Archive for February, 2010

Good Articles: Recruiting In Today’s Economy

People have been talking a lot more about careers lately. Many business and law school admits are comparing school recruiting stats to make final decisions; many current students are wrapping up the interview process now in hopes for their dream opportunities; and the lucky students have already received offers and are making final decisions for the summer. Given the topic is on everyone’s mind, I thought I’d post a few quick articles that discuss the issue.

See below for the articles. Two come from the WSJ and one is from Forbes.

1) Wall-Street Journal: One from the Wall Street Journal that talks a little about b-school recruiting. While the article focuses more on business school than law school, the theme of recruiting in our new economy and of getting creative in the recruiting process (both students and recruiters) is applicable to us all. The article also gives a quote from Kellogg’s own Sunil Chopra. Click here to read the article.

2) Forbes: Forbes has a interesting article which relates recruiting to dating and talks about themes “like playing hard to get.” Not everyone may agree with all the tactics/advice, but everyone should find it a pretty interesting.  Click here to read the article.

3) Wall-Street Journal Blog Post: “Laid Off and Looking” —a WSJ blog — has a good post from someone who had been looking for a job for seven months before landing something. He uses his post to share tips for those who are currently looking. Click here to read his post.

Saturday, February 27th, 2010 Careers No Comments

Diversity and Diverse Admit Day at Northwestern

Years ago, when organizations were more dependent on hierarchy and tradition, the good leaders were those who made decisions and demanded that employees follow those decisions. But leading today requires something more. It requires something subtler than the command-and-control style that worked in the past.  Instead, modern leaders need to focus on the collective interests of their colleagues.

Embodied in that collective interest is the idea of diversity.  Today’s leaders are faced with teams that are becoming more and more diverse. Organizations today are geared a more global culture, and incentives demand innovation without regard for geography or background. Many schools and companies have begun accounting for this trend, recognizing the importance of diverse teams and collaboration, but most still have a long way to go.

Here are Northwestern Law diversity is very important. Not only does Northwestern have one of the most geographically diverse student bodies amongst law schools, but it also has “the highest percentage of racially and ethnically diverse students among top law schools and the JD class is split equally between men and women.”

One reflection of the importance Northwestern places on diversity is Diverse Admit Day. Diverse Admit Day is a two-day event for all admitted diverse students to come check out Northwestern Law. The prospective students attending are usually choosing between Northwestern and other top law schools.  This year I happen to know a couple of admits who will be attending. One is a friend from high school in Arizona. He’ll be enrolling in the Accelerated JD (AJD) program.  I met another gentleman from California who said he’s be here this weekend. And finally, I’ve traded a few emails with a fellow MLT alum who was admitted into the JD-MBA program here. He found me on my website and I’ll be chatting with him about the program.

I’m glad Northwestern recognizes how important diversity is to America’s long-term success. It’s now time for other schools and for more business and law firms to do the same.  In one recent example, Apple — arguably America’s premier company today — is leading that trend, and it recently decided to diversify its Board by naming a woman as its new Lead Director (Click to read). It will be interesting to what other companies will hop on the bandwagon and do the same.

Chicago law firms like Vedder Price, Kirkland & Ellis and Perkins Coie also have a diversity programs in place for students. And banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have the same.  I’m a really big fan of the diversity programs, as I think they’re a great ‘first step toward creating more diverse organizations and industries.  And just as important, it’s also a way for companies to display it core values as they head into the new decade.

That’s because the best leaders and best companies understand that values are important. These are leaders who understand that long-term results are more important than short term profits and so they steer organizations to think critically about their values before making any business decisions. And in the end, these are the companies that will lead. And not only will they change the industries but they will also change the world.

Friday, February 26th, 2010 Law School 5 Comments

2010 Law School Rankings: National Law Journal’s Go-to Schools

How bad did law school graduates have it in 2009? This is the question everyone’s been wondering. But now we finally have a little data to shed some light on the situation. The National Law Journal‘s annual Go-To Law School List recently came out with its 2010 rankings of with the highest percentage of law school graduates hired by firms (NLJ 250 law). The bad news is that the No. 1 school sent less than 56% to NLJ 250 law firms (down from 71%). But, for Northwestern, there’s at least a little good news.

Just yesterday at Northwestern, we received an email from Dean Van Zandt. His message was to inform everyone about the survey and about our top spot on the list. Rankings aside, it’s good to know that the Dean and career center are doing there best to do well in today’s tough legal market. I suspect and hope that in 2011, the percentages will be a lot better for everyone. I guess we’ll see how things ultimately play out.

Here is a small piece of the Dean’s message below.

Dean’s Message:
“I am pleased to share that Northwestern Law holds the No. 1 spot.  This is the third consecutive year that we have ranked in the top 5 (we were 5th in 2008 and 2nd in 2007).

The list of “go-to” schools was compiled from recruiting information that law firms provided on the 2009 NLJ 250, the National Law Journal’s annual survey of the nation’s largest law firms.  As the article indicates, 2009 saw a definite decline in first-year associate employment at the nation’s 250 largest law firms, so the percentages are down across the board this year.

While the difficult economy continues to present immediate challenges to students hitting the job market, our placement in the top spot on this list is a testament to our strong reputation.  This is the second time this year that we have been ranked No. 1 in an employment-based ranking.  In the fall, Princeton Review ranked Northwestern Law No. 1 for Best Career Prospects.”

For reference, the top 15 law schools are (percent hired by NLJ 250 in parentheses):

2010 Rankings
1.  Northwestern Law   (55.9)
2.  Columbia Law School  (54.4)
3.  Stanford Law School   (54.1)
4.  University of Chicago  (53.1)
5.  University of Virginia   (52.8)
6.  University of Michigan  (51)
7.  University of Pennsylvania  (50.8)
8.  New York University  (50.1)
9.  University of California, Berkeley  (50)
10. Duke Law School  (49.8)
11. Harvard   (47.6)
12. Vanderbilt  (47.1)
13. Georgetown (42.8)
14. Cornell  (41.5)
15. University of Southern California  (41.3)

Also for reference, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog makes mention of our ranking.  To read the full story, click here”

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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 Law School 4 Comments

Applicant Question: Should I Attend Kellogg’s BMA Conference?

The MBA admissions process has long been considered by some to be a black box. Some define it that way because of its unpredictability. And others for its perceived inconsistency and secrecy.  But despite its mysterious reputation, one thing is pretty certain, there usually isn’t a “right” answer or “single” answer to most questions anyhow. Instead admissions teams look at applications holistically. They seek out nuances most of us don’t consider. They interesting analyze trends and patterns.  They can spot inconsistencies from a mile away. And they give credibility to the intangible things that many of us might overlook.

The good news is that things have changed a bit over the past few years. Admissions information has become more accessible and the internet has made it far easier to gain access to critical pieces of admissions statistics that we look for. In less than a second, a well-crafted google search can get you just about anything you need, from past interview questions, to average scores at schools, to employment and pay information. But some questions still remain ambiguous, like the one from my reader who asked whether attending Kellogg’s BMA conference this year would influence her chances of admission. Check out our exchange below!

APPLICANT QUESTION

My question is in reference to the Kellogg BMA conference that is coming up. Do you see attendance to this conference as significantly beneficial to prospective students (looking to apply this fall)?

MY RESPONSE

Thanks so much for your question and for reading my blog. As I mentioned in my introduction above, most questions don’t have a single answer, and I personally think that this question fits into that category.  For the benefit of all the readers out there who might be pondering a similar question, I’ll try to break the question down both broadly and specific to your case.

But before I get into the answer, I’d like to point out to all my readers that the BMA Conference is a great event that not only gets a really good turnout every year but also tends to draw some pretty big name speakers and panelists. This year Soledad O’Brien (from CNN) has agreed to head to campus and help kick-off the event by chatting with some students and professors on Wednesday. Click here for the full conference agenda.

Now to respond to your question — On the surface, I’d say a attending conferences here at Kellogg, or at any school for that matter, will not be seen as a significant factor in your application.  I can’t speak personally about what goes on in the minds of AdCom members when they’re making final decisions on candidates, but as I’ve alluded to in a number of posts before, admissions decisions are rarely made on the basis of one data point. I suspect this is especially true about data points that don’t give the committees more information about you.  So I’d speculate that it’s pretty unlikely that an admissions decision would hinge on your attendance at the conference.  You can also think about it numerically — consider the number of admits that get into Kellogg every single year but never come to a conference, and never even considered coming. I suspect that number must be huge.  That said, I don’t think you should  make up your mind so quickly.  My perspective is that the decision is not quite that simple.

I think the real answer to this question is it depends. Because depending on how you’d frame the question of “what is beneficial” to you could easily change your answer.  Is it most important for you to visit and learn about Kellogg? Do you want to get a better feel for the culture? Do you want to learn about the curriculum? Or are you looking to show the admissions committee you’re really interested? As I like to emphasize in nearly all of my posts, it’s my opinion that people far too often expect answers to be binary and they hope for solutions that will add tangible value to their profiles.  But it often turns out that it’s more important to consider a broader range of possible benefits, some that often pay off in the longer term.  I think that this also holds true for your question.

For example, in my opinion these conferences are a great way to meet smart and high-potential people — students and alumni — who were once in your shoes. Consider the possibilities that come with that.  It’s quite possible you’ll make a really great connection, maybe a mentor, maybe someone who has good advice about the essays or general process, or maybe just a good friend. Or perhaps you’ll stumble across that one hidden jewel of information you didn’t know you were looking for.  The gem that helps your bring your application story together and leads you to the promise land of better articulating your career passion.

A conference might also be the gateway to finally catch a live snapshot of the school’s culture. In fact, I just wrote a post earlier today where I raved for pages about Kellogg’s culture.  And while I’d definitely be grateful if you continue to read my posts, there’s definitely no substitute for watching things happen real-time. Another thing I also said in my that post is that the MBA world can start to feel pretty small sometimes. So if you’re definitely set on applying to programs this year, then there’s the chance you may see some of the others again, even if you didn’t end up deciding to come to Kellogg.

To give you a little background about me, I personally made a trip or two to Kellogg while I was applying.  And fortunately, I was able to meet a lot of really great people on my trips.  On my first trip, I met a second year student — she ironically happened to be my class host — who I connected with right away during class, and it just so happened we kept in touch as I applied.  And although she was a couple of years ahead of me, and is currently living the good life out in New York City, we still chat regularly and sometimes meet up when she’s here in the windy city.

That said, I’ll stress that I didn’t visit Kellogg with the singular goal of finding a resource. Instead, I came to experience campus, gather information, and meet lots of people. And that I definitely did.  That said, I suspect that most people who visit probably have very different experiences, but I do believe that anyone who visits campus and is intent on gathering information about the school will usually be able to find what they’re looking for.

Sound like a lot to consider? I think so too. But in the end, the “tangible” benefit will be more correlated to what you make of the experience than it is of your actual attendance. And so you’ll have to balance all these potential benefits with the costs that you’d incur by coming and then decide if it’s worth it for you.  And for some people it won’t be.  And so my only “actual” piece of advice is just to consider everything on both sides (costs and benefits) and do what makes the most sense for you.

And, like I said before, the good news is that your attendance shouldn’t make or break your application. So try not to stress too much about it. But if you do decide to register, then the sooner the better, so you can take advantage of the early bird discount. Good luck with your decision!

Click here to register for the BMA Conference

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Thursday, February 18th, 2010 Diversity 3 Comments

My Thoughts on Day At Kellogg (DAK), Round 1, Class of 2012

The more admit weekends I’ve been to over the past year, the more I realize how different each school’s culture actually is. Although many students come to town with similar career paths — consulting, banking, finance, marketing — the school culture usually take the lead at these weekends and so the divergent pieces of the programs really stand out.  This past weekend, I joined a couple hundred admits at Kellogg’s admit weekend (DAK). And it was definitely an interesting couple of days!

I was personally admitted to Kellogg last year — alongside Kellogg’s class of 2011 — not this year.  But because I’m in the JD-MBA program and began my program at the law school, I’m actually a part of the Class of 2012. That means that this year’s admitted students will be in my graduating class. So despite a pretty heavy course load at law school last week, I headed out to Evanston to attend as many events as possible.

The weekend was not only the perfect chance to meet dozens and dozens of classmates, which is something I thoroughly enjoy, but it was also a chance to really get a feel for the culture of Kellogg and for MBA programs in general.  And I feel like I had a pretty interesting perspective on things, given I’ve spent all year in law school, which in my opinion is completely different.  Here’s a quick summary of the themes I saw this weekend.

Diversity Reigns. Similar to what I saw at many of the admit weekends last year, the people at Kellogg are really diverse.  Admits not only came from Chicago but they also came from all parts of the US — both big cities and small ones — and all corners of the globe, all with a common purpose — to choose the right MBA program. Although on the surface there was a bit of commonality in the career paths of the admits, after doing some probing, everyone definitely had very unique career experiences and insights. I met students who worked in consulting, investment banking, investment management, private equity, start-ups, family businesses, technology companies, government agencies, political campaigns, marketing departments, and in a wide variety of other roles. And even within this categories, there was a pretty wide range of experiences. For example, in the consulting industry, I met folks both from the big three firms, and also from at least 15 or 20 other firms, including start-ups and middle market firms. And many of the consultants had traveled extensively around the world to serve clients in places like Dubai, Mumbai, London, New York City, and Barcelona. I found it pretty interesting to learn about people’s career experiences.

Academic theory has suggested that at times too much diversity can threaten a community’s ability to work communally. While the argument might have merits in some environments, the theory doesn’t hold at all in business school, especially at a collaborative place like Kellogg.  At Kellogg, all the activities are run by students, including DAK. And so in my opinion, student leaders tend to do a pretty good job working together and bringing people on the same page.  All of the sessions over the weekend were run by teams of five or six, and I was particularly impressed how most groups worked seamlessly together and how members were pretty good about jumping in when a teammate needed help.

That said, I did notice that some of that diversity seemed to get funneled out a bit in the recruiting process.  Although a number of students came in with unique backgrounds and even more unique dreams for the future, many first years ended up recruiting for similar industries and companies. At Kellogg, like some of the other top schools, students interviewed for marketing, consulting, banking and finance.  But this funnel is certainly not unique to Kellogg.

On one hand, I think these industries are great launching pads for a wide variety of careers — they equip you with the hard and soft skills to become better managers and leaders and often give you the credibility and experience to progress more rapidly.  But on the other hand, I also think there is merit in pursuing your career passion earlier than later.  Because the path to success is often long and hard, I think some people might be better off picking jobs that they are committed to from the start, engaging in activities where they will thrive in spite of setbacks, and undertaking leadership positions that allow them to be creative and implement their biggest ideas.

It’s A Small World. My experience at DAK also reminded me that the world can be pretty small sometimes. But this was not really a surprise. Technology and social media certainly brings all of us closer than we’ve ever been.  And over the weekend, I met a number of people I had pretty close connections to. I met the twin of someone I knew years ago at Stanford as an undergrad. I had a long conversation with an admit who’s good friend is the current roommate of my old college roommate.  I re-connected with a girl that was in my sister sorority back at Stanford.  I chatted with a student who is related to a section mate here at the law school.  And I even spoke with multiple people who had been followers of my website (thanks for following!)

It was definitely a lot of fun to meet and network with such an interconnected crowd. For many, the idea of networking induces negative emotions, as people too often think of networking as self-interested schmoozing, passing out business cards, and hoping to find a job. But to me, that’s a pretty superficial view.  For me, it’s all about meeting people, learning from their experiences, getting new perspectives on things, and most importantly being equally willing to do a favor rather than take one.  In my case, I’m usually more willing. Imagine if everyone had this mentality!

Questions.   Answering questions also seemed to be a big theme at the admit weekend, and admits had a great venue to ask lots of questions about the school. And dozens of first years came out, armed both with information and with time to answer the questions. And so the most curious folks benefited most, especially given the experienced pool of Kellogg students.

But I noticed this year, even more than last year, that some admits also enjoyed doing a lot of the talking. While talking is not necessarily a bad thing and although I’m also a big talker myself, my opinion is that having that mentality all the time doesn’t always work so well at these types of events.  Given first years have so much to offer, admits definitely lose out by not listening more.  Further, admits always run the risk of coming off a bit too arrogantly if they don’t take the time to listen. The first year students are there specifically to provide information about Kellogg, and so not listening doesn’t give them a chance to do what they came out for.

I personally think there’s incredible value to asking lots of questions. For one, there are so many aspects to learn about Kellogg, and that’s also true for many other schools too.  So the more quality questions you ask, the better. And even aside from the chance to learn something new or to hear about others’ perspectives, asking questions also provides one of the best venues to engage in genuine conversation. And so my opinion is that asking good questions, and doing so in the spirit of collaboration and generosity, is one of the best ways to get past the formality and really connect with a person. I found this happening quite a bit this past weekend.

Habit Of Decision-Making.   At most admit weekends, there are some people who have made up their mind to attend a school, and others who are still deciding. At DAK, I found a good mix of both, though definitely more people still in the decision-making process than I had anticipated. Some admits were still waiting around for other schools to get back to them. Others were waiting on Kellogg for financial aid information. A third group was so happy to get in, they hadn’t thought much about the decision. And a fourth group was relying on their DAK experience to decide.

To me, that whole decision-making process about school is also indicative of MBA programs. Business schools, as first evinced in the case study system, are venues that facilitate constant decision-making. Every single day, you have to decide how much time to spend in the library, how much time to prep for upcoming interviews, and how much time to spend out at the local pub celebrating with friends. And in some classes, there is the case — the cases often revolve around CEOs or other leaders who face adverse circumstances and have to make tough decisions, sometimes quickly. And so the student is put in the seat of the decision-maker and has to think through that decision. Sometimes with a lack of information. Sometimes in the midst of uncertainty. And usually with little or no experience (we’re just MBA students!). Schools like HBS and Darden use the case method a bit more than Kellogg (according to students I’ve met), but Kellogg is a great general management and leadership school and I’m personally looking forward to some of the case-based classes there.

From my experience this year, MBA programs are more welcoming of this style of decision-making than law schools are, both because these types of decisions are more common in business and because a lawyers job is to mitigate risk not utilize it. And so MBA programs prepare you with a willingness to take risks. To calculate those risks based on information and analysis, yes, but to take them. That said, the admitted students at Kellogg are pretty lucky. While some may see it risky to take on loans to get an MBA, it’s certainly not very risky getting a Kellogg MBA in the process.

Clubs Will Be King.  It was also clear that clubs are a pretty important part of Kellogg. Clubs give students a direct way to dive into various industries, functions, and other interests during school. On one hand, this access allows them to learn about different things they’re interested in. On the other hand, it also allows them to gain access to critical information that could facilitate a student’s progress toward their ultimate career goals.  But maybe more important than nature of the clubs and the information the clubs may have, club membership also provides an ideal venue for students to work on their leadership skills. Because most activities at Kellogg are run entirely by students, student leaders are accountable to organize events, meet with other student leaders and with administration, and execute agendas, for all events on campus.  At DAK, I was very clear how much work it took to pull this off.

Although some people tend to underemphasize this experience in the application process, I personally think that in the right environment (i.e like at Kellogg), organizing events and activities is a great way to practice your leadership skills.  In my own experience before Kellogg, I’ve spent significant time doing similar things in the community. Doing so, I’ve come to learn the power that comes with planning, organizing activities, setting priorities, and achieving goals. Especially when you’re 100% accountable for the results. And the good news about Kellogg is that you have the Kellogg brand backing you up, and that you can lead in a safe environment with classmates.

What About Leadership? So what do all these issues mean for MBA students — future firm managers and world leaders?  That’s a great question, and I don’t have the perfect answer. But one trend I do see is that there is definitely a change in the leadership skills that will be most effective going forward.  And while there are certain leadership qualities that will always be critical – the ability to influence others, create change, build consensus, and rally people to action — today the ability to lead in more diverse environments, to listen to the perspectives of others, to understand and collaborate with different cultures, and to maintain a broader perspective are also important. Leaders will need to use these abilities become more adept at developing relationships in the high-growth yet still shrinking “small world” that is developing.

And in the end, my personal opinion is that leadership will continue to have more correlation to the ability to connect with others, to exchange information, and to build new relationships. What do you think?

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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 Leadership 3 Comments

Applicant Question: Should I Also Pursue a JD?

It’s that time of year, when people from all over the country are hearing back from graduate schools and trying to decide what to do with the next few years of their lives. Many will choose to go to business school and spend two years gaining a wide range of opportunities and learning experiences. Another group of students will choose to go to law school and spend three years reading cases, writing memos, and honing razor-sharp critical thinking skills. And there’s one final group who, in number, is only a tiny fraction of the applicant world. They will decide to spend time doing both.

The good news is that either degree on its own, especially from a top school, will look great to an employer. On the other hand, the dual degree can also be attractive, depending on your target industry, career goals, and development objectives. I recently received a question from a potential applicant with this dilemma in mind.  The applicant is leaning towards applying to MBA programs but also has questions regarding the value of a law degree.  The applicant listed out a few specific questions that I’ve responded to below.

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QUESTION FROM MY READER

Jeremy, After graduating with an economics and agri-business degree, pursuing a career in trading stocks, bonds, commodities, financial derivatives, and other forms of equity is a dream of mine. After some experience in trading, I would like to open an estate planning / financial planning firm, capitalizing on the baby boomer generation coming to retirement age as well as retiring farmers that are cash heavy and have a limited idea on how to capitalize on the markets. Feeling an MBA degree would benefit me the most, I find the JD degree is also attractive to most hiring. I have started to look into studying for the LSAT and GMAT but am not sure which would benefit me the most. I currently work full time at a top 5 financial institution working with attorneys and debtors every day trying to avoid foreclosure of their real estate properties by underwriting their loan and approving them for a modification. Here are a couple of questions that I have for you, 1. Is the JD something that will benefit me? 2. What is more valuable when applying; grades, work experience, or test scores? 3. Would my work experience be good grounds for my personal statement? 4. Since I want nothing to do with Litigation, will a JD be pointless? Thanks for any help or guidance you can relay, feedback is most appreciated, thanks! (Name)

MY RESPONSE TO MY READER

Hi (Name),

Thanks so much for your question and for checking out my blog.  I hope you find my posts to be informative and that you continue to check for new posts and articles as you contemplate your application.

In general, this is a great question, and I’m glad to see you weighing your decision early.  Many applicants rush into one program or another for a variety of reasons, but would benefit to think more deeply about it.  As I’ve mentioned before in quite a few posts, the MBA and JD are very different programs–they will test you in very different ways and will help you to hone very different skills.  That said, graduates from both program come out as well rounded professionals, smart, critical thinkers, and highly capable. Also graduates of both programs are very valued in a wide variety of fields. So the answer to this question comes down not only to your specific personal career goals but also the skills you want to develop to help get you there.

1. Will a JD benefit you?
This is nearly impossible for anyone but you to answer, but I can certainly give you my thoughts on the JD and a few thoughts on how it might relate to a profile like yours.  In general, my opinion is that the JD is a highly valued degree.  This is true across a variety of industries, sectors, and positions. And in my personal experience (which in your industry is a bit limited), it is also true in the finance industry, although this may be less so in a trading role, as traders generally don’t tend to possess JDs.  But that said, no degree is valued the same in a single industry, so I suspect that many finance firms, and even some interviewers at within the firm, may give a law degree more value than others do.

That said, you should not only think about how it will add value to your professional options but also think about how it will add value to your current skill set. A law degree is often valued because of the perceived skills and knowledge you gain while in school–the ability to identify the issues, think critically and analytically about those issues, and also organize information and communicate that information persuasively. Many employers also value legal training because it helps students to do a better job at assessing risk.  And others, because they believe it’s good proof that you are smart and can work hard. So it might also be important to assess whether these skills are important in your own development and also in the industry and companies you seek.

2. What is valuable in law school application?
My first response is to this question is that this will be very dependent on the specific school, on the skills you actually bring to the table, on the legal experience you already have, and on when you decide to apply.   Generally speaking, I think that well-rounded applicants tend to do best in graduate school applications.  That said, law schools very much value intellectual horsepower, which they usually measure based on an applicant’s grades, test scores, and other similar measurable statistics.  But it’s hard to say exactly to what extent that holds. And based on my experience, I personally think that there seems to be a trend (a very small trend) that law schools are beginning to look more broadly at applications and perhaps are giving a bit more weight to work experience and leadership qualities, as articulated in the personal statement and evidenced in your activities and recommendations. But this seems to be a pretty modern trend, not to mention a tricky topic that is not consistent across schools just yet.  And since I have less experience with this aspect of law school admissions, I’d recommend talking specifically with target law school admissions teams about that question. And my guess is that Northwestern Law–a school where work experience and maturity are highly valued–will respond differently than some of its competitors. Most schools also talk a lot about this the admissions websites.

3. Should I Include Work Experience In My Personal Statement?
Though I haven’t written many personal statements for law school, I think the answer here is definitely yes. The personal statement portion of an application is important in my mind for two reasons.  First, given that law schools have traditionally relied on statistical measures, I think the personal statement gives an applicant the chance to differentiate his or her profile a bit more, which I suspect is really important when schools are comparing candidates who look identical in terms of test scores and grades.  This is especially true because, unlike MBA programs, most law schools don’t require interviews (Northwestern Law is one exception), and so an applicant has less chance to personalize the written application.  Second, law schools generally put a heavy emphasis on writing, so your statement is a great way to convey that ability.  The ability to structure your thoughts and organize a series of complex events.  The ability to articulate a persuasive and compelling story and to narrate it in a lively yet realistic manner.  And to do both of these effectively, I think an applicant would be at an advantage to not only discuss school activities and future goals, but also to discuss substantive work experiences and how they will help you in your journey in the legal field.

4. Litigation?
Of those I know, most JD-MBAs here have not gone into typical litigation roles after graduation, and I think that is consistent with many top JD-MBA programs. In some respects this is because the MBA portion of the program adds certain business skills and knowledge, that students can leverage to do well in corporate law. And conversely, corporate firms do value the degree. Further, from what I’ve seen about Northwestern Law specifically (not JD-MBA), it generally tends to have a pretty businessy edge to it as well, as in many instances, classes here approach both the practice and the study of law with a business emphasis. And so as a result, many JDs here also go into corporate law. That said, many Northwestern Law students (non JD-MBAs) also definitely go into litigation. (To get the most accurate and up-to-date information on career paths, you should probably visit Northwestern Law’s Admissions website. The law school here does a very good job at discussing their admissions strategy and the school’s overall strategy. It should also give you some of the recent numbers on where graduates have gone to work.) In light of all the data I’ve seen, my general response here is that you definitely don’t have to want to go into litigation to make the JD useful. And that’s especially true, if like I mentioned above, you think more broadly about the usefulness of the law degree.

So in sum, my opinion is that there is more to a law degree than hopping into an industry or qualifying for a company.  And also in my opinion, the JD-MBA is a powerful combo if it’s the right fit.  But the fit question is important.  And the way to best determine fit is to gather as much accurate information as possible to make a personal decision Unfortunately, I don’t have any numbers on hand about the industries you mentioned. But one piece of advice I do have is, don’t put too much trust in websites or in people who neither have the experience working toward the degrees or the admissions experience to make meaningful remarks about the programs.  Most sites will tell you that no job needs both degrees and that employers won’t value them. And while that may be true in some specific instances, it’s quite untrue in others. And in my opinion, it’s also a bit silly, because no job really “requires” any degree to be proficient in a role.  And so while their opinions are interesting and sometimes valid, they may also add little substance to your decision.

So the real question for you, after you research, is if it’s worth it for you specifically. The cost, time, network, skills, varied experiences, and the trade-off of breadth and depth. And at the end of the day, you’re best positioned to answer that question. And considering the potential investment, it also makes the most sense for you to answer it.

Good luck!

There are important skills and values, and significant bodies of knowledge that you can acquire prior to law school and that will provide a sound foundation for a legal education. These include analytic and problem-solving skills , critical reading abilities, writing skills, oral communication and listening abilities, general research skills, task organization and management skills, and the values of serving faithfully the interests of others while also promoting justice

Saturday, February 13th, 2010 Admissions 2 Comments

Kellogg Stats Waiver Exam Results

Just yesterday I found out that I passed the Statistics waiver exam that I wrote about in a post last week (Click here for post). Most of my JD-MBA classmates also passed, which is good news. Before the exam, I was a little worried given I had never taken stats before, but I put in some good study time the night before, and was able to learn the material pretty quickly.

The exam itself was three hours, and the material was a bit harder than I predicted it would be and a bit harder than the practice test.  But then again, most “final” exams feel that way. Fortunately, we were able to use a calculator and bring in notes into the exam.  And because all the material was still so fresh in my mind, since I had just  studyied the night before, I was able to reason my way through all of the problems and eventually figure out most of them, or at least enough of them to pass.

I took the exam over at Kellogg, not the law school. Although he didn’t proctor it, a Kellogg professor did grade the tests. And yesterday, the school emailed me a copy of a document that he wrote up, which provides everything that I’m expected to know as I move on to future classes. While the DECS 433 course seemed interesting, it’s definitely nice to move ahead and to make more free time for electives at Kellogg.

So now the question is which exam is next? … Maybe Accounting? Maybe Stats 2? Or maybe none of the tests–since I think the other classes would be useful to take.  At this point, I’m not sure.  But if I do end up taking another waiver exam, I’ll try to post a bit of information on my experiences with those as well.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 Uncategorized 4 Comments

1L Job Search Continues

Last August, most students came to Northwestern Law ready to study hard, perform well, and make their way to a top tier law firm. But for some, that plan got thrown out of the window a long time ago. By November, before recruiting ever began for 1Ls, the economic environment was the nation’s center of attention. So students began making appointments with advisers. And the career center quickly took charge and did a good job of loudly communicating the message to keep our options open. And in December, students started pumping out applications. To law firms, government agencies and non profits. Both big and small. You name it, somebody sent it.  All in hopes of an interview.

But things have definitely shifted a bit over the past few months.  After a rocky and unpredictable start, students are now balancing school with their job searches. Some students seem to look a bit more stressed, and some seem in more of a hurry. But most of the group seems to be staying cool and collected–the older Northwestern Law students seem to hand pressure well.  And as for the rest, you really just don’t see them at the school very often. Only in class, the career office, or dressed in their best suit on their way to an interview. In fact, on any given day you’ll spot someone cruising the atrium in their best suits and newly shined shoes. It’s so common that nobody usually takes a second look.

Also more students are increasingly becoming interested in non-profits and in public service organizations, which is a great by-product of the economy. And this isn’t just happening here at Northwestern, students are feeling the urgency at most of the top schools. I recently spoke with a friends at Penn, Harvard, and Chicago, and the climate is similar.

In general, the first year law student job search can be a bit chaotic. In some sense, it’s a bit of an unstructured process, where companies post jobs periodically, others come in one by one to OCI (on campus recruiting process), and others come drop by for career fairs or employers mixers.  Unlike second year summer recruiting where all the employers come during the same period, interview dozens of students, and hand out offers, most 1Ls rely on an individual search.

The up side to this less formal process is that you can do a lot of it at your own pace and on your own time. For some, this means getting done very quickly or being able to spread the search out over time, which may help you with balance. The down side is that for most it will end up taking longer, given there are less jobs to go around.  For some, this might mean making a trade-off between grades and the job search, if students don’t balance everything correctly. And that decision may depend on first semester grades or on work history. But it’s hard to say how things will turn out this year, here or elsewhere, because we’re still right in the middle of the process.

So at this point, a lot of 1Ls here are still looking and deciding what to do for the summer, which is typical, even during the best recruiting years. For one, some students don’t want to get tied down without going for their top job choice first.  Others will sometimes work a few different angles at the same time, which may lengthen the process. Although I suspect less of that will happen this year.  Also, the 1L schedule usually lasts through the spring, given the majority of first year students don’t even begin until January.

The hard part though, in writing a more detailed post, is that recruiting, just like most of law school has a big element of secrecy.   Just as most people don’t say much about grades, an ever smaller number talk about jobs, especially early in the process and especially now when things so uncertain. I think a lot of the 1Ls followed the lead of the 2Ls, who recently went through the worst recruiting cycle ever and thus were quieter than normal.

But personally, I’ve been asking around, and I’ve got a bit of information on a small number of first years, and some have already locked down jobs. Some will be working for government agencies, like the FTC, others at non-profits and legal aid organizations, and others clerking for judges here in Chicago and elsewhere in the U.S. But I suspect that many students will be working on recruiting for a good chunk of the semester, and some for the full semester. For those hoping to work in GC offices or at firms, the large majority of hiring decisions have not been made yet.  In fact, some firms haven’t even begun their interview process.

As for the JD-MBAs, most of the group is not going through the 1L recruiting process.  Instead, they’ll be taking classes full-time this summer. A few are looking at short-term assignments before classes begin, and a smaller few are going through the recruiting process.  But the good news for JD-MBAs here at Northwestern is that part of our program includes the opportunity to work at either the Small Business Opportunity Clinic or at in a local company General Counsel’s office during the first summer. Both experiences are supposed to be a lot of fun and a good chance to learn a lot.  I suspect that a majority of my classmates will end up working in either of the two roles. We’ll see how the numbers turn out.

Saturday, February 6th, 2010 Law School 2 Comments

#AskJeremy: Applicant Question – Taking The GMAT Multiple Times

In a recent message from one of my readers, I was asked for a bit of advice about the GMAT.

My usual first piece of advice to GMAT questions is to remember, that it’s one part of your application and will almost never “bar” you from admission and that you should be careful aiming for a higher score if it comes at the expense of other pieces of your application. However, unlike most applicants with GMAT questions, this reader has already made it to the promise land and scored above a 700.  His concern is that took four attempts and a few bad testing incidents to get there.  Check out my response to the question below!

MESSAGE FROM MY READER

Hello Jeremy,

Your blog’s really nice. Very informative. I interviewed with Kellogg on campus yesterday for the jd-mba program. It was a wonderful experience visiting both the Evanston campus and the Chicago downtown campus (great views from the library there!). I work on Wall Street for a prominent Investment Bank (Bank Holding Company now) as a front office quant. The JD-MBA program at Kellogg is my first choice. My application is under review by the ad com now, however I was quite keen on understanding a few things about how Kellogg considers multiple GMAT attempts? I had to take the GMAT 4 times to crack the 700 barrier. Although unfortunate a couple of times, I had to file incidence reports with GMAC because of bad testing environment (with other co-test-takers shouting out numbers in their math section while i was doing my RC in the verbal etc), I cant possibly give those as reasons for my below-par-performances. I am proud of my perseverance toward cracking the 700 barrier however. Kellogg clearly says that they consider the best score if the latest and the best score are equal. Is this really true? Does the number of GMAT attempts weigh down an application heavily?

Thanks.

MY RESPONSE TO MY READER

Dear (Reader), thanks for writing in with your question about Kellogg and for reading my blog. I’m glad you enjoy the site.

First off, congratulations on finishing your Kellogg interview. It can definitely be a nervous part of the process for a lot of candidates. It sounds like yours went well, which is good news.  Also, you’re absolutely correct about our library. The views from that side of the building are pretty amazing, and they can be quite distracting in the fall and spring if you study by the windows, which can be a good or a bad thing. And finally, I’m glad Kellogg is your first choice and I hope you were that enthusiastic when you completed your application. My opinion is that the JD-MBA program does their best not only to select top tier applicants but also those who demonstrate that they  really want to come. While this is clearly not always so easy to predict, I suspect that the best applicants are able to convey this message pretty clearly.

Now to your email–First, I think this is a really good question, and it’s one that I also thought about back when I first considered applying to b-school.  It’s funny, but like you, I quickly noticed that generally some programs don’t clearly state their policies online–some seemed to exclude them while others made me search every possible link to find it.  Off hand, I don’t know where Kellogg fits into this sphere–and perhaps they may list it openly on the site. But I wonder if not focusing on this fact is actually a good thing, because it keeps students from worrying too much about the logistics and instead allows them to focus on achieving their target scores and giving their best efforts. That said, I still don’t really know why the schools have decided to go about it this way. Perhaps, it was not purposeful.

But from experience, I suspect that you may not need to worry too much about it.  I think the fact that GMAC allows you to take the GMAT up to 5 times per calendar year and that MBA programs don’t object suggests that you’re chances of admission will not “significantly” change.  I’ve met admits from other top MBA programs who have taken five tests. Also, the fact that GMAC sends the past three tests scores (and not just one), in my opinion, seems to be more correlated to the fact that schools may want to see scoring trends over time and changes in performance. I’ve actually asked admissions reps about this before, and most will concede to looking for positive trends from candidates, though I’ve never heard anyone mention seeking out negative trends. And third, the average GMAT score published by online by MBA programs, in my experience, reflects each person’s highest score across the entering class, not each admits average score. This suggests that schools may place more importance, at least in terms of public perception, on the highest scores.

What does all this mean? It’s hard to say for certain, but I think it reflects both admissions’ desire to see upward progression on the test, and their significantly stronger desire to see your highest score. And in my opinion, the only time that taking multiple tests really comes into play for those who improved is for candidates with mid-range scores or with borderline applications. Then the committee might look for upward score progression or look at quantitative and verbal score combinations over time, to see if you perhaps had a string of bad days in one section, to see if you’re a hard worker, or to find other (in)consistencies in the application.  For example, if there were two candidates for admission, where one that had a change in GMAT score from 600 to 640, and the second who scored a had 600, then I suspect that the extra effort would be applauded.  Conversely, if you have to take it twice to hit 600, just to apply with the same score as the other applicant, then while you might guess that the second person would look better, it’s also possible that the committee may admire your persistence, rather than think negatively of your profile. It’s hard to predict what anyone might say for certain, but I can’t think of many cases where multiple GMAT scores would “dramatically” ruin your application.

I do agree that your case seems a bit different, but I’m glad you didn’t write much about it in the information section. For one, Kellogg plainly tells you that it considers your highest score and second because most committees don’t want to hear anything that might sound like an excuse.  But, in terms of Kellogg specifically, they are usually pretty similar to other top schools when it comes to the GMAT, and I don’t have any reason to believe that they’d look at your scores any differently than what they said. So I’m pretty certain that they aren’t taking the average of your scores, but it’s always hard to say anything for certain. But here is what I do know for certain. I do know at least a dozen MBAs at top ten schools who had three and four GMAT attempts. I also know multiple JD-MBAs in this program who took the exam more than two times.  I personally did not crack 700 on my first GMAT attempt.  In fact, I was far from it. So rest assured that candidates like you, with upward trends in scores, final scores above 700, good resumes, and good interview (as you seemed to suggest) usually do pretty well in the admissions process. Of course, this assumes my very first point above, which is that you didn’t use the four attempts at the expense of other parts of your application.

I know may this not have been the perfect “yes” or “no” you were looking for,  but I hope it answers your question. Best of luck with all your applications, and with the JD-MBA program!  Feel free to let me know how things turn out.

#AskJeremy

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Friday, February 5th, 2010 Business School No Comments

Good Article: Law Firm Diversity

Diversity has become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. People use it about as much as business people throw around the word “leadership,” as frequently as admissions teams talk about “fit,” and as habitually as law school professors use the word “reasonable.” But thankfully, many institutions today are taking it more seriously. Chief among those institutions are law firms, especially California law firms according to a recent article I found.  Among other things, they are promoting diversity on their websites, starting diversity scholarship programs, increasing target “interview” numbers, and giving diverse employees a seat at the executive table.

I recently found an article that discusses this very issue. The article focuses more on the diversity of new hires than of executives and diversity scholarship, but it raises a few interesting points about ensuring that diversity continues to improve–talking a little about some of the tactics firms are using to recruit and also about the way firms are collaborating to tackle the issue.  Ultimately, the end goal for firms is to use the best tools they can to work effectively and more systematically on the issue and to finally bring change to the legal industry. It sounds like some firms may finally be on their way. And not only is this true in California but it’s definitely true for firms based here in Chicago too, firms like Vedder Price, Foley & Lardner, Kirkland & Ellis, and Perkins Coie (HQ Seattle but big Chicago program)

This could be a really big moment in law firm history. Is your law firm staying on pace with the new diversity standard? What about your business? Or your school? If not, then how will you and your organization fit in going forward?  Will you resist change or will you finally adjust and help push this new standard forward? Why … because sometimes the best leaders aren’t always the entrepreneurs or those who come up with the bright ideas. Instead they’re often the ones with the intuition to quickly recognize another good idea, adapt, and then work in diverse teams and broker complex networks to influence others to do the same. Business and law firms have the current opportunity to lead in the push for diversity.

Please see below for a link to the article.

Title: Study: California Law Firms Lead In Diversity — But It’s Not Easy
Source: Fenwick & West LLP
Article Link: Click here to read the article

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 Diversity No Comments

1L Networking Event With Employers

We’ve all had that feeling before. The sudden adrenaline rush that shows up right before you’re one chance to pitch a product to your most important client. That flood of nervous energy you can’t seem to shake, but instead paralyzes your body the moment the hiring manager walks out and says hello. The feeling that you must have miscalculated and that now you’re in just way over your head. This is how a lot of people feel when it’s time to network. So they stay as far away from networking as possible. But there’s just one problem. If you’re looking for a job, or want to lay the foundation for a future one, then networking is one of the most effective things you can do.

Now don’t get me wrong, some people do just fine without taking single stop into a networking event. And perhaps you can too. But at the end of the day, there’s not whole lot of benefit to running away from the crowds and deciding that you’d prefer to meet fewer people than your peers and competitors. Not only do you lose out on the chance to “build your network” as some people might say, but you also forgo the chance to meet some pretty interesting people, to hear about issues from different perspectives, to quickly catch up with current trends and changes, and to build a couple of good relationships along the way.  And equally as important, you skip out on the chance to help someone else to do the same.

Just last week the law school put on a pretty interesting networking event with a couple of our school’s partner law firms.  The point of the event was twofold. On one hand, it gave students an intimate and safe venue to speak with attorneys from various major law firms, all of which will come back to Northwestern to recruit next fall during OCI.  But the event was also pitched as a time for students to practice their networking skills. To think about how to ask the right questions, telling the right stories, and effectively engaging in small talk.  I personally suspect that the networking spin for the event was partially a response to this year’s economy.  Since less firms are doing hiring this year, specifically amongst first year students, I suspect that the school assumed it would be a good use of the event to give students time to practice interacting with attorneys.

Our careers office strongly encouraged students to attend the reception, and they flooded our Inboxes with email reminders.  And the students responded.  The final turnout reached max capacity.  And so sixty to seventy students put down their books for a few hours on a Wednesday night and made their way to the law school for the chance to speak to attorneys from McDermott Will & Emery, Perkins Coie, Ropes & Gray, and Winston & Strawn.  All four firms tend to spend quite a bit of time at Northwestern, and I personally ran into a couple of lawyers that I had met previously, including an employment attorney from Perkins Coie, who I had just run into a week before the event, as well as an attorney from Ropes & Gray, who I met last semester.  I also found the chance—right at the beginning of the event—to strike up conversation with an attorney from McDermott. I had seen this person at Northwestern once or twice before, but I never the opportunity to chat with her until this reception. We had a pretty good conversation and ended up trading a few Northwestern stories since she was an alum.

As this last conversation suggests, I personally tend to look at these events as a good way to meet new people, rather than a venue to gain an edge.  As a result, I usually tend to be pretty comfortable, and I typically end up talking to a pretty good number of people (recruiters and attendees).  You might say that one of my incentives is that because I’m personally interested in the Chicago market, there’s a good chance I’ll run into many of the people again. But I’m not so sure that’s the case. For one, that idea does’nt really crossed my mind at these events.  Instead, I usually tend to spend more time thinking about the things I mentioned above. That I’m in a venue where the odds of meeting interesting people, building new relationships, and learning are high.  And it’s also a great venue to be a resource for others, as people often rely on you for pieces of information, need you to introducte them to someone you know (including recruiters), or maybe they just need a spark of inspiration, which they might find because of your energy or generosity.

In any event, the reception turned out to be pretty fun, and for me was well worth the time.  For others though, it’s hard to say whether they feel the same way.  I suspect that many of the 1Ls would say that the event was not worth it.  There were fewer attorneys that showed up than expected, there were a lot of law students at the event so face time with the attorneys may not have been optimal, especially for the less outgoing, and frankly the event was “practice” and and not the real thing.  But I do know a few who enjoyed the experience.

Also, most of the students at the event were 1Ls and not 1Js (term for first year JD-MBAs). While some JD-MBAs do participate in the OCI process, many decide not to work full-time during the first summer and instead take classes at Kellogg and the law school. But even if that weren’t the case, the JD-MBAs tend to be pretty skilled and comfortable at networking events, so many of them may not have found this “practice” event useful.  But personally, I tend to think these events are gold mines. Less so for the hope of reeling in that rare six-figure salary job offer and more because it’s a great chance to meet (or see again) a lot of people and recruiters, the majority of whom are there to do the same thing. And in the end, there is no doubt that there will certainly be students who find jobs and firms who find employees along the way.

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Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 Law School 2 Comments

The Education Matters Project

#AskJeremy

JCW

Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

Thanks you Chicago for selecting me in 2014.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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