“Pbthffffft to that,” I thought.

“Come on!  You never get invited to do stuff like this!  It’s an honor! Do it!” said John.

“Come on!  It’s an honor!  I’m your mother! I never see you get honored.  Do it for me!”  said Mom.

“Did we mention that for your $25 you get a premium membership certificate and a lovely booklet describing the academic society’s history and purpose, which makes a lovely souvenir?” said school.

“Fine,” I said, “here is my twenty-five dollars.”

My “premium membership certificate” and “lovely booklet” arrived in the mail today.  For twenty-five dollars, I am now the proud owner of a cheap paper printout with my name spelled incorrectly and a tri-fold pamphlet printed on card stock printed in font so small it is impossible to read.

I want my twenty-five dollars back.

Dear chirpy blonde lady who is an “independent contractor” hired by BarBri to come and talk us through the practice exam we all failed, who insists that the BarBri paced program is “not tough enough” and if we really want to pass we should pretty much kiss our friends and families goodbye now and plan on not seeing anyone again until August:

Bite Me.



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