2012 writers in residence
Through Feminist Lenses
My name is Beth Budnick, and I am a recent graduate of Carleton College (small liberal arts college in the middle of Minnesota), and a former Women's and Gender Studies student. As a recent graduate and a 1L, my column will apply this feminist lens to the law school experience, and hopefully start conversations about current legal education. I also will look at these issues in practice, and look at how law schools can address the unequal access to representation through coursework, particularly for 1L's.
As attorneys we have the rare opportunity to redefine how we engage and interact with other lawyers, communities and agencies. The number of unemployed attorneys is outstanding and we must change and provide innovative concepts and mind maps to redefine our field and purpose. Innovative lawyering refers to the idea that we must use and engage social media and digital communities and activists to support our laywering efforts both in and out of the courts. Social media supports social advocacy yet there are ethical problems and obligations to uphold when engaging social media platforms both professionally and privately. Social Media has a significant impact in our legal profession, both as a tool in the court room and as an agent of social change and social good. Join the conversation and learn how you can use social media in your personal career path and practice to engage a larger audience and stay informed of the impact of social media law.
"Legally Thrifty" will be a personal finance column directed towards the newly professional woman who wants to be more smart about their spending and saving. In particular, the woes of debt from taking out law school loans can make us feel like Sisyphus rolling that boulder up the hill. Hopefully, this column will help maintain positivity and guide Ms JD readers on how to become more financially savvy. I plan on covering topics such as how to cut down on living expenses in the city, how to build a business wardrobe on a budget, and how to avoid defaulting on your loans. Please stay tuned and follow "Legally Thrifty" as we make the upward financial journey together.
Tips from the Top
The article will consist of interviews of very successful women attorneys who have overcome challenges to succeed. They will share their tips on how they became successful.
Women lawyers are bombarded with negative statistics about their prospects for partnership and key legal posts in Fortune 500 companies. Add in the motherhood effect, and the news becomes even bleaker. But do female attorneys really have to choose between career success and children? Is it possible to “have it all” in today’s legal world? And if so, then how? This column will examine these questions and more by focusing on one mother’s quest for partnership as well as a series of conversations with some of the most successful female attorneys/moms throughout the country.
3L+1, adventures in the real world
LSAT applications, law school, job wherever I wanted to live. In my mind, that’s how my legal career was going to start. In reality, my path—and I assume many other womens’ paths—has not been so straight. Many of us not fortunate enough to already secure gainful employment are left struggling to find our way post-graduation. Some have resorted to looking through craigslist for job postings, some have moved back into their parents’ home, some are trying to figure out how to continue their law school relationship, and others are trying to figure out how they failed the bar and how to dominate it next time. I am currently making my way through 3L+1, and this column will follow my adventures and also offer the advice of female lawyers who have made it past 3L+1.
Navigating Through the Art of Litigating
I am a first-year associate at a litigation firm. Like many skills in life, you can't master being a good litigator by reading a 'how-to' book on the subject. So how does one become a skilled trial attorney? Feel free to insert any old cliché, such as "getting your hands dirty" or "practice makes perfect." (un)Fortunately, the world of litigation is moving in a direction that promotes the early settlement of cases and as a result, each year, fewer cases reach trial than did the year before. Trial or no trial, I am determined to find ways to gain some litigation skills over the next twelve months. Each month I will write about the various activities in which I engage to achieve my goal. On the way, I will also seek the advice of successful female litigators and share their insight.
Big Time Small Town Law
In law school, too often career services preaches that if you do well in law school the only “right” choice is to become a first-year associate in Big Law in Big City. There’s lots of information about the challenges and rewards of working for a large law firm: what to wear, how to get in, how to advance, and how and when to leave. This column is geared towards readers who are interested in a different path to success – one that involves having your own clients, a sense of community, and retiring from the practice of law in the same location you began. Through interviews with practicing attorneys in both private and government practice and from my vantage point as a trial court law clerk, I’ll provide insights and anecdotes of the challenges and rewards of working in a more rural area, as well as specific advice on networking and joining the ranks of those who have found happiness in the practice of big time, small town law.
Practical Innovation – A Guide to Greener Lawyering and Living
This column is focusing on all things sustainable and innovative without losing sight of the practical. I am a new mom juggling work, life, sanity, and an awareness that my choices in life affect our environment. What kind of world do I want to leave my children? I hope I can leave a better one, but I can’t do it alone! We’ll share and discuss practical skills for making our practices greener, information on how to introduce these ideas to our clients and colleagues, and success stories and not-so-successful stories on incorporating green practices into our own lives. From diapers to paper files, from telecommuting to office pumping techniques, from sensible green to ridiculous tree lover, our green earth and blue sky’s the limit.
A reflection on client development war stories, lessons learned, and effective strategies from the vaults of an experienced practitioner coupled with commentary and advice from budding rainmakers.
Out of Practice
Law students are told that a JD is an extremely versatile degree. I couldn’t agree more. In an evolving legal job market, it is vital to have skills that translate into other job markets. Whether by choice or the recession, many people are using their law degree in various ways. My column will discuss my life as an attorney who has chosen not to practice law. I will demonstrate the ways in which the skills acquired in law school are applicable to many jobs. I will also explore what other women have chosen to do with their law degrees. Having a positive attitude, an open mind and some creativity can lead to a lucrative career outside of the legal profession.
Estrogen in the Courtroom
In the space of two weeks, I went from taking a course in sex equality in law school to clerking in a courthouse where one of the judges owns a T-shirt that reads "I support working moms" and depicts a woman on a stripper pole. The "real world" taught me one thing quickly: sexism pervades the practice of law. In the first few months, I ran into one of our regular attorneys at a bar. "There's something funny going on," he said cryptically, after complaining about one of the judge's rulings. "There's too much estrogen in your courtroom to see clearly." There is indeed something funny going on, though I don't know if we can blame estrogen. This column will be my effort to see more clearly.
Making Passion Pay
Law school is a big investment—in money, in time, and in sanity. Hopefully at the end of it, we emerge with more than mountains of debt and gray hairs. Everyone goes to law school for a different reason. Everyone believes in something. Everyone feels passionate about something. The challenge is figuring out how to harness that passion (and fancy Latin title) and translate it into a successful and fulfilling post-law school life. Easier said than done. We all hope we will be able to make enough to pay off our loans, to live in something other than a cardboard box, and to maybe buy the occasional pair of fabulous shoes (or whatever you are into). But success and happiness are measured in more ways than a paycheck, a year-end bonus, or a big house with a closet filled with shoes. I intend to seek out legal professionals who have found a way to make their law degrees pay off; not just in the “make it rain” kind of way (unless “making it rain” is your passion, then that is totally cool, too). I’m looking for the “I’ve found a way to do what I want and what I believe in” kind of way. How have they turned their JD into something they love, something they believe in, but also something that pays their bills and allows them to live the life they want to live? Because, let’s be real, money is important. So, how have they made their passions pay?
OutLaws: The LGBT Legal World of San Francisco and Beyond
Atticus Lee, a 2L at UC Davis School of Law and diehard lover of Dolores Park lesbian-hipsters , muses on the love-hate relationship of LGBT and JD in the City by the Bay. Through uplifting accounts on the paths, lives, and dreams of LGBTQQI attorneys, Atticus examines how law in the big city has evolved with human consciousness, progress, and compassion.
Inter-Disciplinary Action and Advocacy
On Combining the Things You Have to Make Stuff Work. I’m a law school graduate/non-lawyer, currently working in research and academia. I chose policy internships and clinics over moot court and law review during law school. Likewise, my time since graduation has been spent trying to build a career that allows me to use and celebrate my law degree without being defined by it. It can be a strange line to toe. So much of the advice I received while in law school from informational interviews and mentors alike was from people already in their dream position and about how they had pieced together the path already behind them. While this was always inspiring and much appreciated, hindsight is 20/20 and these meetings often left me thinking, "Okay but what should I do now?" This column will share the perspective of someone who is still figuring out (and sometimes failing at!) how to get where she wants to be, with a few anecdotes about pop culture, music and literature thrown in for good measure.
Adventures of a Well-Travelled Law Student
As a woman who entered law school at the seasoned age of 40+, I have a lot of professional and personal living behind me, and anticipation of many adventures in law ahead of me. I abhor the whole concept of “middle-age,” so I employ the term well-travelled. The transition from career and family life to full-time law student has been both everything I expected and full of surprises. A sampling of these experiences include being a “closeted” 40+ in a 1L class of peers in their 20s, to addressing family life decisions when all you can think about is proximate cause. I have a unique perspective regarding study pressures, networking, and career possibilities. Through sharing candid observations of my experiences, many filled with humor and some poignant, hopefully readers will be entertained.
“I don’t know how you do it!” is a phrase evening law students hear – a lot. Sometimes I don’t think we know how we do it. Before starting law school, I discovered the wealth of information out there in books and on blogs about how to be successful in law school, how to deal with your life and relationships in law school, how to get As, how to make law review, and on and on. One particular situation that seems to get overlooked in all of this advice is how to survive and even excel as an evening student. Hopefully this is not because not enough of us are living to tell the tale! This column will highlight a variety of issues unique to evening law students.
Women Lawyers Who Rock
Women Lawyers Who Rock is a showcase of the accomplishments and inspirational stories from female attorneys and law students throughout the country. Each month the achievements (be it long over due praise, or a new feat) reached by an extraordinary female attorney or law student will be celebrated. If you are lucky enough to know an admirable woman in the legal world that you’d liked to see featured, please have no hesitation in advising me!
Public Interest Paths
"Public Interest Paths" focuses each month on a different area or career opportunity in the public interest law sphere. This encompasses everything from governmental careers, work for non-profit organizations, and public defense--to public interest possibilities farther off the beaten path. Public interest simply means "the people's general welfare and wellbeing." Investing part or all of your law career in the welfare of your community can be rewarding and fascinating. This column is devoted to exploring different ways to do so.
What No One Tells You Before You Go to Law School
Alison Monahan runs The Girl's Guide to Law School, a website she founded after realizing that everything she wanted in the law wasn't really all that great! Now she helps other law students, and aspiring law students, figure out if a career in the law is right for them. Alison's Ms. JD column aims to demystify law school and the legal profession by debunking a different "myth" each month. Stay tuned and get the info you need to succeed!
Dear [Law Firm Recruiter]
Getting your foot in the door to the legal job market can be a daunting and mysterious process, especially for law students and young lawyers who have few established connections to the legal world. I know how you feel: I was there once too. This column will walk you through various aspects of applying for legal positions, focusing on the mistakes I have seen candidates making over my last few years recruiting for Biglaw. Most of my advice will come down to a simple (but admittedly vague) rule: as a candidate, you must demonstrate that you have taken the time to understand your target audience as well as the broader legal community. That may sound trite up front, but keep it in mind over the next year as you read what I have to share with you. At the very least, that rule (and - I hope! - this column) should help you avoid mistakes that can doom your application right off the bat!
The Offbeat Path
The Offbeat Path explores unconventional career paths pursued by female lawyers. Every month, a female lawyer is interviewed for this blog and shares her experience as an attorney, what her career is now, and how she arrived at her current "unconventional" job. If you're looking for a job or dissatisfied with your current job, hopefully this will help you think of new job opportunities that you might enjoy!
Alter Ego: Women Lawyers Beyond the Billable Hour
Women lawyers are dynamic in that many have to manage the task of balancing a full plate both within and outside of the law firm environment. This blog will give you an inside look into the lives of powerful women lawyers beyond their titles, peeling back the layers to reveal who they are in their spare time, what they seek to contribute to society, and the advice they have for women law students striving to make it where they are.
Ms. JD International: Your Ticket to a Career Abroad
Ever wonder how you could combine your love of travel with the practice of law? Ever wish you could be practicing law in a foreign country? Ever think about how you could use your law degree internationally? Ms. JD International is your ticket to a career abroad! From law students to practicing attorneys, Ms. JD International is your source for ideas and advice on how to harness your JD and pursue a career abroad in law or related fields. From public interest opportunities to law firm work, from permanent ex-pat life to the occasional traveler, Ms. JD International hopes to provide women law students and lawyers with information and ideas on the many ways a U.S. law degree can launch a career abroad. Bon Voyage!
"Do you go here?" "We [people of color, women] need someone like you to become a good lawyer!" "Do something with that hair before your interview." For women of color entering the legal profession, these sentiments belie an underlying -- and sometimes hostile -- environment of implicit "otherness." This column examines these notions as a point of entry into a discussion about the future of the legal profession and the necessity for women of color to become visible catalysts for social justice.
Once Upon an Abogada: The socio-cultural implications of life and litigation for one Latina
This column will explore many aspects of our existence, as women, lawyers, partners, minorities, mothers, wives, lovers, business owners (and so much more) comically, critically, tragically, professionally, academically and honestly. I am a first generation ”Nuyorican” single mother, transplanted into the New Mexican desert and practicing law as a partner in a defense firm. I have lots to say and lots to learn but more than anything, I want to try to generate an exchange of straight talk about how it really is out here for us. I will write from the frank perspective of one Latina (me) but the column will cross all racial and ethnic barriers.
The Healthy Lawyer
This column will provide information and inspiration on a variety of health and wellness topics. Women, and women lawyers in particular, have demanding and busy lives, and often put work and family before their own needs. We often focus in on our careers to the exclusion of our health. The Healthy Lawyer will encourage readers to take control of their own health and make it as important a priority as their careers. Remember, a healthy lawyer is a happy lawyer!
There are many unique aspects of studying at Yale Law—small classes, no letter grades, students get to pick their own courses after first semester—but even expecting an unconventional legal education, I was surprised at my 1L orientation to hear a professor call Yale “Montessori Law School.” We all laughed, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking, “really? What does that mean?” Montessori education emphasizes independence and freedom of choice, and describes learning as “purposeful activity.” As I reflect on my time so far as a 1L, I’m starting to see what the professor might have meant. This column will explore the experiences of being a 1L at Yale, including examining whether Montessori Law School is in fact an apt description.
The Mother Law
The Mother Law is about building character as a mother and a lawyer – or the process of discovering the joy in both worlds beyond just making it work. The practice of law is as much about character as it is knowledge or experience. For women who are both mothers and lawyers, building character is a survival skill in both spheres. But I’ve always had higher expectations than mere survival – the burning desire to thrive in both law and family. Building character can be the key to seeking and finding that personal and professional fulfillment.
Past Perspectives: Women in Legal History
Often our best understanding of where we are today comes from an investigation of where and who we came from. This is no different for women in the law. Past Perspectives: Women in Legal History highlights the intersection of women and legal history, and will involve conversations with legal historians, recall important issues and themes revolving around women in U.S. legal history, and recount the experiences of women working in or utilizing the law to make positive change for the future. A clear sense of where we have come from will give us motivation to stay focused in the future.
Now & Then: What It Means To Be A Feminist
This column is aimed to dispel the traditional negative stigma behind the controversial term 'feminist' and how this movement shaped the women's legal arena today. The "then" portion of the column will focus on the emergence of feminism, the obstacles women faced entering the field of law and how they prevailed. The "now" portion of the column will target the current fields of law populated with women and the current obstacles they face in the workplace. This column will be a mixture of legal discussion and career advancement advice through a series of interviews with a vibrant, diverse and powerful body of women.
Raising the Bar
On February 28-29, I'll be sitting with the minority of students who are taking the Bar for the second time. This column will deal with tips for those of us who are retaking it, then focus onward on post-law school and Bar life. I'll be looking at alternative legal careers and jobs ideas for those of us (most of us, I think) who are trying to get our foot in the door in a tough economy.
A Firm of Their Own
This year we will profile women-owned law firms, the amazing women who built these firms, and the rewards and obstacles of owning a firm. We will also detail the initiatives that support women-owned firms—such as the certification of women-owned businesses and the corporate pact to collectively spend over $30 million on legal work through minority and women-owned law firms as outside counsel.
A Working Mom’s Job Is Never Done
As working mother, we wear several hats: wife, mother, supervisor/employee and the list could go on and on. Suffice it to say, working mothers do a lot. Some days wearing several hats is easy, some days it’s harder. Even on those hard days, we just can’t give up. To help me cope, I’ve developed rules I apply at home and work. I thought I would share my rules and experiences in hopes of helping other working mothers find humor in everyday stressful situations and realizing the only thing they can truly control is themselves.
“Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman?”
We all know men and women are different. (Just because we are different doesn’t mean we should not be all treated equally, but that is a matter for a different column.) Fully admitting that these are sweeping generalizations, women tend to think about the whole person, the whole day, the whole week—planning, prepping, managing—in a way that (again, complete generalization) it does not even occur for some men to do. However, this multi-tasking magnificence that women have been doing for decades is rarely rewarded in our firm culture. This column will explore why that is, how we can change it, and how we can begin to shift the paradigm to value a happy home, lawyer, and firm, which—I will argue—translates to a happy client and bottom line.
Stipulations & Stilettos: Tales of a Young Lady Litigator
Sometimes informative, mostly humorous, Bethany White, a sixth-year civil defense associate in Chicago, explores the never-ending hurdles unique to women litigators, particularly those in their first 10 years of practice. She attempts to focus on the lighter side of the frustrations unique to this practice area, whether it be encounters with chauvinist opposing attorneys, navigating marble floors in heels, or simply trying to make a name for oneself in the tight-knit “boys’ club.” Ms. White’s column may give you relatable practice tips. It may give you solace in knowing you’re not the only woman litigator who is facing an uphill battle. If it does one thing, it will certainly make you laugh.