Friday, March 30, 2018

The Art of the Follow-Through

Mark Winthrop
Graduate Fellow
Law Career Development and Externship Programs 
I’ve spent the majority of my life playing basketball. Through all of the agonizing sprints, strength trainings, drills and practices, one lesson has stuck with me to this day: BLESH.

BLESH is the mnemonic I used for jump-shooting—Bend, Lift, Extend, Snap, and Hold. The first three create the power for your shot; bend your knees, lift (or jump), and extend your arms. The last two steps are considered the follow-through, Snap your wrist and hold you form. You may have the strongest legs and largest range in the world, but if you don’t follow-through, your shot will have a much lower chance of going in.

The same principles apply to your legal career. Throughout law school, you are developing your legal knowledge and capability—your balance and power, or BLE. During your classes, assignments and study sessions you learn the law; but if that is all you do, you may never learn how to behave in a way that reflects your goals or aspirations. See, law school is not only about learning the law but learning the legal field too. This takes more than just knowledge—it takes action, and action requires follow-through.  From job applications to networking events, meetings to assignment deadlines, follow-through is an ever-present and paramount facet of the legal community.

Nonetheless, following-through can be challenging. While we often know what we need to do, school, internships and other obligations wear us down. It’s easy to slip into a cycle of just doing enough to get by. However, it’s important to remember why you went to law school, what is really important to you, and what you want to get out of your education and work experiences. Poor follow-through is an enormous obstacle that affects individuals, firms, and society as a whole. So, I curated a few tips that may help make following-through a bit easier.

Set and Understand Your Goals
If you’re in law school, chances are you’re a goal-oriented person. You should keep that trend going—at the beginning of the academic year, semester, or new job, sit down and set a few goals for yourself. In order to reach those goals, create deadlines or check-in dates to analyze your progress towards achieving your goal. For example, at the beginning of your 2L year, you decide you want a light 3L Spring semester in order to devote more time to bar prep. To do that, you must take additional units for the next few semesters. At the end of each semester, you can check your total units to ensure you are fulfilling your goal.

By setting goal check-ins, you are more likely to take steps to reach your goal. You must understand that you are striving to accomplish something that will aid you down the line, but in order to achieve those goals there is sacrifice.

Find a System That Works for You
Whether that’s keeping a Google, Yahoo, or Apple calendar find an organization system that resonates with you to track responsibilities and deadlines. Or you can ditch the technology and use a physical planner, like GGU alumna and Boxer & Gerson partner Maria Sager. “I use a physical calendar or day planner, two-pages per week that tracks everything I’m responsible for—hearings, depositions, client meetings, even personal or social events.” The real trick, Maria said, was committing to a system. “I’ve used the same system for years, but whichever system you choose you need to buy in and keep it organized!”

Every act taken in furtherance of one goal is time not spent furthering another. If you committed to an evening networking event, then that’s time not being spent skimming Instagram or binging your favorite Netflix shows. Appellate Advocacy deadline approaching? Sacrifice your evening and some sleep to finish the draft. Application deadline coming up? Perfect your materials instead of taking that weekend trip to Santa Cruz. This is applicable to much more than law school—skipping dessert to eat a little healthier, getting up early for a morning run, etc. Following-through inherently requires sacrifice, but a sacrifice will can lead to a reward later on.

Incentivize Yourself
More often than not, you had to sacrifice something in order to meet your obligation. You should also reward yourself for meeting it! I listened to a brief presentation by Steve Levinson, author of Following Through: A Revolutionary New Model for Finishing Whatever You Start, where Levinson describes a man that left his only stick of deodorant in his locker at the gym. If he didn’t hit the gym in the morning, he went without deodorant for the entire day. I’m not suggesting boycotting personal hygiene—just reward yourself for hitting a milestone. Finished those application materials? Buy those shoes you’ve had your eyes on or go out to dinner with a few friends. 

Don’t OVER Multi-task
I’m confident that the majority of law students have seen job-postings stating something like: “Must be self-motivated and be able to multi-task in a fast-paced environment.” Something close to that, right? What if I told you that too much multi-tasking is actually keeping you from following-through? Let’s say you have five things to work on today. You spent the day working on all five, but by doing so you finished zero assignments. Now, imagine spending your day on one assignment and finishing it. You are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment, and will be more motivated the next day to complete another task.

Again, create a calendar with deadlines, events, assignments, etc. My suggestion: work on the first approaching deadline until it’s complete and move onto the next. If you need to, break-up one deadline into several in order to secure those accomplishments that will springboard you into your next commitment.

Meditation and Visualization
Meditating is a free and easy way to bring clarity, creativity and calm into your otherwise stressful and busy lives as law students. Try practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM requires two 20-minute sessions of sitting comfortably with closed eyes and repeating an otherwise meaningless mantra in order to stay focused. Research has linked TM with reducing blood-pressure and stress-producing hormones. Instead of reaching for that second or third cup of coffee, try implementing TM!

Sager brought another tool to my attention—visualization. “I like to visualize the scene before I live the scene. I would walk-through the bar exam 30-40 times. I would visualize the entire process: eating breakfast, getting ready, driving to the test center, day one, day two… even what I would do right after testing concluded.” Sager said that practicing this exercise gave her more confidence during the test; she had been there dozens of times before.

Following-through is imperative to your reputation. “There is no excuse,” Sager said, “it is devastating to your reputation, and it is nearly impossible to fix your reputation after damage has been done to it.” She’s right, and you begin building your reputation the day you start law school.  Your fellow students of today will become your colleagues of tomorrow and if you have a reputation of following-through, they may be more likely to work with you in the future.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Importance of Showing Up and Engaging When You RSVP for an Event

The Importance of Showing Up and Engaging When You RSVP for an Event

By Sherri Bridgeforth 
Graduate Fellow
Law Career Development

Throughout your law school advancement, you will receive invitations to attend various formal and informal luncheons, meetings, panels, events, and receptions both on and off-campus. According to Above the Law, these events are “professional adult events – not drop in parties . . . . If you are invited, respond. If you say yes, show up. This is not an Evite situation where you say ‘yes’ and decide last minute not to come.” You are constantly under observation and scrutiny so your attendance and behavior at these events can impact the opportunities you receive. Events should be approached with the same level of professionalism as an interview.

Professional Event Etiquette

Harvard Business School Professor Laura Morgan Roberts defines professional image as “the set of qualities and characteristics that represent perceptions of your competence and character as judged by your key constituents (i.e., clients, superiors, and colleagues).” Showing up, being punctual, maintaining a professional appearance, and engaging at events contributes positively to your desired professional image. The alternative is an undesired professional image which is hard to restore. 

The legal profession is traditionally conservative in its principles of civility and decorum. As for the practice of law there are explicit expectations that attorneys exhibit truthfulness and decorum. The legal profession holds honesty in high regard and has established consequences for violations thereof. Civility and decorum are trademarks of the legal profession that the public rely on.

As a law student you are building your professional brand in the legal community. Additionally, you are competing with other candidates for the same opportunities. This is where personal branding can distinguish you from the crowd.

Why Is It Important for Our Clients, Colleagues, and Peers to Trust Us?

Your word is your social capital, your social capital is your integrity, and your integrity is how you earn the trust and respect of your peers, colleagues, and clients in the legal profession and abroad.

Your professional reputation depends on your integrity. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said “integrity includes but goes beyond honesty. Honesty is telling the truth – in other words, conforming our words to reality. Integrity is conforming reality to our words . . . . keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.” When expectations are unmet the consequences can impact our obligations to clients and professional opportunities.

When you RSVP for an event you are letting the host know you are committed to attending and he or she can depend on you. As a result, the host makes accommodations for you to attend be it food preparation or a guaranteed seat at an event with limited enrollment. When you RSVP “yes” for an event and you do not show or cancel last minute you develop a negative reputation that you are not dependable and you lack respect for the host. Furthermore, your absence potentially took an opportunity away from a well-deserving student who could have benefited from the opportunity you usurped.

Also, it is unlikely that you would extend an offer for an internship or employment to an individual with a reputation of being a no-show or canceling at the last minute. Why is that? It is likely because as an employer you are tasked with upholding the business or firm’s positive reputation in the community and inherent in having a positive reputation is being dependable and trustworthy. Generally speaking, a positive reputation in the community means the business has earned the trust and respect of its clients, colleagues, and peers and that level of integrity typically generate more business.

Engagement:  Developing Opportunities through Relationship Building

While you continue to build your brand you should continue to expand your network. Tom Farley, President of the NYSE, attributes every job he ever had to networking and defined networking as “collecting relationships with interesting or influential people irrespective of the immediate benefit of these relationships.”

Growing your network requires active relationship building. You increase your network exposure by attending and participating in various academic and social events as well as engaging with the participants and speakers.

What does that mean? Engagement comes in many forms, including asking questions about one’s interests and career path, setting up informational interviews, and asking for advice. In addition to active relationship building, you benefit from increased brand recognition and learning opportunities that may develop into career advancements. 

In sum, it is important for your own professional development and reputation that you honor your commitments and build relationships. There are no do-overs with first impressions.

(link with image used in header)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


By Lynnette F. Baclig, Esq.
Graduate Fellow
Law Career Development


That is the million dollar question.  GGU’s Summer Job Fair is just around the corner, so now is a good time to brush up on some interviewing skills.  “Tell me about yourself” is a favorite question among interviewers for a variety of reasons, but mainly it’s a quick way for interviewers to get to know you.  This question is similar to the “why should we hire you?” and “what should I know about you?” interview questions.  These questions provide a great opportunity for you to emphasize why you are the perfect fit for the job. 

Use the power of storytelling to build your career.  According to Grammar Girl, good stories are moving when they engage the senses, move us morally, and connect us to others.  These tips can make good stories for applicants, BUT (with lots of the emphasis here) in an interview setting – DO NOT blurt out your life story.  Keep your responses short and simple in 90 seconds or less.  But, of course, show your excitement for the position.  The key to successful storytelling for interviewees is to convey enthusiasm for the job in a concise way.  After all, law students are drilled to write clearly and concisely so their interview responses should not be any different.  Concise storytelling is about disclosing only information relevant to the job.  Here are some tips to answer this common interview question in a concise yet engaging way by (1) sticking to a theme; (2) cutting to the point; (3) talking about real life experiences; (4) practicing; and (5) getting feedback from others.

Embed from Getty Images

1.       Stick to a theme. 

Come up with a theme for the entire interview.  The goal is to cohesively prove your aptitude for the job by linking every interview question response to a theme.  The theme should tailor precisely to the position you are applying for or tailor to what the firm/organization represents.  Start by listing strong adjectives that are pertinent to the job, such as traits and skills, to decide a specific theme for the interview.  You can even piggy-back off of what you wrote in the cover letter you submitted for the position, but do not repeat your cover letter verbatim.  Themes can be generated from skills that are essential to the position or transferrable-skills gained from previous experiences or generated from an expertise in an area that’s valuable to the position you are applying for.  Themes can also come from a demonstrated commitment to a cause or client base or even an interest in a specific area of law.  This is about showing your passion and motives for the position that you are applying for.  Ultimately, a strong theme likely persuades interviewers to hire you.   

2.       Cut to the point from the very beginning and end strong. 

The first sentence should cut to the heart of the story and end on a strong note.  This sets the tone for the entire interview.  Often it is intuitive to tell a story about what you did in chronological order.  However, interviewers already know that information from your resume and interviewers will likely ask follow-up questions if they want to know more about a particular position listed on your resume.  So when interviewers say, “tell me about yourself,” a more interesting answer starts with the attention grabbing theme as discussed above and ends strong reiterating that theme.

3.       Talk about real life instances that embody your theme.

Think of real life instances backing up your theme.  To build a rapport with interviewers, tell them stories that are common to their experiences.  This could be about IRL instances in which you have applied traits, skills or passions essential to the position that you are applying for.  Think of this in IRAC terms.  Issue: Are you qualified for this job?  Rule: advanced litigation skills are required for this job.  But, in an interview setting, cut to the chase and get straight to the A and C of IRAC – application, and conclusion.  In the example above you would say, “I am qualified because I studied trial advocacy and learned the essential components of a trial. Then I applied those skills during my internship at x organization where I succeeded in x tasks.  Therefore, I developed strong litigation skills through my studies in trial advocacy and experiences as an intern.”  Done deal!

4.       Practice! 

Now that you have a script for your story, as with any performance, practice makes perfect.  So, tell me about yourself.  Practice responding to this question out loud at this very moment.  How did you start and how did you end?  Did you stick to your theme?  Is your theme tailored to the position you are applying for? 

Practice your script reciting it not in verbatim.  Do not memorize your script word for word because dry recitation is unimpressive, unauthentic and dull.  If you must write your script down, do so in bullet points so that you are not tempted to rehearse your script in verbatim.  The goal is to be flexible and open to direction because anything can happen during an interview.  This way, in the event that you are imprecise with your script, it does not stop you in your tracks or make you nervously fumble over your words.  Rather, you are relentlessly prepared to genuinely talk about each bullet point.  Answer this question while you are commuting or while getting ready for work or class, in the shower, making breakfast, etc.  The more practice, the more relaxed and confident you will be, and the more likely you will hit each crucial point bringing your interview to sweet home-base.  They won’t know what hit them!

Take advice from those who learn lines for a living.  Actors present organically, by having a deep understanding of what the heart of the script entails – what’s the deeper meaning behind the text?  Additionally, “try to tie the words you speak to the moves your body makes — the gestures you proffer at certain points in a speech for example or the welcoming posture you adopt when you’re greeting new acquaintances.  And infuse your delivery with some real emotion.”  That way you will charismatically leave a lasting impression on your interviewers.

Most importantly, the answer to “tell me about yourself” often applies to many other interview questions.  If you’re going to practice one interview question, this question is gold.  Because it is so broad, your response will likely encompass part of an answer to another more narrow interview question.   Thus, after practicing your responses to this question, you’ll be prepared to answer a variety of other questions.  So, practice, practice, practice telling your story in many different ways.

5.       Get feedback from others.

Long hours of practice may not be enough.  According to writer Annie Murphy Paul, practicing should be approached deliberately by “relentlessly focusing on our weaknesses and inventing new ways” to improve “ideally with the help of a coach or teacher.”  Try a faux interview session with a friend roleplaying as the interviewer asking the tough questions.  They may provide excellent feedback on where to cut your script or elaborate your script for the better.  However, the most effective way to get feedback is to schedule a mock interview with our LCD counselors.  It is also not too late to sign up for the 3rd Annual GGU Law Mock Interview Event occurring August 15, 2017, from 6 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., where volunteer attorneys are thrilled to help law students master their interviewing skills in time for on campus interviews.  Register on LCDonline by the deadline of August 11, 2017.

After taking these steps, if ever during an interview you are asked “tell me about yourself," take a deep breath and smell the roses. You know exactly what to say. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Keeping up with the Email Hustle and Bustle, Part II

By Lynnette F. Baclig, Esq.
Graduate Fellow
Law Career Development
"Which one are you?  There are two types of people in the world: those with hundreds of unread messages, and those who can’t relax until their inboxes are cleared out.”  Inbox Zero vs. Inbox 5,000: A Unified Theory, Atlantic.  

According to Muppet Theory, based on The Muppet Show and Sesame Street characters, people are either Chaos Muppets or Order Muppets.  Chaos Muppets “are out-of-control, emotional, volatile.”  Whereas, Order Muppets “tend to be neurotic, highly regimented, averse to surprises and may sport monstrously large eyebrows.”  Interestingly, Justice Stephen Breyer is described to have Chaos Muppet traits whereas Chief Justice John Roberts is described to hold Order Muppet traits.  As relevant to email correspondence, Chaos Muppets such as Cookie Monster and Ernie will probably lose your email due to their impulsive and disorganized nature whereas Order Muppets such as Kermit the Frog, Bert or Count von Count will not lose track of an email due to their obsessive character traits.  Regardless of where you fall on the philosophical Muppet character spectrum, as an aspiring attorney, you must stay on top of your inboxes as highlighted in Part I of this blog postOn the bright side, both Chaos and Order Muppets can easily manage their inboxes in three simple ways: (1) calendaring time throughout the day to check emails; (2) triaging emails as they come; and (3) responding diligently when necessary. 


This is easier said than done, but nonetheless setting blocks of time throughout the day to manage emails establishes peace in your hectic day and keeps you in focus.  Cami McLaren, from Above the Law, suggests there is a new paradigm for attorneys’ time management where “it is not one in which you work faster, but where you make better and smarter choices.”  McLaren challenges us to change our way of thinking about how we manage our time apart from the patterns and habits we developed in our academic and professional lives.  For example, rather than “stopping every 20 to 30 minutes (or every four to five minutes) to check your email,”  it is more productive to “check your email less frequently” by calendaring 30 to 45-minute blocks throughout the day.  Perhaps you can do this in the morning, afternoon and late evening.  However, during those times you should devote your time and focus on only checking, responding and triaging emails and after the time is up, spend the rest of the day ignoring your inbox.  McLaren reasons that calendaring your email routine actually frees up more time because:
First, when you check your email at a specific time, that is all you are doing; your brain is not distracted, but is focused solely on your email. By the same token, during other parts of the day, you are not distracted by your email and are more efficient at each task. Second, you are not wasting precious minutes throughout the day constantly transitioning from one thing to another. 

Setting up a daily routine to check emails during specific times throughout the day seems counterintuitive, especially since we are bombarded with constant notifications from our smart phones and computers (where you can hear it, see it, and even feel it!).  Consider turning off those alerts (this could easily be applied to text messages as well) so that you can remain focused on the tasks at hand.  Why should we immediately succumb to our attention-seeking notification alerts when it’s not going anywhere?  (The phone can ring if the message is that important.)  If you absolutely feel you can’t live without checking those alerts as they come, perhaps check it every hour as a five-minute mental break.  Law students should start implementing McLaren’s model not only in managing emails but also in the academic study of law and ultimately in the practice of law.  (See more of McLaren’s New Paradigm.)  


Set up a user-friendly filing system to organize your email the moment they arrive.  Rather than opening up an email and then letting it sit in your inbox, move it or label it under a specific category, or even commit to deleting it.  This can be done by utilizing your email’s folders or “labels” tool if using Google. 

First, set up several folders each under a specific category.  The categories are determined by the action required upon receipt.  For instance, a folder can be one of the following:  email requiring a response or task; email requiring no action; email requiring no action BUT contains information you need to keep, in other words, an archive folder.  For emails requiring a response or task either respond to it right away if time permits, or move it to a “To-Do” folder.  This is your “action” folder that acts as an informal To-Do list.  The “To-Do” folder acts as a reminder of emails that require your attention but not necessarily right away.  Upon receipt quickly make the judgment about your time restraints and if responding might take more than 2 minutes, move email to the “To-Do” folder and get back to it during one of your set block times to check emails.  Then, once completed move to the appropriate archive folder.  For emails that take less than 2 minutes to respond to, don’t forget to archive it in the appropriate folder as well.  Additionally, for emails requiring no action and also contain information you don’t need to keep, simply delete.  This can be applied to newsletters with no pertinent information, spam or junk mail, or email advertisements.  However, for emails requiring no action, but contain information you need to keep, archive it rather than deleting it.  This applies to newsletters and the like, but mainly applies to instances when you’re absolutely done with an email and no longer need to attend to it.  You can set up a general archive folder or set up a more detailed system.  This more detailed system can be categorized broadly such as “Law School Fall Semester” or “Law Research” or “Coupons”; or it can be as specific such as “Property Law” or “SFDA’s Office” or “Maui Vacation Plans.”  You can even create subfolders under a folder or under another subfolder and so on.    

Ultimately, the goal of email triage is to keep your inbox empty, which can make us more organized and as a result less stressed!  Also, when you need to get back to that email, you’ll know exactly where to find it.


As discussed above, if a response to an email could take less than 2 minutes or so, do not put it off.  Send a brief and quick, concise response so that you can archive it and get one more email out of the way.  Also, if you don’t have the time to send a quick response, move it to your “To-Do” folder and get back to it later. 

On another note, sometimes it’s best to quickly acknowledge that you received an email, especially when the email is specifically addressed to you (unlike when you are CC’d on an email, which does not call for a quick response).  Quick responses can be as easy as: “thanks” or “will do.”  This lets the sender know that you received the email and the sender will less likely send you another email with the same content.

In conclusion, do not underestimate the power of emails in your future legal career.  Technology and online communication will continue to run our lives, so embrace it, don’t fight it!  Moreover, neither Chaos Muppet nor Order Muppet is better than the other.  Regardless of which character traits you fall on the Muppet spectrum “[r]emember the old rule of thumb: Too many Order Muppets means no cookies for anyone.”  Be kind to yourself.  Now that you have all the tools to manage your inbox, have fun with it!  Once you’ve developed the habit of effective email management, you’ll be far ahead of the game in your law practice.  Ready, set, go!

Additional Reading:  Effective Email Strategies for Law Students and Lawyers by Susanne Aronowitz, previous GGU Associate Dean for Law Career Development.

Keeping up with the Email Hustle and Bustle, Part I

By Lynnette F. Baclig, Esq.
Graduate Fellow
Law Career Development

As the fall semester quickly approaches, law students will soon find themselves back to law school and back to the grind.  It’s back to juggling the role of being a law student while adulting; simply put, it’s back to the law school hustle.  This also means keeping up with the endless email hustle and bustle!

No law student should lose sight of the contents appearing in their inbox.  Part of becoming a professional, in particular becoming an attorney, is practicing effective communication.  Since email is the most used form of communication for lawyers, law students should start developing effective email management.  Managing your inbox is paying extra close attention and diligently responding to correspondence, especially when receiving an email from law school professors, supervisors, law school administrators, and even Law Career Development.  Students should always pay close attention to each email even if at first glance it may seem irrelevant.  It would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity and relevant information due to hasty email management.  More often than not, students imprudently skim through emails and as a result are at risk of becoming uninformed on pertinent information.  Rule 3-110 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California, suggests that an attorney who acts incompetently to perform legal services can be subject to discipline.  What’s more, law students are constantly being assessed of their good moral character and fitness to practice law.  Any “bad behavior” as a result of being uninformed or lacking communication skills can be construed as incompetence and could find its way to moral character investigators, which could prevent a student’s acceptance to the state bar.  Therefore, it is essential to not miss out on emails containing important information to prevent rejection from the state bar and to stay on top of career opportunities.

Next blog post, Keeping up with the Email Hustle and Bustle, Part II discusses how to stay on top of incoming emails.