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The transitional phase from Law School to Law Firm

published April 03, 2006

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( 6 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
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<<Let's face it. College breeds a lot of nasty habits, such as blowing class off because you just don't like it, sneaking into the back door of a lecture hall because you're an hour late, and slouching in your chair to show your professor that you're bored out of your mind.

You should start changing those old habits by replacing them with proper business etiquette. They may be painful changes, but the sooner you get used to them, the better.

A Boston Globe article documented the trials of a young law school grad searching for her new job.

After tentatively accepting a job proposition, 24-year-old Dianna L. Abdala declined the job and said, "The pay you are offering would neither fulfill me nor support the lifestyle I am living."

The hiring employer, 36-year-old William A. Korman, replied by saying that her decision to decline the offer via email "smacks of immaturity and is quite unprofessional." In another email, he wrote, "Do you really want to start pissing off more experienced lawyers at this early stage in your career?"

Abdala closed the exchange with three curt words: "bla bla bla."

If you want to work with others, your ability to cooperate is crucial. It may sound obvious; but employers are looking for candidates who are not only qualified for the position, but also pleasant, organized, and dependable., a resource for entrepreneurs, has a couple of tips that you might want to keep in mind when transitioning from school to the workplace.

Watch your language. Barry Wellman, sociology professor at University of Toronto, found that email makes people less inhibited and more prone to conflict. Because emails lack body language and vocal inflections, they are often misconceived. When composing an email; be positive, straightforward, and polite.

Make personal connections. Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA psychology professor, found that 55% of a conversation's meaning comes from facial and body language; 38% comes from vocal inflection; and 7% comes from the words themselves. Face-to-face interaction is important when creating bonds. It is your opportunity to make a good impression. So speak clearly, be tactful, and maintain good eye contact.

Be honest. Most employers will take the time to train recent grads. Don't be afraid to express your goals, uncertainties, and capabilities. It is far more efficient to say "I don't know" in the beginning than "I don't know" in the end. Moreover, honesty has been and still is an admirable quality when expressed in a tactful way.

Respond; don't react. If you are angry or frustrated, don't just blow up. Wait 10 seconds, take a deep breath, and then try to express your feelings in a rational way. Venting will only aggravate other people. Most likely, you will encounter many stressful situations in the future. Employers want to know that you can handle stress in a calm, collected manner.

Be an active listener. Conversation may be boring, but try not to zone out. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying. Exercising patience and keeping an open mind will allow you to see the importance of another person's ideas. Show that you are mentally engaged by periodically reframing key points ("So what you mean is…") and giving feedback ("In my opinion…"). Understanding and participating are key factors to good communication.

Follow through. If you say you are going to do something, act on it. If you can't follow through, have the courtesy to explain why you can't keep that promise. The last thing you want is people pegging you as an unreliable liar. Remember, the workplace is a cooperative workplace. People count on you.

Change is stressful for everyone. As a college student, you are probably used to autonomy. You write papers, take tests, and attend lectures. As a working professional, though, you work in a community full of other working professionals. People are all interconnected. You want to assure your potential co-workers that you are not only proficient, but also reliable.

Abdala wrote "bla bla bla" when she declined her job offer. There are many places where she probably went wrong, ranging from her lack of tact to her poor communication skills.

Abdala now works alone by renting space from a lawyer on Franklin Street in Boston.

As a college student, you will most likely be entering the work force after you graduate. If, by chance, you decline a job offer in the near future, keep in mind that the market is small. You will probably bump into the same people time and time again, so be honest and tactful about why you are declining a job. Forget all the generalities about goals, interests, and career objections. Your honesty will be appreciated, and you might even receive a better job offer.

published April 03, 2006

( 6 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.