Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Laws of Power In the Legal Profession: Be a MASTER COURTIER

The legal world is a dog eat dog world.  No matter where you end up, you will be dealing with hierarchy and power struggles.  How will you climb the ladder and reach the heights of success in the legal profession?  Surely that is one of the questions that you will ask yourself as you go in to work each day.

Whether you are in the court room, in the judge's chambers, in the law firm, or dealing with clients, you have to know how to deal with other people.  If you blindly hope to rise through the ranks in the legal profession, you are selling yourself short.  It will take calculation, strategy, and an understanding of how power works for you to reach the heights.  I would suggest that you don't tell yourself that you do not desire to climb up to the top of your career potential.  Just as law school is a competition, so is the legal profession.  The big difference is that the competition that exists in law school is much more tame compared to what you are going to deal with in the legal world.

Just for my readers, I have adapted some of what I know and have read to help you understand how you can climb ever upwards in the legal world.  Even if you do not use all of the strategies that are outlined in this article, you must realize that your co-workers and opponents will be using these strategies.

To succeed in the legal world you have to study everyone.  You have to often operate like a spy.  Watch those who you are working with carefully.  Get to know them.  Understand how they operate.  Understand their goals, desires, and what they are known for.  Everyone should be studied, from those who are new to the game, and those who are the power players.  Your eyes should be on the power players like a hawk's eyes are on a baby mouse.  Know them.  Understand them.  Emulate them.  Learn what they like and what they do not.  Understand the traits that they show.  Understand their strengths and weaknesses.  You can learn a lot from them.  Knowing them will be a weapon in your arsenal.

In the legal world, just as in the courts of the king, you have to learn how to play the role of the courtier.  The courtier thrived in a world where everything revolved around power.  They walked a tightrope, aiming to please, but not too much.  They knew to obey, but to also be distinguishable from others.  Likewise, the master courtier never distinguished him/herself too much from their master.  Never say more than necessary.  As Robert Greene states in his book "The 48 Laws of Power," you must become a magnet of pleasure.  When the partner or your superiors takes a look at you, they should think only good.  You are the person who makes them feel good.  You never bring the bad news.  You never come with problems.  You smile and bring cheer, but also work hard and give them the pleasure of your labors.  When things get tough, as they often do, you will be spared.

Here are the ways to play the master courtier from the book The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, adapted to the legal world.  If you have not read this book, and you care about rising in power, you need to find it, study it, and understand it.  Now, here is one of the 48 laws adapted for those in the legal world! 

1.  Avoid Ostentation

•You should never prattle on about yourself and rarely call attention to your actions.  You will be noticed for what you do.  You do not have to talk about it endlessly.  There are others who will engage in this type of behavior.  They think it will help them get noticed.  It will, but not in the right way.  In the end, their co-workers will come to despise their arrogance, and they will be pushed out by the partner(s) when their talk becomes a bore.

2.  Practice Nonchalance

•Your talent must appear natural.  That's where your power lies.  You will be one man in a sea of workaholics.  Don't tell your boss how hard you worked.  He/she should be able to see that your work speaks for itself.  Instead, make it seem that you have a rare talent that can not be matched.  Your boss will take notice of this, and it will make you seem otherworldly.  Do not go on about your work, or how great it is.  Good results speak far louder than words.  Your work should speak for itself.

3.  Be Frugal with Flattery

•Flattery is an ugly art, and it's often a dead horse that some will continue to beat endlessly.  The best type of flattery is indirect.  Agree with your boss, or make it look like you learned from him.  Give him/her the satisfaction of the good that comes from it.  He/she will learn where the source is, and it will help you climb ever higher!  Others will shine the bosses shoes with their lips, but you can do better by doing so with your actions.  It is okay to speak the truth about how you feel about the bosses strengths, but don't prattle on endlessly.  Better yet, look up to the boss as a mentor and go to them with questions.  Ask for their advice, get to know them, and use their advice in your work.  Show that you look up to them by actions.

4.  Arrange To Be Noticed

•Some like to be noticed through their speech.  This is never wise.  It is better for you to be quiet and be noticed instead for something else.  One way in which you can be noticed is by your sense of style.  Stand out in some way.  Dress the part of success.  If your office allows one to dress down, still dress for success.  Have something unique in your style that is subtle but stands out.  A specific color that always appears, such as red ties.  Maybe a flower pin.  Nothing too much, but make yourself look interesting and unique.  You are a human, not a number.

5.  Alter Your Style and Language According to the Person You Are Dealing With

•Every person is different.  If you are speaking with a partner, learn how he/she speaks, what they talk about, and speak accordingly.  Do not be over the top or grandiose in your speech.  Do not aim to impress the partner or those above you with great words.   Remember, it is best to be quiet.  Yet, when it comes time to say something, match that of the person you are speaking with.

6.  Never Be The Bearer of Bad News

•There is a lot of bad news in the legal world.  Don't go to your boss with it.  Always have someone else do that.  You do not want to be the person who always makes the partner or boss resent your presence because you have entered with bad news.  Instead, be the person who brings good tidings.  Bring successes to the boss.  In the royal court, the king often killed the messenger who brought the bad news.  This should be a lesson to you.  Never be this person.

7.  Never Become Overly Friendly and/or Intimate With Your Superiors

•Like it or not, the boss doesn't want a friend, he wants a subordinate.  He/she already has friends, and many have learned that is not wise to mix business and friendship.  You are there to work, to rise, and to one day become a partner yourself.

8.  Never Criticize Those Above You in a Direct Manner

•Better yet, do not criticize at all.  Criticism comes back to you.  It's negative.  It causes problems.  The best idea is to be silent, watchful, and lurk in the shadows when needed.  It is best to be quiet instead of speaking too much.  Even a fool is considered wise when his mouth is shut.  Learn from that.  Criticizing the wrong person can destroy your chances of ever rising in a firm.  Don't play with fire!

9.  Be Frugal When Asking For Favors

•It is okay to sometimes ask for a favor, but this should be something that happens rarely, and it should not be pushed.  Do not be the person who is always coming in with problems or needing something, such as time off.  There are times to take vacations or sick days, but they should be saved for when they are needed.

10.  Never Joke About Appearance or Taste

•This speaks for itself.  It is good to sometimes be lighthearted and sometimes (not often) have a witty thing to say, but stay far away from sarcasm, or joking about someone's appearance or taste.  This can create enemies or hurt someone who shares in that taste.  That can go all the way up to the partner.  There are better things to joke about if you feel the need.  Let the others do this and watch as they fall like flies on a heat lamp.

11.  Do Not Be a Cynic

•You do not want to be negative all time.  People HATE negativity.  People flee from negativity.  In Robert Greene's book, Rule 10 states:
"You can die from someone else’s misery — emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead."
•I have found this to be true in my own life.  The misery of others will eat you up.  It will chew you up and swallow you.  In the future I will write more about this, but let me just say that there used to be a ton of negative blogs and websites about the law school "scam" and, well, look where they are all now.  Gone.  People hate negative people, and eventually they learn to flee from that kind of person.  You should do the same and learn from that type.

•Instead of being a cynic, be positive and uplifting.  People will come to you.  There will be enough cynicism in the firm.  Stand out in a way that shows that you are not affected by the problems of life.  This will get you noticed.  Partners love a person who can remain calm in the face of chaos.  Most of your co-workers will not have mastered this skill, and all people fall apart at some point.  Make yourself a master of this point and you will have acquired much.

12.  Be Self-Observant

•Know who you are, what your strengths are, and use them.  Also, know where your weaknesses lie, and guard them.  Improve yourself daily.  Take tasks that you are good at and shine through them.  If need be, get help with the tasks that are you not so good at.  You know yourself like no one else.  Figure out who you are and where you want to go.  If you don't have any goals, you are going to just stagnate.  You didn't get through law school to just bobble about at the bottom or middle of a dynamic firm, did you?

13.  Master Your Emotions

•There are some people out there who can not control themselves.  That is such a pity.  I had an internship in Brooklyn when I was in law school.  The man, not yet a partner, but the son of one, had a fiery temper.  I would know, I was tasked with cleaning up the coffee from his walls on the first day of my internship.  He was a firebrand who could not keep calm in his day to day life.  That is not someone you want to work for.  I didn't stay there long.  I don't know if anyone could or would want to when there are much better opportunities out there.  If you are the guy who can't control himself, why should a partner choose you to rise to the top?  Not all of us have a father who is a partner, and for this fellow, even that had not yet helped him to rise to the top of the firm he was in. 

14.  Fit the Spirit of the Times

•The legal world is often filled with dinosaurs who grew up in an age that has long since passed.  And, while you should be careful to not offend them with your knowledge of the current world, you should aim to show them that you are talented enough to bring the firm into the 21st century.  Listen to their banter about the past being a simpler and better time, and agree with them on the points that you identify with.  Find common ground.  At the same time, appear to be adaptable.  In the end, what the partner really cares about is money, not about stopping time.  If you can show the partner that you are a part of the spirit of the times, then you will be noticed for that.  Likewise, appear current in dress.  Don't dress as if you are living a decade ago.

15.  Be a Source of Pleasure

•In Mary Poppins, the Mr. Banks becomes a partner only after he makes the father laugh.  Nothing he could do on his own brought him power.  Likewise, if you bring joy to those who you work with, it may psychologically help you climb the latter all the way to the top.  Do not be the brooding worker who hates briefing cases.  Learn to love the work.  Isn't it why you went to law school?  Show that you love the firm.  Show that you love your co-workers, even if you do not.  Show that you want to learn from your bosses.  Smile, say hello, ask them questions, show real interest.  Ask them about the history of the firm.  Be noticed as a source of pleasure.

Use these rules to rise like a phoenix.  Many people will come in day after day just to work.  That's part of the game.  You have to be a goal driven individual whose life is calculated for more than just working at a firm.  If you turn inward, you will likely find that at some level you crave more power, more wealth, and more freedom.  By climbing in the firm you will find these things.  I hope that this list helped you.

I learned from the book "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene.  I highly recommend it.  This book should be required reading for you in or shortly after law school.   Click on the book to learn more!

Greene, Robert. Elffers, Joost. The 48 Laws Of Power. New York : Penguin Books, 2000.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Will Massachusetts and Indiana Offer an Online Bar Exam?

The unthinkable has happened.  A change so huge that it will rock the legal world for the rest of our lives. 

Okay, maybe it's not that big, but this is huge.  This is massive.  One state has ordered its bar exam to be taken "remotely." In short, you will now be able to take the Indiana bar exam while waiting in like for a McFlurry and McDonalds and be able to finish it while on the loo. 

Joe Patrice of Above the Law, however, has some grim news for those Hoosiers (Indiana residents) who share my fantasy:
One assumes “remotely” means online, but that’s not explicitly spelled out.
Why do you have to be such a killjoy Mr. Patrice?  However, he goes on to state that Massachusetts may offer an online exam, which means the Harvardites who can't go to NY to take the bar exam may be able to take the bar exam while sailing at Cape Cod this summer and, potentially, enjoy immediate score results.  Theoretically, you could just get all the graduates together on one big yacht and have them all take the bar exam, while asking a seasoned lawyer or bar exam tutor which answer to select.  I can see it now:  "Number one is felony murder rule."  Now that's what I'm talking about!

Is this what the Massachusetts bar exam will look like?

Cheif Justice Lorettea H. Rush of the Indiana Supreme Court stated:
"As a result of the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear whether the State Board of Law Examiners will be able to safely administer a two-day, in-person Indiana bar examination on July 28-29, 2020 as scheduled or at any later date in calendar year 2020. 
"The Supreme Court therefore ORDERS that the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners shall conduct a one-day bar examination administered remotely on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The examination shall consist of the Indiana Essay Examination and a series of short answer questions on the topics tested on the Multistate Bar Examination."
This is an interesting time for sure.  A possible online bar exam in Indiana.  A possible online bar exam in Massachusetts.  What's next?  Online bar exams all around?  No more bar exams?  Who knows.  This virus has changed the world! 

This article contains some satire, as one will not expect the bar exam to be taken at McDonalds or on a yacht on cape cod by an entire graduating class with a tutor or seasoned lawyer helping new grads cheat.     

Friday, May 8, 2020

Using Social Media in Law School (Dealing with Distractions)

If you want to do well in law school, there is one piece of advice that really shines above the rest, and that is to minimize distractions.  That's not just true with law school, that's true in all of life.  There will always be things out there that will work to distract you from what you are working on.  But, if you want to get the top rank in your law school, the art of dealing with distractions is something that you are going to have to master.

Check out FacebookDetox.org for some startling realities about social media use. 

What is the biggest needless distraction in law school?  It's social media.  There's no question about it.  Social media is not only law school's biggest distraction, but life's biggest distraction.  In the end, when you log off social media, you must realistically ask yourself, "did this do me any good?"  For the law school student, the answer is likely going to be a loud and resounding "No."

It's no doubt that social media is sometimes super fun and interesting.  There's no doubt that it's addictive.  There's no doubt that it's something you can check and, when done, realize that you've blown an hour or more on looking at the most inane and ridiculous posts that have done nothing to elevate or improve your mind.

So, should the law student use social media?  I touch on the idea of distractions in my third edition of "How to Win at Law School:  The Ultimate Law School Strategy Guide."

"During my first year of law school, I sat next to an individual who basically used Facebook and Google chat during every moment of every class. Whenever he was called on by the professors, he was never prepared in the slightest. He had canned briefs of every case and tried to use those instead of reading the actual cases. Seeing him struggle through the Socratic Method was entertaining, but it was obvious he would not do well in law school. With that being said, he didn't do very well, and he wasn't shy in saying so. Perhaps he didn't mind getting below-median grades. However, that was not my goal, and I am sure it isn’t yours. If you want to spend time surfing the internet during class that is your choice. However, if you are aiming for top grades and the possibility of transferring schools, you must not allow yourself to be distracted."
During my second and third years of law school, this issue became even greater.   Many students opted to look at social media rather than listen to their professors.  I was blown away, having previously read about how competitive law school was.  Yet, while the professor shared knowledge of what would appear on the law school final exams, many were neck deep into Facebook or Instagram!
"[Talking about the book The One Thing] Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing. What is the most important task in law school? That’s where many get tripped up, because it’s not that obvious. The most important thing in law school is understanding what you are there to learn. It is understanding case law. This understanding will result in higher grades and a better class rank.  But, you won’t succeed in law school if you don’t understand what you are there to learn. In my own studies, and researching the students who did the best in law school (and life), the top achievers are those who loved what they did and took it seriously."
 Many people are distracted from the "most important" part of law school.

In the third edition of "How to Win at Law School: Third Edition (2020)" I touch on dealing with distractions, setting up law school-friendly boundaries, memorization techniques, and habits for real life, as well as other real-life ideas that will help you do amazing in law school, the bar exam, and in the real world.  Even if you don't pick up a copy of this amazingly inexpensive book that is LOADED with information, I hope that you consider how you use social media as a law school student.  My recommendation: don't use it in the law school building at all.  Even better: deactivate!  

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Dealing with Quarantine and Covid 19 As a Law Student

Being inside all the time may be the "new normal" but it
also can be a very depressing new normal.

There are many changes in the world happening right now.  Law schools are trying to adapt to changes.  Recently we posted an article about how the LSAT will be online.  We also wondered if the Bar Exam would one day change to an online test in the future.  I also wrote an informative article about how New York is only allowing graduates from New York law schools to take the next bar exam.  All of these things impact law students all over the country.  Yet, there are many other issues that are also affecting law students.

Law students may be wondering what the job situation will look like after law school.  At least one law firm partner has stated that the old way of going to work in an office is gone for good.  Students are wondering about their student loans and how they will be affected.  This is not only because of the virus, but also based on what may come out of the next presidental election.  Law students also wonder when they may go back to class, and depending on the state they live in, the timeline may look different.

There is no doubt that many law students are under a lot of stress during this time.  Many law students think about summer internships and fellowships, and those things may be even harder to come by than they were in years past.  How many law firms will be hiring for summer work?  What will be of OCI?  Yes, much has changed.

Yet, there is another issue that is the same for many of us, and that's the issue of staying home.  It's no secret that being stuck inside the house is depressing, no matter how cool your old bedroom in your parent's house may be (and I am sure many law students have moved back in with their parents).  Little sunlight and fresh air is not good for any law student.  When I went to law school, I remember a taken-for-granted utopian world of going out to lunch in Brooklyn and choosing between a wide variety of delicious foods.  Gone are the days of taking an overpriced Starbucks coffee to class.  Gone are the days of a walk between classes just to get some fresh air.  The sound of students gathering in campus courtyards and exchanging notes or talking about job prospects is a bygone thing.  Those who seek out and thrive in social situations are finding that those situations are sorely missed.  Even introverted law students (such as I was) will find something to miss about regular law school life.  Yes, life is very, very different now.

Many conspiracy theories abound about the COVID 19 Virus, but you have to focus and stay optimistic during this time!
It seems that the year 2020 has been stolen from many of us.  Many of us have questions.  Some of us want to think that the virus was grown in a lab.  On the other extreme, some are saying that the virus is not a big deal at all.  These are all coping mechanisms to make sense of the changes that have been brought on us.  It's hard for a person who has had such a shift in reality to deal with the change that normal life just happens to bring.  Maybe that's why conspiracy theories abound during these times.  Law school students may think that they are smart enough to be exempt, but these thoughts often come from lawyers from the top echelons of society.

There are ways to keep yourself sane while you wait for the world to open back up.  First, you have to realize that this is temporary and that it is extremely important to still work hard on your studies.  Some of your fellow students will be slacking during this time, and it is a good time for the diligent student to climb that all-important metric of "class rank."  It's also a good time to keep a journal, start a hobby, and reach out to others in different ways.  Many people are giving back through volunteering.  You may want to keep in touch with your school to see what the options for OCI and summer work will be, even if it's limited.  If they tell you there's nothing available, keep trying.  The adage that says "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" is very true.  Those who are persistent tend to win in life.  It's also an amazing time to read my popular book "The Ultimate Law School Strategy Guide."  In this book, I have many tips that, if implemented, will literally propel you to the top of your class. 

Life has changed a lot, and we have all begun to adapt to at least some of this change.  As things begin to open again, one must work to keep a sound mind and an optimistic spirit towards the future.  I know that this helped me during law school, and I saw that those who did the best in and more importantly, after law school were those who had the optimistic outlooks.

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Will There Ever Be An Online LSAT? What about an online Bar Exam?

Law school and the internet have not been that good of friends.  It's no secret that the American Bar Association is not fond of online-only law schools.   But, what about an online LSAT test?  The current pandemic has made traditional life kind of turn upon on its head.  It seems that the internet has become a lifesaver for most.  From ordering food and items online to virtual class meetings, the internet has worked in ways that could have not been fathomable during the Spanish Flu pandemic that happened long, long ago.

A very short piece by Above the Law was published by Staci Zaretsky (she must have had far more important things to do than write this petite article).  I will post the jist of it here:
People say, ‘Just put the test online.’ This isn’t a situation like the [traditional] bar exam, where we’re all sitting in the same ballroom taking the test. It’s actually a technical system, and you can’t just wish it into existence; you have to build it. 
Kellye Testy, president of the Law School Admission Council, commenting on the proposals made by several states that the bar exam being administered in an online setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m not going to say it would be impossible or that it won’t happen, but it’s a really big lift for states,” she continued. “They’re not testing organizations.” LSAC will be offering its first online LSAT in May due to the health crisis.
People may be saying to put the test online due to the fact that many are terrified to sit in a cramped exam room and try to answer a myriad of questions.  I think back to when I took the LSAT and the packed room at University of San Francisco where I took it.   It was not the best of times, that's for sure.  But taking it online is going to provide a host of challenges.  Will online test takers still need to go to test centers, or can you do it at home and maybe cheat your way into Harvard, Yale, Stanford or Western New England University school of law?  That's the big question, right?  Law school can be a breeding ground for cheating, but many try to stay 'above the law' so to speak.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out.   The world of law school is changing fast.  From New York saying "no bar exams for Yale and other out of state school graduates" and now an online LSAT test.

A couple is on their phones, one is taking an online bar exam.
Could an online Bar Exam be in the pipeline?
What's next?  An online Bar Exam?  Could you imagine, going into a test center and saying, "one bar exam please," then sitting back while taking the grueling and near-impossible test in a private booth?  Or even more interesting, taking the bar exam on your phone during a very long subway ride from Brooklyn Law School to your house in Kew Gardens?  It's an interesting prospect for sure.  If this virus continues to shake up the world, such things may become a possibility. 

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