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Resumes:

I often find that resumes of students who are looking for jobs as lawyers, judicial clerks, or summer associates note in passing that the person knows Microsoft Office Suite, WordPerfect, LEXIS and WESTLAW, or some such.

I've long thought this sort of entry is a (mild) minus rather than a plus. (1) While knowing these applications is indeed valuable, you're going to be hired for your legal knowledge and not your word processing skills or even your knowledge of LEXIS and WESTLAW. (2) Most applicants are expected to know these things, so if you don't mention them, no-one will assume that you somehow never learned them. (3) More importantly, drawing attention to these lower-status skills subtly draws attention away from your higher-status credentials. (I speak here of the way the world and its pecking orders actually work, not the way they should.)

Am I right, or is this just an idiosyncratic reaction of mine?

alkali (mail) (www):
I agree with this on substance, although I personally would like it if new attorneys in my office were far more familiar with Word and Excel than they actually are. (A tip: if you think the correct way to force a line break in Word is to hold down the space bar, you are not familiar with the program.)
11.29.2006 6:00pm
Mr. X (www):
Unless the skills are special, such as having taken an Advanced Legal Research course that covered the more complex and powerful features of Westlaw or Lexis, then I see no reason to include it on the resume. If they are, you should make it clear that that's why you're including the item on the resume.
11.29.2006 6:05pm
Drive By Comments:
But... but.... you get 500 points for getting WESTLAW CERTIFIED!!!

They said that employers LOVE it! I can't believe that Thompson-West would lie!

All joking aside, these are skills that can be assumed. Things that might actually be useful, but I'd still probably leave off the resume, would include the ability to use the Shepard's books- not everyone has clients that are willing to pay $5.99 a minute for Lexis/Westlaw citechecking, after all.
11.29.2006 6:05pm
David A. Smith (mail) (www):
Eugene, you're right. It adds nothing to a resume and while it's not a negative *by itself*, listing the skill indicates to me that somebody is parroting what they've been told are "the things you should put on a resume" rather than independently constructing a persuasive case as to what the person can do. In this day and age, everybody can type, use Excel, and so on; listing it is like saying "familiar with telephones, able to use public transportation."

I say this as somebody who, though graduating from Harvard in 1975, started my professional career as a temproary typist.
11.29.2006 6:05pm
just me:
David Smith -

I have to know: is the typo in "temproary typist" a deliberate joke? Either way, it adds to the humor.

Also, I continue to be amazed at the people I encounter who are NOT able to use public transportation or the phone . . .
11.29.2006 6:10pm
Xmas (mail) (www):
I'm betting dollars to donuts that every single sample resume they've looked at in their college's job placement center has a section of skills that includes those things.

Time is flying by. Just 8 years ago, all of those things were unusual skills to have. It's just right now, in 2006 that it would be unusual for a college graduate to not know how to search an online database, use a word processing program, and create slide shows on their laptop computers.
11.29.2006 6:10pm
Stan (mail):
I'm a seven year associate--recently laid off. I have been sending "interview cards" (along with sample writing and deposition transcript). Interview card is a self addressed, stamped card where employer fills in date and time of interview and drops in mail. I feel it shows that I'm aggressive and thoughtful. What do others think? Is this hokey?

p.s., Eugene, if I were to see those on a resume I would assume that the applicant has nothing better to talk about. I think it's similar to listing "legal knowledge" as one's skills.
11.29.2006 6:11pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
My favorite has always been "interpersonal skills."
11.29.2006 6:20pm
Adam (www):
Stan: I'd find it pushy and gimmicky. It also suggests that you're free anytime they want you, that you're not so in-demand that you'd need to consult your own calendar.

Prof V: Agreed; those skills should always be assumed for law school graduates. It's hard to think of a computer-based skill which would be worth listing.
11.29.2006 6:21pm
Beau (mail) (www):
Who has room on a one-page resume to write down "skills" such as word processing? It's hard enough for the average 3l to cram all the relevant academic and employment information onto a single sheet in a readable font and format.

If I encountered someone wasting space to tell me they have a "skill" most middle schoolers have mastered, I'd throw their resume in the trash.
11.29.2006 6:22pm
Bob Flynn (mail):
This is bean-counting 101A. Nobody cares whether or not the last entry on a resume contains a throwaway line about Lexus/Nexus.

It is a net neutral.
11.29.2006 6:24pm
Elliot123 (mail):
MicroSoft Office might be a stretch, but lots of times extraneous BS gives a poor interviewer something to latch onto to get a conversation going. I have had lots of interviews, and I am amazed at how nervous many of these interviewers are. They will fumble around looking at the resume, playing with their tie, and banging their knees on the bottom of their desks.

I'd say that 80% of interviewers would begin with some item of extraneous BS I put on the resume. I came to subsequently know some of these guys very well and they were excellent managers. However, they couldn't conduct an interview to save their lives. The interviewee has to make sure the interviewer can succeed.
11.29.2006 6:26pm
JohnO (mail):
Elliot123 makes a good point. When I was interviewing, I never would have put something like "interests" on my resume, but as someone on my firm's hiring committee, I like it because it is an easy target for things to have a general discussions about to find out if the person can handle a conversation.
11.29.2006 6:31pm
hey (mail):
While it may not be all that relevant for law students, there are many places that do require these kinds of things. Blame it on computer driven searches along with ignorant HR departments and recruiters who tick off boxes rather than understanding what the job needs or how a person could fit.

I have thought it rather insane to mention one's skills in Word with an obviously computer generated resume, or how you could pass law school without using WestLaw.
11.29.2006 6:33pm
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
I wouldn't dream of putting Lexis/Westlaw or any word processing software as a special skill on my resume. I can see the argument for Excel because it less common, but still its something a competent lawyer should be able to learn easily enough if they haven't before. I'd say its probably more "special" (if unhelpful) a skill these days if you can Shepardize a case the old fashioned way without computers.
11.29.2006 6:35pm
jgshapiro (mail):
For what it's worth, I would guess that many lawyers don't know how to use Excel and/or Powerpoint, but I still don't think I would advertise that on a resume. Looks like you are grasping at straws skills.

As a side note, does anyone still use Wordperfect?
11.29.2006 6:36pm
Woodstock (mail) (www):
It is convention to put those skills on a resume, is it not? Doesn't seem like people should be penalized for mentioning them. It may seem strange to have them on a law resume, but it probably should not be assumed that everyone knows them, even in this day and age. There are a lot of advanced functions on those software packages, and it may be helpful to see "expert in Microsoft Office" rather than just "Microsoft Office."
11.29.2006 6:39pm
TTT:
Amen- Any young lawyer under 28 can use a personal computer and probably use powerpoint, word, excel, etc.
It seems to me you want to leave pointless stuff off your resume. This is all standard knowledge, and what is the point of adding it to your resume, other than to detract from relevant information.
11.29.2006 6:40pm
Waldensian (mail):
True proficiency in Excel and Word -- as opposed to what most people consider to be proficiency -- would actually be a major plus in an associate.

Most of the people who work at my firm have no faint clue how to use Excel. Meanwhile, if one more associate sends me a draft Word document with headings formatted by using tabs, I am going to go postal.

Harumph.
11.29.2006 6:41pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
I think that you're absolutely right. I've worked in finance a good deal of my career; sometimes, I've been asked whether I can work a ten-key adding machine by touch. I can, but I won't admit to it. I write Excel, Access, and the associated VBA for a living, so I had the problem of communicating via my resume that I was REALLY good at these things. Every finance professional is expected to be "proficient in Excel". My summary section now starts "Excel and Access wizard".
11.29.2006 6:47pm
Guest for a day:
I very much agree w/you. I could never figure out why people w/post-graduate degrees cluttered their resumes w/software knowledge and administrative skills. Isn't it a given. Most of the time you need both to get through school. When I see those items on a resume it reminds me of undergrad resumes where one tries to "beef it up" and throw everything in but the kitchen sink b/c they don't have much work experience to list.
11.29.2006 6:48pm
Guest for a day:
I should clarify ... "you" as in Eugene.
11.29.2006 6:53pm
Elliot Reed:
I generally agree with Eugene's assessment. However, it seems to me that an usually high degree of proficiency in a common piece of software like Office or Lexis would be a significant advantage for an associate. Is there any way to indicate that on one's resume without dragging oneself down?
11.29.2006 6:54pm
eeyn524:
"hey" has it right above when it comes to jobs at large bureaucratic organizations. The resumes are scanned, OCRed, and screened by keyword before anyone responsible looks at them. And in the case of state jobs, we need to put in every last little skill in the job requirement because if we don't, we'll hire someone and then they'll balk at using Excel because it "wasn't in their job description." Sure, we can fire them but it takes months and might even involve lawyers.
11.29.2006 6:55pm
Other Michael McConnell (mail):
Sorry, EV is wrong on this one. I've had to train 3 replacements in my career and twice the job substance training came to a grinding halt while I helped the ("highly qualified") replacement learn Excel basics.

When I retired in July I told my boss: never mind whether the prospective replacement even has a degree, just give me someone proficient in Excel and SAP and I'll teach him/her the rest.
11.29.2006 7:18pm
liberty (mail) (www):
This definately rings true and as someone in a totally unrelated field I can attest that this holds in my field (software). You look very bad if you include things on your resume that are obvious or irrelevant, and if you are particularly good at these low level skills you risk being hired for that instead of for the skills you spent so long training in.

If your resume is actually very thin and this is obvious, then you might want to include side-skills in order to make yourself more attractive as an entry-level candidate. But if you are a decent applicant for the position in question, you will only look like that poor candidate by including such skills on your resume.
11.29.2006 7:24pm
xx (mail):
Prof. Volokh - You may need to distinguish based on the type of firm at which the student is seeking employment. You're almost certainly right about how large law firms will view this line on a resume, but before law school I worked for a small practitioner who specifically looked for people who mentioned computing skills (for her associates as well as her office manager). When you work in an office small enough that everyone does everything, knowledge of common applications saves months of training time. And while every student knows how to format a term paper in word, a surprising number can't format a table of authorities for a brief that complies with local rules or do much of anything with Excel, Outlook, etc. Students who aren't going to land jobs out of OCI might want to think about including skills like this.
11.29.2006 7:30pm
ksd:
FWIW, the "one page resume" is pretty much a thing of the past. Resumes tend to be electronic these days, and often are posted online or communicated electronically in formats that are devoid of pagination. Users can print them out, if desired.

The downside is that candidates these days tend to include lots of fluff in their resumes, and WAY too many business buzzwords, because the old page constraint is no more.
11.29.2006 7:31pm
TaxLawyer:
Spot on. It is unfortunately the case that many students follow generic resume advice from books or older sisters or undergraduate career placement services.

Meanwhile, they don't make adequate use of the career services offices at their own law schools.

Other resume gaffes from law students:
Resumes with "Objectives" at the top were a pet peeve of mine. They make some sense for MBAs, because MBAs look for all sorts of jobs coming out (even there, though, if I'm hiring a brand manager for Kraft Foods, and your resume is in my hands, I'll assume it's because you're looking for a job in brand management; I don't need to be told). For 2nd year law students applying to firms, "Objectives" on a resume are a a waste of space. Ditto for "References available on request."
Very few employers check references until they decide to extend an offer, and by then you'll have had to fill out their internal forms where that info will be asked for.

For those seeking more "out of the box" opportunities, some of the foregoing may be inapplicable. But we're talking about law students, n'est-ce pas?
11.29.2006 7:34pm
Bob R (mail):
EV- When they hold your trial and string you up for "ageism" this post will be exhibit #1. While probably useless now, it's not so long ago that computer skills were an important part of a resume. (Have you ever had a colleague that refused to use email?) I am sure that people are still putting it on resumes because of advice from the oldies.
11.29.2006 7:37pm
JohnW (mail):
jgshapiro

I do. I like it. It beats Word. Most lawyers at one time used it. Some Feds even used it until recently; one fed agency, a client, told me they had to switch to Word and delete WP from their systems. However, lets not start a war about it. Arguing about word processor software will eventually flush out a lonesome Mac user who needs to convince us again that his machine is superior.
11.29.2006 7:40pm
dejapooh (mail):
I'll tell you, I am feeling mighty good now. I teach High School Computer Skills. If a kid gives me a word doc with spaces or tabs used to format, it is an auto-f. A week ago we finished our section on power point. Those students who read word for word what it said in their presentation, Auto-f. They are now learning to use Excel. Considering my school has a 40% graduate rate and maybe 25% of our seniors matriculate to Post High School Education, I think I am getting something done. I am feeling MIGHTY good.
11.29.2006 7:42pm
Drive By Comments:
"As a side note, does anyone still use Wordperfect?"

The Federal Judiciary.
11.29.2006 7:46pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Why convince someone of the obvious? (grin).

We oldsters can remember back to when an attorney wasn't expected to type. That was the secretary's job. And when a friend spent $15,000 on a computer that used 8" floppies... and found it worthwhile, since he could use something called "forms" in her divorce practice. I'd say in 1985 an attorney's skill with word processing would have been something to boast about ... 21 years later it's a bit different.
11.29.2006 7:48pm
Bah (mail):
Well, I am now going to take Lexis and Westlaw off my resume. I thought it would be nifty to include in the skills section, because as a software engineer, I used to list a lot of things in that section.

Applying for and getting a job seems like an bizarre task. Not only is there the issue of getting the skills to actually do the job, you have to learn about and avoid all these irrational pet peeves. ("I will throw your resume in the trash if it lists Westlaw or Lexis!")

It is all enough for one to question whether markets are really all that efficient if there is this much irrationality in interviewing. In a world of perfect competition, employers would not be able to afford to express irrational preferences unrelated to job performance (i.e. listing Westlaw or Lexis on your resume is bad!).
11.29.2006 7:48pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Those students who read word for word what it said in their presentation, Auto-f.

I find that the most annoying (mis)use of Powerpoint. Show a screen and read it to you. Usually much slower than normal speech would have been (I have no idea why the person slows down -- perhaps they assume their listeners are semi-literates who take ten seconds to read five words?)
11.29.2006 7:50pm
A.S.:
Let me agree with some of the above that nobody in my office (other than me) knows how to use Excel, and most don't know how to use Powerpoint. I don't know how useful they are to most attorneys, but they are to me (I was using Excel just today to determine the effects of a reverse split on a company's stockholders).

So, perhaps mentioning Excel or Powerpoint on a resume would be a good idea. But Lexis, or Westlaw, or Word? No.

As an alternative, I would propose our eager-beaver resume writer include really useful skills, such as: "knows how to use Reply, instead of Reply All" and "can already set up a conference call among the associate, the senior partner and two clients". Now THOSE are useful abilities.
11.29.2006 7:59pm
WJ (mail):
I left law school 12 years ago and was smart enough to figure out that you tailor the resume to who you are applying to. You do not use the same resume for a small firm as you would for a large firm. As someone stated earlier, listing word processing skills is important if you are applying to a small firm in a rural area or a judicial clerkship. For a large firm, you may want to leave that off. Their are four lawyers in my firm and I do the hiring. If the applicant is not proficient in computer skills (and a lot are not) that is negative, but not automatic disqualification.
11.29.2006 8:06pm
davod (mail):
On a related matter:

I used to work in an Embassy here in Washington in the 90s. There was a push to modernize the office environment. With new computers came the desire to reduce staff. The adminstrators decided that Counsellors did not need a secretary now that PCs were available.

The Counsellor Finance - Treasury's representative in the US, refused. He said he was not paid to be in the US to type and arrange his own appointments.
11.29.2006 8:07pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Elliot123
...they couldn't conduct an interview to save their lives. The interviewee has to make sure the interviewer can succeed.


It's important for the interviewee to know how to "control the interview". First: establish rappport (Like a good saleman does) Find topics of interest (to the interviewer) Make him comfortable (He'll like you for that!) When he's ready, he'll direct the conversation to the questions he has. Just remeber to redirect the interview, when necessary, to what you want to get across. The secret is to not let him think or realize that it is you that is controlling the interview. Heck, I've even used the technique on lawyers while on the witness stand! It works. But as an aside just don't get too cocky
11.29.2006 8:10pm
Jocelyn (mail) (www):
How do you people manage to limit applicants to single-page resumes??? I read resumes from high school seniors who are applying for scholarships, and those puppies often run to three and four and more pages. Drives me NUTS. I agree with the person who gets irked by the "objective" section (although as an intervier, I am constantly astounded by how many times the objective on job applicant resumes does not match up with the job description) and also I agree with EV that listing the more common computer skills is counterproductive in 2006. However, I do very much like to see web skills listed on resumes - before too long, those will devolve into clerical-level skills as well, but for now those are the KEY computer skills and are great anvillary skills for applicants for all kinds of jobs, especially in academia.
11.29.2006 8:10pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I think I would be more impressed if someone put on his resume that he didn't use PowerPoint. About seven years ago, I realized that PowerPoint could be a menace to an institution. In my experience PowerPoint talks tend to be worse than blackboard talks, or talks with a minimum of visuals. PowerPoint provides a crutch for poor speakers. Many of the people giving PowerPoint talks shouldn't be giving talks at all. Recently the Pentagon has cracked down on using PowerPoint. Here is an amusing example of the Gettysburg address as a PowerPoint presentation. I'm tempted to make a talk on why you shouldn't use PowerPoint and give it as a PowerPoint presentation.

How about word processors like the dreaded and notorious MS Word? I remember the days before you were expected to use word processors. It was wonderful. You wrote up your report or journal article on a pad and gave it to a secretary (now called an administrative assistant). You got a typed copy back, which you then marked up and gave back. After not more than one or two iterations, everything was finished. The secretary or reports department was on overhead. Now you do your own word processing, and graphics, and equations. The reports department is on a re-charge basis and you can't use it because it's too expensive. Now you might go through 50 iterations in writing a large report if you have a bunch of authors. Since it's so easy to make a change everyone keeps making changes. I think word processing might actually be a net negative for large organizations.

I like resumes that don't list Microsoft Office.
11.29.2006 8:12pm
PoohPoohBear:
Saying that you're familiar with Office, as opposed to expert in Office, is pointless. Most people I see using Word don't even know how to change fonts or type size, much less use spell check.
11.29.2006 8:13pm
TomHynes (mail):
Dave Hardy: My first year as an associate in 1981,I bought a two floppy IBM PC, a daisy wheel printer, WordStar, and VisiCalc. The partners thought that a lawyer typing was nuts.

I agree with Eugene on the resume - listing assumed skills is a mild negative.
11.29.2006 8:17pm
Ken Arromdee:
In a world of perfect competition, employers would not be able to afford to express irrational preferences unrelated to job performance (i.e. listing Westlaw or Lexis on your resume is bad!).

If it's true that people who list such things aren't very skilled or experienced, then listing those *could* be related to job performance--someone who lists them is less skilled and less experienced, and less likely to perform well.

Of course, the whole thing does depend on people being irrational. However, the irrational people are the candidates (who list such skills even though it decreases their chance of getting hired), not the employers.
11.29.2006 8:23pm
eric (mail):
As a side note, does anyone still use Wordperfect?

Yeah, old people. Bada bing.
11.29.2006 8:30pm
New Guest 99:

"As a side note, does anyone still use Wordperfect?"

The Federal Judiciary.


Check out First Circuit Local Rule 32, which requires parties to file an electronic copy of the brief in WordPerfect format.
11.29.2006 8:40pm
Adam (mail) (www):
There are folks who use WordPerfect because they like having that level of exact control over formatting.

Re However, it seems to me that an usually high degree of proficiency in a common piece of software like Office or Lexis would be a significant advantage for an associate.

What is "high proficiency" in Lexis? How would you prove it?
11.29.2006 8:42pm
Ken Stalter (www):
At my internship at a US Attorney's office, we were forced to use Wordperfect. This is because it was rumored to be able to automatically generate a table of authorities for you, though I never figured how.
11.29.2006 8:44pm
Avatar (mail):
I don't know that I'd want it to be the -only- software I listed. Yeah, then you're looking at a possible detraction. But who knows just Office and web search stuff nowadays? Put a couple of unusual packages on there. Then you can leave the basic stuff in too. And it's a great conversation-starter at the interview... "What's Maestro, anyway?"
11.29.2006 8:58pm
Delurking:
IANAL. I am a scientist. But this story is in the same vein.

When I was applying for faculty positions, I ran across an advertisment for a tenure-track position at a "major research university" which proudly stated that all faculty members have "high-end personal computers" at their desks! This was 2003 or 2004.

I did not apply.
11.29.2006 9:21pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
would include the ability to use the Shepard's books- not everyone has clients that are willing to pay $5.99 a minute for Lexis/Westlaw citechecking,

And those clients are not that bright -- the attorney time it takes to manually shepardize a case as opposed to using Lexis/Westlaw is much more expensive than the charges for it (which is not 5.99/minute; at least not with the deal most firms have, it is by the transaction, which is usally around 5 bucks per case, and 20 bucks to Shepardize, or something like that).
11.29.2006 9:26pm
Paul McMahon (mail):
I am not a lawyer (nor do I play one, ever), but may I suggest a reason that this is important?

Suppose you have an applicant who has only known Apple products. If your office is (as most are) a microsoft friendly environment, then employing someone not familiar with the software means that your firm will have to pay for the familiarization.

That this is a factor may be deduced from the frequency with which you encounter Linux based law offices.

But then, I work in statistics on economic surveys, so familiarity with certain sorts of systems is clearly a plus.
11.29.2006 9:30pm
Gawaine (mail):
I don't know about it from a legal perspective, but I'm hiring computer professionals who put similar things on their resumes, and I have the same reaction. If I have to wade through Office, Windows, Word, etc., to get to Perl, I'm not going to think much of them when I get there.

The only exception is tf the resume went through a service first, including some of the meatmarkets at universities, which seem to think they need to put every possible keyword on each and every resume.
11.29.2006 9:37pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
It may also have something to do with the work people did in order to get through college. Four years of having to reassure people that you're good at Excel at every new job you go to, an internship where you're teaching an Assistant Secretary of State how to put an attachment on an email in Outlook, and getting all kinds of special attention for knowing how to sort a list in Word results in Proficient in the Microsoft suite of tools (Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Outlook, FrontPage etc.) for word processing, spreadsheet, and graphic design, including internal/external correspondence, reports, procedure manuals, and presentations. on your resume being something you couldn't possibly consider doing without.

There's a version of that sentence on a second page for the temp agencies, when they know they're sending it to someone who needs people who can work with Macs or (not joking here) DOS-based interfaces. And there's a WordPerfect line I can insert into the original, while keeping the resume to one page. One agency also insisted I create a version of my resume that mentioned I spent a year as computer science major (before switching to political science.) And it was only maybe a year ago that they said it was okay to take off the list of Windows and Word versions I was "familiar with," which was easily the silliest line I've ever been told to put on a resume: "Competent in operating Windows 3.1x, 95, 98, Me, NT, 2000 Professional, and XP; proficient in all versions of Word from 2.0 forward." Or something like that.

Anyway, 1Ls aren't supposed to have jobs, and it seems like it's not that usual for younger people to deliberately work in professional positions for a few years before law school (and I doubt you get many "I got my PhD in chemistry, worked for Dow for twenty years, and now I want to try something new" candidates submitting entry-level legal resumes, let alone resumes that tout their Word skills.) When, in the case of someone who actually worked during college, does the "take Word off your resume" memo get issued?

College students also get a lot of screwy advice. I was pretty much ordered to include an "Objective" on my resume, and I still don't know what good it's supposed to do. At least the keywords list will help with scanned resumes... but who even reads the objective, anyway?
11.29.2006 9:47pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
At my internship at a US Attorney's office, we were forced to use Wordperfect. This is because it was rumored to be able to automatically generate a table of authorities for you, though I never figured how.

I used to know how. Today the only folks who use WordPerfect are in the federal district court, which requires draft orders to be submitted in WordPerfect. (I assume Windows WP, since unlike Word it's not cross-platform).

I know of at least one major PI attorney who has stopped taking federal matters because neither he nor his secretary know how to generate a pdf file and do the online filing.
11.29.2006 9:51pm
No:
"FWIW, the "one page resume" is pretty much a thing of the past."

No. It's really not. A 2L going through on-campus recruiting at a top school with a multi-page resume is going to look like an idiot.
11.29.2006 9:55pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
How about word processors like the dreaded and notorious MS Word? I remember the days before you were expected to use word processors. It was wonderful. You wrote up your report or journal article on a pad and gave it to a secretary (now called an administrative assistant). You got a typed copy back, which you then marked up and gave back. After not more than one or two iterations, everything was finished.

During my ten years with Dept of Interior HQ in DC, it was more like:

Write your stuff on a pad (in my case, print it -- my handwriting is pretty bad).

Give it to a secretary.

About 2-3 days later get it back. With at least one typo per paragraph, and often one per sentence.

Correct it.

Get it back in 1-2 days with only a quarter as many typos. Repeat process as necessary.

And since one of your "critical elements" in the job description was 90% of documents with no typos, and your bosses were obsessive on it (once had a very important emergency recommendation on appeal sent back because there was one space between period ending a sentence and first letter of the next sentence, when the Government Style Manual called for two spaces), I knew some attorneys who proofed everything with a ruler, moving it slowly down one line at a time so as to concentrate on each line.

Of course in private practice we'd had a secretary who took dictation, knew legal citation, and made typos so rarely that I can't remember one. And knew where we were at any moment of the day, which clients were good and which were pests, who our girlfriends were and how it was going with them, etc., etc.

Once had a gov't secretary, who had 10+ years experience, ask me about "certainly denied." I figured out she meant "cert. denied." I guess she thought that was a particularly emphatic way of denying review.
11.29.2006 10:06pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I can't speak for law, but I do software. Too many times I've had to get a resume through a filter, or through a person who asks "It says you used Solaris, where did you use Unix?" (And my specialty is platform-agnostic algorithms: if the main body of my product knows what operating system it's on, I'm not doing my job.) As a co-worker put it, "Have you used this brand of screwdriver?"

I do have an objective, especially on Monster and the resume that goes to recruiters, as well as a summary. I no longer have "references available upon request" but I do have a line of interests, which has given interviewers something easy to talk about while we synchronize.

I list my word processors and editors, but separately from my languages and operating systems.
11.29.2006 10:09pm
Jay:
As far as I know (having worked in two different offices), the entire US Dept of Justice uses WordPerfect as its primary word processor. Making the table of authorities requires WP plus some sort of weird add on software. It generates the TOA in another document and you paste it into your original.
11.29.2006 10:15pm
Ubertrout (mail) (www):
A question though...what about putting on more advanced experience that wouldn't be expected like programming languages, network admin, hardware stuff, et al?
11.29.2006 10:17pm
Justin (mail):
Drive By Comment,

Not *every* Circuit.
11.29.2006 10:28pm
hiring committee member (mail):
Odd? Yes, I've always felt that too.

But for first years, summers, and externs, why should Lexis and Westlaw be considered "lower status skills"? We don't hire them because we're interested in their views on the nuances of emerging jurisprudence.
11.29.2006 10:41pm
DG:
I wonder, do people think memos like this one were more or less common before lawyers started doing their own typing?
11.29.2006 10:58pm
FantasiaWHT:
I'm a choral director turned law student... should I include proficiency with Sibelius and Finale?

Side note (well, this whole thing isn't that pertinent, so I guess it's a side-side note)

A big firm in my area has a great sense of humor. Both its NALP entry and its entire "careers" page on its website are full of sly jokes and absurdities. For example, the NALP entry claims that the firm has set its partner track to music and requires associates to sing it at their yearly evaluations. Since I am a professionally trained singer, should I work that into my cover letter? Even funnier, I was looking through the firm's list of new hires, and there is a female attorney named Norah Jones!

Oh, and Word skills? Nah. How about being able to type over 100 wpm?
11.29.2006 11:27pm
Allan:
The Department of Justice uses Wordperfect. To my knowledge, all briefs submitted by agency counsel to DOJ are required to be in Wordperfect.

As for creating a table of authorities. Yes, Wordperfect can do it, but it is a pain in the rear. For one of my appellate briefs, with an average amount of citations, it would take about 30 to 45 minutes to create a table of authorities. Except for briefs where many other attorneys have input, it is not worth the effort.

I also use Word. In general, I believe that Wordperfect is the more powerful program, but Word is easier to use.
11.29.2006 11:35pm
Lev:
What matters on the resume is what the hiring entity might actually be interested in. At one time, there were law firms that specifically required new hires not only to be able to "use some basic computer programs" but also be able to type, typing being different from cutting and pasting.

I know of at least one company law department that proposed more than once, to get the message across, in connection with the introduction of computers and word processing software that its attorneys be able to pass a typing test.

One might think those things are not so relevant anymore - the youngsters have sufficient skills so they don't need to mention them, and geezers ain't never gonna learn them if they haven't learned them yet.

Are any secretaries administrative assistants required to know shorthand?
11.29.2006 11:41pm
DK:
I call this the Motel Rule. If your motel advertises HBO on their sign, the cable will be out most of the time. If it advertises color TV, the remote will be missing and the color bizarrely oversaturated. If they advertise air conditioning, the temperature will never be quite right and there won't be a TV. If they advertise "private bathrooms", the bathrooms will be really gross. And if the sign says "shared bathroom", you will be better off holding it until the next morning. (the last is more in European hostel territory than in American hotels).

I've found the same rule applies to people who say they are "quick learners", or that they have "good interpersonal skills" or "good math skills" or "knowledge of Excel." (I work in quantitative finance, and I'm currently trying to hire a C++ programmer, so, I'm seeing a lot of these). If they say that, then no, they aren't. The people who really know something don't bother to put such vague or low-level skills. The people who say they have "good math skills" usually got a B in their one calculus class 10 years ago. The people who are actually good might list a published paper or a couple courses in real analysis, but if asked they will say they are dissatisfied with their math skills.
11.29.2006 11:42pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I always assumed people who listed those things could perform magic feats, like automatically generating tables of authorities or things like that.

Isn't there probably some selection bias in these comments, though? Maybe big employers think this way, but I bet a lot of small employers wouldn't know better than to think it might be useful.
11.30.2006 12:09am
spider:
Prof. Volokh says that fresh law firm associates are "going to be hired for your legal knowledge and not your word processing skills"

Well, actually, this is wrong. The associate will be hired for his/her intellectual potential, and the fancy law school where s/he attended, and his/her personal charm... and "legal knowledge" is about 10th on the list. First-year associates in BigLaw firms spend most of their time doing careful review of documents, adjusting the formatting, and so forth. Real proficiency in MS Word (if you understand how to work with headers, how to create outlines, etc. etc.) is actually extremely valuable.

That said, yeah, I agree that putting "Microsoft Office" as a skill on your resume is lame.
11.30.2006 12:13am
CMcLean (mail):
Eugene, I think you're wrong. I think that Lexis, Westlaw, and Microsoft Office ALL have a place on a resume for "for jobs as lawyers, judicial clerks, or summer associates..." It's right below the section that includes:

COURSES COMPLETED
Constitutional Law
Contracts
Torts
Criminal Law
Civil Procedure
Property
Legal Writing

Now that's a sexy resume.
11.30.2006 12:37am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
There are more important skills for a lawyer, certainly, than being proficient in Word. I would not list it, nor would list "proficient in Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw." If it is important to the interviewer with little administrative support (e.g., a solo practioner seeking a new associate, or start-up corporation hiring its first and only attorney), the interviewer will ask about it. Instead, why not say excellent legal researching and writing skills and include a writing sample that shows these skills?

As for WordPerfect, I used it today, but I almost always use Word and other MS Office suite products (Excel, Powerpoint). The federal courts require you to submit proposed orders in WordPerfect.

I do sometimes miss having secretaries/word processing departments who would take my dictation tapes, or my handwritten yellow legal pad pages, and create nice briefs and memoranda from them. Dictating is a lost art, and word processing makes writing sloppier. (I know, you can use Dragon Naturally Speaking, but it is a poor substitute for an excellent secretary). Now, I type all of my own stuff, and it is much less fun (I say this as someone who can generate tables of content and authorities in Word, and WordPerfect).
11.30.2006 12:47am
spider:
I often wonder: What the hell were attorneys getting paid for in the days before they had to type their own documents? They just talked into a machine and secretaries did the time-consuming work of typing it out and formatting it nicely and the lawyer gets the big bucks??

Yeah, yeah, I understand economics and limited supply of brainpower and marginal revenue product of labor and all that, but it still seems screwy...
11.30.2006 12:58am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I'd consider it excessive to dock someone points for inclusion of such information. There are too many 'experts' who tell young applicants that there's only one way--their way--to do a proper resume.

While I've not had to hire baby lawyers, I'd much rather see an applicants express affirmatively that they have these skills than to discover later on that they don't. You know, I'm sure, the adage about 'assume'.

BTW, State Dept. used to be married to Word Perfect, but the company defaulted on its promise to provide support for particular foreign languages (notably Arabic) in a timely manner. MS Word did have that support in a usable form. The switch was made, albeit with a lot of griping in-house. Except from those who needed the languages.

State--and most of the federal bureaucracy--was quick to get rid of secretaries and clerical support as supernumeraries, under the assumption they would save a lot of money in staffing costs. They didn't realize that most of the officers at the time would take far longer to produce the same or lesser products. Most of the old farts, of course, are gone now, but then so too are the support staffs. Now, though, a typical mid-level officer will have a 1/4 to 1/8 share of a clerical support person.

State now has about two dozen real secretaries--and yes, they do shorthand--assigned to very senior officials and some ambassadors. Otherwise, there are OMSs, Office Management Support people, who generally don't do shorthand, but do handle the correspondence and filing, appointments, schedules, etc. A confluence of technological developments and the need for a 'peace dividend' got rid of most secretarial positions.
11.30.2006 1:01am
The River Temoc (mail):
True proficiency in Excel and Word -- as opposed to what most people consider to be proficiency -- would actually be a major plus in an associate.

I am a power user of MS Office. In theory, I agree with you, but in practice, whenever someone wanted a formatting change, the general reaction from TPTB would be "give it to your secretary" -- never mind that (with one exception) I inevitably knew the program far better than my secretary. Whenever I pawned off such work, it inevitably would have taken me a fraction of the time it took the secretary.

As for Excel, I once had a colleague told me that "Excel is a program for accountants, not lawyers," and another told me that "lawyers should never try to use Excel, that's only for bankers" (despite the fact that I can do financial modelling and, quite frankly, can usually do a better spreadsheet than the bankers).

I therefore agree with Eugene that decisionmakers at law firms will see this entry as a negative on a resume. Smaller firms without extensive support staff may be different.
11.30.2006 1:41am
Brian G (mail) (www):
I got my first legal job while a law student because I mentioned I was an expert on Microsoft Access. I spent two weeks working on some discovery nonsense and as soon as I was done got laid off due to a "sudden downturn in business." Now that I think about it, I would have been better off not mentioning it. Forget I said anything.
11.30.2006 2:06am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
DK: Please contact me (use mail link above) -- I am a quick learner with good math skills :-)
11.30.2006 7:53am
AppSocRes (mail):
A basic knowledge of the Windows Office is a pretty basic white collar work skill these days. Nonetheless, it's amazing how few people I encounter really know how to use these products. If I were an employer, the first thing I would do with an electronically submitted resume is use the "Tools/Options/reveal all formating marks" menu item to determine whether the applicant uses Word as a glorified typewriter. I'd immediately eliminate all but the most outstanding candidates who are clueless Word users. I found that my better grad students were the ones who had picked up some basic Word formatting skills: At the least it seems to demonstrate an inquisitive and self-motivated character.
11.30.2006 8:37am
tefta (mail):
I'll hazard a guess that most of the resumes listing Word or Excel proficiency were women.
11.30.2006 8:51am
AppSocRes (mail):
PS: All federal agencies, to the best of my knowledge, require WordPerfect. Some state and local governments and federal contractors do also -- apparently to ease interfacing with the feds.
11.30.2006 9:01am
A.C.:
In my experience, very few lawyers have the vaguest idea how to use Powerpoint software. Even fewer have any sense of document design, how many bullets you can have before the audience falls asleep, how to deal with graphics, and so on. If someone does have some knowledge of these things, perhaps developed in a previous career, how would the experienced lawyers here suggest listing them?
11.30.2006 9:01am
nrein1 (mail):
I am not in the legal field, so I can't speak for it. In my field I often see job ads that list under qualification an MA as well as computer skills such as excel and word. Now I would have thought that these skills would be assumed if someone has an MA, but if they are listing them as qualifications, then they are going on my resume.
11.30.2006 9:02am
Whadonna More:



What is "high proficiency" in Lexis? How would you prove it?


This is the key question, and the biggest problem with what I see on resumes.

If the only thing on your resume is a list of skills, whether legal or clerical, it's nearly pointless. Your resume should list the results you achieved. If I'm hiring a 3-5 year associate for a litigation position, _every_single_ applicant better have taken some solo depositions, a bunch of second chair trial work and depo's and maybe a few solo matters of substance. I want to hire the att'y who made a notable difference on a case, advanced in responsibility quickly, or became the firm expert in discovery burdens in e-mail archives - so tell me that stuff.

Likewise with Word or Lexis - I expect you to know if, if your unusually proficient you'll have some results to report on your resume (it's not unusual proficiency to be the associate that the staff/summers seek out for formatting help - that just means you're gullible or attractive).
11.30.2006 9:21am
Stryker:
Couple points, most said already, (oh, IANAL, I am a computer engineer with 4 years out of school)

First, there is a very high probability the applicant took an undergrad class that required writing a resume a certain way. I would never deduct for something that was ON the Resume, only what was off it.

Second, while I cannot speak to the Law based programs, (westlaw, etc.) I can speak to WORD and Excel. I think that the Hotel rule mentioned above is probably pretty accurate here. I would recommend using the "proficient in OFFICE" to find how honest the applicant is. Ask why it's there. Ask what programs make up office. Ask when they've used Access and why. Ask what his/her favorite feature in Word is. Ask why they think that knowledge is important at the new company. Ask about basics that you expect them to know (Table of contents, auto sorting, importing a graph.) Operating systems provide even more opportunity. Ask how many times they've installed Windows. Hopefully most people here can understand the value in an employee who will not break their computer.

Last, treat nothing like a given in interviewing. Interviewing is selling the company just as much as the interviewer is selling himself (or herself). Remember, a customer lies, steals, and then lies again. If you need an employee who knows more than how to open up Word, ask! While I have no horror stories, they are out there.
11.30.2006 9:24am
James R Dillon (mail):
In two years as an associate at a big firm in New York, I was never once called upon to use Access, Excel, or Powerpoint; in my experience, the more senior associates and partners did sometimes use Powerpoint for presentations, but I'm not aware of any instance in which Access or Excel was ever needed (we did, of course, use other database programs for electronic discovery). I can't imagine that a legal employer (at least at a firm with adequate support staff) would view proficiency in those applications as a particularly important attribute of any candidate, and, like Eugene, I think that listing proficiency in Word or Westlaw/Lexis on one's resume would be viewed more as a negative, because a basic level of proficiency with those programs is assumed for all candidates, and it gives the impression that the candidate has nothing more important or impressive to say about his or her abilities.
11.30.2006 10:12am
Houston Lawyer:
These inclusions on a resume are not nearly so irksome as the job qualifications requested in on-line job postings: must have excellent writing skills (really, for an experienced attorney?); must work well in group settings; must give oral and written legal opinions; etc. In addition, some on-line job applications want you to include your "skills". The urge to use the word nunchucks is almost irresistable.

After reading your post I looked at my resume to ensure that I didn't have such things on it, and was pleased to see that I didn't.
11.30.2006 10:16am
John Armstrong (mail):
Adam wrote: There are folks who use WordPerfect because they like having that level of exact control over formatting.

WordPerfect doesn't give you control over that much, really. Now TeX... that's control. You wanna change how stretchy the interletter spacing is as compared to the interword spacing? We can hook you up.

Anyhow, as for this resume business, I don't know why lawyers don't move to the CV model. Don't tell me what you "can do", which I have to take at your word. Tell me what you've done.
11.30.2006 10:17am
Jeffrey (mail) (www):
In a rational world, I'd agree that having Microsoft Office on a resume looks retarded. But I'm a software developer and I have it on mine, and there are two reasons:

1) All of the job postings at my company, even in the engineering department, include a Microsoft Office requirement.
2) I've dealt with the Human Resources department before. They feed the resumes through a big filter looking for keywords. I put the buzzwords in so that my resume hits all the keywords and gets a good score, thus improving its chances of being read by an intelligent human being.

And this is how a computer geek trained since the age of three ends up bragging about their Office skills.
11.30.2006 10:45am
anonVCfan:
You're right. "Westlaw-certified" basically means that you bought the WL sales pitch, are a particularly gullible person, and have a lot of time on your hands.
11.30.2006 11:11am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Well, I don't have any of that crap in my resume, so I hope you're right.
11.30.2006 11:49am
Tumbling Dice (mail):
Browsing the comments to this thread, I am surprised at how many attorneys appear to type their own documents. I graduated from law school in 1998, can use a Mac or PC, and pretty much any program on either. However, if I spent the time to type out a 4 page letter v. dictating it and then editing the result, I'd never get my work done. And my firm has 6 attorneys, 4 legal assistants, and no law clerks or "young" associates.

Now, when I arrive, I was typing everything myself. But I learned (after having it suggested to me by two different partners and the other associate here), that it was actually inefficient for me to type my own work rather than dictating.

And it's best for the client, as well. We don't bill out secretary time, so a 4 page letter that might take me 2 hours to type and edit myself instead takes me a half hour to dictate and another half hour to revise (depending on the number of revisions, I either do these myself or hand-write them, etc.). And that extra hour is, of course, spent billing another file. I guess, though, with a small firm it is more important to provide efficient service since your clients are generally not the types who want to pay a Big Firm to have 4 associates do the same work and 4 partners to review the work the associates did.
11.30.2006 11:54am
phrk:
Most attorneys at Big law firms can rely on secretaries and word processing departments for word processing skills. Especially for heavily formatted documents like Prospectuses with embedded formatting, the attorneys are discouraged from doing thier own word processing. It is inefficient for many anyway as marking up a doc by hand is quicker, clients are not paying $450 an hour for you to type.
11.30.2006 12:05pm
CrosbyBird:
If a kid gives me a word doc with spaces or tabs used to format, it is an auto-f.

Maybe I'm missing something, but what's the big deal with tabs? Do people actually use styles for the indents of a new paragraph?

I'm able to use most of the basic features to create lists, tables, styles, etc. but quite frequently, it's just faster not to have to deal with all the bells and whistles. And I have substantial computer experience.
11.30.2006 12:09pm
gravytop (mail) (www):
I kind of like Stan's idea about including self-addressed stamped cards along with his writing sample. It doesn't seem gimmicky -- it's a standard way of making it easy for someone you're pitching something to, to respond to you. Just as long as you don't write it like a typical direct mailing response card: "Yes! I can't wait to get started with my new associate, and start enjoying the benefits of Stan. Please promptly get me started by..."
11.30.2006 12:14pm
Sebastian Holsclaw (mail):
"in my experience, the more senior associates and partners did sometimes use Powerpoint for presentations, but I'm not aware of any instance in which Access or Excel was ever needed"

I'm not the biggest fan of Access, but I guarantee you that there were things you did where an excellent understanding of Excel would have made your job much easier and cleaner.

I recently worked with a corporate attorney who was keeping all the stock option information for the officers and directors on a ledger. Sheesh, a different grant price for every entry over 10 years on a legder? If you wanted to know the precise value of each holders options at any given moment it could take him hours. In a well designed spreadsheet, plug in today's stock price and you are done. It isn't that Excel is 'needed'. It is just that once you know how to use it, you would be crazy not to.
11.30.2006 12:34pm
Snippy (mail):
I am a legal secretary and the firm where I work uses WordPerfect. My attorneys dictate on tapes, or handwrite a draft, and I transcribe. WP is a very fine product; I have no trouble creating a table of contents and table of authorities.

Yeah, I'm a control freak. I'm a power WP user, I can make it dance and sing. I use styles, tables, and merging to make forms that are easy for anyone to use. I write macros, too. I'm a specialist: it makes no sense to me to have an attorney stumble along doing something when I could win an Olympic medal doing it. I keep up on formatting changes and timelines and how each judge prefers us to submit documents (only on paper? by email? burned onto a CD? as a pdf? as a Word document?--we can convert), so the attorneys can focus on the facts and the argument.
11.30.2006 12:43pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
What CrosbyBird said. I've got actual bullets (Alt-0149)for the bullet-lists on my resume. I can do a lot with Word, but for tight formatting where line and page boundaries matter, it's often easier to tweak and trick than to convince Word to put the text the way you want it.

I've got the stuff I'd want human managers to see at the front of my resume, and the buzzwords for the filters on later pages marked "supplemental". (I've also got an "examples" page with illustrations from some of the "look what I just did" memos about which I'm most proud. The graphics look impressive, and if we get that far it's easier than having to draw them on a whiteboard mid-interview.) That also means my Summary-Experience-Skills-Examples fits the paradigm of "Tell them what you're going to say, then say it, then tell them what you said, then make them remember it".
11.30.2006 12:45pm
r78:
Eugene - you're right, inclusion of such minor stuff indicates lack of other accomplishments.

Tumbling Dice - I'm not so sure you're right. If you dictate, you have to dictate, give to sec'y to type, revise and proof, give back to sec'y, then do final proof and sign, have envelope made, and send out ltr.

Our atty's usually type and e-mail as attachment or fax directly from computer with e-fax. Done.

Also, even if dictation is faster, I'd bet that you write longer letters if you dictate and eat up any gains. No offense intended, but I can usually tell when a dictated letter comes in because it tends to be verbose.
11.30.2006 12:51pm
CrosbyBird:
If you dictate, you have to dictate, give to sec'y to type, revise and proof, give back to sec'y, then do final proof and sign, have envelope made, and send out ltr.

The two admins I work most with here are incredibly good; they are well-versed in the law (compared to any other layperson) and I doubt they would make the "certainly denied" mistake mentioned above. Their work product is flawless; like computers, if you have a problem with the output, it almost invariably was due to user error in the input. :)

I type 30 words a minute. Writing my own letters is much, much slower than it will be when I am admitted and able to submit my own work to the admins, even if I revise/proof three or four times.
11.30.2006 1:06pm
cathyf:
In my experience, very few lawyers have the vaguest idea how to use Powerpoint software.
I have to say that I agree with Edward Tufte:
Power Corrupts.
PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.
11.30.2006 1:26pm
Houston Lawyer:
Unless I'm working on a prospectus, marking a document by hand is a waste of time. I can pull that same document up and make the changes quicker than I can accurately hand-mark them. Very little of the work I do involves reinventing the wheel or composing pages of original text. Consequently, I do a lot of cut and paste and search and replace. It is far more accurate to do these yourself on the computer than to rely on an admin to get it right.

I have lost the ability to compose longhand. It is too stifling compared to the flexibility I have in editing as I type.
11.30.2006 1:56pm
A.C.:
Much as I like Tufte, I think Powerpoint corrupts only when it's in the wrong hands. It can be done well, and presentations are a lot clearer now than they used to be when people used transparencies on badly focused overhead projectors. The trouble is that the barriers to entry are so low now that people THINK they know how to make presentations when they really don't.
11.30.2006 2:54pm
Tumbling Dice (mail):
R78 -

None taken, of course.

However, having typed my own letters and document revisions for the first couple of years and now having gone mostly to dictation for first drafts and any lengthy or major revisions, my experience has been that using my secretary and dictation is much more efficient. Yes, I have to do one more review of the document before it heads out (the final one after the last bit of revisions), but I have also spent a lot less time on the whole.

And while I do tend to agree that my initial drafts are usually longer than the final product, my editing process corrects this initial problem. In part, I probably compose slower than I dictate because I am trying to get it perfect as I type. Stopping to make revisions as I go along, etc. I've found that it's just faster for me to dictate and revise.
11.30.2006 3:27pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
Why mention computer skills?
All you need is LSAT, Grade Point and Class Rank... unless you are a female Asian American.

If you can bench brief, you can handle a one page resume.

I'd only mention proficiency in LEXUS/NEXUS if I was applying for a job as a drive through hair stylist.

BTW, I'm a current WP user, [Word at home] who once had a FatMac as my legal secretary.
11.30.2006 3:47pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Definitely an idiosyncratic reaction. EV, I have to take you to task for this one.

First of all, such a listing of computer skills might include assistive technologies for the blind (screen readers) or autistics (speech recognition). By listing these, the law firm hiring will be put on notice its computer system must be accessible to these technologies. Moreover, law firms woulld not want to hire candidates who do not know about these assistive technologies, since such ignorance could pose monetary liability for a law firm under an EEOC or lawsuit Title I Americans With Disabilities Act claim.

Second, what State Bar Examination actually does a performance-based test that includes LEXIS/WESTLAW research skills? A person who lacks such research skills cannot meet the "essential functions" of the practice of law necessary to protect the public under attorney licensure. I am sure, as a prof at a top law school, and having Clerked for the Supreme Court, you are among people who do possess such excellent research skills. In the litigation my husband (Equire) has been involved in, I have seen way too many lawyers and law clerks who really do not have even adequate LEXIS/WESTLAW research skills. Lawyers do not in all isntances simply delegate important research to their assistants. When I worked for a Harvard LLM treatise author, prof, and attorney, I observed him every day do his own LEXIS research, and many times his research added cases even I could not find. So, yes, until such time as the 50 States use a completely performance test-based Bar Examination, and include testing and scoring legal research ability on LEXIS/WESTLAW, and manually (for those who need to check something at the last minute at a Court's library when there for a hearing), it IS appropriate for resumes to list such skills, since otherwise employers cannot rely on licensure as a substitute proxy for competency in these necessary skills.

Finally, I have personally trained numerous law clerks with J.D.s for an attorney and have found many cannot even do the basics on Microsoft Word or manage intenet searches or CM/ECF filing (including creation of pdf files). In sum, EV, you cannot assume every bulb shines as brightly as yours.

It seems to me, while really law firms should be valuing the higher credentials of which you speak, unless the entire legal profession immediately adopts oral-spoken communication methods, knowing (and listing knowledge of) these computer skills conveys that the candidate is competent in the machinery necessary to put down in written format all those higher fuctoning lawyer skills thought and/or spoken. Some law firms require personal use of computers; other law firms supply support staff. Some law firms use Microsoft Word; others use Word Perfect. That is why it is not helpful to make assumptions. Try going to a Court sometime and telling the Court you have to communicate orally rather than use a computer to place pleadings in written format, Ha!

While we are on this topic, I do have a pet peeve No-No for law firm employers out there. Being one who uses speech recognition assistive technology (I speak to the computer, instead of keyboarding), it is very inappropriate for employers to ask for a word per minute keyboarding typing speed or typing certificate -- it impermissibly forces a person with disabilities who is qualified for employment to disclose the disability pre-employment, and I can personally testify to how many law firm employers freak out the moment they are confronted with this speech recognition technology they have not seen before -- only about 1:2000 are willing to hire a speech recognition user. They assume a person who would use such assistive technology is incompetent or unable to perform the work. That is deplorable. Especially since speech recogition does about 90 wpm, faster than many keyboardists.
11.30.2006 3:48pm
tefta2 (mail):
Word would do well to offer an option to turn off all automatic formatting and allow the user to turn on what they want when they want it.

Excel is so useful, I couldn't imagine not having it available even for simple calculation.
11.30.2006 3:52pm
James Dillon (mail):
John,

Was that just a setup for the Asian American joke, or do people actually put LSAT scores on legal resumes? I've never seen that, and I don't think I'd be particularly impressed by it, regardless of the score.
11.30.2006 4:05pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"In this day and age, everybody can type ...." ???!!!!

Everybody except disabled people who cannot keyboard ... La! State Bars really need to start doing mandatory CLEs and MCLEs on disbaility sensitivity and awareness to eliminate ignorance. You made my case.
11.30.2006 4:19pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"Also, I continue to be amazed at the people I encounter who are NOT able to use public transportation or the phone . . ."

Yeah, and there is a lot on this topic over on Sam Bagenstros' Disability blog about all the people who can NOT use public transportation -- it is a disability access issue.
11.30.2006 4:23pm
dejapooh (mail):

If a kid gives me a word doc with spaces or tabs used to format, it is an auto-f.

Maybe I'm missing something, but what's the big deal with tabs? Do people actually use styles for the indents of a new paragraph?

First, there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. It is usually better to learn the right way.

Second, nothing in basic formatting is so difficult that bypassing it will save any time.

Third, when you have to reformat a document because you've added something or taken something away, if you have used the tab key to reformat, you are going to have to adjust your formatting. In the long run, it is easier and faster to do it right the first time.
11.30.2006 4:33pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"My favorite has always been "interpersonal skills."

And here is another employer No-No. The exact functional limitation of autism. Imagine the serial ADA/Unruh Act lawsuits an autistic could bring in the Central District f California.
11.30.2006 5:13pm