Friday, September 25, 2009

Legal Jobs Outlook Roundup

Putting together several ABA articles today, the legal jobs outlook is maybe not as grim as before. It depends on the geography and practice area, and the job hunter's credentials (which is always the case, I suppose). Here are the links & how I put them together in my crystal ball:

Look first at Above the Law and "Last Week in Layoffs" for the real scoop on what's happening on the street the week of September 21, 2009. There seems to be a slowdown in the layoffs, with only one firm, British IP firm Marks & Clerk laying off nine lawyers and 51 staff. However, the real pain is in the job offers to summer clerks. Above the Law ran a story Sept. 15 titled Nationwide No Offer Watch, and the same day ran a story on Baker and McKenzie deferring job offers. And of course, check the Lawschucks Layoff Tracker.

There was a sort of misleading ABA article, "Worst of the Recession is Over" referring to a PricewaterhouseCooper Survey. A survey of more than 50 law firms found that, partly due to the serious cost-cutting measures, firms are starting to see their profits tick back up in the three months April - July, 2009. Real estate is still doing poorly, but corporate mergers and acquisitions is starting to perk back up. However, the ABA article includes a link to the British legal magazine, the Law Society Gazette, which ran the original article. This article reveals that the survey is looking entirely at British firms:

PwC’s quarterly benchmarking survey showed an 18% rise in profits per equity partner (PEP) since January at the 10 largest firms, and a 41% surge at the top 11 to 25 firms. Profit margins also saw a boost in firms of all sizes.

In the meantime, there is also a cautionary tale in the ABA online. The brief article refers the reader to an online article at Career Center by two legal search firm partners, Deborah Ben-Canaan and Martha Fay Africa (who was also formerly the director of placement at U.C., Berkeley).
According to a survey of hiring managers and employees (and based on the other surveys we've seen, these are extremely conservative estimates), 18 percent of candidates lied about their skill set and 7 percent lied about the companies they had worked for. Over the years, our experience has led us to the same unfortunate conclusion -- there are far too many occurrences of resume falsification. Some recent examples include:

• A candidate whose resume was exemplary; she was charming, professional and ultimately was a finalist for a general counsel position. A review of her resumes from earlier years, however, turned up several inconsistencies: a) different law firms showed up on different versions; b) employment years were changed; and c) the candidate had actually passed the California Bar much later than reflected in her resume. The candidate was pulled from the finalist spot.

• A candidate with stellar credentials was looking for an in-house position. He added a year onto his law firm experience, but neglected to mention that one of those years was spent as a summer clerk, and not as an associate. Additionally, the candidate indicated that he had two jobs at the same time, and upon further probing, it came out that he was only an intern in one of the positions.

• A candidate was looking for an in-house position. He morphed his solo practitioner experience working on some small matters for a computer company into an item on his resume that stated that he was actually employed inside that company. (snip)

Candidates may think that stretching the truth a little bit is not a big deal, but it is. We have heard lawyers tell us that they only worked in a job for a few months, so they left it off their resume, or they had a bad experience in that job, so it was left off the resume and then dates were stretched to cover any resume "gaps." This is deceit, plain and simple.


These types of career blunders can put a black mark on your reputation in more ways than one. If you are already employed and your employer finds out that they were deceived about your experience, you can lose your job. If you are in a high-level position, this also may mean unwanted publicity.

For instance, Michael Brown, the former FEMA director, was relieved of his management duties following Hurricane Katrina and resigned three days later amid allegations that he had falsified portions of his resume. And in a case much closer to home, the California Commission on Judicial Performance removed Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Patrick Couwenberg from the bench after finding him guilty of willful misconduct in office, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and improper action under the state Constitution. "He lied to become a judge, elaborated on his misrepresentation for his enrobing ceremony and subsequently lied to the commission in an apparent attempt to frustrate its investigation," according to the commission's report. Couwenberg had misrepresented both his academic and military background, claiming, among other things, that he had been a corporal in the U.S. Army, received a Purple Heart, participated in covert operations in southeast Asia, attended Loyola Law School and worked at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher -- none of which was true. During the proceedings, Couwenberg's attorney said his client suffers from "pseudologia fantastica," a mental condition in which the person engages in habitual or compulsive lying. (snip)

This is a tough economy and people are taking drastic actions to get themselves noticed. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Wrong. There is never a time when duplicity or "stretching the truth" is appropriate. In fact, we believe that in this candidate-rich economy, truthfulness, morality and ethics become even more important. The competition is fierce, and one misstep can make you a damaged commodity. If anything, this is the time to become more scrupulous about how you present yourself.


So before you send in your resume for that perfect job, consider how you are presenting yourself. Are you being completely honest? An honest resume is neither exaggerated nor deceptively vague. Below are a few of our recommendations:

• Do be 100 percent accurate and complete with regard to all facts; remember that they can be easily confirmed. These include start dates, titles, employers, GPAs and Bar numbers (especially if you have a different/married last name now and your name isn't easily searchable on Bar records).

• Do describe your accomplishments. Be specific.

• Do tailor your resume specifically to each job for which you are applying. This is a key resume technique. But remember to illuminate your strengths through accurate descriptions rather than fabrication.

• Don't leave dates off a resume.

• Don't leave jobs off a resume.

• Don't embellish accomplishments or titles; make it clear when a given title was in effect.

• Don't claim a proficiency in a foreign language or other valuable skill unless you have it.

• Don't puff or overuse effusive adjectives.

If you are not sure how something will be perceived, ask the recruiter you are working with to help you. The key is to set yourself apart, while being able to back up everything you are selling. Remember, if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember which lie you told! Truth is your ally.

1 comment:

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