Legal Job Search: cover letter and resume tips

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Personally, I feel that a cover letter is more important that resume. First of all, you can change a cover letter. There is not much you can do to a resume except make cosmetic changes. You can’t go back and work an extra summer or add an internship that did not happen.

However, you can make substantive changes to your cover letter.

One common mistake and one tip about resumes:

Most people stop after a recitation of the duties of the job performed. Yes, that gives me some idea about your skills. However, it also screams, “I did the job I was given!” Well, I certainly hope so. That just says, “I wasn’t fired for being incompetent.” Again, I certainly hope not.

What I am getting at is a recitation of duties is setting the bar at about,  oh,  shin level.

I recommend splitting up the description into for every job in the “Experience” section into “Duties” (this is where your recitation goes) and “Noteworthy.” Here is where you add how you reorganized the office categorization process to reduce processing by 20%. Think 6 Million Dollar Man (is that too dated a reference?): how did you make things better, stronger, faster? Yes, I know you did the job. What did you accomplish that is noteworthy? Did you exceed expectations? Did you go beyond your duties?

Ok, cover letters. How do you pick out a cake? Imagine going into Whole Foods and going to bakery section. They have fruit topped cases, ones with multi-colored chocolate shavings. It’s like an amazing party right-there-on-the-cake! What kind of cake it is, is a consideration, but come-on, you’re picking the pretty one.

Your cover letter is the decoration on the cake. It’s that important in getting selected.

The resume, that’s the cake underneath. Now I’m going to mix up the metaphors. I am asked to review a quite a few resumes. Well, a resume is a tool like a screwdriver. You’re asking to me to tell you is it a good enough screwdriver? Well, I don’t know! What do you want to use it for? That’s where the cover letter comes in! A cover letter says what you to do with your screwdriver.

  • What kind of job do you want?
  • What do you like about the firm your are contacting?
  • Why you feel you could do for the firm?
  • What sets you apart?
  • What are your passions and goals and how those fit in with working at the firm.
Then you end with a “let’s meet!” Not literally, but I am sure you already know how to request either a call or a meeting with the office so you can shine in person.
Passions? Goals? I just want to be the perfect drone!

Yeah… that’s how a lot of interviews come across. Let me tell you, if you want a job. You have to be someone. You have to want things, you have to be interested in and passionate about things. Everyone is the hero of their own narrative. Yes, I know you are. But what you miss is that the person interviewing you for the firm is also the hero of his/her story too. Part of their story is are the heroic things their firm is going to do (while hopefully make a nice amount of money).

Pitfall: what they don’t want is someone who tells them, “personal injury is my passion, even when I was little I went up to the parks office after my brother scraped his knee on the playground and shouted ‘I’ll sue!’ ” Actually, that’s pretty good. Usually, though, sucking up is pretty transparent because it is inauthentic.

The person you are interviewing with is looking for heroes. Not necessarily another Superman. But you may be able to show them that they really need an Aquaman on their team. That takes passion and believing in things. You can’t just be the person who scrubs tanks at the aquarium.

So, cakes, screwdrivers and superheroes: stand out using your cover letter, tell the employer why you choose them and what you can do, and show them why you are a hero!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Waponi

Legal job search mistake: hiding behind your resume

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I was recently asked to review a new lawyer’s resume. I wrote back to the new attorney and offered to set up a meeting at my office to go over the resume and the lawyer’s cover letter. The timing of the meeting did not work out. However, instead of trying to reschedule, here is the response I got back:

Thank you for agreeing to review my resume. I am working full time for another week at a seasonal position, and then will be out of town for several weeks. Also I see that your office is on Colorado Springs, and I am in Denver. Despite these scheduling problems, I would still like to have your feedback on my resume. Is there a way we could review it electronically? For example, you could use the Word “track changes” feature to show your edits. Old fashioned paper and pen would be fine as well. Please let me know your thoughts.

I get the importance of making your current employment a priority. It shows loyalty which is a trait all employers want. And sure, I don’t expect you to change your travel plans. But, “send me your revisions”? I am not reviewing your resume to see if your spelling is correct or if you are using active verbs. Your law school career services office can do that.

I want to do a meeting to see if the resume, and even more importantly, your cover letter, conveys your strengths and individuality. Does it capture who you are and why you should be at the top of your prospective employers pile of applicants? Your resume is not is applying for a job, you are.

I consider trying to suss out what makes a person valuable and original to an employer, something worth showing up for. As someone out of law school for more than a decade, and who looks at resumes from an employer’s perspective, I can provide insight.

Also, I prefer to do an in person meeting because we can communicate faster and, hell, we can do revisions during the meeting. I like techie stuff as much as the next uber-geeky lawyer. However, I do not feel we can get as much done, or done as well, by swapping revisions.

Plus, you’re looking for a job and you don’t want to make another connection in the legal community? Really? Even you if you are only looking for work in the city you live in, you never know where a job lead, or introduction, will come from.

So, the next time you want help with your job search and someone wants to meet with you, JUMP AT THE CHANCE!

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

Creative Commons License photo credit: nasrulekram

Gmail phishing scam

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I came across this in my “All Mail” category while trying to find an email I deleted.

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Yup, I’ll get right on that!

You know… just putting this into the spam box is probably not enough. Eh, Google?

Ikea Jerusalem syndrome

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I have been Ikea’d.

I took my first trip to the Denver Ikea last week. It’s massive. Larger than you can imagine. Two floors of parking just for one shop. It doesn’t even feel like a store — arriving at Ikea feels like arriving at an airport. You traverse the multilevel parking garage and then trek to the entrance lined with loading and unloading areas. You expect to hear “the white zone is for loading and unloading only.”

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Attack of the list post: Denver

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Denver has become quite an international city. While up at the Ikea, I heard German, French, Swedish and a half-dozen other languages I could not recognize. And not just occasionally, but about every fourth person! Of course, this may be something of a self-selecting group, considering the strong “It’s Swedish!” marketing. It could just be that Ikea is this decades United Colors of Benetton.

However, it got me wondering. Where does Denver fit into the big US cities. Top 10? Top 20? Over the past 16 years (!) I have watched Denver grow: the massive buildup of the downtown and Lodo, the spread. We’re up there now, right?

Cue Wikipedia. Denver is 26! Hmmm. 26? Who else is up there? Sure, you can name the BIG cities, New York, LA, Chicago. Beyond that, though, I’m not sure. There were some surprises:

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PT Barnum’s Art of Money Getting

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I am reading PT Barnum’s “Art of Money Getting.” It contains a surprising amount of common sense advice, such as the following on the dangers of keeping up with the Joneses:

In this country, where we believe the majority ought to rule, we ignore that principle in regard to fashion, and let a handful of people, calling themselves the aristocracy, run up a false standard of perfection, and in endeavoring to rise to that standard, we constantly keep ourselves poor; all the time digging away for the sake of outside appearances.”

You can see this in chasing the latest gadget (/cough iPhone /cough) or kids emulating the lifestyle of their favorite celebrity.

Despite the passage of time, the advice still rings true and the patina of age in the examples show that the problems of today are nothing new. It’s the kind of book you would like to give to your own kids, and would wish someone had given you earlier in life.

It is a free ebook on the Kindle but you can also get it in a number of places such as: ART OF MONEY GETTING.

Creative Commons License photo credit: def110

St Louis shows alternatives to tear gas and violence

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The images of police in full riot gear and use of tear gas on Occupy movement protesters make me shake my head. The former is heavy handed while the later is an excessive use of force. This excellent article describing the disbanding of the St. Louis Occupy camp (via tywkiwdbi) shows there are alternatives:

The first thing they did was the one that baffled me the most, at first: they gave the protesters nearly 36 hours notice, as opposed to the 20 to 60 minutes’ notice other cities gave. … Early afternoon on Thursday, they gave the protesters 24 hours’ notice: as of 3pm on Friday, the no structures in the plaza rule was going to be enforced, and as of 10pm, the curfew was going to be enforced. So, unsurprisingly, Occupy St. Louis put out a huge call for as many people as possible to come to the plaza by noon, to be trained in peaceful civil disobedience; local civil liberties lawyers showed up to brief them. Needless to say, the cops did not oblige them by showing up at 3pm. …

So, when no cops showed up anywhere near 3pm, the protesters had their biggest rally to date (as I suspect the cops were thinking, “getting it out of their system”), and then started to drift away. Rally organizers advised people to be back before 10pm, to block the enforcement of curfew. Sure enough, by 10pm, they had 350 people down there. And scant minutes later, people were jazzed up and ready to go, because outlying scouts reported that the police were gathering, en masse, with multiple cars, multiple buses, an ambulance, and a fire truck, only a couple of blocks away!

And sometime around an hour, hour and a half later, the cops just disappeared, dispersed, without ever having gotten within two blocks of the plaza. So the confused protesters declared victory, let most of the troops go home, and fewer than a hundred of them bedded down for the night in their tents. An hour later, somewhere around 150 cops showed up. I’m sure people in those tents tweeted and text messaged and phoned for reinforcements. But between the late hour, and the fact that people were exhausted after having been out there all day, and that it was the third call-up of the day? Nobody showed.

Ah, but the cops did more than just show up after two head-fakes and with sufficient numbers … they did right exactly what the Obama administration told everybody else to do wrong. They didn’t show up in riot gear and helmets, they showed up in shirt sleeves with their faces showing. They not only didn’t show up with SWAT gear, they showed up with no unusual weapons at all, and what weapons they had all securely holstered. They politely woke everybody up. They politely helped everybody who was willing to remove their property from the park to do so. They then asked, out of the 75 to 100 people down there, how many people were volunteering for being-arrested duty? Given 33 hours to think about it, and 10 hours to sweat it over, only 27 volunteered. As the police already knew, those people’s legal advisers had advised them not to even passively resist, so those 27 people lined up to be peacefully arrested, and were escorted away by a handful of cops. The rest were advised to please continue to protest, over there on the sidewalk … and what happened next was the most absolutely brilliant piece of crowd control policing I have heard of in my entire lifetime.

So, “order” restored, camp disbanded. No concussions from baton blows or flash bang grenades. No tear gas in the face of octogenarians. And protesters still get to protest. Neither side escalated to violence.

Via The Infamous Brad – Gods Help Us, St. Louis Did it Right #OWS:

Hello MILOfest!

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Going to MILOfest (Macs in Law Offices) annual conference is an odd experience. It’s a bit like Lex Luthor going to Lexor. Um, there are no statues, mind you. However, I do have people coming up to me and saying:

Hey, you write planet 10 tech!


You write that disability blog!

It’s nice (if a bit disconcerting). So, thank you for reading and for saying ‘hi.’ Its really awesome. I’ll do my best to not blow up this haven while fighting Superman.

Why can’t I check my Apple repair status online?

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Dear Apple,

You know I love you, right? I buy your computers. I buy your phones. I’ve stood in lines. I buy AppleCare. I buy ProCare. I bought MobileMe subscriptions.

I’ve had good experience with your Geniuses. And I love being able to get my systems repaired when there’s a problems.

But… how do I say this?


As good as your in-store experience is, calling your store on the phone is … pretty bad. I start off by stating that I’m calling to check a repair status, and both times (with different agents) I got a terse, “well, what’s your name?” I understand that you need my name. However, I don’t start off with “I-need-to-check-my-repair-status-my-name-is…” First, because my name is not “John Smith”; I’m going to have to spell it for you. And second, because I figure your associates may need to pass me to someone else, or change screens, or what-not. So, I pause before telling your agents more.

And what is with the indefinite repair times? The first time I called, on the day I was told to check back when dropping off the MacBook in store, I was told that there was another part that needed to be ordered (that’s fine, thanks for looking out for me). However, that’s when we started going round and round about when the laptop might be ready:

When do you think the part will be in?

We get shipments daily.

Do you think it will be in tomorrow?

Probably not.

Ok, so… when do you think the repair will be done?

We’ll call you when it’s ready.

I’m sure you will. But, uh, can you give me some idea of when it might be ready? Just generally speaking… By the end of the week? Next week? Next month? I rely on that machine,

It may be by the end of the week or early next week.

So, I waited and called on Monday, when I got the second terse, “well, what’s your name?” I provided the info and after waiting a bit, I was told that it may be ready in a couple of days and I will get a call. I replied that I was told that they were waiting on a part and asked if it had come in?

I didn’t ask that, you only asked for a status check…

/sigh. True enough. However, come on! Why does calling an Apple store have to be like calling a badly run mom-and-pop? I asked if there is an online way to check repair status?

Uh, no. We don’t have that.

While I doubt that I’m the first person to suggest this, I’ll do it anyway: Apple, could we please have an online way of checking repairs? Pretty-please?


Lemony Snicket on Occupy Wall Street

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The search for meaning in Occupy Wall Street and related movements continues. Unlike prior movements looking for: the right to use the same facilities and accommodations as others; the right to worship as one wishes, the right to collectively bargain.

This movement is all over the place. Getting pissed off that the economy sucks but not everyone is hurting is, well, positively French. And, “yes” I am writing that with tongue firmly planted in cheek. However, the anger that the economic pain is not being equally shared is approaching something more akin to the French Revolution.

Instead, I see complaints more akin, “you’re rich and I’m not, hence you’re hurting me.” I am not saying this is the entirety of the protest. However, there is a growing undercurrent of this. The latest example is author Lemony Snicket’s poetic, moving and occasionally bone-headed “Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance.” Read the rest of this entry »