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How To Leave The Perfect Voicemail

Written by Brett McKay

I’m not a big fan of voicemail. I don’t mind leaving voicemail messages; I just hate having to listen to them. For some strange reason when people know their voice is being recorded, their brain short circuits. What normally would take 30 seconds to say, now takes 2 minutes.


I don’t mind it so much for people I know. I have to deal with them on a daily basis, so I can’t hold voicemail grudges against them. However, if someone cold calls me or it’s just an acquaintance that calls, a crappy voicemail annoys me and leaves a bad impression.

I know. It’s superficial, but I’m human. But a prospective employer or client is also human, so there’s a good chance that crappy, unclear, and long voicemails annoy them too.

So, for your consideration, here are 8 tips to help you leave the perfect voicemail and, consequently, a good impression.

  • State your name first. You would think this would be so basic that it shouldn’t even be mentioned. However, I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten voicemails where people go on and on and I don’t even know who’s talking to me until the very end. Pretty annoying.
  • State the purpose of your call. In as few words as possible, state why you’re calling. Is it in regards to an interview appointment? Are you following up on a previous meeting?
  • Find some common ground. If you’re cold calling someone, your voicemail is your 30 second chance to make a connection and leave a good impression. One of the best ways to make a connection in that short amount of time is mentioning a mutual acquaintance. You could also mention a shared affiliation with an organization.
  • Be brief. Don’t make you listener resent you by leaving 5 minute long messages. People are busy. Listening to 5 minute phone messages is not on the top of their priorities.
  • Leave a specific request. What do you want your listener to do? Sure, you want them to call you back, but why? To answer a question? To set up an appointment? People will appreciate it if you give them specific actions for their call back. That way they’ll know they won’t be wasting a lot of time on the call back trying to figure out what you want.
  • Leave your contact info slowly and clearly. You’ve gotten this far, don’t screw it up by muddling the very information that will allow your listener to get back to you. Go slow and be clear.
  • Consider leaving your e-mail in addition to your phone number. People like choices. Some people like to have conversations on the phone, while others prefer communicating through e-mail. You don’t know what kind of person your listener will be, so leave the option on the table. For many, e-mail correspondence is less threatening and might actually encourage them to reach out to you.
  • Be Brief. Did I mention be brief? Yeah? Make sure to do it.

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5 Financial Pitfalls of Part Time Law School

Written by Brett McKay

Last week, we discussed some of the financial benefits of attending part time law programs. Today, we discuss some of the drawbacks.

  1. You limit the number schools you can go to. Only a few schools offer part time law school, so you’ll be limited by the number of schools you can apply to if you decide to go part time. This usually isn’t a problem for individuals who want to go to law school part time. Usually, they’re individuals who have a career and want to switch careers to law. They’ll just go to the closest law school that will allow them to commute. They’re not interested in tiers or reputations of schools. However, because most of the part time programs are offered at less prestigious schools, this could result in part time students’ job offers being limited. It’s a hard fact of life. Where you went to school will effect what kind of job opportunities you will have. Here’s a list of law schools that offer part time programs.
  2. You miss out on networking. Because part time students are not on campus as much as full-time students, they miss out on valuable opportunities to network with their fellow classmates and professors. While it’s important to network with people outside of law school, I think it’s even more important to network with people with whom you go to class. Those students will be the people you will be working with for the rest of your career. You never know if you’ll have a future judge or big firm partner in your class. Making friends with your fellow law students can pay off big.
  3. Your grades may suffer. Because most part time students are juggling both a career and law school, there’s a good chance their grades will suffer. Bad grades = fewer job opportunities = less pay.
  4. Your current career may suffer. Law school is tough, even if you’re going part time. Because of the time and energy demands of law school, there’s a possibility that your current career may suffer. If you have too much trouble at work, it could result in getting laid off or missing on advancement opportunities, which results lost money. However, you could just enroll in a full-time program if this happens to you.
  5. Many law firms look down on part time programs. Unfortunately, part time law school has a stigma. Many hiring partners see part time programs only for those students who weren’t qualified enough to get in a full time program. Or they might see part time programs as less rigorous than full time law school. Additionally, because most part time programs are at less prestigious schools, hiring partners will look down on a part time program because of the school attached to it. All these factors can play a part in diminishing the amount you earn during your law career.

Any other pitfalls of enrolling part time in law school or do you disagree with me? I’d love to hear what you all think.

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[tags]law school, Frugal Law Student, jobs[/tags]

Iron Your Shirt Like a Pro

Written by Brett McKay


You’re set for a big interview with law job of your dreams. You have the suit and your belt matches your shoes. However, you have a wrinkly shirt. Don’t think you can hide the fact that your shirt is wrinkly by putting your suit coat over it. People can tell you have a wrinkly shirt on, which means the person interviewing you can tell that you have a wrinkly shirt on. In interviews, details matter. If you want the job, you better look like you have your act together, which includes a well pressed dress shirt.

The Iron Prep

  • Set the iron temperature. For all cotton fabrics, set the temperature for high; lower for part (or all) synthetics. High temperatures can melt synthetics. You don’t want a melting shirt in addition to a wrinkly one.
  • Iron on a padded surface. It makes ironing easier.
  • Dampen the shirt. The key to good ironing is to have a slightly damp shirt. Take the shirt out of the dryer before it completely dries. If the shirt is already dry, spray a down with some water until slightly damp.

The Iron Plan

Don’t just iron randomly. It’s less efficient and less effective. Follow these 7 steps for ironing nirvana:

  1. Collar. Lay it flat, wrong side up, pressing from the points towards the center. Then press it on the right side.
  2. Yoke: The yoke is the panel that covers the shoulders. Lay it over the widest part of the ironing board to do the job.
  3. Cuffs: Iron the insides, then the outside.
  4. Sleeves: Smooth the sleeve flat with your palm and iron it, then flip it over and do the other side. Then do the other sleeve. Use the seams as a guide on how to flatten it.
  5. Back: Lay it on the wide part of the ironing board, too.
  6. Front panels: Start with the pocket, then do the panels. The little grooves on your iron help you press around buttons.
  7. Retouch: Retouch the collar and cuffs if they need it

The Iron Finish

Hang the shirt on a hanger. Don’t put it in your closet until it’s cool or it will just get wrinkly again.

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[tags]homemaking, clothing, ironing[/tags]

How to Give an Impressive Handshake

Written by Brett McKay


As an attorney, I’ll be shaking lots of hands: clients, potential clients, other attorneys, and judges. During that brief contact with that person, they’re going to form opinions of me. My handshake could give them the impression that I’m warm person or cold and aloof. Maybe my handshake indicates that I’m an overbearing ass or a wimpy McWimpsalot. We want a handshake that creates a favorable impression. We’re going to talk about how to do that.

There are three keys to a successful [tag]handshake[/tags]

  1. How you do it
  2. When you do it
  3. Where you do it

How you do it

  • Make sure your handshake is firm, not a dead fish grip. However, you don’t want to crush the other person’s hand.
  • Make sure you don’t have food or grease on your hands. You want the person to remember you, not what you ate.
  • If your hands are sweaty, give them a quick nonchalant wipe on your pants.
  • When you off your hand, look the person in the eye and smile.

When you do it

Handshakes involve timing. Many people avoid offering handshakes because they’re afraid of being left hanging. If you’re not sure if someone will notice your offer, extend the handshake anyways. Most of the time people will notice your handshake offer and quickly grasp your hand.

Be aware of different social customs. Most cultures have different customs for shaking hands. Some find it inappropriate for a man to shake a woman’s hand and some cultures find shaking hands completely unacceptable. Be sensitive to these situations.

What if you’re left hanging?

I hate when this happens. I always feel dumb, especially when everyone but the person with whom you were trying to shake hands saw the rejection. Don’t feel embarrassed. The problem isn’t that the other person doesn’t think you’re important, you’re timing was just off.

  • Don’t offer a handshake if the other person is engrossed in conversation with someone else.
  • Don’t approach someone from the side with your extended hand. It’s hard to see.
  • Do audibly greet the person first to get their attention and then offer your hand.

Where to do it

Handshakes are good every where. Make sure to shake plenty of hands when you go to a social gathering. Make sure to shake the hosts’ hand when arriving and leaving the gathering.

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[tags]career, job interviews, personal development[/tags]

Book Review: Generation Debt

Written by Brett McKay

I first heard about Anya Kamenetz’s book, Generation Debt, during an interview with her on NPR. I was interested in her argument that Generation X and Generation Y have a good chance of being the first generation in America to be worse off then their preceding (Boomer) generation.

The main argument of Generation Debt is that because of higher education costs and lowering wages, young people face the prospect of not achieving a middle class life style. Kamenetz mixes statistics with anecdotal stories that show the disparaging circumstances young people. Many of the stories were heartbreaking and they all had the same theme: Boy or girl has dream of going to college and starting a career. Dream crushed by rising costs of college and stagnating wages.

What I liked about Generation Debt
I though Kamenetz made a strong argument for financial aid reform. The recent Sallie Mae scandals made her book even more relevant. If America wants to be competitive in the future, the government is going to have to invest much more in education than what it is investing now.

I also agreed Kamenetz that young people need to adjust their expectations. Everybody doesn’t have to go to college to be a success. For many young people it can be waste of time and money. Many of the people she interviewed in her book took on thousands of dollars in student loans in order to go to school. However, the only reason they were going was because that’s what every young person is supposed to do. By the time they realize college isn’t from them, they’ve accumulated $10,000 in student loans. Instead of just encouraging college, parents and counselors should also encourage vo-tech. I don’t know why vo-tech is so stigmatized. I know plenty of people who have gone to v0-tech, learned a trade, and are making a decent living. Both college and trade schools should be seen as equally viable steps to earning a living.

My Beefs With Generation Debt
I guess it’s the classical liberal in me, but I felt Kamenetz put too much blame on society/corporations/government for young people’s debt problems and not enough on the individual. For example, she argues because young people are the most advertised to demographic, young people are taking on more debt to buy stuff. I just don’t buy this argument. It’s called personal responsibility. I find it rather insulting to our generation that we’re dumb enough to buy stuff just because an advertiser says we need to.

Additionally, she makes the case against credit card companies preying on college students by giving out t-shirts and beer coozies. Yes, credit card companies market heavily to college students, but they’re not holding a gun to their head sign up. If you’re dumb enough to trade t-shirt for access to high interest rate debt, then you deserve to pay the bill. Perhaps it’s a fault, but I have no sympathy for young people with credit card debt, especially when the debt is for eating out, CD’s, travel, ect.

I also wish Kamenetz had more examples of young people making responsible financial decisions. Most of the book is filled with bad examples of young people spending money on iPods and vacations they can’t afford. It wasn’t until the end that she discussed young people who are living frugally and saving for the future. The discussion, however, was only a few pages.

Do I Recommend it?
Overall the book was… eh… Kamentz makes some good arguments about the rising costs of college education and the need for the government to invest more in education. However, I was turned off by her slightly whining tone. She made the young people sound like victims of forces they can’t control. However, many of the cases appeared just to be victims of bad personal decisions. I don’t think I would recommend someone to read the whole book. Rather, I would just direct their attention to the chapter discussing the situation of education costs.

[tags] Generation Debt, debt, Anya Kamenetz[/tags]

How to Make Money While in Law School: Westlaw or Lexis Rep

Written by Brett McKay

Being frugal will only get you so far in your quest to mitigate your law school debt. You also need to earn some extra income, but the pressures of law school can make that difficult. However, one of the most flexible ways to earn income while in school is becoming a Westlaw or Lexis Nexis Rep.

Westlaw or Lexis student reps are in charge of promoting their respective companies product. Whenever there is a training course, their job is to get as many people to come. Additionally, they spend a few hours a day in the computer labs answering other students’ questions about legal research.

Luckily, I snagged a job for next year with Westlaw. I’m really excited about it. They pay is pretty good and the hours are extremely flexible. Each rep puts in about 10 hours a week in the computer lab.  I’ll be learning more about Westlaw which will help out in my career down the line.

Check with your school’s Westlaw or Lexis Rep to see if they plan on hiring for next year. You won’t regret it.

[tags]Westlaw, Lexis Nexis[/tags]