Help from the Adjunct: Networking to Find a Job

Einstein's blackboard, originally uploaded to Flickr by rich_w.Reader L wonders if she can ask her adjunct professor for help finding a job:

I have an etiquette question for you. I am a third year law student looking for a job after graduation, preferably at a small firm or a nonprofit. One of my classes is taught by an adjunct professor who practices in the field I want to work in. What is the etiquette behind approaching him to see if he knows people who might be hiring? Thanks for any advice.

I’m curious to hear what the readers say here. Here’s my take:

Can you ask him if he knows of any open positions? Absolutely; there’s nothing inappropriate about that question. But let me warn you… here’s how that conversation is going to go: “Do you know of anyone who’s hiring right now?” Adjunct professor, thinking briefly of any jobs he’s heard of that day or week: “Nope. Sorry!” He won’t be offended, but you’re not likely to get much out of the exchange.  (Pictured: Einstein’s blackboard, originally uploaded to Flickr by rich_w.)

So here’s what you actually want to do: network with your professor. You want him to think of you when he sees a job a month from now, or two months from now, or maybe even three years from now. You want him to tell you the lay of the land in that field: who are the big players? Who are the big clients? Where is it heading? What are his favorite niche publications? Which is his favorite conference? What are the “offshoot professions” (there’s probably already a term for this, but I’m going to make up my own term for it right now) — the roads that people take if they decide they want to use their knowledge and expertise, but don’t want to be Niche Lawyer? (For example, in media law people sometimes became agents; sometimes writers themselves. They also sometimes went to work for media insurance companies.) Particularly in a tight job market, you might need to expand your search to include the offshoot professions, with hopes that you’ll still gain helpful resume experience, and networking connections, that will eventually land you your dream job.

So ask him to lunch. Make friends with him — tell her the truth, that you admire him, would love to be in his shoes, and want his advice. Ask him how he got to where he is, and slowly start to work in some of the questions above. At the end of lunch, ask him who else you should talk to — my guess is he’ll be happy to give you at least one or two names of people he knows. Your goal should be to come away from lunch with your professor with at least three action steps for yourself: something new to read (preferably an email newsletter or something free and regular), contact information for someone else to ask to lunch, and a few new Google searches to run yourself on the players and other facts you learn about at the lunch. You may even have a job to apply to, or an upcoming conference to try to attend.

Now the part that may be hard: asking an older man to lunch. There is nothing wrong with asking him to a one-on-one lunch, and if you have the guts to do it, my hat is off to you. Personally, I didn’t have the guts — when I was in law school, taking a class from one of the top lawyers in my preferred field, I wound up asking my adjunct out to lunch along with another classmate, my roommate’s boyfriend at the time. (Brutal honesty here: I wasn’t threatened by my male classmate at all — my worst nightmare would have been if my lunch date became the Golden Boy at my expense.) More reading for you: The Careerist just talked about how men are very wary of networking with younger women. Joy.

Readers, what is your advice for Reader L?  Do you have any great experiences you can share where you turned an adjunct/student relationship into a long lasting relationship?

Update: As readers are pointing out, the best way to get on the adjunct’s radar is to do really well in the class.  You may also want to wait until after the semester is over before asking him out for lunch (although I honestly think I asked my adjunct out for lunch while the semester was still ongoing, perhaps because it was a small enough class that our final in-class exam was done with numbers instead of names or some other blind grading method).


  1. As an adjunct, not-law, I wouldn’t start by asking him or her to lunch. I would say no. However, you should go to their office hours, do well in class, demonstrate effort, talk in class, ask questions about niche field, etc. Then after the semester is well and over, ask if you could meet for coffee to learn more about XYZ niche.

    That said, I’d be tickled pink for any student to do the first few things I mentioned!

    • I agree that asking an adjunct to lunch while still taking the course is a no-go, but what about after the semester is over? I don’t see anything wrong with a shooting a let’s-keep-in-touch email to a former professor.

      In general, when I network with professionals, I always offer coffee or lunch. Even if lunch is too much for a packed schedule, a quick coffee to keep in touch usually isn’t too onerous.

    • Middle Coast :

      I would not approach the adjunct for a lunch while still taking the class. However, you can raise these types of general questions in the class or more specific questions during a break, afteward class, at some sort of school event where you are both in attendance or during office house (should the adjunct have these). Keep this prelimary probe short and state you would like to discuss this further at the adjunct’s convenience.

    • absolutely, coffee is far more common. Further, if you do this after scoring an A in the class, they often will remember you and be more than willing to advocate for you a little more. I know of at least one person who was able to get a job this way.

    • dee double you :

      I’m not so sure I agree. I am a adjunct at a law school and I would do my very best to make time for a quick lunch with one of my students. I see my role as not only teaching them how to be lawyers, but how to be professionals, and networking is an important skill that they need to develop.

      I do agree that meeting during office hours is always welcome. I also enjoy emails from my students. It is an easy way to get a dialogue going.

  2. I’m dying to know if the c*rpor*tt* who is interviewing and posted the other day about a viral email about her terrible boss was talking about the one on above the law this morning.

  3. Hmm, I wouldn’t ask him to lunch, or even coffee, particularly because of the opposite sex issue, but even if you were the same sex (and everyone was presumably straight) I still think that it raises the potential to be awkward and/or look like some sort of special treatment. I would simply ask the professor if you could set up a meeting, either in person or by email, whichever way he’s more accessable, and bring your resume and tons of questions about what people in that field are looking for. And don’t forget to ask for recommendations of anyone else you can talk to!

    • Are you saying that the opposite sex issue is awkard because she is currently his student? Or in general? I never let gender issues get in the way of my networking. If an older man is uncomfotable having lunch with me because I’m a younger woman, he can just say no.

      But since she’s still his student, I think chats before/after class and office hours are more than enough to build a rapport and show interest in his field. I also agree with the other posters that doing well in his class is the most important step right now. He’s probably not going to be a sponsor for her if she doesn’t perform well!

  4. Especially in engineering where many of the higher level technical courses are taught by adjuncts who are professionals in their field, the best way to set yourself up is to be an attentive student that produces good work with accompanying grades. The professor needs to remember your name and your quality of work. Office hours may be difficult to come by for adjuncts (esp for those evening courses) so make sure you’re attending class and stay afterwords to ask questions. Set up an email relationship with the professor, asking insightful questions about your project or whatever. I developed really deep relationships with some professors that are still mentoring me today, just by waiting to leave the building with them at the end of every class and asking them about their various career trajectories.

    When you go to ask about a job, be frank and direct. Professor, I want a job in your field. What do I need to do to get one? Is there someone/some company you can introduce me to? Can I send you my resume for review/forwarding? What else can I be doing to be even more awesome? Etc. In short, be a professional when you approach your professor. Companies prefer to hire people via word-of-mouth connections over an anonymous resume.

    • Office hours hard to come by for adjuncts? Not really–a minimum number if office hours is usually required in any teaching job.

      • Office hours aren’t required in mine, and I see students by appointment only. I’m working full-time in big law, and I wouldn’t teach if I were required to keep standard office hours – the pay’s just too low to require that on top of class, prep, and grading time.

  5. Having worked for a number of adjunct professors while I was in law school, I wouldn’t ask him to lunch. The reason this man is an adjunct is because he probably has a regular firm/office job that he’s at most of the day, is super busy, and may not have the time to go to lunch with a student. However, I would try to chat him up before or after class about the area your interested in. After you’ve done that a few times, tell him you’re interested in getting into that field and have some questions you’d like to ask him and would he be able to make time for a brief office visit or phone call. If he suggests coffee or lunch, then that’s different.

  6. For this particular poster, does her school support a take-your-professor-to-lunch initiative? Mine did, and I believe some other law schools had a similar program. If that’s the case, then I think taking him to lunch would be a great idea (and it would alleviate some of Lyssa’s concern about appearing to seek special treatment).

    I thought Kat’s tip to have a goal of leaving the meeting with three action items is a really good one. I’m going to try implementing that myself.

    Since we’re on the subject, is there any non-awkward way to reach out to other lawyers in your city that you might know for one reason or another but not that well? I’m looking for my next job and trying to be in touch with as many people as possible. I hate making that initial contact when it feels so obvious (to me) that what I really want is for the person to help me find a job, even though I know enough not to ask them directly.

    • I’ve never heard of the take a professor to lunch thing – interesting!

      For making contacts, I’ve had really good luck with just saying, in person if I happen to see them at an event, or by email (I’m too chicken to call), “Hey, you know, I’ve always been really interested in X field. Would you mind if maybe I buy you a cup of coffee/lunch sometime and pick your brain about it?” I realize that this sort of contradicts my whole awkward to take a prof out to lunch deal, but it seemed to work out really well and I never got the impression that any of the men that I asked mistook anything for a date. The bonus is that the person I “take out” almost always insisted on paying.

      I should admit, though, that while I had a lot of great conversations and promising leads, this never did actually land me a job. But I still think it’s worth doing (and it did land me a couple of referrals); it’s just a crapshoot to get the right person who might be connected to the right opportunity. Good luck!

      • Thanks! I’m a law clerk (as I believe you were), so I’m sure you can relate to my current dilemma.

  7. This is really timely for me, because I have been trying to figure out how to appropriately reach out to a former professor. Adjunct professor, partner at a firm. I did well in his class, participated, was invited (and went) to lunch when he took out his summer associates (I was in the same city, but not a summer associate at his firm–I have never applied for a job there, alhtough wouldn’t rule it out for the future). I am now working in the same city again, and interested in keeping the connection. Any suggestions?

    • If he’s not skeezy at all and you think there’s no chance he could misinterpret: Email him, say you have just moved back to the city, that you have fond memories of his class, and you’d like to invite him to coffee on a workday afternoon.

      If he might misinterpret: Email him, say you have just moved back to the city, you have fond memories of his class, and does he have any recommendations of professional associations (or something to that effect) you could become active in? Then tell him you look forward to seeing him at a professional association event.

    • Plenty of people keep in touch with profs by sending periodic updates on their coursework, professional life, and really major life events a couple times a year. You should already be doing this with anyone who teaches or works in a field you’d like to get into. Then, when you do need something, it’s less awkward.

  8. Total tj – sorry. I’ve convinced my man he wants to take ballroom/Latin dance classes with me. In a beginner (as is he) do what do we wear (the class info isn’t overly helpful)?

    • Oooh, a question up my alley. For footwear, it’s better if you don’t wear sneakers. You want something that can somewhat slide on the floor but will stay on your feet. Women generally dance better in (sturdy, not too high) heels because they allow for a different range of hip motion, but for just starting out, I’d wear flats so you don’t have to worry about balancing on heels while you’re also learning steps.

      I’d probably wear a dress with some sort of a-line skirt, although pants are fine, and flats or low heels that won’t slide off my feet. Your husband could wear pants, button-front shirt, and dress shoes. If you are taking lessons at a club, as opposed to a community center or something, make sure your outfit meets that club’s dress code.

      Have fun! You will have an awesome time.

    • Clothing doesn’t so much matter (though make sure your jeans aren’t too long, so you won’t be tripping over the hem!), but for shoes, you want something with a leather sole, ideally, or at least a smooth one. It will slide/spin better, and not mess up the dance floor. Anything with rubber/tread is going to grip the floor, which is not what you want. But if you don’t have any fairly comfy shoes with that, just go with comfy and as smooth as you can. (For example, only one of my pairs of heels (except my ballroom shoes) has nice leather soles, but they’re 4″ heels and don’t bend well–so I can’t walk smoothly/quietly in them easily)

      • In a pinch, you can put duct tape on the bottom of rubber soled shoes (eg sneakers) which will make them slide across the floor nicely.

      • FYI, the sole advice goes for your man too. Mine didn’t have anything with a leather sole and it was miserable, he’d be moving along, and then stumble because the sole would catch on the floor. Think about that squeaking sound you hear at basket ball games.

        • moleskin. You can buy it and put it on any shoes’ bottoms for makeshift instant dance shoes. fun! i am a dancer.. can’t wait to not be pregnant and get out there again late summer.

  9. OT, but jcrew is doing the dumb unadvertised promo thing again: code “MUSTSHOP” will get you add’l 30% off sale items.

    • Thanks for the tip! I just scored a Tippi and Jackie sweater, plus a gorgeous-looking lace shell.

      • Bah! I spoke too soon. The Jackie was out of stock by the time I submitted my order.

  10. AnonAdjunct :

    As an adjunct law professor, I would probably not be open to having lunch with a student. My time is already stretched thin between working full time and teaching.

    That said, adjunct profs are not there for the money. They genuinely do want to help. If a student approaches me before or after class, or in an office hours situation, I will genuinely consider what they have to say and think about my connections. I’m happy to share my own experiences and learn more about their background in case I do hear of something opening up.

    • AnonAdjunct :

      Speaking of being a prof… finals are coming up and I’m starting to have stress dreams on my students’ behalf! Has anyone else experienced this? I need a good night’s sleep…

    • Another AnonAdjunct :

      I’m also an adjunct law prof, definitely not in it for the pittance the law school pays me, and I’m always open to meeting with students who express an interest in going into my field of practice. In fact, that’s a major reason I teach: to convey my enthusiasm for my (rather niche) specialty, and mentor students who want to enter the field. And apart from the fact that we’re cheap labor, this is also a major reason the law schools hire adjuncts: that we have real world experience and contacts that can be useful to students as they enter the job market.

      Lunch is definitely presumptuous, and difficult. I’m busy enough juggling my practice with teaching and other obligations. The best approach is to to participate meaningfully in class, chat with the professor before and after class, and then once you’ve established some kind of rapport, ask whether you can meet during office hours, or at the professor’s law firm office. Going to the professor’s law office is good for a number of reasons: it means you are taking on any inconvenience instead of putting it on the professor; it gives you a glimpse inside a working law firm; and it gives you a chance to treat the meeting like a full-fledged informational interview.

      An aside to Kat: it bothered me a bit that you wrote this up as if the adjunct is necessarily male! (And old!) Given your audience, it might have been a good move to use the female pronoun (she) in your hypo (though I understand the point about asking a male professor out to lunch). Just sayin’ ….

      • umm the original poster said it was a He. “him”

      • Re: your second paragraph, I’m always very annoyed when students ask me to have coffee to talk about career stuff and don’t offer to come to some place near my office. It’s a small but important sign of thoughtfulness and awareness of the demands of practice for a student to offer to come to some place convenient for me.

      • I have given written recommendation letters to students and discussed career opportunities. When they approached me politely and thoughtfully and did not impose it was gratifying experience. The first step should be an after class question followed by an email exchange. There are collegues I know who like the persistent students who don’t take no for an answer. But the latter is risky…

  11. I agree. It PAYS to mainetain contacts with old professor’s, b/c they can help you get a job.

    I think I should be OK for now, but the manageing partner keeps skoweling at me today b/c of the CLE I missed Saturday. What is the big deal? I forgot about a CLE that he did NOT even have to pay for, and he is mad at me? What does the HIVE think?

    I think he just wanted to show me off to his 2 silly law school freinds. FOOEY on that. I did NOT need three men stareing at me, anyway, so mabye it is a good thing that I forgot.

    I did get nice shoes at Lord and Taylor so that is good also!

  12. Advice Please! :

    I am a long time lurker and love the comments on here so figured I would poll for help for my boyfriend and I. He will soon be applying to med school (just finished the MCATs thank goodness!). This is coming as a career change and he has been working in his current job for 3 years now. He was not seeking a new job prior to med school but just had an opportunity arise that he is very excited about and is debating whether to accept. The basics: Med school apps would be for fall 2013 so he would be working for another 15 months or so before leaving. Obviously nothing is a given but he has great grades and MCAT scores so I am assuming he would be able to get in somewhere. New potential job is both one he would be more excited about (has been feeling bored at work for a long time now) as well as one that would probably look good on med school apps and provide something interesting to talk about in interviews. It would present the opportunity to learn new skill sets that he hopes would be useful in med school as well. Not confirmed yet but chances are it would present a higher salary and also be in a location closer to me (yay!) than his job currently an hour away that requires him to live 45 minutes away. So far all pros for accepting the position. But, concerns are whether it will provide less flexibility for vacation time to do interviews and evening time to work on applications. Biggest concern is whether it would be awful to take the position know knowing there is a decent chance he would have to leave in 14-15 months. Any thoughts greatly appreciated, he keeps asking my advice and I’m not sure I have any!

    • Definitely take the job. A company would hire him knowing that they anticipated layoffs in 14-15 months! And also, more than a year is plenty of time to stay at a job without seeming like a flake when you leave.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I think he should take the job. HOWEVER he needs to make sure the vacation situation is flexible as he will be interviewing (hopefully) on multiple campuses, and will need to use a lot of his “days” to do that. If say he starts in September and has only earned 1 day, and needs to take 3 in October for interviews (if he applies early, the bulk of his interviews will hopefully happen before January) that might be troublesome.

      And DEFINITELY advise him to apply early early early. Like, as soon as AMCAS makes it possible.

    • Take the job and tell him to save AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE, bc med school is EXPEN$$$$$$IVE, as is applying to medical school, exams and applying/interviewing for residency. Medical school is probably the greatest training you’ll have in terms of the world’s most inflexible schedule, so him taking a more demanding job now will be good training for him.

    • Advice Please! :

      Thanks for the input. Weighing the pros of the new with the steady schedule, accrued vacation and time for focusing on applications that go with the old is definitely going to be tough. While I know a lot about the big law world I am pretty useless in thinking about med school options.

  13. Apologize for the early threadjack but had to vent. Am switching jobs from one government agency to another. Was advised during the interview that I would probably receive an offer at the low end of the starting range. The offer I received was 2k BELOW the advertised range with a 2k raise after 6 month probationary period. I was very disappointed. I contacted agency and told them that I had hoped to start at least at advertised minimum and they said no problem. Now I am waiting on a new offer letter and don’t know if there will be a 2k increase after 6 months or not. I am shooting myself, however, because I should have asked for more than advertised minimum. I am getting a 5k pay increase by switching jobs but feel like I missed a chance to get even more. Govtgrrl is a terrible negotiator.

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      In your defense, there is typically no negotiating in gov’t jobs and you just get put at a grade/step and take the set rate for that grade/step. I’ve actually never heard of a gov’t job salary that can be negotiated unless you are talking about convincing them to put you on a different grade/step.

      • I managed to get myself put up about 3 or 4 steps from what was originally offered, based on what I was earning at the time. They agreed so readily I’m mad at myself for not trying for one more step, especially if I had known about the pay freeze.

        I went into this with my eyes open, but I have to say, it’s a bit depressing to be able to look at a table and know what you will be earning for the next X years, unless something amazing happens career-wise.

    • Did they give you a reason for the offer below the stated range? That is very unusual. That said – if the raise is automatic after 6 months (no paperwork that you have to depend on), then that puts you at what you would have otherwise gotten.

      The only way I have heard of successfully negotiating to a higher step is based on benefits, conference reimbursements, etc.

      • No reason for the offer below the advertised range. It was very strange. Thankfully, they quickly agreed to increase the offer to the minimum of the advertised range. I had the minimum qualifications (5 years appellate experience) so I wasn’t expecting to get a lot more than the low end but I was a little insulted when the offer was less than advertised. Oh well. I am really excited about changing jobs so money is not my biggest concern.

        • About a year ago a client of mine got a Nevada government job at a much higher pay level that the job was slotted for. I believe it required the signature of the governor. Iit was a law job analyzing legislative bills but a non-lawyer got it – so common nowadays. She was competing against experienced lawyers.

          • Not sure this is the right audience to be asking for advice on this, but I think I’d like that job or quite a few other jobs that are usually done by lawyers. How does a non lawyer (with a PhD and good analytic skills) find out about, be considered for & get one of those jobs?

  14. Hi Ladies – another early TJ, sorry. I’m a midlevel in BigLaw and was recently told by my firm to look for another job. I am having a tough time with this and hoping for some input. Without giving too much detail, I basically was never fully occupied at almost any point during my tenure at this firm. I tried my best to knock on doors and ask everyone I knew for work. Despite never getting any negative feedback on my work (and often at least some mild praise), I repeatedly did short-term assignments without ever getting staffed on longer-term matters. When I was asked to look elsewhere, I was told that my work was fine but for whatever reason, things were not working out – an assessment I cannot argue with. But I am just having a hard time understanding what went wrong – like most ladies here, I am a type A who was great at school and early jobs, and have never really failed monumentally at something before. I am now second-guessing whether I am intelligent, capable of holding a real job, whether I am lazier or less motivated than most other people, etc. Most of all, I can’t shake the feeling that this simply doesn’t happen to other people – at least not people who are smart and who try to succeed. I think that it would really help me to hear from anyone who’s overcome a similarly rough start to her professional life – I’d really appreciate any insight or advice any of you could give.

    • anonymous :

      I was in the same boat — super achiever, top of my class at the top schools, did very very well in previous jobs with glowing recs, and my big law firm and I just didn’t work out. Sounds like a similar situation, and I felt terrible and questioned my own competency and ability to succeed in the future. Two years later, and I’m once again successful and optimistic. It’s just a tough job and industry, and a tough time to be in it. Hang in there and remind yourself of all the times and ways you’ve done things well. There’s a reason you’ve been successful in the past and it’ll stay with you, ready to reappear. Just stay positive and make sure you’ve got outside interests (that you can rock!) — does wonders!

    • Former MidLevel :

      Being rejected by a BigLaw firm does not mean you are a bad lawyer, let alone not “capable of holding a real job” or “lazier or less motivated.” Period. Full stop. I’ve known people who were fired for all sorts of ridiculous reasons–which sometimes differed dramatically from the stated reason. So please do not let this small setback ruin your professional confidence.

      (And frankly, your lack of work says more about the shortcomings of your firm’s rainmakers than it does about you.)

    • First of all, I am so sorry. Second, I know it’s hard to believe but you likely didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t fail and this DOES happen to other people-smart, capable, intelligent, hardworking people like you. Life is not fair and Biglaw (or any level of law) is no different. Especially if you weren’t receiving negative feedback.

      The only thing to take away is to make sure you don’t get shuffled around in your next position and that you fight to be staffed on long term projects by meeting with your assignment partner/mentor/department head/etc.

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      Often the firm just doesn’t have enough work and doesn’t want to admit it so they make you feel like it’s a problem with you. It probably is a problem with them.

      • Blonde Lawyer’s explanation sounds like the most likely one to me. They didn’t have enough work for you; that’s not your fault.

        That said, I know what it feels like to think that you did everything right and things still turned out badly – I am really sorry you’re going through this. I hope you find a job that is much better for you, and that appreciates how intelligent and hardworking you are, as this firm missed out.

      • Agree with this (and not at all with hippie, below, who I think is missing the point). I also think you have a great way of explaining as you interview why you are looking to lateral: While you got a diverse range of assignments and got to work with all sorts of attorneys in the department, you are looking to dig deeper into [cases? deals?] and work on longer-term projects than you currently do, so that you learn more about [case management? closing and not just diligence? litigation and not just discovery?] and start building more enduring relationships with [clients? coworkers? opposing counsel?]. That doesn’t seem like an opportunity your current firm provides to junior/midlevel associates, but your impression is that [interview firm] does value those skills, and as such would be a good fit.

        • Forget my hippie reference, on second thought I was perhaps reading her comment too quickly and in any case don’t want to turn into the bully here.

    • HippieEsq :

      Isn’t it entirely possible that you are just not suited to that particular segment of the legal industry? Many people do better as trial lawyers, public interest lawyers or gov’t lawyers than they did in biglaw. It can just be a personality thing. Don’t beat yourself up over this, or wrap all your self-esteem about your intellect into this one job. You are more than biglaw and more than this one job. You will have the whole rest of your work life to figure out what you are good at. Get out there!

    • Daenerys Anon :

      This just happened to me. Yesterday was my last day of “work”. I haven’t found a new job yet (cr*ps).

      The only things I am confident about, coming out of this horrendous experience are (1) there really are times when your destiny is not within your control, (2) if you choose to be a lawyer in a biglaw firm, you have to accept that for a very long time, you will be a expendable cog, subject to whims that you may have no knowledge of and have no ability to affect, and (3) this too shall pass.

      Good luck.

    • Ugh, I’m sorry. I was no-offered by my summer 2009 firm (2L summer) for reasons that were pretty clearly economic – they no-offered a huge percentage of the class – but they still tried to pin it on me. It undermined my confidence for a loooonnng time thereafter. I still have a lot of doubts about private practice, in fact.

      Try not to take it to heart (easier said than done, I know). Please also keep in mind that the legal world is bigger and broader than just the large law firms. Just because the big firms present themselves as the brass ring doesn’t mean it’s true, nor does it mean that that environment is necessarily right for you (and there’s certainly nothing wrong with you if that’s the case). Best of luck. Hang in there.

    • Associette :

      ezt, that is a tough pill to swallow, even though it is not your fault. It sounds like your firm over-hired and the partners are to “blame” for not keeping your plate full. I can only imagine that you felt tremendous pressure during your tenure at the firm, never having hit your stride and constantly trying to get work. In some ways leaving the firm will free you up to get something better.

      Look at this experience like an opportunity to find a place at a firm where you are able to contribute your professional capabilities, and I am sure there are many, though it does not feel like that right now, more fully. I recently met a very successful female, who has been in practice for 20 years or so, and she described her first time being sacked as one of the most formative times in her professional career. There is a lot out there for you still, and you will find it.

    • springtime :

      Sorry to hear that. I totally understand why you would feel how you do. People who aren’t in high-achieving careers sometimes don’t understand why you might tie your feelings of self-worth to your job. I get it though- after years of working hard, you want it to pay off!

      I feel like I’m always saying I don’t have any advice, I guess it shows my youth, but it is in no way a reflection that you are a bad lawyer. There are great biglaw lawyers, and there are also awful ones that make it to the top of the ranks. HUGS!

      • Thank you all for the kind comments – I’ve been too embarrassed to really tell anyone in my real life (other than my husband, who is in BigLaw also and has had a very different experience, which has created another set of neuroses and insecurities for me that I am trying to get over) so it’s so, so helpful to hear from you all. And Daenerys, good luck to you in your job search!

        • In House Counsel :

          EZT, please do not take any of this to heart. I too had the same thing happen to me when I was a 3rd yr which made me question whether I was “fit” for practicing law. As several of the other ‘rettes have pointed out, it is not you, it is the lack of work and there is nothing to say that you won’t be successful in another setting or heck another firm. If it gives you any encouragement, I am now in a “dream job” in-house for the last year and love my job and my boss. What I thought almost 3 yrs ago was a setback has actually turned out to be a great blessing in that it allowed me to find the right environment(s) that would allow me to flourish and grow my skill set. So chin up and start networking for that next great step!

    • When I was in a vaguely similar situation, I bought a tiny baseball bat with the team logo of the university I was leaving, invited the young hotshot inthe dept who had been in the interview committee to coffee, and asked him to give it to me straight. He told me midway through that meeting that without the prop, he’d been planning to give me platitudes. What I got was much more helpful. I realize law firms don’t have baseball teams, but maybe you can find some other way to get someone to level with you.

  15. I keep going back and forth on whether to join a health club. My last job had a gym in my work building so I used to work out during lunch a couple of days a week. As you may know, I am a full time worker with two grade school kids. I have just accepted a new position with no gym. When will I find time to work out? So the question is, will joining a gym force me to work out a couple of times a week because I am paying for it, or am I better off doing something more low key like walking in the neighborhood, getting on my bike, swimming, or even buying my own hand weights and other equipment I may need to work out at home. No matter how I slice it, I can’t figure out when I would find the time to go to the gym because of family obligations and enough guilt already from being away from the kids/husband so much of the time anyway, and yet, staying fit and healthy is very important to me. Suggestions, and what works for you?

    • I’d hold off joining a gym just yet. Figure out your schedule with your new position first and take advantage of the nicer weather to do the outside walks, and then figure out whether you need to supplement with gym time. Can you make an after dinner walk/weekend bike ride with the family part of your routine? Fitness and family time in one fell swoop.

    • another anon :

      Walking, running, biking are definitely the most efficient workouts for me, because there is no commute to a gym. Just walk out the door and go. Plus, you get to be outside rather than stuck inside in some depressing gym. I do have to have a “no stupid excuses” rule for myself to make this work. This means that I have to go out even in bad weather, unless it is dangerous weather (e.g., rain alone = stupid excuse; thunderstorms = acceptable excuse). So if you are averse to being outside in the cold/rain, a gym membership may be better for you.

      I do also have a Y membership so that I can use the pool, but it adds at least a half an hour to the total workout time, so I only wind up going about once a week. It’s close to my house, but by the time I drive there, check in, put my stuff in a locker, etc. the extra time adds up (and then, if I happen to get stuck behind a school bus on the way home like I did the other day, that’s even more time. As an aside, why on earth would you need THREE schoolbus stops in an 8-block span?? Can the children really not walk a few blocks?)

      • Re: bus stops: in my experience, it depends on the age of the children in question. Elementary school = more stops. While ideally parents would be there to get their children, the schools try to protect themselves from having six-year-olds walking several blocks alone.

        • Also re: bus stops, in my experience it depends on the loudness with which parents demand additional bus stops.

          I understand that children, especially younger ones, cannot be expected to walk on certain roads due to safety issues like traffic or lack of sidewalks. However, within a residential subdivision (i.e., no through traffic), there is no reason that your kid cannot walk a few hundred yards and need a special bus stop added at the end of your driveway.

          Also, what is the deal with parents driving kids to the bus stop and waiting with them in the car until the bus arrives? At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old lady, I waited for the bus in hot weather, rain, snow, and sub-zero temperatures. I survived, and I bet today’s kids will too.

        • another anon :

          Yeah, I get it. It’s just odd that this particular stretch between my house and the Y has so many stops. My entire rather large subdivision (which is in the same district) has ONE stop for the entire subdivision, and there are probably about 25-30 elementary kids who get picked up there. The moms take turns walking the younger ones over (or driving, which yeah, I agree with Coalea, is weird). In this stretch between my house and the Y, the moms were with the kids, but there were only maybe 4 or 5 kids at each stop. And as a driver trying to get somewhere, it is really annoying to have to stop so frequently and then have kids dilly dally about getting on the bus while traffic piles up.

    • Staying fit and healthy is important to your kids, too, if you want to be around and healthy for many years to come. Think about it that way.

      Personally, I think running is the most efficient form of exercise. No “commute time”–just get out the door and go. I run in the mornings before work, and it adds 45 minutes to my day, tops. You can burn a lot more calories by running than by most things you would be doing at the gym, thus it is more efficient.

      Final thoughts: Don’t pay for a gym! I really hate the gym. I don’t see any point to it. What is the point of running on a treadmill at 2.5 mph for 30 minutes twice a week? It’s miserable, and while certainly beneficial for your health, doesn’t get anyone “in shape.” If you’re going to be doing something that low-key, might as well go for a walk, ride your bike, play a game of pick-up basketball with your kids–at least these things are a lot more fun! And as for weights, same thing–unless you are lifting serious weights on a strict schedule, pumping 10-lb dumbells in the air every once in a while really, truly, isn’t doing anything for your strength or physique. So, might as well do something fun and gets you out in the sunshine!

      • To each her own, lady love. Some of us have joint problems that are exacerbated by running. Or asthma, or whatever. And some of us enjoy seeing the numbers increase on the weights we’re using on the machines. And the social aspect of the gym. And many gyms have fun classes, too.

      • SF Bay Associate :

        While it’s great that you’re so active and healthy, anon, not all of us are so lucky. My physical therapist has me “pumping 10-lb dumbbells in the air” twice a week to carefully work around my tendonitis without aggravating it. Second, my personal trainer nixed “just running” in favor of intervals on an arc trainer, as intervals are the “most efficient” form of exercise in his professional opinion.

        Second, doing 30 minutes at 2.5mph on a treadmill may be a really big accomplishment for some of the readers here. Considering how often the Couch to 5k program comes up on the threads, I would hope you’d be more sensitive.

        A to Z, on my pinterest I have a quote ” ‘Wow, I really regret that workout’ – said by No One. Ever.” Anything you do to move your body is a good choice. I pay for a gym and am glad that I can afford it. I like going somewhere nice, away from home, away from everything, where my only “job” while I am there is to do my routine. I also need the little voice in the back of my head whispering that the gym costs less per use the more often I go, and I do so love a bargain.

      • I agree that you should figure out logistics with the new job first, before joining the gym.

        But I love the gym! I feel like I can’t really exercise outside – in DC it is either too hot, too cold, or I can’t breathe outside because of allergies. There’s maybe a month in the fall when I could, maybe do something outside, but even that is difficult because it gets dark out fairly early. I also don’t like running, it hurts my back. But 30 minutes on the elliptical with the latest Newsweek or some other easy to read magazine and my iPod? Much nicer! Plus my gym has this group personal training thing – 15 minutes of abs, half an hour of weightlifting, bands, lunges, squats, medicine balls, basically whatever the trainer feels like doing that day – for maybe 1/4 the cost of a one-on-one trainer.

        I also am pretty certain I would not work out at home, even if I had equipment. I joined a gym that was on my home from work, so I could leave work, hit the gym, then go home. I think if I went home first I probably wouldn’t leave. Of course, I don’t have kids.

      • I belong to a gym because of the group exercise class. I definitely work harder with the social pressure. I get a lot more out of a spin class than riding a bike in the park. I lift a lot more in my weightlifting class than I would on the machines alone.

    • Ive had such a hard time with this that I’m buying a fitness program that will tell me exactly what exercises to do every day. Three days a week I’ll do it while waiting for DS at his sports. Not sure yet how I’ll work it in in the other days, but I think having specific assignments will help. Good luck to you!

      • To everyone saying to just squeeze it in wherever–do you have kids? My DS is almost 10, so could stay home alone if I went to work out, but if I don’t schedule in very clear appts, then it doesn’t happen.

    • I love the 30 Day Shred DVD– all you need is a set of 5 lb. weights and about 25 minutes. I just love the efficiency of it. It’s interval training with strength, cardio, and abs. I like to mix it up with other workouts like running, but if you’re looking for something that you can easily squeeze in, it could be great for you.

    • gym bunny :

      I pay for a gym. I chose one close to me that I enjoy the atmosphere of. Knowing I pay for it every month forces for me to go. I work long hours and I often go at midnight or 5 am, or run on the treadmill with my pager answering calls, but I go. It makes me so much happier and more energetic when I’m hitting the gym, and working out makes me much happier about my body, so I need to find a way to make it work, and for me, knowing I pay for a gym membership makes me go.

  16. Also, I just finished reading My Life In Twenty Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer, and not to give anything away or anything, but one of the things she mentions is that our mothers burst things open for us so that we no longer had to get married in our early twenties and we now have options in ways that were unthinkable back then, but our generation (married working women with kids) have become like the Buddah Goddess who has all of those arms because we have all taken on too much. Yet this is not the theme of the book. She mentions it in passing, and provides no solutions. What is the legacy we will pass on to our daughters as far as work life balance now that we have all of this freedom and all of these choices?

    • I don’t have a good answer, but this weighs on my mind, too. Knowing how much I absorbed from my mom’s example, I feel like the best thing I can do is to be a good role model for my kids and show them that I enjoy and value my life rather than just trying to survive within it. To me, that means working hard at work and being 100% focused on my family during the hours I’m at home. Everything else — volunteering, networking, other ‘extras’ — do not have a place in my life right now. I can combine marriage/kids/career, but I learned the hard way that trying to be more than that isn’t good for my mental health. (And I had the Zoloft prescription to prove it!) I sort of feel like our generation somehow turned the “You can do anything!” message into “You SHOULD do EVERYTHING!” And that’s just unrealistic. Yes, Miss Type A can finally admit that she cannot do it all, and she’s not even trying anymore.

      My mom was a SAHM. So were all her friends, my aunts, family friends, etc. And now, many of my own friends have opted out of the workforce for awhile. I have very few experienced women in my life that can serve as role models for what this working mom thing is ‘supposed’ to look like. I’m not going to lie; it sucks, and I question myself, my abilities, and my choices way more than I probably should. Options are great and wonderful, and I wouldn’t want it any other way … but I’ll admit that sometimes I feel really freaking lonely because my experience looks quite different from the norm in my social circle.

    • SpaceMountain :

      My mom went back to work when I started school, and I remember hating it and being jealous of her job because it took her away from me. I specifically recall my 6th grade self accusing her of loving her job more than she loved me. Now my daughter is in 6th grade, and she hates my job. What goes around, comes around.

  17. A group of us in my class (many years ago) asked one of our adjunct professors to have a beer with us after class one day (late afternoon), and he was more than happy to discuss how to get into his area of practice, and gave us lots of tips on “lawyering”and how to find jobs. It was a large group, men and women, and very helpful. A few of us ended up meeting with him a couple of times after that, just to pick his brain. I don’t know if that’s against the rules now, it wasn’t back then, at least at my school.

    • One of my adjunct professors did this with my class last semester. She gave us a lot of great advice about the market and her practice. It was great!

  18. No. Do not ask the prof to lunch. Use the time that is already set aside for this type of student issue–office hours. You want to stand apart from the crowd, but for your interest & abilities, not for flouting long-established practices (or being clueless about standard procedures after half a dozen years in institutions of higher education). Your shoes don’t matter. Respectful use of others’ time does.

  19. I agree that you should wait until after the semester is over. Immediately after that, ask him if you can take him to lunch or coffee for an “informational interview” to ask about how he got started and for his advice in getting your own career started. Everyone loves to give advice. Make sure you ask him if there is anyone else that he thinks you should meet – and if he can broker that introduction for you. I’ve been a hiring manager for many years — I look for young lawyers who have taken the initiative to get to my firm and/or company.

  20. Muddy Buddy :

    I agree that you should wait until the class is over and that you should do a great job in the class. However, I disagree with some of the posters who seem to be saying that you shouldn’t take him to coffee or lunch at all ever in the future.

    I took a class from an adjunct in my dream area during law school. I was prepared for class every day (usually the first to chime in during discussions because I hate that awkward silence when no one pipes up) and got a really good grade. I asked the prof out for coffee after the class was over for an informational interview. I came prepared with all kinds of questions like Kat suggested. (Did not ask about any open positions, but I did ask for recommendations on what firms would fit me best from what the prof had heard through the rumor mill.) I got so much great information that I still use. Now I work at the prof’s spouse’s firm. I don’t know that my performance in the class and the informational interview helped score the job, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

  21. Adjunct Law Professor :

    I have been an adjunct law professor for 8 years. For the first few, I was a senior associate and partner in BigLaw. Now I am in house with the government. Here are my thoughts:

    * My firm never interviewed anyone from the schools at which I teach. The firm hires only from top 10 schools (extended to a particular top 20 school because that is where both founding partners graduated). So any discussion of these students coming to my firm was an embarrassing non-starter.

    * Ditto for my government legal office, which hires only very experienced attorneys from top 20 schools.

    * Lunch? Sure, after I finish my bonbons.

    * What resonates with me? Carefully constructed, specific requests for help from students who have shown both effort and aptitude during the semester. That I am happy and eager to do. E.g., writing recommendations, giving my perspective on a firm or an a recent opinion.

  22. I would not start by asking the adjunct to lunch. I would definitely network with this adjunct though. Start by going to office hours, repeatedly, to chat about some of the topics suggested by Kat. Ask for information or advice about specific firms as you set up interviews. After the semester is over (and presumably) you graduate, keep in touch. Lunch or drinks would be appropriate by that point, but for professors who have time set aside for the specific purpose of talking to students, I would initiate conversations there first.

  23. Anonymous :

    Hi Carol, you are the worst.

  24. Okay, I understand the lunch thing, but what about asking your opposite gender professor/adviser to an out of town seminar on a Saturday, with the student and professor driving together?

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