The Girl’s Guide to Law School: An Interview with Alison Monahan

After I first encountered Alison Monahan on Twitter and spent time reading her blog, The Girl’s Guide to Law School, I knew immediately I had found a kindred spirit. Balancing gimlet-eyed candor with an encouraging and supportive tone, Alison’s insights and actionable advice are a welcome tonic.

Clearly, other people have had the same experience. Only a few months into her blog, Alison’s distinctive storytelling is already widely sought and shared.

Q: A clear POV is essential to effective blogging. I love your blog’s tagline because it succinctly and clearly communicates what the content is about: “Get In, Get Through, Stay You.” Is law school basically an ordeal to be endured? A survival exercise?

A: I’ll be honest – I enjoyed many parts of law school. I found it intellectually interesting, and I liked that I was gaining insight into things I’d been vaguely aware of, but had never thought much about. Now, when I read a newspaper article about a Supreme Court decision, I understand nuances that I would have completely missed before, and I generally know why the case came out the way it did. That’s pretty cool!

The actual day-to-day experience of law school, however, left a lot to be desired. I’d done a previous graduate degree (in architecture), so I had a point of comparison that a lot of law students don’t have. I knew what it was like to work really hard and learn something that was challenging, but I found law school much, much more unpleasant than I’d expected. Part of it was probably that I went to a fancy school in New York City, and I was coming from California, but I just didn’t think most people were very nice! That, more than anything, made it an ordeal to be endured.


Q: In addition to the keen insights and impeccable writing, in my mind what distinguishes your blog is its highly personal nature. In the “About” page of your blog you write: “Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight and lots of research, I understand more about why law school is so unpleasant, particularly for women. I started this website to share what I’ve learned, and I hope you use my knowledge to make your own law school experience more satisfying and less unpleasant.” Is the blog also therapeutic for you?

A: Interesting question! I think I got most of my law school angst out with my actual therapist, who was really fantastic and helped me reframe the challenges of law school as something I could chose, or not chose, to flip out about. She was absolutely life-changing, and I encourage anyone who’s struggling with law school stress, or any other aspect of your life, to take advantage of the student health services at your school. You almost certainly get free therapy sessions, and it’s a great thing to take advantage of. You’ll learn all kinds of useful coping skills, which you’ll be able to employ throughout your life as a lawyer (trust me, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice). Even if it’s scary to call and make that first appointment, you’ll be glad you did.

As for the blog, there are a few posts that were somewhat therapeutic, I suppose. The post I was most reluctant to publish, and held on to for weeks before I put it out there, was about getting a cold offer from a law firm. Some variant of this story happens all the time at law firms, but it’s something no one ever talks about. Ultimately, I published it for a few reasons. One, just to let people know that this does happen, and that it could happen to them, even if they’ve got great credentials, and worked hard, and have always been successful. Two, to show that, if this sort of thing does happen to you, it’s not the end of the world. Your life will go on, your career will go on, and you’re not a total failure just because one particular law firm doesn’t want to hire you. And, finally, I published it because I could. In the end, it was cathartic to realize that I could tell this story, which is customarily shrouded in secrecy, and nothing bad would happen. At that point, the experience lost any power over me. I think I was holding on, at least a little bit, to the idea that this was somehow my fault, and that I should be ashamed of it, but, after publishing the post, I don’t feel that way at all!


Q: When you launched the blog in September 2011 there were already several prominent blogs and Twitter chats addressing current and aspiring law students, and legal education is a frequent topic across the legal blawgosphere. What do you see as your unique contributions to that discourse?

A: I try, above all, to be helpful. That sounds simple, but it’s not. There’s a ton of information out there for prospective, and actual, law students, and some of it is very good. But a lot of it misses the mark, in my opinion, because it’s not particularly action oriented.

For example, I read a law school guide, which said something along the lines of “It’s important to make an outline in law school, and there are various ways to do this. Try several and see what works best for you.” This is true, as far as it goes, but it’s not very helpful. If I’m a new law student reading this, I have no idea how to make a law school outline. Telling me there are various options doesn’t help – it just confuses me even more.

What I try to do instead is to get down to the nitty-gritty: Why do you need to make an outline, and what are some ways you might do it? Hopefully, after reading these posts, a new law student would have a clear idea what the goal of outlining is (which might enable them to come up with a unique way of getting to the goal), and they’d have some practical options to try.


Q: Judging from site analytics and comments, what topics/individual posts have resonated most strongly with your readers?

A: My most popular post ever was Why Every Law Student Should Be on Twitter, which got picked up by Above the Law. Beyond that (which was kind of a one-off), the most popular content is the posts debunking myths about law school and the legal profession.


Q: While some blogs embrace the frustration and bitterness endemic to law school and the legal profession, your content by contrast seems preternaturally calm and pragmatic. Is that your nature, or is it a byproduct of your experience in the crucible?

A: Probably a little from Column A, and a little from Column B. It’s definitely easier to be calm and collected about the law school/law firm experience when you’re not in the middle of it! If you’d caught me during law school exam time, I most definitely would NOT have been calm! More like completely crazy. But I think it’s good for people who are in the middle of these stress-inducing situations to know that it won’t always be like this – they too can come out on the other side and live a nice life, even if it doesn’t seem like that’s a possibility at the moment.


Q: Your bio on the site is a bit cryptic, with a whiff of mystery: “I’m a 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School. I was a member of the Columbia Law Review, I clerked for a federal judge, and I did a stint in BigLaw. In short, I did what lots of people think they want to do when they apply to law school. Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Be careful what you wish for.” Are you still a practicing attorney?

A: Right now I’m only doing pro bono work. A couple of times since I left BigLaw, I’ve explored starting a small practice with friends. For various reasons, the stars haven’t aligned yet on that, but it’s a possibility going forward. I don’t think I’d work for another firm, since I have a more entrepreneurial mindset, but I’m not completely opposed to practicing law again at some point in the future. My California bar membership is active, but I’ve officially “retired” in Massachusetts.


Q: What have you enjoyed most about your legal blogging journey so far?

A: This sounds like a cliché, but it’s the people I’ve met. Lawyers get a bad rap, but many of them are interesting, intelligent people who want to make a difference in the world. Having a legal blog is a great way to reach out to people, since I can ask them to share their experiences and advice. Most people are happy to help, and have really useful info to share with aspiring lawyers.


Q: Can you share any “ah ha” moments – good or bad?

A: Sure, I had two very early on, in the first week or so after I launched The Girl’s Guide. In all honesty, I didn’t expect anyone to find or read the site for awhile. I’d told all of my friends about it, of course, and I reached out to some old law school professors (shamelessly, I admit), but the idea that a random person on the internet might find it, and read it, seemed a bit farfetched.

So, I launched it and went on about my life. Within a few days, one of my posts on scheduling clerkship interviews was a top Google result, and someone had found me on Twitter and asked me to guest post regularly on their site. I was shocked, on both accounts.

The “ah ha” moment was twofold. One, search engine optimization and social media really work and can help you spread ideas very efficiently. Two, people might actually want to read this stuff!


Q: How’s Twitter working out for you? Do you actively participate on other social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn discussion groups)?

A: Twitter’s the best! I was reluctant to join (and only did so because my web designer added a “Follow me on Twitter” button to the site), but it’s turned out to be awesome. I love how there’s such a community vibe to the whole thing, where everyone’s trying to post useful content that other people will appreciate. And it’s amazing how easily people can connect. I’ve got a bunch of “Twitter friends” now, that I’d never have met otherwise.

I’m also on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I think those have their place, even if they’re less active (at least for me). LinkedIn groups for law students and such are useful, because you can spread content and build a reputation as someone who knows what they’re talking about and is trying to help. My own LinkedIn group is pretty small, and I generally forget to update it. Facebook’s getting more active as I make more connections, but Twitter’s the clear winner for me!


Q: Do you have any plans to add other media to your mix (e.g. videos, webinars, conferences)?

A: Actually, yes, there are a couple of exciting things I’m working on. I’d like to start doing some podcasts, so I’m talking with Ann Levine about possible topics for her Blog Talk Radio show. I’m also working with Lee Faller Burgess, of Amicus Tutoring, on a course to demystify the law school experience, which we hope will be really helpful, and make law school less of an ordeal. Stay tuned!


Q: What do you say to prospective law students who ask “Is it worth it?”

A: I guess I’d ask what they mean by that. My question in return would be, “What do you want to get out of it?” If a prospective law student can answer that question with a decent level of detail, then we can start evaluating whether law school can meet their expectations.

I don’t think you can say, in the abstract, that law school is “worth it” or “not worth it.” Sure, you could calculate the cost to attend and your expected level of earnings over a given career path, and say you’ll be financially better off (or not) if you go to law school and everything goes according to plan. But that calculation leaves out a lot – Will you like your job? Will your work be meaningful? Will you be able to eat dinner with your kids (or even have time to have them)? Will this path make you happy?

These are big questions, and most of them can only be answered in retrospect. The mission for the prospective law student is to get as close to an answer in the here-and-now as they realistically can.

The way to do that, I think, is to find out as much as possible about the profession, and to talk to lots of practicing (and former) lawyers. When people are gathering information, it’s critical to be aware of natural heuristic biases (paying more attention to information that confirms your preexisting opinion, for example, and less to information that contradicts it).

The hardest part of this analysis is to find a way to really listen to what people are telling you. There’s a lot of wishful thinking out there, and law schools, to be frank, sometimes prey on this. The reality is that law’s a difficult profession, and it’s not a path to guaranteed riches. For the right person, it’s a good option. But far too many prospective students either fail to do their research, or put aside the feeling that maybe this isn’t a good idea, and end up bitter and disgruntled.

Don’t let this be you! Make sure you know what you’re getting into, before you commit to a legal career. Only later will you know if it was worth it.

Thanks a lot for having me on Shatterbox!


Alison Monahan started The Girl’s Guide to Law School to help aspiring lawyers have a better law school experience. She’s a 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was a member of the Columbia Law Review. After graduation, she clerked for a (totally awesome) federal judge for a year, then worked as a patent litigator in a San Francisco BigLaw firm.

If you’d like, feel free to follow The Girl’s Guide to Law School on Twitter at @GirlsGuideToLS, join our Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or sign up for our highly-coveted weekly newsletter.  

Law Practice Management: Fortune Favors the Bold

If you believe Vivia Chen’s recent post on Careerist, neither chief legal officers at corporations nor their outside counsel firms are seriously interested in alternative fee arrangements. Chen bolstered her thesis with an opinion from Corporate Counsel writer Nigel Holloway: “True, more than three-quarters of legal departments surveyed are initiating talks with their law firms over alternative fee arrangements, but these rarely bear fruit.”

What this perfunctory analysis elides is that even if clients are not aggressively pushing for AFAs, that doesn’t mean they are unquestioningly paying whatever bills they get. There are other reliable, time-tested ways to lower costs. As long as outside firms are willing to write off billable hours, clients can achieve their cost and productivity objectives without the trouble of negotiating complicated new service agreements.

While the profession dithers with what to do about the billable hours pricing model, a few firms are pioneering a wide range of technology-enabled efficiency and cost saving applications. As Hamlet observed, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”


Hal M. Stewart, Chief Operating Officer of Chadbourne & Parke, recently offered a more action-oriented take on  how innovative law firms are lowering operating expenses. His excellent post outlines nine innovative technology applications already in use by some law firms that offer significant opportunities for cost reduction and organizational effectiveness:

  • Full digitization of incoming mail
  • “Hoteling” office space arrangements
  • E-billing for law firm vendors
  • Workflow automation for billing adjustments and A/R write-offs
  • Automated notification for AFA threshold reporting
  • Unified VOIP communication, collaboration and messaging infrastructure
  • Social media for recruitment and associate communications
  • Workflow-enabled transaction experience systems
  • Data mining for alternative fee arrangement pricing

The pressure on both in-house legal departments and outside counsel to deliver exceptional legal services at competitive rates is real and growing. AFAs are only one piece of the puzzle.

Do you think there’s a tipping point coming for bold moves into cost control and reduction, or will it continue to be  more talked about than acted on?

Thought Leadership for Law Students: An Interview with Online Law Journal Editor Sarah Eli Mattern

The scarcity of strong law student voices in legal social media is conspicuous, so when I encountered the online law journal The Student Appeal on Twitter, I was immediately interested to learn more. Comprised of articles, op-ed pieces and a blog, The Student Appeal serves as a beacon and “town square” for thoughtful content and discussion that might not otherwise be available or relevant to law students.

In this conversation, The Student Appeal co-founder and editor Sarah Eli Mattern discusses her vision and mission for the journal, and her insights on content curation, online community building and thought leadership marketing for law students.

Q: The mission statement on your website begins “We founded The Student Appeal to give law students a professional way to get their names and writing noticed.” What’s the background for that choice? Did you see a lack of opportunity for law student writers? A lack of professional focus by law students in their social media engagement?

 A: I did see a lack of publishing opportunities for law students. While the majority of law schools require students to write at least one legal article before they graduate, students have limited publishing opportunities for those papers. A student can try to publish with their school’s law journal, many of which will publish a handful of student notes annually. What caught my attention was that if almost every student has to write a paper and the majority of students can’t get published, then the effort and arguments those papers contain largely become nothing more than trash.

Keeping in mind that many students don’t wish to publish their papers and some student’s articles are not quality scholarship, I’ve still found that a large percentage of students didn’t feel like they had publication options.

Q: In addition to bringing legal discourse by law students into higher relief, your approach also seems to have an eye toward personal branding. Is that a fair statement? Do you believe law students can improve their career prospects through content marketing?

A: Absolutely. Personal branding is imperative in today’s job market. Any time students can distinguish themselves from the masses by presenting specialized knowledge or accomplishments, they stand a better chance at getting hired. By publishing articles on a topic of interest to lawyers within a specific area of law, students can demonstrate their hard-earned and well-researched knowledge, while also marketing themselves to those same people who may one day hold their resume.

Q:  How do you describe your target audience(s)?

A: We made The Student Appeal an online journal because we want to give anyone the opportunity to access this information. Almost everyone starts his or her research online when they want to know more about something. We want lawyers, law students, and all who care about law and policy issues to read, submit, and interact on our site.

Q: Generally speaking, blogs have relegated long-form content to the periphery of social media. While your site has a blog component, the emphasis is on articles and op-ed pieces. With so much competition for eyeballs and sustained attention, what’s your strategy for attracting and retaining readers?

We expect to attract and retain readers by publishing the most interesting and timely articles possible.

Traditional law journals publish papers with articles upwards of fifty pages. We decided at our inception to limit the length of even our traditional articles. We definitely try to be cognizant of our readers’ time, so we cut pieces to keep them as short as possible while maintaining their integrity. At the same time, we do appreciate the different nature of longer-form content, and we feel it has an important place in legal conversation. Though not everyone will be interested in all of our 10+ page articles, we hope that the breadth of subject matter, combined with the shorter-form opinion editorials, will present enjoyable reads to scholars of all walks of life. It’s this ability to delve into a subject and explore links to other websites and information that we feel brings the most value to our readers.

Q: While not affiliated with an academic institution, do you follow that editorial model? What’s your submission/review process, and what are your criteria for evaluating submissions?

A: Yes and no. When we receive a submission, three editors preliminarily review the article. Those editors send me a brief write up with their impressions, comments, and recommendation on whether the article is publication worthy or not. Then, if approved for publication, we email the author our publication agreement. After the author formally agrees to publish with us, we complete a full edit on the entire piece and send the article back to the author to review our notes. The publication process varies based on the length of the piece, but full articles usually take around two and a half months.

We accept articles and opinions from all political spectrums and ideologies, on any law-related subjects. In our publishing criteria, we do not care if our editors agree or disagree with what is written, only that what is stated is well-thought-out and clearly articulated. We desire to open our audience to many different viewpoints and allow them to come to their own conclusions. We do not promote any particular agenda and we do not answer to a school board, which really gives us a lot of flexibility in publishing more controversial or non-standard legal articles.

Q:  The site launched in April 2011. How have you approached recruiting potential contributors and building site traffic? Do you use the site’s blog and your Twitter participation as marketing tools?

A: Most of our contributors find out about us by word of mouth, but Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites have played a large part in helping us get the word out.

Q: You’re a freshly minted (2011) JD from Florida A&M. What was your inspiration to launch an online law journal? Is publishing your full-time venture, or are you also pursuing a legal career?

A: In the future, I would love nothing more than to work on The Student Appeal full time. Right now though, I want to practice. I know that what I learn from practicing will only help me to grow the site to its full potential.

 Q: Can you share any “Aha” moments you’ve had so far?

 A: On the web side, I have learned a lot about what does and does not work well in a publishing/blog sense. Originally, we wanted to focus more on strictly long-form legal articles. Through our analytics we began to realize that topics covering more current events, and the shorter-form editorials received the most interest. So though we are still committed to publishing full legal articles, we expanded our focus to include shorter-form pieces.

We also originally started the site with a community forum. But after a month or two working in the forum, we decided to replace our forum with a site-wide Facebook-based comment system. This allowed for easier discussion of our popular or more polarized articles, and has helped to create more dialogue between the article author’s and our readers. It’s always humbling to remember that as a publishing site, you are only so great as your authors and readers allow you to be.

Q: Do you have any plans to add other media to your mix (e.g. videos, webinars, conferences)?

A: Nothing definite, but my business partner, Dawson Henry (aka our Web Ninja), and I have discussed it. We would like to see The Student Appeal grow in many directions in the future.

Sarah Eli Mattern is a graduate of Florida A&M University College of Law and a member of the Florida Bar. She co-founded The Student Appeal Law Journal as a way of pursuing her passions, writing and legal research. She currently writes, edits, and manages the online law journal in hopes that it will grow to become a prominent source for legal discourse.

The Law School Debt Crisis: Forget Reforming Law Schools, Start from Scratch

Spiraling, uncontrolled costs. Crippling personal debt. Long-term joblessness and underemployment. Downward pressure on wages. Hand-wringing. Finger-pointing. Ineffectual half measures to address the crisis.

Sound familiar? But unlike the U.S. sovereign debt, there still are no urgent or comprehensive efforts under way to slow — let alone reverse — the job-killing effects of law school costs. Lots of talk, though.

This week saw another round of disingenuous harumphing when a post by an anonymous “whistleblower” law professor rehashed what’s been manifestly obvious for years: Law schools are revenue-generating machines with no checks or balances from the marketplace or government, and with plenty of self-interested reasons to push their costs ever higher. [Apparently this is an “astonishing” indictment because an anonymous law professor said it.]


Fortunately, this week also saw a refreshing antidote to that impotent hand wringing — a well-reasoned and eminently achievable way to cut the Gordian knot: Build from scratch a no-frills, ABA-accredited, university-based private law school covering all its costs at the $20,000-per-year tuition level.

On The Faculty Lounge blog, Roger Dennis, Dean of the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University, posted a precis for The Class of 1957 College of Law. The thought exercise begins simply:

“The Class of 1957 College of Law will have 500 students.  It will not offer any financial aid; one price [$20,000] for all will create $10 million in revenue.”

It then goes on to explain how the school will be structured, staffed and operated within that budget.

Key elements include:

  • A full-time faculty of 20, earning $100,000/year, plus benefits.
  • No research requirements for faculty, allowing them to teach three courses each per academic term.
  • No sabbaticals.
  • Professional development focused on teaching only.
  • The curriculum will be meat and potatoes (e.g. evidence, commercial law, federal income tax, business organizations, trust and estates, family law and legal drafting).
  • Beyond trial advocacy and legal drafting programs, the experiential education program will be based on other simulation courses and well-monitored externships.

No call to arms to actually build and test a model school, though. No discussion of approaching the Carnegie Endowment for the Advancement of Teaching or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help underwrite a pilot.

Alas, while interesting, Dennis’ post is just another abstract academic parlor game (and it has the comment thread to prove it). But it was a refreshing counterpoint to the usual jeremiads — a welcome rhetorical sorbet.

Legal Blogging 2.0: Lessons from Law Student Bloggers


The first time I wrote about law student bloggers I approached it from the perspective of social media expertise as a competitive advantage in job hunting. In the intervening time I’ve come to appreciate something more transformative in blogs by current law students and recent grads.

In 2001 Marc Prensky famously postulated a bifurcation in the relationship with and adoption of digital technologies between digital immigrants — individuals born before the advent of digital technology who incorporated it to their lives to a greater or lesser extent later on — and digital natives — individuals immersed in digital technology since birth and therefore more naturally comfortable with and adaptable to it.

The same analogy can be applied to legal social media. While Baby Boom and Gen X lawyers have an uneasy, uneven relationship with blogging and online networking, Gen Y and Millennial lawyers and law students have been immersed in it for their entire undergraduate and graduate careers. While Legal Blogging 1.0 is mired in evangelism for social media marketing and online networking, Legal Blogging 2.0 comes to it organically, with different sensibilities and objectives.

Some distinguishing characteristics I see in Legal Blogging 2.0:

  • Technology and online social connectivity are essential — not adjunct — in both personal and professional life. For those who choose it, blogging is not a chore, nor a necessary evil — and it’s not a “strategy.”
  • Be an interesting person first, then a law student/lawyer
  • Peer mentoring and crowdsourcing are the most relevant and useful forms of coaching. Insights and advice from Version 1.0 legal bloggers are welcome, but not deferred to.

Following are some interesting blogs worth checking out that I believe embody the best characteristics of Legal Blogging 2.0:

World Wide Whit (Jack Whittington) – I like the manifesto-like quality to this post and applaud the mission of Law School Chat:

“As I reach the end of my law school career it has become apparent to me that life would have been incredibly easier over the course of the last three years if I would have had someone to give me a heads up about what to expect throughout law school or just someone to talk to when it all felt like it was too much to handle.

“Jason Tenenbaum, Brian Hoffman, and myself are launching a joint social media venture through Twitter to bring law school students, potential law school students, and attorneys together in conversation about what to expect in law school and how to deal with the many challenges it presents us. It is our vision to create a place where students can go with any questions they may have regarding law school or life in general and give them a broad range of opinions and insights in how to approach things. Most of all we want to create a friendly atmosphere that fosters collegiality among the up and coming generation of law school students with those who came before us and the ones who will follow in our footsteps someday soon.”

The next live Twitter chat with take place March 27, but in the meantime you can join the conversation through the #lawschoolchat hashtag or by email.

Fresh Thought Soup (Mariel) – From “About the blog & Disclaimer”:

“I’ll write about a lot of things: law school and the ensuing hilarity, life lessons, and general happenings.  I hope this is becomes a way to spread the encouragement and entertainment, dispel the mystery surrounding the hallowed halls of law school, and as a way for my friends to keep in touch [or at least feel less like I’ve disappeared].”

My Mind Rebels at Stagnation (Anonymous) – A recent collection of anecdotes and impressions of the new semester was followed by a very powerful, personal account of “What Planned Parenthood Means to Me.”

Daisy, JD (Just Daisy) (Daisy) – From “About Daisy”:

“I am an attorney married to an attorney, which means my house is full of boring books & equally boring discussions. To make up for the general lack of creativity I blog, I cook & I make fun of the legal profession at every available opportunity. Unless of course I’m feeling sassy and then I’ll offer unsolicited advice on being a law student or a lawyer or the spouse of a lawyer.”

Grammar Rules (That’s a Complete Sentence)


The following post first appeared in 2010:

Yesterday was National Grammar Day — “March Forth” is the punny slogan/mnemonic — and while the well-ordered, fastidious nationwide observations should have tipped me off, I missed it. Notwithstanding, here’s my short meditation on the enduring utility and necessity of speaking and writing well.

Many logophiles and armchair grammarians of a certain age have a special affection for the old Reader’s Digest feature “Toward More Picturesque Speech.” As a child, for me it was not just a vocabulary building exercise to spice up my school essays, but also the start of a lifelong adventure, in the way that all serious collectors and connoisseurs relish the search for, discovery and display of rare and exquisitely crafted items.

Yes, there was some adolescent know-it-all-ism in there too, but over time I came to realize that grammar — like manners — is ultimately about making people feel comfortable. So even now, in the age of 140-character, thumb-typed communication, attention to spelling, usage and grammar are valuable because they make for clear, easy and enjoyable reading, and they inform the way others perceive your personal and professional brand.

  1. Sloppy writing conveys inattention to detail. What does that say about the quality of the product or service you’re selling?
  2. Glaring mistakes trip the reader or listener, and distract them from your message. A few days ago I was reading a post by a relatively well-known law marketing blogger and encountered the phrase “for all intensive purposes” — and that’s all I remember about it.
  3. Tolerances vary widely. Even if some — or even most — friends and business associates don’t care about spelling, punctuation and the occasional mangled sentence, some will. Is irritating or alienating even a small fraction of your clients due to lazy communication an acceptable loss?

For the record, I don’t profess to be a grammar expert or master prose stylist, and I am certain that martinets in the gotcha brigade could pick this post to pieces. Rather, for very concrete business reasons I am advocating vigilance and continual improvement in written and oral communication. Presentations and writing are products. Regardless of the power of your ideas, the color, fit and finish also matter, because they differentiate and distinguish your brand.

My Picks for Notable Posts of the Week 2/4/11

Sometimes the best ideas in legal marketing are hiding in plain sight.

I think that’s the case with MCLE training. Practicing lawyers have to complete it to stay licensed, and judging by their bios, it seems like all of them have given a session at one time or another. So where are the firms that have made speakers bureau services and CLE training a distinguishing characteristic of their brand?

If you’ve already created a CLE presentation, why aren’t you tweaking and publicizing it for use with business and civic audiences? And if you have an inventory of general speakers bureau presentations, why aren’t you tuning them up into accredited CLE content?

CLE maven Tim Baran is one of the most visible and persuasive evangelists for leveraging CLE’s nexus with marketing, and in a Lawyerist post this week he reinforced how developing and presenting CLE content directly benefits the presenter, not just the audience. I was particularly pleased to see that he called out in-house training as an underutilized CLE opportunity, and he helpfully included a link to  Law Writing‘s excellent state by state guide to rules for in-house courses.

Here’s an idea starter: MCLE-palooza.

Nothing concentrates the mind on MCLE like the looming fulfillment deadline. And as with filing taxes, every year there is a sizable cohort of procrastinators scrambling to finish — or even start — their MCLE. Seems like some enterprising firm, local bar association or LMA chapter could turn that confluence of supply and demand into a great publicity event.

Imagine a Saturday of back-to-back MCLE sessions. Donate the space, have vendors underwrite the lunch, tie it in with a local charity, get a local TV station to cover it and — Voila! — marketing gold.

One successful example is the Austin Bar Association’s People’s Law School, which offers free informal courses taught by lawyers to the general public on topics like family law, wills and estate planning, criminal law, credit repair and the legal process. Why not an MCLE version for the lawyers themselves?

I’ve been flogging this idea for years now, but so far no takers. I hope this time someone grabs it and runs with it — and gives me credit, of course.

Could Social Media Expertise Help Law Grads Get a Job?: Four Student Bloggers to Watch

A story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal  examined the less-than-rosey employment picture facing current and aspiring law students.

“The situation is so bleak that some students and industry experts are rethinking the value of a law degree, long considered a ticket to financial security. If students performed well, particularly at top-tier law schools, they could count on jobs at corporate firms where annual pay starts as high as $160,000 and can top out well north of $1 million. While plenty of graduates are still set to embark on that career path, many others have had their dreams upended.

Part of the problem is supply and demand. Law-school enrollment has held steady in recent years while law firms, judges, the government and other employers have drastically cut hiring in the economic downturn.

Allan Tanenbaum, chairman of the ABA Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Profession and Legal Needs, who was interviewed for the story, noted that the average law-school debt for students is $100,000, and in the current job market, many “have no foreseeable way to pay that back.”

So while those stats might discourage potential law school applicants, current students are — as they say in poker circles — pot committed. Despite murky prospects, they’ve already invested too much to walk away.

Enter the law student bloggers.

Think about it: Law firms are just now wrapping their heads around online social networking and marketing, and grappling with how to develop those capabilities. In a crowded applicant pool, social media skills are going to be an important differentiator.

Probably the most famous student blawgger exemplar is Rex Gradeless of  the Social Media Law Student blog, who built a large a loyal following through advocacy of technology innovation in the practice of law. I thought it might be interesting and useful to start looking for other student voices and other approaches that exhibit aptitude and passion for the medium.

A few of my picks for “Law Student Blogs to Watch”:

Tax Docket (Joshua Landsman) – Congratulations are in order. According to a May 4 tweet, this week Landsman took his last exam and finished his J.D. at the University of Florida College of Law. A pop culture-inflected take on the dryest of topics. Tax info served up with music and celebrity gossip.

Law Student at Last (Anonymous) – An L1 “non-traditional” law student in Chicago. A candid, readable journal of what it’s like to balance work and family while pursuing a dream.

“Problem is, my husband is not on board.  He, in fact, believes my choices are harmful to our kids and our marriage!  I get that being away so much makes life harder for him and I appreciate all he’s taken on to make this work, but I also believe I am showing my kids that nothing is impossible and it is important to go for your dreams.  My daughter, especially, needs to see a woman succeeding at something that is really really hard!  I hope my marriage can make it, but if it doesn’t, it was going to fall apart without law school.

So, we shall see – it will be an interesting 3 years!!!”

Dennis Jansen (Eponymous) – University of Minnesota law student and urban explorer/commentator. Probably the most progressive blawg I’ve come across — Edgy/interesting graphics. Engaging. Irreverent  but smart. Urban/urbane. Lots of useful links, well organized.


The problem with my international tax law class is that it is far more regulation dense than my corporate tax law or basic federal tax law courses. Things also tend to get “mathy.” Ick.

The Reasonably Prudent Law Student (Huma Rashid) – Blogs about law school experiences,  fashion and writing (legal writing, critical theory, essays and fiction). Pivots from a post on “Vintage Finds At Tulle for Under $50” to an illustrated pyromania-themed meditation on final exams.

So mad skills, right? (Do people still say that?)

For additional recommendations on student blawggers, check out the winners of Clear Admit’s first “Best of Blogging Awards,” announced earlier this week.