The Catholic University of America

Kara Reidy and Philip Feigen help Patton Boggs screen hundreds of applicants each year. Most job seekers would be doing themselves an enormous favor, they say, by keeping a few simple tips in mind.

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It is hardly going out on a limb to note that the class of 2009 will face an unusually challenging job market, even in a city that employs as many lawyers as Washington, D.C.

Career advisors have some simple advice for students nearing the end of law school: You cannot control the economy, but you can certainly control how you are perceived by potential employers.

To that end, the law school's Office of Career and Professional Development and the Securities Law Program co-sponsored "What They Didn't Teach You in Kindergarten About Law Firm Etiquette," a helpful tutorial offered on Jan. 26 on how not to shoot yourself in the foot when searching for that first professional offer.

Columbus School of Law alumnus Philip Feigen, 1993, was one of the two presenters. Now a hiring partner at Patton Boggs, he began by covering such basics as not submitting resumès to recruiters that contain spelling or typographical errors. Despite the belief among most job seekers that they would never made such an amateurish mistake, Feigen said his hiring committee sees a disturbing number of resumés riddled with careless goofs.

"There are so many people looking for jobs…We don't have a lot of opportunity to make missteps, [in hiring for Patton Boggs] so you don't have a lot of opportunity to make missteps," said Feigen.

Kara Reidy, Patton Boggs' recruitment coordinator and discussion co-presenter, was even more blunt, saying that no matter what a candidate's qualifications, a resumé with a typo or spelling error will always get an express, one-way trip to the wastebasket.

Other tips included:

  • Check for any alumni connections you can work in your target firms.
  • Always find out the latest news about the firm you're speaking with. Spend time on its web site prior to the interview.
  • Time gaps on resumés are alright, but be prepared to explain them. You are likely to be asked about that year spent backpacking in Europe.
  • Do not inflate your achievements, degrees or titles. You want to make yourself look great, but little white lies are never acceptable.