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Archive for February, 2008

By Emily Sanderson

Including a representative transaction sheet as an addendum to your attorney resume allows you to provide more detail about the legal transactions you have conducted throughout your career. Usually one or two pages, the sheet lists transactions in bulleted prose and groups them by law category under headings with category names.

Place the categories of law at the top that you would most like to emphasize; chronology doesn’t matter here because dates are not mentioned. However, transaction sheets provide the proper forum for displaying the dollar figures of deals you have worked on.

Not all transaction-sheet bullets need to include dollar figures. Often in cases such as torts that are frequently settled out of court, the dollar figures are confidential, so you are not at liberty to reveal such information. Attorneys in such situations can still use transaction sheets to describe cases they have argued, where they can highlight unique and significant benchmarks in their careers.

Transaction sheets are becoming more common, particularly among mid- to senior-level attorneys who have enough work history to fill up at least a page of transactions. Their accompanying resumes are constructed with more general information about their work histories, and their transaction sheets and cover letters provide the details.

In addition to accompanying resumes, transaction sheets are also used as marketing materials for attracting potential clients. Websites of large firms often list representative transactions that their partners have conducted.

“It’s often a good idea to write a transaction or deal sheet list,” says Jessica Shevitz of Alan Roberts & Associates. “This conveys specifics to those who need to know. It is important to recruiters and potential employers to see that you are aware of the world around you and not just ‘filing, drafting, preparing documents.’ The fact that you were drafting a memo for Client Company ABC means a lot more.”

The following is an example of a transaction sheet of an early- to mid-career attorney.

JOSEPH EVERYMAN
ADDENDUM

REPRESENTATIVE LIST OF CONTESTED MATTERS

FIRST-TIME TRANSACTIONS

  • Reset rate note student loan ABS transaction (XYZ Education Lending)
  • Private credit student loan ABS transaction (XYZ Education Lending)
  • Retail auto loan deals for commercial banks (Abadaba Finance and Loan)
  • Tobacco settlement receipt transaction (South Carolina)
  • All note structure for deal floor plan (Octopus Bank)
  • Deutsche Mark-denominated ABS financing for U.S. credit card assets (Lending Giant)
  • Auto lease ABS transaction (Octopus Bank)
  • Public term trade receivables ABS (Acme Tech Consulting)
  • Agriculture and construction equipment loan ABS (JKL Excavators)

ASSET EXPERIENCE

  • Deals within 10 asset classes, leading the project team, including student loans, utility stranded assets, auto leases, deal floor plan loans, recreational vehicles, auto loans, credit cards, tobacco settlement receipts, agricultural and construction equipment, trade receivables
  • Negotiated and executed two transactions utilizing two different entities to insure residual value risk for Octopus Bank auto lease transactions (1998-A: $1.6 billion; and 2001-A: $954.8 million)

UTILITY STRANDED ASSETS

  • Co-lead manager for transition charges for Chachacha Light & Power, $797.3 million
  • Lead manager for transition charges for Superman Energy Company, $748.9 million
  • Co-lead manager for transition charges for Batman Gas Power, $2.5 billion
  • Co-lead manager for transition charges for XX&Y, $2.4 billion
  • Lead manager for transition charges for Green Goblin Power, $864 million
  • Co-lead manager for transition charges for Hulk Electric, $3.4 billion

TOBACCO SETTLEMENT

  • Lead manager for settlement receipts from MSA for San Diego County, $467 million
  • Co-lead manager for settlement receipts from MSA for South Carolina, $935 million
  • Co-lead manager for settlement receipts from MSA for District of Columbia, $521 million
  • Co-lead manager for settlement receipts from MSA, Monroe County, $163 million

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By Emily Sanderson

Whether you use bullets or place structured phrases in prose form separated by semicolons in your resume, you know that resumes must sound assertive, project confidence, and place you in a category above the rest. Using strong action verbs in your consistently structured phrases makes your resume easy to read; potential employers can retain more information about you. In addition, solidly written phrases establish that you will actively deliver in the position for which you are applying.

Active versus Passive Voice

So you have taken a writing class or two. Perhaps in your current job you write all the time to a specific audience using an accepted format. Depending on your profession, you may use passive voice more frequently despite having been taught to use active verbs in school, but rightly so. The following are two examples of the differences between passive and active voice:

Passive: “The matter will be given careful consideration.”
Active: “The firm will consider the matter carefully.”

Passive: “RFP responses were evaluated in seven categories.”
Active: “Staff evaluated RFP responses in seven categories.”

Passive voice deflects the subject of the sentence in order to focus more on the object or action. This format is very appropriate for business documents, particularly for large companies. However, when writing your resume, you are talking about the actions of one person — you — and about how you are qualified and experienced for a position for which you are applying. The first step in exerting yourself into the limelight is through the use of active verbs in the structured phrases in your experience section.

We have already established that the subject of your resume is you. However, in order to avoid repetitive language and cut out unneeded verbiage, the subject is not mentioned in the structured phrases. The following is a sample list of bullets on a resume:

Planned and directed company involvement in trade shows

Conducted national and international marketing and advertising campaigns

Organized annual sales meetings and conducted sales report presentations

Managed sales teams of 12 to 15 sales personnel

Headed department hiring processes and mediated conflict resolution

Notice that these structured phrases are not complete sentences, but if they were, the subject would be “I” in every case. Use present tense for describing the job functions of a job you are at presently and past tense for previous job functions at former employers, of course. Be varied in the verbs that you choose — don’t use the same ones over and over again. The following is a list of active verbs to keep in your toolbox.

Achieve

File

Advise

Format

Aid

Handle

Analyze

Help

Appeal

Instruct

Arbitrate

Interface

Arrange

Interpret

Assess

Lead

Assist

Litigate

Clarify

Manage

Coach

Mediate

Collaborate

Negotiate

Collect

Organize

Combine

Oversee

Compile

Perform

Compose

Plan

Conduct

Prepare

Connect

Produce

Consult

Proofread

Coordinate

Provide

Counsel

Represent

Craft

Research

Create

Resolve

Defend

Review

Demonstrate

Serve

Design

Summarize

Develop

Supervise

Diagnose

Survey

Direct

Teach

Distinguish

Transcribe

Draft

Tutor

Edit

Write

Evaluate

 

This list is just a place to start. Your specific work experience may call for more specific verbiage. Use words like “assist” and “aid” sparingly. You want to show potential employers that you were into a project up to your elbows, and don’t be afraid to take responsibility for things that you have implemented, organized, and participated in. You have worked hard to be where you are right now.

Some people are amazed at what they have accomplished in their careers when they put everything side by side. Your resume should be designed to get you a first interview, but it may also serve to empower you. Often in a work environment we use the subject “we” in describing accomplishments, and that is because we (there’s that word again) have become so team oriented and focused on the success of the overall companies for which we work. But remember: a resume is all about your professional accomplishments and your work experience. Potential employers want to know about the transferable skills you have gained through your previous work experience that can be applied to their organizations, and through the use of strong, active verbs, you will proclaim your qualifications with confidence.

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“Whether the question is legal or not, you still might have an incentive to answer it,” says Bill Coleman, senior vice president and chief compensation officer at Salary.com, regarding how to respond to questions in a job interview that may be too personal.

Attorney and legal analyst Jeff Isaac says, “Follow one of two courses of action: ignore the question and deflect conversation to another topic area, or answer as succinctly as possible and then introduce a new, more appropriate point for discussion. The interviewer may even recognize the professional misstep and appreciate how well you were able to manage the situation.”

“You have to consider the implications of calling the employer’s attention to the fact that the question is illegal,” Coleman agrees.

“With escalating divorce rates and single parent households, employers understandably want to ensure new hires have the professional and personal capacity to get the job done. But in an employer’s quest to weed out those who don’t fit the bill, women are often subjected to interview questions that are beyond inappropriate — they’re downright illegal,” says Media News.

“The reason some questions are illegal is to prevent potential employers from discriminating against candidates,” says Coleman, adding that not all inappropriate questions are asked with discriminatory intent. In fact, it could be the opposite. A hiring manager who is inexperienced at interviewing, for example, might have very constructive intentions for asking inappropriate questions — such as trying to diversify a team. “A constructive intention doesn’t change the legality of the question,” says Coleman, “but it could affect your decision whether to answer it.”

An interviewer may ask questions pertinent to your ability to perform the work that would be required of you, but federal and state laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and others legally bar interviewers from asking questions about the following:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital/family status

However, some personal questions are legal because they relate to your ability to properly carry out job responsibilities or to the security of the company. Those questions include:

  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
  • Can you show proof of your eligibility to work in the U.S.?
  • Can you perform the job’s essential functions with or without reasonable accommodation?

The latter question must be accompanied by a job description covering the essential functions.

Women are faced with discriminatory questions more often than men just because of their roles in families as mothers or potential mothers.

“It’s not uncommon for women to be asked about their familial status,” notes Isaac. “In some outrageous instances, women are asked when they plan to start a family even before they’re asked to present their resume. Women need to be prepared to deal with such a situation when it arises and should also know what legal recourse they have if the offense is particularly egregious.”

“If you believe it is in your best interest to defer answering an interview question, use tact and grace to explain that the question does not relate to your abilities or qualifications for the position,” says Salary.com. “If an interviewer’s questions make you very uncomfortable, think twice about whether this is a company you want to work for.”

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The oil crisis of 1987 eliminated many oil-related jobs in the United States. The advent of the Internet in the mid-1990s changed the business outlook for many job sectors including IT and the media. 9/11 affected the financial industry in 2001, and the real estate sector is feeling the pain now as lending institutions struggle to stay afloat.

In early January the economists predicted that the United States would see three interest-rate cuts in the next six months. January 22 saw the first rate cut of three-quarters of a percent, and the Federal Reserve is expected to make an additional cut next week in an effort to prevent stagflation, which could lead to increased unemployment and recession. Associates or counsel serving a struggling industry might consider changes of focus in their career paths by relying on additional skills they may have picked up along the way. Some may consider different branches of the law; others may consider leaving the legal profession altogether.

In their efforts to select and then specialize in particular trades during their educational pursuits, many individuals are exposed to other trades, perhaps with similar characteristics. What factors go into selection of a particular market sector?

Availability of Resources. Financial resources certainly come into play here, but in addition to that, the programs available during an individual’s schooling play a role in the direction his or her career will take — whether they include a fantastic high school shop program or access to a large software company located nearby.

Encouragement by Mentors. Family members, schoolteachers, neighbors, ecclesiastical leaders, and early job supervisors play a role in not only teaching an individual a particular trade but also identifying that an individual has talents in the trade and reinforcing to the individual that he or she has something to offer.

Opportunity to Develop Skills. Individuals who are able to secure summer associate positions and are then able to land permanent positions at firms or as counsel for businesses often learn more about their branch of law in a six-month period than they did in law school.

Perhaps an individual would have chosen a different career path originally if other resources, mentors, or opportunities were available to him or her. If the factors above played a role in an individual’s original selection, they will also play a role in changing that person’s career path.

Availability of Resources. An individual’s financial situation is often different mid-career than it was when he or she was just starting out. Whether they can rely on savings, investments, or, as a last resort, credit, individuals often have options mid-career that they didn’t before. However, individuals may be more limited because of debt and/or because they may be providing for families. Individuals should consider their financial needs when making career shifts. They should also ask themselves what resources in the forms of businesses located in their present cities of residence or educational tracks they can take advantage of.

Encouragement by Mentors. Close friends or coworkers may be inspirational and may provide an individual with insight about a different career path for which he or she has applicable skills. Networking is the key to making new business contacts who can provide advice and support.

Opportunity to Develop Skills. Attorneys may have received training in different branches of law through their present places of employment or through community service opportunities. An individual will continue to learn throughout his or her lifetime, and often, he or she can learn valuable skills through unexpected or even mundane experiences.

The decision to pursue an additional degree should be considered carefully because of the required investment, not only of money but also time. Often, individuals already have the marketable skills they need to pursue career shifts.

Rich Gee, an executive career coach, offers the following advice, as printed in the Wall Street Journal: “Start another round of networking. Review how you present your talents, and rehearse with a career coach, friend, or mentor some effective ways to align your experience with prospective employers’ needs. Research their businesses in advance, and formulate good questions. Try to make a personal connection with interviewers, and develop a ‘flexible elevator speech’ that can be adapted to different employers’ objectives. And don’t be discouraged at setbacks; finding new direction may be a ‘hit-or-miss endeavor’ for a while.”

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By Emily Sanderson

In the aftermath of the Southern California wildfires in October this year that killed seven and destroyed over 2,000 homes, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger instructed his Blue Ribbon Task Force to review their findings on the 2003 wildfires, which burned 3,600 homes in many of the same places.

“The state did a great job in quickly responding to the terrible Southern California fires, and the cooperation between all levels of government was impressive,” said Governor Schwarzenegger in a November press release. “But, our job isn’t over yet. We need to make sure we are even better prepared for next time.”

Over the past four years, Governor Schwarzenegger has increased funding to state fire protection by 84%. This amounts to $259 million for equipment, firefighters, planning, and fuels management. Since 2003, 109 new engines have been purchased to replace old Cal Fire engines at a cost of $26.5 million, according to sources. In 2005, his purpose was two-fold.

“First, doing whatever we can to prevent fires before they can happen, and second when a fire does break out, having everything it takes to limit the damage and loss of life,” he said.

This year, Governor Schwarzenegger asked the task force to study not only whether California had enough fire engines and personnel to coordinate its response, but also to look at whether the state should allow homes and businesses to be built in areas most prone to wildfires.

“We’ve had our second 100-year fire in four years, said Carrol Wills, a spokesman for the California Professional Firefighters and a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, as reported by National Public Radio. “So, if you are going to have a 100-year fire every four years, it seems that you need to dramatically change your definition of what the fire danger is in California. Where they build the homes has a lot to do with whether or not they will be lost.”

The wildfires were the result of arson fires started during peak Santa Ana winds. The winds, particularly those experienced in Malibu, were some of the strongest Southern California has seen since the government started keeping records in the 1930s.

“It’s probably up there in the top five, as far as wind speeds go,” says Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, as reported by National Public Radio.

What actions can Southern California take to reduce the threat of future wildfires? Governor Schwarzenegger’s Blue Ribbon Task Force is expected to have a report with the recommendations in early 2008, but the following are some actions scientists have taken in the past to prevent wildfires from burning communities.

Re-foraging with Native Plants

When wildfires are hot enough to burn the roots of plants, such as the recent Southern California wildfires, the majority of re-grown vegetation in the aftermath is often non-native, invasive plant species that are more fire-prone than the native plant species. A fire that burns non-native plant species will also be hotter. In addition, the growth of non-native plant species, which often have shallow roots, can lead to erosion and spring flooding.

Scientists learned a lot about forest fires in the 1980s when Yellowstone National Park experienced a big one. Forest fires are part of a natural cyclic process of rebirth in forests.

California’s natural landscape is engineered to benefit from periodic fires. Many native plants actually need fires to germinate. But wildfires are on the rise, in both frequency and intensity, in part because of hotter, drier conditions. If a fire recurs in an area within five to 10 years, the hardy native shrubs may not get the chance to mature and create seeds. Exotic weed-like grasses that germinate quickly can fill in areas faster than natives can recover, reported the Associated Press.

Because those grasses have shallower roots, the potential for erosion and mudslides increases. Forestry experts in Southern California are now assessing which burned areas would most benefit from the planting of native species in order to prevent exotic species from growing, as well as to protect wildlife habitat.

Lost native vegetation means lost habitat to native wildlife. Small birds, rabbits, and other animals dependent on California’s rapidly disappearing native vegetation will struggle to maintain a foothold, while some endangered species will be trapped. Scientists say it will take years to know the extent of the long-term damage of the recent Southern California fires, reported the Associated Press.

Fuel Load Reduction

With so many houses being built along the urban interface, communities must find a way to prevent the fires from burning structures and from endangering human lives. The urban interface is a line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with trees and foliage in unsettled areas.

In 2006, the City of Portland, OR, in conjunction with FEMA, performed a study on the fuel load reduction needs in their community. Fuel load reduction is the removal of excess fuels through thinning, limbing, slash pile burning, or other methods to reduce the potential for severe wildfires, according to the draft environmental assessment that was published.

“Large areas of Portland City are comprised of natural areas, stream corridors, and open spaces. While this is a community asset, it is also a fire hazard at the wildland-urban interface,” the draft environmental assessment reported. “Large areas of highly flammable, non-native vegetation are present on steep slopes near homes and businesses. Stands of dead trees and vertical ladder fuels are expanding in areas with limited fire [areas where a forest fire had not occurred in years]. For these reasons, the risk for catastrophic wildfire is increasing.”

Fuel load reduction is a process that creates fuel breaks, particularly close to structures. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Davis, CA, provided a guide to homeowners as to how they can reduce the threat of wildfires coming too close to their homes. First, homeowners must install fire-proof roofs in order for fuel load reduction to have a chance to be effective. Then a community must coordinate a plan.

“Thinning is vital to the health of watersheds in fire-prone areas because it reduces the amount of fuel a fire has available to burn. It reduces the heat and intensity of a fire, hence reducing the negative effects a fire creates in a watershed. With proper thinning, a fire will move through an area consuming only grass and small shrubs, allowing the mature trees and human-built structures to survive,” the NRCS report said.

Although fuel load reduction has been criticized by some environmental groups with the concern that removing brush is not natural and could be harmful to habitats, the Sierra Club claimed in an October press release that not a single fuels reduction project has been appealed in Southern California forests in a decade.

“The Sierra Club has long supported responsible fuel reduction around communities and fully supports any wildfire policy that makes community protection its top priority,” the press release stated. “This week’s fires, which are taking place largely in brush and chaparral, underscore the need to focus our fire prevention efforts in the areas around communities, rather than deep in the backcountry forest.”

Communities not only should plan how far apart homes are built and how close shrubbery is to each home, but where fire hydrants are installed, how wide roads are made, and how much space is given in a cul-de-sac so that emergency vehicles can come in and out more easily, according to the State of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands’ website.

For more information about fire prevention techniques and fuel load reduction, contact your local fire department.

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