Friday, March 31, 2017

Managing Your Expectations after Law School

Angela Giang 
Graduate Fellow 
Law Career Development 

Made it all the way to the final semester of law school career and still feeling stressed? Ever wonder why you’re feeling this way when you took all your required courses and purposefully made your last semester easier?

You may be feeling stressed in terms of what the future looks like. Whether it’s preparing for the bar or searching for a post-bar position, stress can take a toll on you if you let it. The key is not to funnel the stress from one chapter of your life to the next. Once you close a chapter of your life, let it remain closed, and begin the next chapter of your life with a fresh start. For example, once you graduate from law school, don’t take the stress you had in law school with you to bar preparation. Once you take the bar, don’t take the stress from the bar with you to your job search.

To prevent stress from controlling you, figure out early on how you deal with stress. For more information on how to handle stress, read my blog post on How to Handle Stress in the Legal Profession. As a law student, we are trained to analyze, come up with arguments, and counterarguments. While this tool is useful in our legal profession, it could be harmful for our personal lives.

I, for one, can analyze and re-analyze a situation ten-fold, which ultimately drives me crazy. Doing so leaves me feeling stressed and I carry that stress around with me. However, I learned to manage the stress by letting go of it. There are situations that will always be out of your control, so let it remain that way. Don’t try to control or obsess over the little details that you have no control over.
A good example is the bar. Know that you prepared for the bar and did the best that you could. Regardless of whether you passed or not, it’s not the end of the world. You simply have to retake the bar if you don’t. It’s easier said than done, but you didn’t go through 3-4 years of law school to quit now. In addition, don’t let your fear of not passing the bar prevent you from your job search. You can still do everything that an attorney does; the only difference is that you can’t appear in court. Keep your head up high and keep moving forward! 

Employment Report & Salary Survey (ERSS)

Shortly after you take the bar, you’ll receive a message via phone call or email from Law Career Development (LCD) in regards to your employment status. The purpose of this inquiry is not to harass you. The ABA and the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), which require that all accredited law schools to report employment information for each recent graduate. Failure to provide accurate and complete employment information could subject GGU to an ABA audit that may impact GGU’s accreditation. Your individual response is confidential and only the aggregate data is reported to the ABA and NALP.

When you receive an inquiry from LCD, answer the ABA survey completely. If the survey is incomplete, you’ll get additional emails and/or phone calls until it is complete since the ABA does not accept incomplete surveys. The survey questions are quick and painless, so I recommend getting the survey done and over with.

Lastly, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a job lined up because you’re not the only one. Start by checking LCDonline for job postings or make an appointment with a LCD counselor. They’re there to help you!

The Battle between STEP and HLP

Angela Giang 
Graduate Fellow 
Law Career Development 

It’s almost that time of year again; summer. As undergrads we jumped for joy when summer was fast approaching, but law students know that summers in law school is a different story. Instead of making plans with friends or planning a vacation, law students can be filled with dread if they don’t have an internship/externship lined up for the summer.

This blog post focuses on additional options for 1L students, STEP versus HLP. Both are excellent programs for first-year law students. However, there are questions regarding the difference in the programs and which program would be a better fit. Although many students interested in either program attended the STEP/HLP Information Event, this blog post dives into the heart of each program. Since I was in STEP, I have first-hand knowledge of what STEP’s rigorous program entails. I am also currently HLP’s Graduate Fellow, so I have a solid understanding of HLP and what it consists of.

Summer Trial & Evidence Program (1st STEP) 

STEP is like a litigation boot camp over the period of 8 weeks (7-week summer session plus 1 intensive immersion week). This includes taking a course in evidence, which is specifically tethered to trial advocacy and theater training. STEP is a great program not only for students who know that they want to be a trial attorney, but also for students who want a taste of litigation.

I was in the latter category. I had a basic understanding of what litigation was but didn’t know to what it encompassed. One thing that I did know was that litigation meant public speaking. Since I wasn’t a big public speaker, STEP allowed me to experiment, make mistakes, learn, and grow. STEP also helped me with my first internship at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office (SFDA). At the SFDA’s Office, I was placed in the preliminary hearing department, which seriously put my litigation skills to the test. 

Immersion week is intense. It consists of GGU students who are currently enrolled in STEP as well as students from other schools. During immersion week, you basically get a preview of everything you’re going to learn over the following 7 weeks (voir dire, motions in limine, opening statement, direct examination, cross examination, and closing argument). Each day is packed with activities, typically starting from 9 am to 5 pm. The activities consist of group exercises, demonstrations, and one-on-one meetings with professors.

You’re going to get constructive criticism, so take it with an open mind. The professors are there to help you learn even if their criticism appear harsh. I still remember my first constructive criticism in STEP. I felt like I was on American Idol being ripped apart by Simon Cowell in front of all my peers. Although I was embarrassed, the feedback got me fired up. I came back, ready to prove myself , and I did. I received the positive feedback that I wanted to hear. 

The purpose of taking evidence with trial advocacy is to apply what you learned in evidence to your daily exercises. The rules of evidence are important when it comes to objections, which is a useful tool in oral advocacy. In addition to oral advocacy, you’re going to learn how to write motions. Eighty percent of litigation consists of research and writing so now is the time to learn how to do it effectively.

Lastly, have fun with STEP. Like everything else, you’re going to get burnt out quickly if you’re stressed and not having any fun. Litigation consists of strategic thinking, so think of it as a game. Experiment, make mistakes, and just have fun.

Honors Lawyering Program (HLP) 

HLP integrates practical learning with substantive, client-focused work. This summer, rising 2Ls are taking Advanced Legal Research, Evidence, Constitutional Law I, and HLP Client Representation. While non-HLP students are capped at a total of 8 units, HLP students are taking a total of 11 units. As such, HLP students are in an accelerated program, which frees up their fall semester for a full-time apprenticeship. This full-time availability makes HLP students desirable employers seeking law clerks.

During the summer, HLP students are getting core classes out of the way in a small group setting. At the same time, they’re getting practical experience with the substantive material. During their 1L summer, HLP students get the experience of real world legal practice and learn the importance of professionalism when they represent clients in a landlord/tenant dispute under the supervision of a practicing attorney.

This practical experience makes HLP students marketable to employers during their 2L fall semester. While other 1Ls are applying to internships/externships without any legal experience, HLP students are applying to their fall apprenticeships with experience under their belt. It’s also less competitive seeking fall semester work because you’re not competing against all the other rising 2Ls from other law schools.

When HLP students take their summer courses, there’s no curve to worry about. There’s less pressure and/or stress since there’s no competition between you and your fellow colleagues, which allows you to enjoy your law school experience.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What to Expect with On-Campus Interviews (OCI)

Angela Giang 
Graduate Fellow 
Law Career Development 

GGU’s Spring Recruitment Program connects students with law firms, government agencies, and public interest organizations. These organizations hire summer associates, interns, and post-bars through the on campus interview. Although the Spring Recruitment Program is not the only way to get a summer and/or fall internship, it is a great resource if you don’t have an internship already lined up.

Interviews are Your Turf

Just as the name suggests, one of the benefits of applying for OCI is that it is on campus. Since OCI is within the school itself, you do not have to worry about whether to choose between going to your classes or to your interview. If you are selected for an interview, you will receive an email notification indicating the date of the interview and available time slots for you to pick from. Note: If you do not pick an interview time, by the stated date, one will be chosen for you. In the past, OCI has taken place in Law Career Development’s (LCD) conference room. By now, this should be a familiar place for you. If it is not, make LCD a priority. LCD is a resource that you can tap into not only as a student, but later as a graduate.

Employers are Specifically Coming to See You

Secondly, the employers attending OCI are here to see you. Many employers at OCI have a long-standing relationship with GGU Law and have hired GGU students in the past. Do not hesitate to apply if you see an employer that you are interested in. The odds are in your favor. Upon applying, your cover letter and resume will be reviewed by LCD’s career counselors before they are sent to the respective employers. Moreover, the chances that the employer will receive and/or review your application are higher compared to if you sent it on your own (e.g. your application will not get lost in the employer’s inbox).

FYI, Spring Recruitment works! During my 2L year, I applied and received numerous internship offers through Spring Recruitment. If you receive more than one offer, consider deferring one of them for your fall semester. To figure out the best way to approach this, you should speak with an LCD counselor. 

Preparing for OCI

You should prepare for an OCI like you would for any other job interview. You should be ready to discuss what you can offer the employer and should have questions ready for the employer. The only way that you will have meaningful questions to ask the interviewing law firm is by conducting thorough research. Oftentimes, you will be given the identity of the lawyers who are scheduled to interview you. You should research them, but be ready if a different lawyer shows up for the interview. The interviewers will expect that you have done your homework before coming to the interview, so do not disappointment them.

If you are nervous or need help preparing for an interview, do a mock interview with an LCD counselor. A mock interview may identify questions that you have difficulty with, which you can easily fix before you sit in for the real deal. Do not wait to the very last minute to make an appointment. Instead, make an appointment a week in advance or a few days before your interview. LCD gets very busy the week of OCI. 

For more interviewing tips, please see Julie Cumming’s article Solider On: Boot Camp to Law School – Secret, and Not-So-Secret Interview Tips.

Dress to impress. While some employers may offer you the opportunity to interview in business-casual attire, the rule of thumb is to dress nice, but conservatively. This is the employer’s first impression of you, so do not give them a reason to judge you. What you may think is business-causal may not be up to par with the employer’s standard. 

Lastly, carry your documents in a professional portfolio. Bring extra copies of your cover letters, resumes, writing samples, and unofficial transcripts with you. Although employers have allocated time to come see you, they are busy people and may have forgotten to bring copies of your resume. On the same note, employers may not have asked for a writing sample in the initial job description, but could request it during the interview. Having extra copies will show that you are prepared and well organized. Be sure to get the names and business cards of the people who interview you. Don’t just sit on the cards when you get home, use the information to create a thoughtful “thank you” email or note card within 2-3 days of the interview. See LCD for help if you find yourself struggling with writer’s block. They’re here to help!

How to Handle Stress in the Legal Profession

Angela Giang 
Graduate Fellow 
Law Career Development 

Stress is defined as a “bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In other words, stress is your body’s way of responding to certain situations and pressures that are unfamiliar to you. Anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful. This includes major life changes, school, work, family, relationship difficulties, financial problems, or simply being too busy. 

As future attorneys, we are faced with certain expectations and the pressure of living up to these expectations can lead to a stressful life. Attorneys may be in a position of power, but such power comes with a price. “The duty of a lawyer, both to his client and to the legal system, is to represent his client zealously within the bounds of law.” ABA Model Rule 1.3. Although California does not require zealous advocacy, it is expected that a lawyer will perform any service for a client that is appropriate for the advancement of the client’s legal rights. As such, this representation requires an attorney to exercise attention to detail and work hours. Sounds similar to being a law student, doesn’t it?

A little stress could motivate you to study harder and to stay organized, but too much stress could have a negative impact on your health. In law school, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in stress. You’re expected to read, learn, and quickly grasp the material. On top of this, you have internships and other experimental learning placements. For many law students, this could be a stressful load. But there are ways to successfully manage your stress and maintain your mental health. Here are a few tips on how to manage your stress: 

1) Identify your stress triggers and how you react to them. 

Everyone has a different stress trigger, so identify what yours is. Is it keeping organized, outlining, writing papers, being around competitive students, etc.? Once you have identified your triggers, you can work on managing them. In addition, figure out how you react to stress. Is it drinking alcohol, eating poorly, or pulling all-nighters? Your reactions to stress could be fueling your stress, so identifying your reactions to these stress triggers could be the key to overcoming your stress.

2) Maintain a healthy diet. 

When you’re busy, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of eating poorly so try incorporating healthy foods into your diet. When you’re at the grocery store, avoid the junk food aisle and walk to the produce aisle. Eating too much junk food could leave you feeling sluggish and tired, especially if you’re already tired, so replacing that bag of potato chips with an apple could make a big difference.

3) Exercise regularly. 

Regular exercise can improve your mood and serve as a distraction. Make it a habit to exercise 30 minutes every day or take a short walk around the block to clear your mind. While it may seem that non-stop studying is a better use of your time, you’ll find that exercising relieves stress, improves your mood, and enhances your energy for better focus.

It’s also good to keep your blood flowing, so take frequent breaks from studying even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Get up, stretch, and keep yourself hydrated.

4) Extracurricular activities. 

Remind yourself of the life you had before law school. It may be hard to remember the life you once had, but the activities you enjoyed (baking, hiking, going to the movies, etc.) are still available to you. There is more to life than the inside of a law school library and it’s good to occasionally remind yourself of why you made the decision to put yourself through law school in the first place.

5) Utilize school’s resources. 

Taking advantage of your school’s resources is a good way to help you relieve the burden of unnecessary stress. GGU has an amazing staff that is dedicated to helping their students. You don’t have to take this journey on your own.

Academic Advising

Academic advising is a great resource to utilize at GGU. The advisors want you to succeed and specifically build your sessions according to what you need to focus on. This is particularly useful for 1Ls adjusting to law school.

When I was a 1L, I made it my goal to schedule an appointment with academic advising every week. This forced me to remain on task and talking about the material helped me really understand the material. Moreover, each appointment was catered to my individual needs. If I didn’t understand a particular topic, I’ll be given an essay or multiple choice questions that pertained to that topic. 

Career Counseling

Worried that your cover letter and/or resume isn’t up to par? That you’re not going to find an internship? Visit Law Career Development (LCD). The law career counselors at GGU are dedicated to helping students find the jobs and/or internships that they want.

I went to LCD every semester during my three years of law school. My resume was always updated and ready to distribute to a potential employer. My cover letters were always reviewed before sent to employers. If I was nervous about a particular interview, I did a mock interview with a counselor before my actual interview. Doing all this helped me build confidence which made networking and interviewing easier over time. 

Wellness Resources

Overstressed and need someone to talk to? Contact GGU’s Wellness Resources. For $20 per session, the Wellness staff offers private consulting on work/life balance, dealing with stress, managing time and energy, handling test/presentation anxiety, and developing a life vision.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Solider On: Boot Camp to Law School – Secret, and Not-So-Secret Interview Tips

Julie Cummings graduated May 2016 from GGU and is one of Ms. JD's 2016 Writers in Residence. The following article originally ran November 23, 2016 on the blog of Ms. JD, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the success of women in law school and the legal profession:

Normally, my monthly column translates valuable military skills into practical advice for succeeding in law school. This month, however, I want to stray just a bit. Instead, I want to share tips that will help you land and nail interviews. I have parents, law career development counselors, and mentors to thank for these nuggets of wisdom. 

Decide which tips you want to adopt. Use your time during school to develop your own “interview preparation list.” Then, when the time comes, you will be ready to crush that interview. 

I’ll focus primarily on the time “Before the Interview,” and just briefly touch on “After the Interview.” You can learn all about what to do “During the Interview” by talking to your counselors, colleagues, and conducting some online research. 

Before the Interview 

This is the money-maker phase. The preparation you do long before landing an interview helps you to land that interview in the first place and helps you arrive feeling confident and competent. 

Get out there. 

If you are interested in litigation, for instance, attend a portion of a trial or observe oral arguments. You will better understand the language of your prospective field. And, you will have some insight into what attorneys do in this type of work. As a bonus, you might even have the chance to talk to an attorney after oral arguments to ask some questions about their work. Later during an interview, you can genuinely speak to how interested you are in litigation by circling back to what you saw and learned in and outside of court. 

Do your research. 

Use LinkedIn strategically. For instance, use the advanced search functions to filter for people who work where you are interested in working and who have a similar background, interest, or hobby as you. In my case, for instance, I sorted by the name of the organization I wanted to work for and then narrowed my search fields to include people that had prior Army or Army aviation experience. By doing this, you are much more likely to receive a positive response (or any response at all, for that matter) when you send an unsolicited inquiry to ask questions about a person’s work experience. 

Set up some Google Alerts. It’s easy to do by following Google’s instructions. Consequently, newsworthy updates will automatically arrive in your inbox about any firm or agency for whom you have set up an alert. Imagine the breadth of conversation you now bring to an interview because you are engaged in current events specific to that organization. 

Reach out. 

Reach out via phone or email to someone who works where you would like to work. This requires only that you peruse an organization’s attorney profile page. While on the page, see if an attorney shares something in common with you (for example, an alum of your school, or a former resident of your hometown). Folks with common interests are the easiest to “cold-call.” 

But if not, just pick up the phone and call or send an email. This becomes more comfortable over time. Most attorneys will gladly answer questions if you respect their time and act professionally. And, always ask if they suggest one more person with whom you might speak. This expands your research pool, and during an interview it provides you with meaningful ways to portray to the employer your genuine interest. 

Write a checklist. 

Create an informational interview checklist. Use it when reaching out to attorneys to learn more about their organization. A checklist ensures that you systematically ask the questions that will help you prepare for your interview. And asking the right questions will help you better understand whether this is the type of place you want to work. Here is a sample script that you can modify to elicit some of the information you are seeking: 

1. How long have you worked there? 

2. Why did you choose this position? 

3. Did you have experience in this field prior to working there? 

4. Tell me a little about some of the work new attorneys do there. 

5. Describe the work environment. 

6. What opportunities do you have for professional development? 

7. Are there specific recommendations that you have that might help me prepare for my interview? 

8. Would you mind sharing the name and contact information of 1-2 others that I might ask similar questions of? 

Finally, remember to thank the person for talking with you. 

Try visualization. 

Athletes swear by this. Either on the day of, or just prior to your interview, visualize how your successful interview will look – from the moment you don your suit, through the farewell handshake. Visualizing your success will ease some of the nervousness you may feel.

Prepare for tough questions. 

Consider some typical interview questions that you know you struggle with. Then write out some ways you might skillfully answer. Better yet, have a career counselor help you prepare a model answer. Then, learn your key talking points, without strictly memorizing your answer. This prior preparation eliminates some uncertainty because you will have answers at the ready if those bothersome questions arise. 

For example, employers often ask a variation of “What’s your greatest strength?” This question sounds deceptively simple. Yet, it can be tough to answer without preparation because you are likely strong in many areas. But for the interview, you must deliver a tightly-worded answer, and this is much easier if you have one prepared. Your answer should include 4 subparts for this type of question: (1) state your strength, (2) state one or two reasons as to why you chose it, (3) share a brief example that demonstrates your strength (by describing a time you used it), and finally, (4) explain the result of how your strength helped you achieve a successful result. 


Now practice answering – aloud. Interviews are never casual and comfortable, though they can be pleasant (enough) if you are well-prepared. Thorough preparation involves practice. So, practice answering interview questions with your career development counselors. Or you can reach out to an attorney with whom you have a good relationship. Share some questions and answers with them and seek their feedback. If you have actually spoken aloud several answers prior to your interview, you will feel so much stronger when those same questions come on interview day. You can easily locate some interview questions you’re likely to encounter by performing a Google search for “'typical' or 'common' interview questions.” Pick from among the list some questions that make you uncomfortable, and practice answering them. 

After the Interview 

Manners. Manners. Manners. 

Send thank-you notes. Every time. You can email within 24 hours, but also take the extra step to hand-write a note. You will stand out favorably from the crowd.

Finally, within a few hours’ post-interview, write down who you spoke with and some key points from your conversation. These notes help you connect with the person in the future. They also provide tailored talking points for a thank-you note. And, the notes help you remember important details from the interview before the stress and excitement cause details to fade from memory. Even if you don’t get the job, you can remain in touch with people with whom you’ve connected. Often, these connections may ultimately lead to job openings in the future.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Things Law Students Should Do Over Winter Break

Angela Giang 
Graduate Fellow 
Law Career Development 

It’s that time of year again! Winter break. Final exams are finally over, and many of you are well on your way to relaxation and enjoying the holiday season. Law school winter break, however, is different from your average undergraduate winter break so avoid the temptation to “Netflix and chill.” Here are the things law students should do over winter break:

Apply for Internships

Whether you’re a 1L or a 3L, winter break is the perfect time to apply for internships and/or post bar positions. With the brief break from studying, you should be able to focus on finding an internship or post bar position. This is especially important for 1Ls looking for their first internship. Law school isn’t just about your academic studies but also discovering your passion. Practical experiences are the best way to test the waters while gaining valuable skills. These experiences will guide you into becoming a well-rounded attorney.

Law school’s a journey. Upon attending law school, I was firmly set on practicing family law but there were so many areas of law that I wanted to explore! If there’s a time to explore, law school is the time to do it. I didn’t want to be an attorney who THOUGHT she knew what she wanted to do, but later discovers that there was a better fit. My experiences varied, but my skills translated from one internship to my next. I started with criminal litigation, jumped to employment law, interned for a judge, before I settled back into family law. The law can be learned so as long as you can read and write well. The skills you learn (e.g. researching and writing memorandums) will make you a desirable attorney. 

Moreover, employers look for law clerks well in advance. This is especially true for employers accepting applications on a rolling basis. Employers want to see that you’re willing to take initiative and that you’re passionate, so get ahead of the game before the competition sets in.

For folks interested in public service and/or public interest work, this is a reminder that PI/PS applications are due at the beginning of January 2017! If you need help on your cover letter and/or resume, make an appointment with one of the law career counselors by visiting LCDonline

Be Socially Active

The holiday season means that there are plenty of networking events. I’m talking about holiday parties! Yes, some holiday parties can be pricey, but typically law students get a discount, so take advantage of these discounts while you can. To find events to attend, please visit the Events section on LCDonline.

If you’re not feeling up to attending a networking event, winter break is also a good opportunity to set up informational interviews. If there’s a company, firm, or organization that you’re interested in, now is the time to set up an informational interview with an attorney who works there. Although the thought of cold calling is a daunting task, you’ll find that it’s surprisingly easy. Many attorneys want to help “young” attorneys. Every attorney has been in your exact position, eager to learn and to gain experience. To get you started on your search, see if a GGU alumni works there by doing a quick search on LinkedIn.

Keep in mind that these informational interviews do not have to be in a formal office setting. Attorneys are extremely busy, but they’re still human beings. They still need to eat, have a breathe of fresh of air, and have their caffeine. To set up an informational interview and to thank them for their time, consider setting up a lunch date, a coffee date, or simply taking a stroll around the block. 

Order Law School Books

As every law student is well aware of, law school is expensive so use this winter break to find your professors’ syllabus and order your law school textbooks! Visit Amazon (and similar websites like Bookbyte) to buy or rent your textbooks for a cheaper price. My rule of thumb is save where you can since there will PLENTY of things that you’ll need to pay for in the near future. Moreover, you should order your books now so you’ll have time to read for the first day of classes. Be smart about reading for the first day of class because this is not an undergraduate program where you can escape unnoticed. In other words, the first day of classes is not “syllabus day,” so expect the professor to cold call on you. 

Enjoy Your Winter Break!

Lastly, enjoy your winter break! Although there are a few things that you should do over winter break, I found that winter break is the only time that you do not need to constantly worry about classes or internships so take this rare occasion to socialize, eat, sleep, and recharge.