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Helping Law Students Build a More-Successful Careers.

I had the best time last week, standing on stage in Tull Auditorium at my alma mater, Emory Law School and presenting an hour-long speech to the shiny new first-year law students at the 7th annual Bass Career Summit.  I don’t think many of my old law school professors would have predicted that one day the school would pay me to teach the students. Here’s the view from the stage I never thought I’d see:


The Bass Career Summit is a practical, effective, full-day program designed to help Emory’s law students launch their careers.  Of course, this was the kids’ very first week at school, so I needed to be gentle; I didn’t want to assign tasks or suggest activities that could send them into a complete panic.  They need to focus on their academics first and foremost. Grades are still among the most-important hiring credentials.

I decided to present a two-part program. Part Two offered tactical Networking tips, e.g. how to ask good questions, where to put your name tag, and what to do with your brand-new business cards. A couple dozen practical techniques.

Part One was “Personal Branding for Law Students.”

Really, it discussed how to design your own legal career. 

That is, I was teaching them to first determine what they want to do, what would make them happy in their legal careers, and then begin building the resumes that would help them get those jobs.

I want them to first identify what makes them different from every other one of the thousands of law student who will be submitting unsolicited resumes to hiring partners nationwide. Then draft their cover letters and resumes to highlight those attributes.

Recruiting is Marketing. That is, identify your story, then tell it persuasively.

Every law student expects to make law review. The bell-curve reality is that most students will be in the middle of the class.  As a smirking upperclassman once told me, “Half of you are going to be in the bottom half.”  At the time, that comment hit me like a ton of bricks, particularly when I realized that every single one of us expected to be on law review, i.e. in the top 10% of the class.

Of course, 90% of us wouldn’t make it.

My message to the 1L’s was that “That’s OK.”

Ross Fishman speaking on “Personal Branding for Law Students” at Emory Law School.

You can have a fascinating, fulfilling career in law regardless of your class rank. Further, you should work to make it happen. And if you start early, you can have three full years of law school to create the resume that will help you get there.

Basically, the idea is to figure out what the perfect resume would look like for the job you want. Then subtract whatever you have now from that. Whatever is left over, i.e. the remainder, is what you need to create.

For example, growing up, our family business was Industrial Tire Manufacturing.  As a result, I know a lot about that industry.  If I was a law student who wanted to spend his legal career in that industry, i.e. representing industrial tire manufacturers, I could use social media tools to create the resume that would showcase my knowledge and passion for this work.

That is, I could start by launching an Industrial Tire Law blog, tweeting regularly from @industrialtirelaw, and creating the Industrial Tire Law Review.

I could found the “Industrial Tire Student Law Group,” and we could hold occasional meetings and happy hours. I could give brief speeches to the group that I could videotape, cut into snippets, and upload to YouTube. Then I could leverage LinkedIn, Google Plus, Facebook, Slideshare, and other social media platforms to spread the word further.

In relatively short order, I could look like one of the nation’s leading experts in this extremely narrow area, then highlight all of this in a persuasively written cover letter. This would make me an obvious choice when seeking employment at the many law firms that represent companies in that industry, like Bridgestone, Firestone, John Deere, etc.

That message seemed to resonate. 

To further magnify their potential success Emory had given each First Year student a copy of my book, “The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist.”  Afterwards, many asked me to autograph their books, which was quite flattering.

Lori Garrett, the Director of Emory’s Center for Professional Development and Career Strategy wrote me a gracious note after the program as well:

I hope Emory Law School invites me back next year!  Some of my old Emory buddies arranged an impromptu class reunion the night before, grabbing beer and wings at our old hangout, Taco Mac. I would be happy to make that an annual event…